La Serie del Lenguaje Moderno Heath: Tres Comedias-Sin Querer de Pequenas Causas y Los Intereses Creados by Jacinto Benavente - HTML preview
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Heath's Modern Language Series
DE PEQUEÑAS CAUSAS...
LOS INTERESES CREADOS
JOHN VAN HORNE, Ph.D.
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
D. C. HEATH & CO., PUBLISHERS
BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO
BY D. C. HEATH & CO.
2 B 3
Printed in U. S. A.
CONTEMPORARY SPANISH TEXTS
FEDERICO DE ONÍS
Professor of Spanish Literature,
University of Salamanca and Columbia University
CONTEMPORARY SPANISH TEXTS
1. Jacinto Benavente: Tres Comedias, Sin querer, De pequeñas causas, Los intereses creados. Edited with notes and vocabulary by ProfessorJOHN VAN HORNE of the University
of Illinois. xxxvi + 189 pages.
2. Vicente Blasco Ibáñez: La Batalla del Marne from Los cuatro jinetesdel Apocalipsis. Edited with notes and vocabulary by Professor FEDERICODE ONÍS of the University
of Salamanca and Columbia University. xi + 201pages.
3. Gregorio Martínez Sierra: Canción de Cuna. Edited with notes,direct-method exercises, and vocabulary by Professor
AURELIO M. ESPINOSAof Stanford University. xxvi + 142
4. Juan Ramón Jiménez: Platero y yo. Edited with notes, direct-methodexercises, and vocabulary by GERTRUDE M.
WALSH of the North High School,Columbus, Ohio. xiv + 136
5. Manuel Linares Rivas: El Abolengo. Edited with direct-methodexercises, notes, and vocabulary by Dr. PAUL G.
MILLER, formerlyCommissioner of Education of Porto Rico.
xvi + 124 pages.
6. Hill and Buceta: Antología de cuentos españoles: Edited withdirect-method exercises, notes, and vocabulary by
Professor JOHN M. HILLof Indiana University, and Professor
ERASMO BUCETA of the University ofCalifornia. xvi + 257
Con este volumen iniciamos la publicación de una nueva serie de textospara el uso general de las clases de español. Intentamos con ellaresponder a las nuevas necesidades creadas por el rápido yextraordinario crecimiento del estudio del español que a través de todoel país estamos en estos días presenciando. El caudal de textosutilizado para esta enseñanza necesita ser renovado y aumentado deacuerdo con las nuevas demandas.
No creemos equivocarnos al interpretar la transformación a que estamosasistiendo, no sólo como un aumento en el número
de estudiantes y en laintensidad del estudio, sino como un cambio en la dirección y en losfines de éste. Hasta ahora dominaba una tendencia más bien literaria ehistórica; desde ahora, aun continuada e intensificada ésta, el primerplano de interés en el estudio del español lo ocupa el interés práctico,político y comercial. Reconocido este hecho a él debemos ajustarnuestras normas y a sus necesidades tenemos que subvenir; pero hemos deapresurarnos a afirmar que entendemos grave error el considerar esos dosfines como antitéticos.
serverdaderamente práctico y eficaz, requerirá en el mayor grado posible elconocimiento y el uso de las obras puramente literarias.
La lectura de textos literarios originales de autores españoles serásiempre uno de los modos esenciales de llegar al conocimiento prácticode la lengua. Será además un insustituible medio de llegar a conocer lavida, las costumbres, el carácter y el espíritu de esos pueblos con losque nos ligan lazos múltiples. La transformación a que estamosasistiendo no deberá pues
entenderse en ningún sentido ni en ningún casocomo motivo de exclusión de los textos literarios en la enseñanza; perosí habrá seguramente que escoger entre la literatura de esos países laque más se adapte a las nuevas necesidades. Parece evidente que elestudio del español se dirige ahora mucho más que antes a las realidadesactuales de los pueblos hispánicos, y que por lo tanto la literatura quedebe ser conocida y utilizada generalmente en las clases debe ser laliteratura de hoy, la literatura actualmente viva, la que representa elespíritu y los ideales actuales de la gran comunidad hispana.
