Juan Ruiz de Alarcón: moralist? or realist? essay

What differentiate the best work of Alarcon from that of his contemporaries in Spain are the serious moral purpose and the very practical code of morality he develops in his drama. His best plays are also marked by realism of plot and characterisation. They are remarkably unbiased and unobjectionable. His plays imbibed the spirit of sixteenth century Mexico (Schons, 1942, p. 89)1.

His plays are notable for their superb plot construction, psychological subtlety, and ethical teachings. His plays centres around moral defects in a person’s character such as seasoned lying (La Verdad sospechosa), slander and defamation (Las paredes Oyen), ingratitude (La prueba de las promesas), capriciousness of lovers (Mudarse por mejorarse). 2 From the point of view of the themes of his numerous plays, he was more of a moralist than a realist.

Observations made by students of Juan Ruiz de Alarcon theatre have observed that a large number of his plays make magic and occult phenomena an important of the total design of the work. 3 Considering theological and moral preoccupation in most of his plays characterised by meaning of grace, question of sin and retribution, personal responsibility in salvation, the conflict between reason and faith, and the doctrine of free will versus determinism, Alarcon can be justifiably considered the moral philosophers among his contemporaries.

Although some of his plays are based on illusion reality structure or the credulity of the power of stars over men’s destiny, his best known comedias contain social satire sprinkled with moral concepts. The dramatic solution to moral concerns in his plays set them apart contemporary play (Parker, 1998, p. 9).


1. Schons, D (1942) The Mexican Background of Alarcon, PMLA, Vol. 57, No. 1, pp. 89-104 2. “Ruiz de Alarcon, Juan”, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2006, Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, 18th Nov, 2006, Retrieved from URL: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9064398