Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Juan de Ruiz de Alarcón y Mendoza

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 13
Juan de Ruiz de Alarcón y Mendoza

by Ventura Fuentes


Spanish dramatic poet, b. at Mexico City, about 1580; d. at Madrid, 4 August, 1639. He received his elementary education in Mexico and finished his studies at the University of Salamanca, obtaining the degree of Bachelor of Laws. In 1606, he removed to Seville with the object of practicing his profession, and remained in that city for three years. While there his friends and associates were the men of letters of the city, among them the illustrious Miguel Cervantes Saavedra, with whom he formed a close friendship The years between 1609 and 1611 he passed in his native country. Returning to Spain, he settled in Madrid. A few years before Philip II had transferred his court to that city, and it was not long before Alarcón's dreams of a prominent position at the bar were shattered, for he saw that only through intrigue and adulation could he hope for preferment. This being distasteful to a man of his temperament, he turned to writing for the stage, attracted by the success of Lope de Vega, Gabriel Tellez (Tirso de Molina), and others of that period, which was so rich in literary masters. He was successful almost from the start. Unfortunately, he gained as well the envy and enmity of some of the poets of the time, among them Lope de Vega, Gongora, and Montalván, who lampooned him mercilessly. After his death he was gradually forgotten, save by plagiarists, who could safely pilfer from his unread works. Posterity, however, has given him his due, and he is considered the first great literary product of the New World and perhaps even to this day, one of the greatest. He is admittedly in the foremost rank of Spanish dramatists, being surpassed if at all, only by Lope de Vega and Calderón. Alarcón was the author of many plays, all of them masterpieces. Among the best known are: "Truth Suspected", which drew forth the highest praise from Corneille, who used it as a basis for his "Le Menteur"; "Walls have Ears" was meant to ridicule the habits of gossip and slander; "The Weaver of Segovia", a drama of intrigue and passion, in two parts, the first of which has been attributed to another author, being so much inferior to the second. In general his plays are distinguished by their ingenious plots, moral tone, vigorous and pure style, and purity of versification.

HARTZENBUSCH, Comedias de J. Ruiz de Alarcón y Mendoza (1852); ANTONIO, Bibliotheca hispana nola (Madrid, 1783-88); LATOUR, Espagne, tradition, maeurs et litterature (1869); GUERRE Y ORBE, D. J. R. de Alarcón y Mendoza (Madrid, 1871).

VENTURA FUENTES