Se han utilizado con éxito hasta ahora (y se seguirán utilizando)ciertas
pertenecientes sobre todoal siglo XIX; pero pueden contarse con los dedos de una mano las obrasde autores rigurosamente contemporáneos y las de autoreshispano-americanos que hasta ahora se han puesto en circulación. El grancaudal de la producción literaria contemporánea—que por otra partetiene el interés de ser uno de los momentos más brillantes de laliteratura española—permanece fuera de nuestras clases de español. Yesto es más grave si se tiene en cuenta que un cambio esencial se hallevado a cabo en las postrimerías del siglo XIX en las tendencias y enlos gustos literarios y por lo tanto en el espíritu colectivo, un cambiotal que significa la aparición de una nueva época claramente distinta yaun contradictoria de la anterior. Esta época es la que ahora seencuentra en su momento de plenitud y madurez. Los más de los escritoresdel siglo XIX han
desaparecido ya, los que aun viven son escritoresretardados en contradicción con el espíritu del tiempo, y la nuevageneración de escritores que surgió a la vida literaria en los últimosdiez años del siglo XIX se encuentra ahora, después de veinte o treintaaños de labor, en la cumbra de su vida y con una gloriosa obra detrás.
El mérito y el valor relativo de los hombres de esa generación ha sidoaquilatado por el público y la crítica españoles durante este tiempo yalgunos de ellos han obtenido una consagración que les da, hasta dondeel juicio contemporáneo puede llegar, el valor y la autoridad deescritores clásicos. Unos han visto abiertas las puertas de la RealAcademia Española, otros ven sus obras publicadas en ediciones completasy en selecciones y antologías, todos ellos las han visto traducidas alas diversas lenguas europeas, y—lo que significa más que nada—todosellos cuentan con la reputación, la autoridad y la influencia a travésde la gran comunidad espiritual de los pueblos que hablan español.
Creemos llegado el momento de ofrecer a nuestros estudiantes lo mejor deeste caudal literario, y para ello hemos concebido la publicación de unaserie constituida por un número limitado de textos que sean ejemplos deprimer orden de los diversos autores y de las diversas manifestacionesliterarias modernas en España y en Hispano-América y que al mismo tiemporeúnan aquellas condiciones que los hagan aptos para la enseñanzapráctica del idioma en nuestras escuelas y colegios.
La selección cuidadosa de los textos irá acompañada de ciertasinnovaciones en la edición que tiendan a darle mayor eficacia práctica.Cada texto llevará una breve introducción escrita en español claro, puroy sencillo, destinada a ser leída en las clases por los alumnos mismoscomo parte del texto. Los profesores comprenderán la importancia quetiene preparar al alumno para la inteligencia de un texto y un autor queforman parte de las realidades actuales de los países cuya vida sepretende dar a conocer. El Sr. Onís, director de la serie, escribirápara ella dichas introducciones.
Las notas tendrán un carácter práctico; se pretenderá en ellas no sóloresolver las dificultades gramaticales y de significación, sino dar aconocer el valor que, respecto al uso de la lengua comúnmente hablada,tiene la lengua literaria empleada en el texto. Muchas de las obras iránacompañadas de ejercicios adecuados al grado de enseñanza a que la obrase considere destinada. En todo caso la obra irá acompañada de
unvocabulario en el que se explicará suficientemente la significación y elvalor usual del caudal lexicográfico, el cual, por su modernidad, ofrecemuchas voces comunes que aun no han sido recogidas por losdiccionarios.
The text of this edition is taken from Benavente's Teatro, Librería delos Sucesores de Hernando, Madrid; Sin querer comes from vol. 4, 2ded., 1913; De pequeñas causas... from vol.
18, 1909; Los interesescreados from vol. 16, 4th ed., 1914. A few obvious misprints arecorrected; accentuation is made to conform to the regulations in the1914 edition of the Spanish Academy Dictionary; punctuation isunchanged. The text proper is complete except for two slight omissionsfrom De pequeñas causas..., both of which are mentioned in the notes. Los intereses creados is chosen as one of the finest of Benavente'splays, and the one best suited to class use; the two shorter pieces areincluded to give an idea of the author's more normal manner.
Although De pequeñas causas... was produced on the stage after Los interesescreados, it precedes it in this edition in order that the long play maystand at the end of the volume.
It is believed that these plays can be read to greatest advantage afterstudents have had one year of Spanish. The Notes and Vocabulary havebeen prepared with that in mind, as much material as possible beingplaced in the Vocabulary rather than in the Notes. However, in thepresent dearth of good elementary texts, the book might be used towardthe end of the first year; it is hoped that the vocabulary is adequatefor such a purpose. The introduction aims to give as complete an accountas space permits, of Benavente's dramatic career. Therefore,non-dramatic works, such as De sobremesa, are treated in much moresummary fashion than they deserve.
The editor wishes to express his thanks to the author, Sr. D.
JacintoBenavente, for kind permission to edit these plays; to his father forcareful reading and correction of introduction, notes and vocabulary; toProfessor John D. Fitz-Gerald, and Dr.
