Leandro Fernández de Moratín Analysis

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Leandro Fernández de Moratín is chiefly recognized for his plays although he did contribute to the Spanish literary world a rather large and varied corpus of writings. He wrote much verse, most of which is undistinguished, although he did win honorable mention in a 1779 poetry contest held by the Spanish Royal Academy for a narrative poem La toma de Granada. Three years later, the Spanish Royal Academy again awarded him honorable mention for Lección poética: Sátira Contra los vicios introducidos en la poesía castellana, a satire on the literary vices of the day.

In 1798, he undertook a translation of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (pr. c. 1600-1601). Although his command of English was not perfect, his prose translation was probably the best in a Romance language up to that time. Moratín also translated two comedies by Molière: in 1812, L’École des maris (pr., pb. 1661; The School for Husbands, 1732) and in 1814, Le Médecin malgré lui (pr., pb. 1666; The Doctor in Spite of Himself, 1672). Unlike his translation of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, these are free adaptations that stray considerably from the original but refrain from deforming them. Moratín was a great admirer of the French dramatist, from whom he learned to avoid the unbelievable series of mistaken identities and circumstances found in earlier comedies and to focus on the true nature and emotions of his...

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It is remarkable that Leandro Fernández de Moratín, despite writing only five original comedies, is a major figure of the Spanish theater. His scant production appears insignificant, for example, when compared to the 80 and 113 plays written, respectively, by his contemporaries Antonio Valladares y Sotomayor and Luciano Comella y Villamitjana. Moratín, however, had a lasting impact on generations of Spanish dramatists, who admired his command of language, his carefully structured plots, and his good taste. The result was that his plays served as models for several generations of playwrights. In fact, he has been called the most influential dramatist in Spanish literature next to Lope de Vega.

Moratín merits being placed in the same category with the greatest genius of the Spanish stage because of his signal contributions to the reform of the Spanish theater. The great aesthetic concern of the eighteenth century was the reformation of the theater, and Moratín, primarily through La comedia nueva and When a Girl Says Yes, gave a new direction to the theater just as Lope de Vega had done in the previous century with his comedia. With La comedia nueva, which mocked a popular but decadent genre, Moratín played a crucial role in convincing playwrights to turn from an inferior form of the heroic comedy. When a Girl Says Yes was a resounding success and provided playwrights with a model for a type of play that achieved...

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Deacon, Philip. Introduction to El sí de las niñas, by Leandro Fernández de Moratín. Newburyport, Mass.: Focus Information Group, 1995. In his introduction to Moratín’s When a Girl Says Yes, Deacon provides information on Moratín’s life and on the play. Bibliography.

Dowling, John. Leandro Fernández de Moratín. New York: Twayne, 1971. A biography of Moratín covering his works and life. Bibliography.

Dowling, John. “Moratín’s La comedia nueva and the Reform of the Spanish Theater.” Hispania. 53 (1970): 397-402. An analysis of the influence of Moratín’s play La comedia nueva on Spanish theater.