Victor Hugo, Ruy Blas

Matthew McMahan (Tufts University)
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Victor Hugo’s

Ruy Blas

(1838) combines the high emotions and suspense of melodrama, the carefully plotted intrigue of the

pièce bien faite

(well-made play), and the philosophical inquiry of Romanticism. The play mixes comedy, romance, and political critique, all through the humble, low-class hero and would-be nobleman Ruy Blas. Punning with the sounds of the titular character’s name, Hugo combines the word


for “king”, and


for “low”, as well as


for “weary”, to indicate the conundrum facing Ruy Blas as an “earthworm in love with a star” (

Ruy Blas

, l. 798, Hugo, p. 1549). Receiving a lukewarm reception upon its première, the play is now one of the most oft-produced plays, alongside


(1830), in Hugo’s dramatic



Written at a furious pace

3411 words

Citation: McMahan, Matthew. "Ruy Blas". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 05 July 2016 [, accessed 14 July 2024.]

11221 Ruy Blas 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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