Homero Serís, of the Universityof Illinois, and to Mr. José G.
García, of New York City, founder of thenewspaper Las Novedades, for valuable suggestions on difficult points.Dean Roscoe Pound, of the Law School of Harvard University, kindlyfurnished suggestions as to the probable interpretation of Emiliano andTriberiano.
Benavente's Life. —Jacinto Benavente y Martínez or Jacinto Benavente, ashe is commonly known, was born in Madrid on August 12th, 1866. Heattended school in his native city, studied law at the University there,and finally abandoned his thought of a legal career in order to devotehimself to dramatic literature.
Much intercourse with varied types ofpeople has supplied him with the knowledge of human nature evident inhis dramatic productions. Although he has traveled to a considerableextent, Madrid has been the center of nearly all his literary activity,and it is impossible to identify him with any other place. The principalevents of his life have been associated with the theater, and are bestreviewed in connection with the study of his dramatic career.
Mariano Benavente, the father of the author, was a physician andspecialist in children's diseases, who came originally from Murcia. Hisinfluence upon his son is perhaps noticeable in the respect shown by thelatter for the medical profession and in his fondness for children.
Devotion to the Stage. —In an interview published in the Madridperiodical La Esfera (in 1916) Benavente tells us that his affectionfor the theater was awakened at a very early age. He says that as a boyhe took delight in fashioning little theatrical pieces in which he couldact, and that his enthusiasm was aroused by the presentation rather thanby the composition of such pieces. Even recently he declared that hewould rather have been a great actor than a writer of plays. In fact, hehas been known to appear on the stage with the actress María Tubau andin some of his own productions, one of which was Sin querer.
Benavente is a peculiarly natural product of the stage. No one couldgive himself more whole-heartedly to his profession than he has done. Heis interested in all theatrical matters: in the writing and presentationof plays, in actors, in the Madrid public which he praises and censuresin turn, in the history and criticism of the drama, in aestheticprinciples, in the relation between good art and financial success; inshort, no detail escapes his notice.
He likes to work with hisaudiences, to please and to amuse them, yet he does not lose sight ofthe serious mission of the drama. No outside interests have ever takenhim for any considerable time from his true vocation. He is an excellentand well-rounded,
spontaneousproduct of Spanish dramatic art.
Minor Works. —We are informed in the interview already mentioned thatBenavente was forced to write several plays before he composed one thatwas accepted. In characteristically ironical style he asserts that itwas not hard for him to gain a hearing, because his father was thephysician of the theatrical manager to whom he made application. Hisearliest models, according
andEchegaray. Veneration for the great English dramatist is apparent inBenavente's entire career. The influence is perhaps most directly seenin the Teatro fantástico, the first in date of his published writings(1892). Short sketches and prose dialogues are contained in two otherearly volumes, Figulinas and Vilanos.
A fourth book containingyouthful writings and entitled Cartas de mujeres is a series ofletters meant to illustrate the thoughts and the epistolary style ofwomen. These letters have been much praised in Spain for their literaryworkmanship and for their insight into the feminine heart, a facultywhich has always been considered one of the clearest manifestations ofBenavente's genius.
Other productions distinct from the central body of
Benavente's dramaticworks (the Teatro) are De sobremesa and the Teatro del pueblo. Theformer, a collection in five volumes of weekly articles composed for Los lunes of El Imparcial (1908-1912), is the principal source forits author's views on dramatic criticism and on worldly affairs ingeneral. The Teatro del pueblo is a series of papers on subjectsconnected with the stage. Both these productions will be discussed aftera review of the plays.
List of Plays. —The following titles are encountered, in the order herefollowed, in the twenty-two volumes of the Teatro.
The date of the estreno (first performance) and a brief description are given witheach title.
1894 October 6th. El nido ajeno (comedy, three acts).
1896 October 21st. Gente conocida (scenes of modern life, four acts).
1897 February 13th. El marido de la Téllez (comedy sketch, one act).
February 27th. De alivio (monologue).
October 31st. Don Juan (translated from Molière).
November 30th. La farándula (comedy, two acts).
1898 November 7th. La comida de las fieras (comedy, three acts).
December 28th, Teatro feminista (farce comedy with
music, one act).
1899 March 11th. Cuento de amor (from Shakespeare's
May 4th. Operación quirúrgica (comedy, one act).
December 7th. Despedida cruel (comedy, one act).
1900 March 31st. La gata de Angora (comedy, four acts).
April 6th. Viaje de instrucción (zarzuela).
