Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare, two authors at the pinnacle of the cultural rebirth of Europe during the 1500s, ironically died on the same date (this fact is a bit confused by the distinction between the Julian and Gregorian calendar. Indeed they both died on the date of April 23, 1616, but England had not converted to the Gregorian Calendar, so they did not die on the same day, but they did on the same date, as Spain's Julian calendar correlated Cervantes' death to Shakepseare's). Shakespeare even read Cervantes' masterpiece The Delightful History of the Most Ingenious Knight Don Quixote of La Mancha, but it is probable that Cervantes never even heard of Shakespeare, let alone read one of his plays or poems. This distinction between two men of equal literary merit can be seen as an allegory for Miguel Cervantes' entire life: he lived in obscurity, while receiving much praise posthumously.
It took historians until the mid-1800s to discover where Don Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra was born. The setting is in the small Spanish town of Alcalá de Henares, close to the capital of Madrid. Miguel was born as the fourth child of seven, but the second son of Don Rodrigo de Cervantes y Saavedra in 1547. The date of Miguel's birth remains just as nebulous as the conditions of his death. It was common practice in Spain at the time of Miguel's birth to name a child after the Saint that enjoys the namesake of the date the child was born on. St. Michael's Feast is September 29th, though it was confirmed that Miguel was baptized on October 7th (in the same document that confirmed the location of his birth), so he could have realistically been born on any day in early October or late September. After his birth Miguel was immediately immersed in a life of contradiction. His father was an established noble, but he had no money to his name. He worked as a doctor, though his poor qualifications barely made it a job that could sustain his family.
By the age of 24 Miguel had completed his education. Some 50 years prior to Miguel's birth Cardinal Ximenes had founded Complutense University in Alcalá de Henares, so it was a convenient location for Miguel's learning. As the university was a center of learning in Spain, it attracted prominent humanists from Iberia, including Juan López de Hoyos, who Cervates is confirmed to have studies under. Hoyos published a collection of verse to commemorate the death of King Phillip II's wife, and six of the poems included were authored by Cervantes. These were his first officially published works.
At the conclusion of his studies in Spain, Cervantes relocates to Italy to work in The Vatican. Here he found himself caught up in geo-politics. The Turks had conquered Cyprus from Venice, and Christianity's dominance of the Mediterranean was threatened, so Pope Pius V chartered The Holy League a coalition of Italy, Spain, and other Catholics kingdoms to battle the Turks by sea. Cervantes enlisted in...