Miguel de Cervantes was born 467 years (assumed) ago today in Alcalá de Henares, near Madrid. Most famous for his comic masterpiece, Don Quixote, Cervantes also wrote Exemplary Stories, short stories that, like Don Quixote, defy the conventions of heroic chivalric literature and range from the picturesque to the satirical.
To celebrate his birthday, here are five interesting particulars about his life:
- After fighting and being badly wounded (he lost the use of his left hand) in the Battle of Lepanto, he was captured by pirates and held for three years before being ransomed.
- Don Quixote is considered the first European novel.
- Deriving from a scene in Don Quixote where he imagines that windmills are giants and attempts to fight them, ‘tilting at windmills’ has passed into common usage as an English idiom that means ‘attacking imaginary enemies’.
- He was partially involved in the provisioning of the Spanish Armada that sailed to attack England in 1588.
- He died on the same day as William Shakespeare on 23 April 1616.
Want to know more about Cervantes? Read about his life, his influence on the Spanish language, and about other Spanish authors in our Very Short Introduction: Spanish Literature.