July 15th. Por la herida (drama, one act).
1901 January 18th. Modas (sketch, one act).
January 19th. Lo cursi (comedy, three acts).
March 3rd. Sin querer (comedy sketch, one act).
July 19th. Sacrificios (drama, three acts).
October 8th. La gobernadora (comedy, three acts).
November 12th. El primo Román (comedy, three acts).
1902 February 24th. Amor de amar (comedy, two acts).
March 17th. ¡Libertad! (translated from the Catalan of Rusiñol).
April 18th. El tren de los maridos (farce comedy, two acts).
December 2nd. Alma triunfante (drama, three acts).
December 19th. El automóvil (comedy, two acts).
1903 March 17th. La noche del sábado (stage romance, five divisions).
No date. Los favoritos (adapted from episode in
Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing").
March 23rd. El hombrecito (comedy, three acts).
October 29th. Mademoiselle de Belle-Isle (translated from Dumas Pére).
October 26th. Por qué se ama (comedy, one act).
November 20th. Al natural (comedy, two acts).
December 9th. La casa de la dicha (drama, one act).
March 16th. El dragón de fuego (drama, three acts).
1904 March 15th. Richelieu (translated from Bulwer-Lytton).
No date. La princesa Bebé (scenes of modern life, four acts).
March 3rd. No fumadores (farce, one act).
1905 April 13th. Rosas de otoño (comedy, three acts).
No date. Buena boda (based on Augier).
July 18th. El susto de la condesa (dialogue).
July 22nd. Cuento inmoral (monologue).
December 23rd. La sobresalienta (farce with music).
December 1st. Los malhechores del bien (comedy, two
December 24th. Las cigarras hormigas (farce comedy,
1906 February 22nd. Más fuerte que el amor (drama, four acts).
No date. Manón Lescaut (adapted from the Abbé Prévost).
1907 February 8th. Los buhos (comedy, three acts).
February 21st. Abuela y nieta (dialogue).
No date. La princesa sin corazón (fairy-tale).
January 10th. El amor asusta (comedy, one act).
March 16th. La copa encantada (adapted from Ariosto, one act zarzuela).
November 7th. Los ojos de los muertos (drama, three acts).
No date. La historia de Otelo (comedy, one act).
No date. La sonrisa de Gioconda (comedy sketch, one
No date. El último minué (comedy sketch, one act).
September 21st. Todos somos unos (farce with music).
December 9th. Los intereses creados (comedy of masks).
1908 February 22nd. Señora ama (comedy, three acts).
October 19th. El marido de su viuda (comedy, one act).
November 10th. La fuerza bruta (comedy, one act).
March 14th. De pequeñas causas... (comedy sketch, one act).
December 23rd. Hacia la verdad (scenes of modern life, three divisions).
1909 January 20th. Por las nubes (comedy, two acts).
April 10th. De cerca (comedy, one act).
No date. ¡A ver qué hace un hombre! (dramatic sketch, one act).
October 14th. La escuela de las princesas (comedy, three acts).
December 1st. La señorita se aburre (based on Tennyson, one act).
December 20th. El príncipe que todo lo aprendió en los
libros (fairy-tale, two acts).
December 20th. Ganarse la vida (fairy-tale, one act).
1910 January 27th. El nietecito (from Grimm's Fairy Tales, one act).
1911 November 9th. La losa de los sueños (comedy, two acts).
1913 December 12th. La malquerida (drama, three acts).
1914 March 25th. El destino manda (from Hervieu).
1915 March 4th. El collar de estrellas (comedy, four acts).
No date. La verdad (dialogue).
December 22nd. La propia estimación (comedy, two acts).
1916 February 14th. Campo de armiño (comedy, three acts).
May 4th. La ciudad alegre y confiada (second part of Los intereses creados).
It will be observed that the Teatro includes nearly all varieties ofdramatic output: one, two, three, and four act plays, monologues,dialogues, translations, adaptations, zarzuelas, farces, fairy-dramas,comedies, and tragedies.
First Period. —Between 1894 and 1901 Benavente produced eighteen playson the Madrid stage. They represent, in a general way, the first phaseof his dramatic career. The element that characterizes them mostconspicuously is satire. Benavente holds up to scorn Spanisharistocratic society of the present day. He introduces to his audiencesa succession of types whose failings and foibles are displayed withmerciless precision. The author himself is concealed behind the array ofpersonages whom he presents to the public.
Occasionally the reader will encounter a noble character isolated in themidst of selfish, amusement-seeking men, frivolous women, schemingparents and thoughtless sybarites.
