CERVANTES SAAVEDRA, MIGUEL DE° (1547–1616), Spanish novelist and playwright, whose classic work, Don Quixote, has been used to support theories of its author's New Christian origin and sympathies. The Spanish critic Américo Castro, has suggested that Don Quixote could only be the work of a *New Christian , living on the periphery of Spanish society. The novelist's father, Rodrigo de Cervantes, was a surgeon (a profession adopted by many Conversos). Miguel de Cervantes himself once had a mistress, Ana Franca de Rojas, who was a descendant of Fernando de *Rojas , the Converso author of the Celestina. Another factor cited is Cervantes' aversion to intolerance and to distinctions between "Old" and "New" Christians. In his plays Los baños de Argel and La gran sultana he presents both Christian and Jewish points of view on religion. In Los alcaldes de Daganzo Cervantes sarcastically derides the idea that limpieza (purity of descent) should be the prime qualification for holding office. While Sancho Panza is vocal about his limpieza (Don Quixote, 1, ch. 21; 2, ch. 4) and his dislike of Jews (2, ch. 8), Don Quixote himself is reticent about his background. Cervantes was influenced by the Dialoghi d'amore of Leone Ebreo ( Judah *Abrabanel ) and when he writes in Don Quixote (1, ch. 9) about "a better and older language [than Arabic]," he is presumably referring to the Hebrew language. Cervantes' criticism of traditional Christian society and tenets in Don Quixote was clear enough to be noted, but sufficiently mild not to be rejected. Dominique Aubier, a Catholic convert to Judaism, sees Don Quixote as "the standard-bearer of Jewish revolt in the cause of free expression and against the persecution of the Inquisition." On the basis of Jewish mystical sources she has reinterpreted the novel symbolically as a three-sided discussion involving science, Judeo-Christianity, and the Kabbalah. Leandro Rodríguez claims that Cervantes was a Crypto-Jew. Some suggest that Cervantes' choice of a military career was an attempt to assimilate within Old Christian society.
J.M. Cohen, History of Western Literature (1956), 141–4; A. Castro, Cervantes y los casticismos españoles (1966); D. Aubier, Don Quichotte, Prophète d'Israël? (1966; Sp. tr. completely revised, Don Quijote, profeta y cabalista ); Liberman, in: In the Dispersion, no. 7 (1967), 168–71. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: B.H. Abramowitz, in: Sephardic Scholar, 3 (1977/78), 63–74; W. Byron, Cervantes, A Biography, 1978; L. Rodríguez, Don Miguel, judío de Cervantes (1978); idem, in: Magen/Escudo, 2. época, 73 (oct./dic., 1989), 29–39; W. Rozenblat, in: Anales cervantinos, 17 (1978), 99–110; A. Lecco, Don Chisciotte ebreo, ovvero, l'identita 'conquistata' (1985); J. Alazar Rincón, El mundo social del Quijote (1986); B. Baruch, Una página del Talmud en el Quijote (1988); R. Reichelberg, Don Quichotte, ou Le roman d'un juif masqué; essai (1989); J.H. Silverman, in: M.E. Perry and A.J. Cruz (ed.), Cultural Encounters (1991), 157–75
[Kenneth R. Scholberg]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.