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Juan Ruiz de Alarcón
Juan Ruiz de Alarcon.jpg
Juan Ruiz de Alarcón y Mendoza

c. 1580
Taxco, Mexico
Died August 4, 1639 (aged 58–59)
Madrid, Spain
Occupation writer, actor, and lawyer
Firma de Juan Ruiz de Alarcón.jpg

Juan Ruiz de Alarcón (c. 1581 - 4 August 1639) was a New Spain-born Spanish writer of the Golden Age who cultivated different variants of dramaturgy. His works include the comedy La verdad sospechosa, which is considered a masterpiece of Latin American Baroque theater.


Juan Ruiz de Alarcón was born in Real de Taxco, later named Taxco de Alarcón in his honour. He was small of stature and suffered from hunchbackedness. Besides, his red haired complexion made him an occasional object of scorn, since some sectors of the conservative catholic society in which he later lived held the prejudice that Judas Iscariot was a redhead himself. Because of this, his critics often ridiculed his appearance rather than his works.

He went to Spain in 1600, where he studied law at the University of Salamanca. He continued his studies towards a Licentiate in Law—roughly equivalent to a modern Master’s degree—which he finished in 1605, without, however, taking the degree. Instead, he practiced law for a while in Seville, then in 1608 went back to Mexico, and in 1609 received the licentiate from the University of Mexico.

He completed his studies for his doctorate fairly soon thereafter, but never received the degree, because of the rather substantial costs attached to the ceremony. He worked as a legal adviser for a while, as an advocate, and as an interim investigating judge, all the while trying repeatedly and unsuccessfully to gain a teaching chair at the University.

Juan Ruiz de Alarcón (E. Gimeno)
Engraving of Juan Ruiz de Alarcón

Returning to Spain about 1611, he entered the household of the marquis de Salinas, and began a life of job-seeking at court. At the same time, purely as a way of making money apparently, he threw himself into the literary and theatrical life of the capital, eventually having a number of his plays performed. His first play was unsuccessful, yet it attracted attention to him.

For ten years, he pursued this double life, until he finally secured a permanent appointment to the Royal Council of the Indies in 1626. Apparently, when political success came, he all but stopped his literary efforts—although he did have two volumes of his plays published (in 1628 and 1634).

After thirteen years of legal service to the crown, he died at Madrid in 1639.

More than any other Spanish dramatist, Alarcón was preoccupied with ethical aims, and his gift of dramatic presentation is as brilliant as his dialogue is natural. It has been alleged that his non-Spanish origin is noticeable in his plays, and there is some foundation for the observation; but his workmanship is exceptionally conscientious, and in El Tejedor de Segovia he produced a masterpiece of national art, national sentiment and national expression.

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