Such types, however, arecomparatively rare; their function is to bring into stronger relief thegeneral worthlessness of other characters. A woman is usually chosen toplay the part of strength and virtue. This is by no means accidental.Study of Benavente reveals him as a defender of women; not at all theirblind worshiper, it is true, but distinctly a sympathizer with theirtrials and problems.
It is to be noted that no character in any of these early plays isrepresented as utterly bad. That would be contrary to the author'sconception of human nature. Benavente insists that no man or woman canbe regarded as entirely perverse or entirely admirable. Although hisattitude is nearly always objective, and his general method satirical orironical, he evinces upon occasion the ability to sympathize with thevery weaknesses of the persons whom he ridicules. If we will try toforget for a moment that Benavente is making fun of an idle aristocracyvainly seeking relief from boredom, we shall understand that we arebrought face to face with individuals drawn from real life,
whoseprincipal attributes are a discouraging mediocrity and inability to riseabove a certain level.
Originality. —Benavente has been accused of plagiarism in his earlyplays. The charge has been brought, particularly with reference to Gente conocida, that he borrowed the character of the strong womanfrom Ibsen. His reply to this censure argues that there was no consciousimitation. He declares that Henri Lavedan served as a model as much asany writer can be said to have done so. That is to say, Benavente wishedto unfold a picture of life as it is, in a series of photographicscenes. Such a species of play has always been preferred by him. Indays of more mature power, when he was writing with a more
obviouspurpose, he lamented that he was no longer doing what was pleasing tohim, but was catering to the desires of others.
It may be gathered from what has just been said that there is not astrong element of plot in these plays of Spanish society.
The object israther delineation of character. Among the longer plays Genteconocida, La comida de las fieras and Lo cursi have perhapsreceived the greatest attention. Lo cursi is an excellent example of askilfully constructed society comedy. Some of the shorter pieces, suchas Operación quirúrgica, Despedida cruel, and Por la herida arevery effective. A glance at the list of plays shows that Don Juan, La farándula, Cuento de amor, and Viaje de instrucción areunconnected in subject matter with the characteristic type justdiscussed.
It may not be amiss to call attention to Benavente's reason for choosingthe aristocracy as a butt of ridicule. That he is not a mere vulgarreviler of rich and prominent people is shown by the following remarks,made in the course of a panegyric of the interest of the nobility inagriculture.
"If at times I have lashed our aristocracy, it was not on account ofprejudice against it, but because, called upon to satirize, andconsidering the natural and roguish desire of the public to laugh atsomebody's cost, it seemed to me more charitable to excite laughter atthe expense of those who enjoy many advantages in life, rather than atthe expense of the humble who toil and who suffer privations of allkinds. It has never seemed to me that hunger is a fit subject forlaughter, and we know that in half of our comic plays hunger is theprincipal cause of merriment. "
Transition. —Many discussions and criticisms of Benavente indicate thathe is known principally as a composer of plays that deal with society,written objectively to depict life as it is, without any betrayal of theauthor's opinions. As we pass beyond the year 1901, we realize that achange is taking place. This does not mean that pictures of life in theupper classes are to constitute an unimportant part of Benavente's teatro. As has been noted, they are especially congenial to hisartistic sense.
However, the later periods of his career give evidenceof ever-expanding powers and of increasing versatility. The early typeof play does not disappear, but it becomes only one of a number ofdifferent genres, all of which are connected by their author'skeenness of observation, fidelity to life, genius for irony anduniversal human interest.
1901-1904. —No convincing bond of union is found in the eighteen playswritten in the first three years of the present century. Fourtranslations and adaptations are encountered. The society play iscontinued in El automóvil and El hombrecito, although the lattershows elements of the problem drama. With scarcely any change of methodthe scene of action is shifted from Spanish to royal and internationalsociety in La noche del sábado and La princesa Bebé. El primoRomán, Al natural, and La casa de la dicha, although differingwidely in details, evidence a broader view of human nature. Free rein isgiven to the spirit of fun in El tren de los maridos and Nofumadores. Serious steps toward a thesis drama are evident in Almatriunfante and Por qué se ama. But the two most striking plays of theperiod are La gobernadora and El dragón de fuego.
La gobernadora. —In this play the spectator or reader is introduced toprominent political characters in a provincial town.
The successiveincidents show how influence may be brought to bear upon anadministrative official from a variety of undesirable sources. Thegovernor's wife, a shrewd, capable woman,
persuades her husband to usehis authority against his better judgment. The moneyed classes, devotedto reaction, use intrigues of all kinds to force him to forbid theperformance of a play that extols liberal tendencies. The workingclasses attempt a riot in order to compel him not to interfere with thespectacle.
