Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born in Alcala de Henares, Spain, in 1547. In 1585, a few months after his marriage to Catalina de Salazar, he published his first major work as an author, the pastoral novel La Galatea which was poorly received. Cervantes became a tax collector in Granada in 1594, but was imprisoned in 1597 due to money problems with the government. Folklore maintains that while in prison, he wrote his most famous novel, Don Quixote, which was an immediate success upon publication in 1605. After several years of writing short novels and plays, Cervantes was spurred to write the sequel to Don Quixote in 1615 when an unauthorized sequel appeared to great acclaim. Though Cervantes' sequel was rushed and flawed, Don Quixote remains a powerful symbol that has endured to present times in many forms. Cervantes died on April 22, 1616, at the age of 69.
Garcia Lorca is perhaps the best known of modern Spanish writers, partly because of his brutal execution outside Granada by Franco's army at the beginning of the civil war, but primarily because of his genius for poetry and drama. In 1928 Lorca published Gypsy Ballads, which won him immediate success and is considered one of the most important volumes of poetry of the century. Attracted to the gypsies for their exotic folklore, sexual vitality, and their status as a group on the fringe of Spanish society, Lorca enlarged the gypsy people and their traditions to mythical proportions. Nature takes on human form while reality acquires a dreamlike quality in this powerful transformation of the world into a myth. The verse is colorful, rhythmic, dramatic, symbolic, and suggestive. Lorca visited New York in 1929, experiencing a deep despair about a mechanical and dehumanized society; he saw in blacks the only hope for revitalization of that world. The volume Poet in New York (1929) shows the influence of Negro spirituals and the poets Walt Whitman and T. S. Eliot. Although Garcia Lorca was interested in drama throughout his life, he did not produce much of significance until the 1930s. Most important is his trilogy of Spanish rural life, Blood Wedding (1933), Yerma (1934), and The House of Bernarda Alba (1936), all tragedies with women as protagonists. In each play, the fall of the heroine, and of those around her whom she pulls down, is caused by frustrations produced by society. Blood Wedding demonstrates the sterility of the traditional code of honor. Yerma reveals the emptiness of a traditional marriage in which the woman must bear her husband children to prove her fidelity, and The House of Bernarda Alba dramatizes the destructive nature of Bernarda's dictatorial rule over her house, a microcosm of Spain. The Butterfly's Evil Spell (1919) is Lorca's first play; The Shoemaker's Prodigious Wife (1931) and Don Perlimplin (1931) are farces; The Billy-Club Puppets (1931) is a puppet play.