De la Cruz Cano y Olmedilla, Ramon

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de la Cruz Cano y Olmedilla, Ramon (1731-94): Spanish Playwright and Poet.

Don Ramon de la Cruz Cano y Olmedilla is the leading writer of Sainetes, farces that documented 18th century Spain. He was born in Madrid to a middle class family and studied law and humanities. He married at a young age and had several children. In 1759 he entered government work and eventually became the senior official of the Secretary of Finance. He was a member of the Royal Academy of Sevilla and of the Arcadians of Rome. He always lived in economic hardship for neither his salary nor earnings from his more than four hundred pieces for the stage were enough to cover his expenses. In 1767 a third of his earnings was seized by the State even though he was under the patronage of the Dukes of Alba y Osuna and was especially favored by the Countess of Benavente. In the archives of Rome he is listed under the name of Larissio Dianeo.

Don Ramon de la Cruz began to write in the neoclassical mode with original and translated works that adhered to the dramatic unities. In the beginning he wrote various tragedies, zarzuelas and comedies based on the works of French and Italian authors. In 1757 he wrote a zarzuela,Quien complace a la deidad acierta a sacrificar. This work’s only interest lies in the prologue, where the author denigrated the genre of the Sainete (farce). Ironically, it is for this new form of dramatic writing, the Sainete, that Ramon de la Cruz gained his place in the history of Spanish Literature.

The Sainete is a short farcical sketch full of puns and jokes that describe city life and manners, especially of the middle and lower classes. It did not take Ramon de la Cruz long to realize that his success did not lie with the writing of neoclassical tragedies, and he threw himself into writing Sainetes and Loas, and used them as introductions or epilogues to his more serious works.

He included only forty one examples of his farces in the ten volumes of his dramatic works (1786-91), along with nineteen longer plays. This preference for longer plays shows his persistence in wanting to be considered as a major playwright and his belief that being known for his farces would not gain the literary standing to which he aspired. In this, he failed to notice the popular demand of his century.

In the dramatic works of Ramon de la Cruz, Agustin Duran classified three types: (A) Comedy: ( La embarazada ridicula, El casero burlado, La presumida burlada, El forastero prudente, La oposicion al cortejo, etc.) (B) Farces with an ethical and idealistic tendency concluding with a moral:(La avaricia castigada, El espejo de los padres, etc.) and (C)Farces based on social customs: (El alcalde limosnero, Las castaneras picadas, Las majas del Avapies, El prado por la tarde, El Rastro por la manana, Manolo, Los payos en la Corte, El peitmetre, etc.). Other groupings of farces by Ramon de la Cruz include: parodies of neoclassical tragedies (by Ines de Castro, in Inesilla la del Pinto; by Zaira, in Zara); farces of a polemical-literary character (La critica, La feria de los poetas, El pueblo quejoso); and a collection of metatheatre, reflecting customs and his contemporaries.: (El teatro por dentro, el coliseo por de fuera, La comedia de maravillas, El sainete interrumpido).

Ramon de la Cruz is known as the creator of the Sainete, documenting the custom and types of people of his times and his art has been compared by critics to the poetry of Iglesias and to the caprichos of Goya y Lucientes, Francisco de. His role in Spanish theatre was to present to a popular audience of the 18th century -- the Maja, artisans, bricklayers, wig makers, tailors, hidalgos, scribes, merchants, musicians, lackeys, pages, etc. of the era.

Further Reading:

A. Hamilton, “Ramon de la Cruz, Social Reformer,” The Rom. Review, XII. 1921. “A study of Spanish Manners, 1750-1800, from the Plays of Ramon de la Cruz,” Illinois Language, vol. XI, num. 3, 1926.

Christine Bridges-Esser

Lamar University