S210 Second-Year Spanish Composition F. Jehle

Assignment: Biography

Assignment: Translate the selection below entitled “El Manco de Lepanto” or compose a biography of approximately 200 words, preferably about someone who is no longer living. Give it a title, use past tenses, and include the usual information, as appropriate:

Note: Including information of this type does not mean that you should write in a dry, boring, or unimaginative fashion.

You may choose whomever you wish, for example, a literary or artistic figure, a celebrity, a president, or a relative or friend). However, since this is a Spanish class, it would be appropriate to select a Hispanic figure such as:


  1. “Playing it straight”. Prepare the biography as if it were part of a term paper for a Spanish literature or culture course.
  2. Obituary or tribute. Write the item as an announcement of someone's death, as it might occur in a newspaper or magazine.
  3. “Who was this famous individual?” Delay naming the individual and see if the readers or listeners can guess who the person was, based on the information you give.

The assignment is described above. If you prefer, you may translate this selection into Spanish; you do not have to translate the sections in parentheses, which explain the text (using bold-faced type) or provide supplementary information. The passive voice used here may be rendered in other ways in Spanish.

El Manco de Lepanto

      Let's call this individual Emadle, since he is often referred to as “The Cripple of Lepanto” (El Manco de Lepanto). He was born in the middle of the 16th Century, in a town near Madrid, called Alcalá de Henares. His father, a poor1 (i.e., penniless) surgeon, followed the royal court around Spain, so that Emadle didn't receive a great (formal) education which would open doors for him later on in life; nevertheless, he did manage2 to see a lot of Spain and its people.
      At the age of 22 he left Spain (it is said that he was exiled from that country for participating in a duel) and spent several months in Italy, before joining the Naples regiment3. He risked his life in several battles in the Mediterranean, including Lepanto, where he lost the use of his left hand.
      Afterwards, he attempted to return to his homeland to be promoted, but before he could arrive there, he was captured by Moorish pirates, and was imprisoned for five years in Algiers4. While he awaited his ransom money, he started writing letters for his comrades; he also became a hero after he was caught trying to escape three times.
      Upon returning to Spain, the ex5-soldier couldn't find any government post which would repay his past loyal service. Although employment was obtained as a (tax collector and) requisitioner6 for the Spanish Armada, this brought more suffering than reward: he was jailed (for bankruptcy) and excommunicated (for taking grain from some clerics). Our poor1 (i.e., unfortunate) public servant also started a literary career; he wrote several plays and even a novel or two before a masterpiece came forth from his pen: a parody of novels of chivalry7 known as Don Quijote de la Mancha. If this work didn't bring him much money (which it didn't), it did bring him fame. Eleven years later, and one year after the Second Part of Don Quijote (1615) was published, this man died in Madrid, a man who for over thee and a half centuries has been recognized as one of the greatest novelists in the world (and the father of the modern novel).

1 Poor: See handout on adjectives.
2 Managed: What common verb means this in the preterit? (See handout on the preterit.)
3 The Naples regiment = el tercio de Nápoles.
4 Algiers = Argel.
5 Ex-: Use an adjective, “former”. (See handout on adjectives.)
6 Requisitioner = comisario.
7 Novels of chivalry = libros de caballerías.

[¿Quién fue? Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra]

Fred Jehle jehle@ipfw.edu
Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne
Fort Wayne, IN 46805-1499, USA
URL: http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/courses/s210/passive3.htm
Home page http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/