Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the son of a poor Spanish doctor, was almost certainly born in 1547. He served in Italy when he was twenty-one, and as a regular soldier he took part in the naval battle of Lepanto and other engagements, until he was captured by pirates while returning to Spain in 1575 and taken to be the slave of a renegade Greek in Algiers; he attempted unsuccessfully to escape three times, and was finally ransomed in 1580.
For the rest of his life he was preoccupied with the difficulties of making a living, and spent several periods in prison. He had already written some plays and a pastoral novel, La Galatea, when in 1592 he offered to write six plays at fifty ducats apiece. He had no success until 1605, when the publication of the first part of Don Quixote brought him immediate popularity. The Exemplary Stories were published as a collection in 1613, and in 1615 appeared the promised continuation of Don Quixote. Cervantes died in 1616.