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Leandro Fernández de Moratín

Personal information
Surname: Moratín
First name: Leandro Fernández
Commonly known as: Moratín
Born: 10 March 1760, Madrid, Spain
Died: 21 June 1828

Leandro Fernández de Moratín (1760-1828) is considered one of the greatest playwrights of the early modern Spanish stage. Born in Madrid he was the son of Nicolás Fernández de Moratín (1737-1780), a major literary figure in eighteenth-century Spain. Initially, however, rather than embark on a literary career, Nicolás intended his son to go to Rome to study art. Instead, Moratín never received any formal academic training and became apprenticed to a silversmith while trying to achieve success with his writing. After the death of his father in 1780, Moratín received financial and emotional support from mentors such as the politically influential author and poet Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos (1744-1811) and Manuel de Godoy (1767-1851) who was twice prime minister of Spain. This patronage gave Moratín the means to travel around Europe. His visits to England led him to translate works by William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and in France he became interested in and translated plays by Molière (1622-1673). Moratín was a great admirer of France and French theatre. Consequently, when Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother Joseph became King of Spain in 1808, Moratín was a strong supporter of his reign, not least because it suppressed the powers of the staunchly oppressive Spanish Inquisition which had been responsible for censoring his plays. However, when King Ferdinand VII was restored to the Spanish throne in 1813, Moratín was forced into exile in France where he died in 1828. He was for a time buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris alongside French literary greats like Molière. In 1900 Moratín was among several celebrated Spanish figures to have their remains interred in the Panteón de Hombres Ilustres (Pantheon of Illustrious Men) in Madrid.


The influence of Molière on Moratín’s work is not only reflected in the neoclassical style of his theatre, but also in his subject matter. Like much of Molière’s work, Moratín’s plays deal with gender inequalities and the hypocrisy regarding the different moral standards required of women and men in society. He uses comedy to critique the social and theatrical conventions of late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century Spain. Because of this, his work was subject to censorship by the authorities of the Spanish Inquisition.


Moratín’s love of French theatre is reflected in his work. He is, most notably, influenced by the French neoclassical style as practised by one of his greatest literary influences, Molière. Unlike many plays of the period during which he wrote, Moratín’s work was characterised by comic but naturalistic dialogue and simple sets, and featured ordinary people rather than historical figures. In fact, Moratín’s rejection and disapproval of the over-exaggerated and grandiose plays that were commonplace in eighteenth-century Spain is crystallised in his 1792 satire La comedia nueva (The New Comedy).

Plays in the database

Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 13 May 2011.

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