Miguel de Cervantes (Saavedra)



  • (1547 - 1616) Spanish novelist and playwright. Althoughhe wrote more than 30 plays, he is best known for his satirical romanceDon Quixote de la Mancha (1605 - 15). It has been adaptedfor the stage on numerous occasions: a 1694 version by Thomas D'Urfeyincluded incidental music by Purcell, an 1895 adaptation by W. G.Wills starred Henry Irving, the 1965 Broadway musical Man of LaMancha ran for three years, and in 1969 the National Theatre producedJames Saunders's The Travails of Sancho Panza.

    Cervantes was the fourth of seven children of an apothecary-surgeon.He served in the army and began writing after being wounded in hisleft hand ("to the greater glory of the right") duringthe battle of Lepanto (1571). Four years later he was captured bypirates and held as a slave in Algiers for five years.

    Cervantes's early plays were too literary to be theatrical.For many years he gave up writing for the stage, but returned to dramalate in life. Only 18 of his plays survive, all but two of which werepublished in a volume of eight comedies and eight comic interludes(entremeses) in 1615. The latter were his greatest contributionto Spanish drama. The full-length comedies include Pedro de Urdemalas,while the best interludes are El viejo celoso and El retablode las maravillas. He also wrote (c. 1580 - 90) theSenecan tragedy El cerco de Numancia, a patriotic piece abouta Spanish city resisting a siege by the Roman army, and a true accountof his experiences with the pirates, El trato de Argel. Cervantessaid his own favourite work was the cloak-and-sword playLa Confusa.

    Cervantes and Shakespeare died on the same day, 12 April 1616.