Ruy Blas
Ruy Blas is a tragic
Tragedy is a form of art based on human suffering that offers its audience pleasure. While most cultures have developed forms that provoke this paradoxical response, tragedy refers to a specific tradition of drama that has played a unique and important role historically in the self-definition of...

Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" , which is derived from "to do","to act" . The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a...

 by Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo
Victor-Marie Hugo was a Frenchpoet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights activist and exponent of the Romantic movement in France....

. It was the first play presented at the Théâtre de la Renaissance
Théâtre de la Renaissance
The name Théâtre de la Renaissance has been used successively for three distinct Parisian theatre companies. The first two companies, which were short-lived enterprises in the 19th century, used the Salle Ventadour, now an office building on the Rue Méhul in the 2nd arrondissement.The current...

 and opened on November 8, 1838. Though considered by many to be Hugo’s best drama, the play initially met with only average success.

The action takes place in 17th century Spain during the reign of Charles II
Charles II of Spain
Charles II was the last Habsburg King of Spain and the ruler of large parts of Italy, the Spanish territories in the Southern Low Countries, and Spain's overseas Empire, stretching from the Americas to the Spanish East Indies...

. Ruy Blas, an indentured commoner (and a poet), dares to love the Queen
Maria Anna of Pfalz-Neuburg
Countess Palatine Maria Anna of Neuburg was Queen consort of Spain from 1689 to 1700 as the second wife of King Charles II. She was known as Mariana in her adopted Spain...

. The play is a thinly veiled cry for political reform.


The story centers around a practical joke played on the queen by Don Sallusto for revenge. Knowing that one of his slaves, Ruy Blas, has secretly fallen in love with the queen, the Don disguises Blas as a nobleman and takes him to court. Intelligent and generous, Blas becomes popular, is appointed prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

, and begins useful reforms, and conquers the queen's heart. Don Sallusto returns to take his revenge; he discloses the masquerade by cruelly humiliating Blas - he commands Blas to close the window and pick up his handkerchief, while trying to explain the condition of Spanish politics. Blas kills him and decides to commit suicide with poison. On the point of death, he is forgiven by the queen who openly declares her love for him.


  • Felix Mendelssohn
    Felix Mendelssohn
    Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

    , after reading (and hating) the play, was commissioned to write a Concert Overture based on it, his Opus 95.
  • Irish actor and dramatist Edmund Falconer
    Edmund Falconer
    Edmund Falconer , also known as Edmund O'Rourke, was an Irish-born 19th century poet, actor, theatre manager, songwriter and playwright, known for his keen wit and outstanding acting skills.-Early life:...

     translated Ruy Blas in 1858. It was performed at the Princess Theatre, London
    Princess's Theatre, London
    The Princess's Theatre or Princess Theatre was a theatre in Oxford Street, London. The building opened in 1828 as the "Queen's Bazaar" and housed a diorama by Clarkson Stanfield and David Roberts. It was converted into a theatre and opened in 1836 as the Princess's Theatre, named for then Princess...

    , in late 1858.
  • W. S. Gilbert
    W. S. Gilbert
    Sir William Schwenck Gilbert was an English dramatist, librettist, poet and illustrator best known for his fourteen comic operas produced in collaboration with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, of which the most famous include H.M.S...

     wrote a burlesque of the play, by the same name, in Warne's Christmas Annual for 1866.
  • An opera of the same name, by Filippo Marchetti
    Filippo Marchetti
    Filippo Marchetti was an Italian opera composer. After studying in Naples, his first opera was "successfully premiered" in Turin in 1856...

     with a libretto by Carlo d'Ormeville was produced at La Scala
    La Scala
    La Scala , is a world renowned opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the New Royal-Ducal Theatre at La Scala...

     in Milan in 1869.
  • A musical comedy, Ruy Blas and the Blasé Roué
    Ruy Blas and the Blase Roue
    Ruy Blas and the Blasé Roué is a burlesque written by A. C. Torr and Herbert F. Clark with music by Meyer Lutz. It is based on the Victor Hugo drama Ruy Blas. The piece was produced by George Edwardes. As with many of the Gaiety burlesques, the title is a pun...

    by A. C. Torr and Herbert F. Clark with music by Meyer Lutz
    Meyer Lutz
    Wilhelm Meyer Lutz was a German-born English composer and conductor who is best known for light music, musical theatre and burlesques of well-known works....

    , premiered in 1889.
  • A 1947 movie, again called Ruy Blas, was directed by Pierre Billon, adapted by Jean Cocteau, and starring Jean Marais, Danielle Darrieux and Marcel Herrand.
  • A 1971 movie, La folie des grandeurs, directed by Gérard Oury
    Gérard Oury
    Gérard Oury was a French film director, actor and writer. His real name was Max-Gérard Houry Tannenbaum.- A commercially successful French filmmaker :...

    , adapted by Danièle Thomson, and starring Alice Sapritch
    Alice Sapritch
    Alice Sapritch was a French film actress of Armenian descent. She appeared in 66 films between 1950 and 1989.-Filmography:* Candide ou l'optimisme au XXe siècle * Who Are You, Polly Magoo?...

    , Louis de Funès
    Louis de Funès
    Louis Germain David de Funès de Galarza was a very popular French actor who is one of the giants of French comedy alongside André Bourvil and Fernandel...

     and Yves Montand
    Yves Montand
    -Early life:Montand was born Ivo Livi in Monsummano Terme, Italy, the son of poor peasants Giuseppina and Giovanni Livi, a broommaker. Montand's mother was a devout Catholic, while his father held strong Communist beliefs. Because of the Fascist regime in Italy, Montand's family left for France in...

    , is also based on it.
  • It also formed the basis for a 2002 telefilm by Jacques Weber
    Jacques Weber
    Jacques Weber is a French actor, director and writer, born in Paris .- Biography :Passionate about drama from his youth, Jacques Weber joined the Conservatoire national supérieur d'art dramatique at the age of 20, and won the prix d'Excellence when he left. He joined Robert Hossein in Reims...

    , again called Ruy Blas.

Dramatis Personae

  • Ruy Blas
  • Don Salluste de Bazan, marquis de Finlas
  • Don César de Bazan, comte de Garofa
  • Don Guritan
  • Le Comte de Camporeal
  • Le Marquis de Santa-Cruz
  • Le marquis del Basto
  • Le comte d'Albe
  • Le marquis de Priego
  • Don Manuel Arias
  • Montazgo
  • Don Antonio Ubilla
  • Covadenga
  • Gudiel
  • Doña Maria de Neubourg, Queen of Spain
  • La Duchesse d'Albuquerque
  • Casilda
  • Un laquais, un alcade, alguazils, pages, dames, seigneurs, privy councillors, duègnes, guards, huissiers de chambre et de cour
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