Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Augustín Moreto y Cabaña

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 10
Augustine Moreto y Cabaña

by Ventura Fuentes


Spanish dramatist; b. at Madrid, 9 April, 1618, d. at Toledo, 28 Octoher, 1669. He received what little academic training he had at the University of Alcala de Henares and graduated Licentiate in Arts in 1639. From a very early age he began to write for the stage, and it is known that from 1640, probably through his friendship with Calderón, his plays began to be produced. The Spanish drama had reached the height of its success during Moreto's boyhood, and a gradual decline had set in. The clergy began to preach against plays as they were then given, and in 1644 the Royal Council instituted radical reforms by reducing the number of dramatic companies, modifying stage costumes, and establishing a strict censorship. It was furthermore ordered that, thenceforth no comedies were to be played but those of an historical nature, or those dealing with the lives of the saints. This accounts for the fact that for a time, Moreto devoted himself to this kind of drama. Like many famous writers of his time, Moreto received Holy orders toward the end of his life, though it is not known exactly when he did so. He entered the household of the cardinal Archbishop of Toledo, Don Baltasar de Moscoso, and in 1659 joined the Brotherhood of St. Peter.

In 1654 twelve of his plays were published in one volume under the title of "First Part of the Comedies of Moreto". Among them may be mentioned "El lindo Don Diego", "Los jueces de Castilla" dealing with the life of Peter the Cruel, "San Franco de Sena", and "Trampa Adelante".

As a writer, Moreto lacked the creative genius of some of his contemporaries, but he excelled them all in knowledge of stagecraft, in the power of coming quickly to the point in evolving his plots. He also excelled in the variety of his characters and in depicting human passions, while at character drawing he was a master surpassed by none. He handles a humorous situation with great delicacy of touch, and is at his best in comedies of the lighter and gayer sort. His best play "El desdén con el desdén" (Disdain met with Disdain), published at Valencia in 1676, is borrowed from Lope de Vega's "Milagros del desprecio" (Scorn works Wonders), and is generally conceded to be better than the original. Moliere, in his "Princesse d'Elide", tried to repeat Moreto's success, but fell far short of his model. The "Biblioteca de Autores Españoles", XXXIX (Madrid, 1856) contains a collection of Moreto's plays with a biography of the author by Luis Fernandez Guerra.

Consult, besides the above-mentioned life by GUERRA, TlCKNOR, History of Spanish Lit. (Boston, 1866); FlTZMAURICE-KELLY, History of Spanish Lit. (New York, 1900).

VENTURA FUENTES