Out of the Wings

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José Zorrilla

Personal information
Surname: Zorrilla
First name: José
Other versions of the name: José Zorrilla y Moral
Born: 21 February 1817, Valladolid, Spain
Died: 23 January 1893

José Zorrilla is a Spanish playwright and poet. He was born into a wealthy family, educated by the Jesuits and sent to study law at the University of Toledo. Zorrilla had a rebellious streak, however, and regularly angered his conservative father with his views and behaviour. Consequently, after a year of doing barely any studying in Toledo, Zorrilla fled to Madrid. Here, he immersed himself in the city’s bohemian cultural scene, writing poems and soaking up the works of both Spanish and foreign authors, such as Victor Hugo and Sir Walter Scott. In Madrid, Zorrilla gained a reputation as an emerging dramatist and poet, but in 1845 he moved to Paris, fleeing from a troubled marriage and a string of affairs. After returning to Madrid in 1846 Zorrilla’s reputation continued to grow. His skill as a playwright and poet was recognised by the cultural establishment: he was admitted into the prestigious Real Academia and became a board member of Madrid's newly established Teatro Español. Despite this, Zorrilla still had debts and an abandoned wife pursuing him. He left Spain once again and spent years in Paris, London and Mexico, only returning to Spain in 1866 after the death of his estranged wife. In later life Zorrilla married again. His work continued to be popular, although it was only after his death that Zorrilla truly got the recognition he deserved as one of Spain’s greatest writers. Today, Don Juan Tenorio is Zorrilla’s most well-known work and is the longest-running play performed in Spain.


Love, religion, the struggle to live as an artist are a number of José Zorrilla’s themes. His work was influenced by historical and mythical legends, with several of his plays (like Don Juan Tenorio) featuring well-known figures or heroes with whom his contemporary public would have been very familiar.


Zorrilla wrote in verse style, and the lyricism of many of his plays is a reflection of his skill as a poet. A number of his works contain supernatural elements, such as Don Juan Tenorio in which statues of Don Juan’s victims come to life.

Plays in the database

Entry submitted by David_Arbesu on 20 April 2012 and last updated by Kathleen Jeffs on 17 August 2012

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