Don Quixote - Context Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born...

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ContextMiguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born in 1547 to a poor Spanish doctor. He joined the army at twenty-one and fought against Turkey at sea and Italy on land. In 1575, pirates kidnapped Cervantes and hisbrother and sold them as slaves to the Moors, the longtime Muslim enemies of Catholic Spain. Cervantesended up in Algiers. He attempted to escape his enslavement three times and was eventually ransomed in1580 and returned to Spain.Only with the publication of the first volume ofDon Quixote,in 1605, did Cervantes achieve financialsuccess and popular renown.Don Quixotebecame an instant success, and its popularity even spawned anunauthorized sequel by a writer who used the name Avellaneda. This sequel appeared several years afterthe original volume, and it inspired Cervantes to hurry along his own second volume, which he publishedin 1615. Cervantes died later that year.Many ofDon Quixote’s recurring elements are drawn from Cervantes’s life: the presence of Algerianpirates on the Spanish coast, the exile of the enemy Moors, the frustrated prisoners whose failed escapeattempts cost them dearly, the disheartening battles displaying Spanish courage in the face of plain defeat,and even the ruthless ruler of Algiers. Cervantes’s biases pervade the novel as well, most notably in theform of a mistrust of foreigners.Funded by silver and gold pouring in from its American colonies, Spain was at the height of its Europeandomination during Cervantes’s life. But Spain also suffered some of its most crippling defeats during thistime, including the crushing of its seemingly invincible armada by the English in 1588. The tale of thecaptive, which begins in Chapter XXXIX of the First Part ofDon Quixote,recounts in detail many of thehistorical battles in which Cervantes himself participated. In this sense,Don Quixoteis very much ahistorical novel.Nevertheless, the novel illustrates Spain’s divergent worlds. Spain at the time was caught in the tumult ofa new age, and Cervantes tried to create inDon Quixotea place to discuss human identity, morality, andart within this ever-shifting time. Though the Renaissance gave rise to a new humanism in Europeanliterature, popular writing continued to be dominated by romances about knights in shining armorpracticing the code of chivalry. Chivalry emphasized the protection of the weak, idealized women, andcelebrated the role of the wandering knight, who traveled from place to place performing good deeds.Books of chivalry tended to contain melodramatic, fantastical stories about encounters with cruel giants,rescues of princesses in distress, and battles with evil enchanters—highly stylized accounts of shallowcharacters playing out age-old dramas.On one level, the first volume ofDon Quixoteis a parody of the romances of Cervantes’s time. DonQuixote rides out like any other knight-errant, searching for the same principles and goals and engaging

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Introduction to Learning and Behavior
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