The details of the plot need not be given. One thing,however, deserves to be mentioned—the brilliancy of the scenes in whicha great number of characters are shown on the stage at the same time.One scene brings before our eyes a crowd collected in a café, andanother shows us the spectators at a bull-fight.
Benavente portraysfaithfully and vividly the gayety inherent in the outdoor life of theraces of Southern Europe. He reminds us of the splendid pictures thatmark some of the best plays of Goldoni.
Political Ideas. —Benavente has more than once called himself areactionary in politics. Unfortunately we do not know just what he meansby reaction. He speaks of the folly of endeavoring to correct abuses bylaw, but just when he appears to be on the point of committing himself,a satirical or ironical remark leaves us in doubt as to his realconvictions. In recent utterances he has demonstrated greaterwillingness to discuss current problems from a severely logical point ofview. In many respects he is a modern thinker; projects for the
gradualimprovement of Spanish and world-wide ills meet with his unqualifiedapproval. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, he is not alwaysconsistent in his desire to see things accomplished without governmentalinterference; for instance, he favors state control of the theater.
El dragón de fuego. —No better example could be given of thedifficulty of determining Benavente's political notions than El dragónde fuego. It is at the same time his most serious, most mysterious,and, in the opinion of some critics, his most pessimistic work. The plotis as follows: A certain civilized country called Sirlandia has gainedcontrol over the uncivilized people of Nirván, thereby outdistancing therival powers, Franconia and Suavia (the names may be applied to
WesternEuropean nations as each reader sees fit). The emissaries ofcivilization are a general, a merchant, and a clergyman, who symbolizearms, money, and spirituality. The Europeans uphold upon the throne apuppet-king, Dani-Sar, who is the protagonist of the play and whosecharacter is in every respect admirable. His weakness and his strengthare those of a man removed from western civilization. Although in lovewith a maiden, Sita, he surrenders her to his brother Duraní, whom hethinks she loves. Foreigners and natives are alike dear to him, but hefalls victim to the selfish and cruel policy of civilization.
When theSirlandians discover that Dani-Sar is not a pliant tool, they dethronehim and make his brother king. Dani-Sar is taken to Sirlandia, where heis held in custody. Outwardly he receives good treatment, but his heartis eaten away by loneliness, despair, and homesickness. He cannot endurethe cold climate of the north and the hypocritical hospitality of hiscaptors.
In this remarkable play Benavente is well-nigh as inscrutable as thesphinx. He recognizes the power of civilization and the inevitability ofits advance. Yet he seems to value even more highly the gentle, noblepatriotism of his hero. Other savages he describes as depraved andsuperstitious, although brave and in love with liberty. The wholecomposition is a masterly objective treatment of the unavoidableconflict between an advanced and a backward race.
Thesis Plays. —Those who are familiar only with Benavente's earliermanner can scarcely conceive of him as the author of a problem or thesisdrama. A tendency to deny the presence of a thesis may be observed onthe part of certain reviewers and critics. But careful reading of theplays and consideration of their chronological development disclose thatat one period in his career Benavente's mind was busy with the problemsof married life in such a way that he produced something very close tothe drama with a purpose. We may trace the beginning of this tendencyback to some of the first plays in which a strong woman is introduced asa foil to her worthless companions.
Later, Alma triunfante is aglorification of a woman's generosity of soul, and Por qué se ama describes the influence of compassion in causing a woman to clingthrough thick and thin to the object of her affection.
In 1905 and 1906 appeared the plays that best illustrate a purposefultreatment of conjugal relations. Benavente's prime object is to idealizefeminine love and constancy. A second theme, second in prominence onlyto the first, is a glorification of true love itself. The topic ofcompassion, already referred to, is carried to its greatest extreme inthe gloomy but powerful tragedy Más fuerte que el amor.
Rosas de otoño. —The most striking of the problem plays is Rosas deotoño. Some critics who deny a thesis elsewhere admit it in thisproduction. The heroine, Isabel, is married to Gonzalo, an unfaithfulhusband, who gives no heed to his wife's strictures, but persists inasserting that she is sacred to him in spite of everything. Gonzalo'sdaughter by an earlier marriage, María Antonia, marries a certain Pepe,whose actions are not above criticism. Yet Gonzalo defends him. Baselessrumors are circulated against the fair fame of María Antonia, and Pepewishes to divorce her. Again Gonzalo defends him. This is too much forIsabel, who chides her husband so severely that she really succeeds inbreaking through his selfishness. Although he endeavors to defend afeeble cause by an argument in favor of delinquent men, it is clear thathis heart has been touched, and that Isabel, after long years of patientresignation, is destined to enjoy her "Autumn Roses."
The prevailing gloom of Rosas de otoño is relieved by certain trivialand even comic incidents on the part of minor characters, so arrangedthat they do not appear out of place. Moreover, Benavente is not toopartisan; although frankly defending a cause, as a follower ofShakespeare he cannot forget that he is depicting human life. He givesdue weight to the partial justice in the selfish arguments of Gonzaloand Pepe, and does not insist that they are utterly depraved.Heedlessness and egoism make them yield to temptation, but Gonzalo neveroverlooks the fact that his wife's honor must be respected andtreasured.
Notwithstanding the good qualities of Rosas de otoño and kindredpieces, the play dealing with more or less conventional marital problemscan scarcely be regarded as characteristic of Benavente. He is probablymore successful in other directions.
Los malhechores del bien. —No other play of Benavente has provoked sogreat an outcry as Los malhechores del bien. On the surface it is aclever comedy containing an arraignment of misguided charity. It wasreceived by the audience as anti-religious propaganda. On the night ofits first performance many people left the theater by way of protest. Itdoes not seem necessary to regard a dramatist as anti-clerical becausehe censures and ridicules the abuses and the patronizing attitude ofreligious organizations. The fact that they are religious is reallyaccidental. The fault lies in the frailty of human nature.
One Spanishreviewer very sensibly treats the play as a simple comedy and deprecatesthe storm of disapproval that greeted its appearance.
It is worth noting that side by side with serious efforts Benaventeproduced between 1904 and 1906 four pieces marked
exclusively by thesearch for comic effect. Especially amusing is Las cigarras hormigas,the longest member of the Teatro, a rollicking three act comedy,literally crammed with fun from beginning to end.
Period of Maturity. — Los buhos was first performed in February, 1907,and La malquerida in December, 1913. To the seven years between thesedates belong twenty-five theatrical pieces that reveal Benavente as amature, confident, versatile dramatist. So perplexing is the successionof different types of plays that they can be logically discussed only bydisregarding chronology and making divisions according to subjectmatter.
Moral Tendency. —Prepared as a reader might be, after perusal of theproblem plays, to anticipate further changes, he could scarcely expectfrom Benavente's pen simple sketches written with no other aim than touphold humble virtues. Yet in some cases that is exactly what we find. Adefinite moral tone is observable in a large portion of Benavente'srecent output. Los buhos is a beautiful treatment of the pureaffection entertained by two scholars, father and son, for two friendswho are mother and daughter. Por las nubes suggests emigration toSouth America as a remedy for the struggling middle classes; in thisplay there is a resort to the expedient of making one of the characters(a physician) a mouth-piece for the author's opinions. ¡A ver qué haceun hombre! is a plea for the unemployed workman. Hacia la verdad furnishes a eulogy of simple pleasures. De cerca is a literary gemthat shows how the distrust existing between rich and poor may beovercome if they can learn to understand the common humanity that bindsthem. La fuerza bruta and La losa de los sueños glorify the spiritof sacrifice.
At first sight it seems as if Benavente's whole theory of art had beenrevolutionized. The key to the solution of the problem is in the pagesof De sobremesa. In his weekly articles he frequently discussesconditions of wretchedness in the world about him. He suggests practicalremedies for the alleviation of misery among the poor and in the middleclasses. He evinces such a spirit of commiseration for human woes thatno one can wonder that his natural feelings of sympathy and his desireto benefit his fellow men are reflected in his dramas. Thus it is thatwe find intensely moral plays coming from the hand of the man who wrotein the
preface to the standard edition of his works: "I love art aboveall things, but all that I have attained in my works has been only avain longing of my infinite love."
Plays for Children. —A passion for the welfare and happiness of childrenis one of the keynotes of Benavente's existence. In periodical writingshe maintains that the young are neglected in Spain, that they receive amiserable education, and that the poor are wont to regard those childrenwho die young as truly fortunate. Yet he feels that the most importantelement in the future improvement of the race is the careful upbringingof the newer generations. In company with other people Benavente longagitated the founding of a theater for children. His efforts were atlast crowned with success, and he himself wrote for the new institution El príncipe que todo lo aprendió en los libros, Ganarse la vida, and El nietecito. He endeavored, with considerable success, to combinefairy legends, playful
imagination, and educational value. Unfortunatelythe theater seems to have been a failure; its existence was limited toabout one year.
Romantic Plays. —Benavente has always possessed a vein of poetry or ofromance that makes him take delight in pure fancy.
More than once in Desobremesa he defends works of imagination. In his own career thetendency can be traced back to the Teatro fantástico, and it ispresumably connected with veneration of Shakespeare. Thus it is that wefind among recent productions, not only the children's plays but Laprincesa sin corazón, La copa encantada, El último minué, and otherflights of fancy. The inspiration that brought forth Los intereses creados may perhaps be assigned to the same source.
Miscellanies. —It must not be supposed that recent years have witnesseda decline on the part of Benavente in power of irony and observation ofcharacter. Not only are these qualities present in nearly all his plays,but they are predominant in some. Abuela y nieta is a delightfulcharacter sketch. De pequeñas causas... is reminiscent of the earliestplays. Los ojos de los muertos is a gloomy tragedy of unhappy maritalrelations. And so we might continue with other scattered titles.
Señora ama and La malquerida. —To the period now being discussedbelong the two most striking (from the point of view of tendencies) ofBenavente's latter-day achievements, Señora ama and La malquerida.They carry us to rural districts and plunge us into an inferno ofignorance, corruption, and vice. The author of these tragic historieshas no illusions about the innocence of the country. Benavente isreported to have said that he liked Señora ama better than any otherof his plays. The verdict of public and critics has been in favor of thecompanion piece. One critic, in particular, has used La malquerida asan argument to place Benavente among the really great masters of theworld's literature.
La malquerida is a tragedy with a unified plot; the end of each actforms a climax, while the whole leads to a final crisis. A drama withthe plot hinging upon a complicated series of incidents was about theonly thing lacking to round out Benavente's teatro. It may now beclaimed that he has cultivated with success practically every variety ofcomposition that might reasonably be attempted in modern times for amodern audience.
Analysis. —The scene of La malquerida is laid among country people infairly easy circumstances. Raimunda, the leading female character, ismarried to Esteban. She has a daughter, Acacia, from a formermarriage, and one of her chief desires is that her husband and daughterbe on good terms. To her disappointment, Acacia ever since childhood hasshown an aversion toward her stepfather, too strong to be overcome byEsteban's kindness and by the many presents that he has brought to herupon various occasions.
At the time of the opening scene of the play, Acacia is betrothed toFaustino, son of a neighboring farmer, Eusebio. She had previously beenengaged to her cousin, Norberto, but the engagement had been broken forno obvious reason. One night, just after a visit in company with hisfather to the house of his fiancée, Faustino is murdered; shortlyafterwards the first act ends.
The community is aroused, and the finger of suspicion is directedagainst the unfortunate cousin, Norberto. Especially do Eusebio and hisremaining sons believe him guilty, and when justice, on account of lackof proof, does not detain Norberto, they determine to take their ownrevenge. They lie in wait for him as he is coming to see Raimunda, fallupon him, and wound him. He is carried to Raimunda's home, and theretells her a secret and also some horrible rumors that are beingcirculated in the community. He discloses that Esteban had long been inlove with his stepdaughter Acacia, and that he could not bear the ideaof losing her. Therefore he had threatened Norberto with death if heshould insist upon marrying his cousin; that was the true reason for thebreaking of the engagement. Later, when Acacia was betrothed to anoutsider, Esteban could not use threats, but he was driven nearly crazyat the thought of being abandoned by his stepdaughter. He talked mattersover with his servant El Rubio, and inflamed him to such an extent thathe murdered Faustino.
Suspicion has been aroused by certain unguarded statements made by ElRubio while under the influence of wine. The whole community begins tosuspect Esteban of the crime.
At the beginning of the last act Esteban and El Rubio have gone away,apparently with a vague idea of flight, but they soon return to facejustice. Esteban regrets having been an accomplice in murder; El Rubiooffers to take the responsibility if Esteban will agree to secure hisliberty after a short interval. At this moment Raimunda enters, andaccuses her husband of the crime.
Together they review their life of thepast few years, she criticizing him and he defending himself. He saysthat he has not been able to endure it; that the presence of the girlAcacia has always made his blood boil; that he has tried to resist, butin vain. If Acacia when a child had only called him father and had lovedhim, all would have been well. Raimunda takes pity on him when he saysthis, and assures him that they will live happily after sending Acaciato the house of a relative.
Thereupon Acacia enters, and shows hatredand scorn for her stepfather. He is saddened by her attitude, and chidesher.
Raimunda begs her to call him father, before he gives himself up tojustice. Then Acacia can no longer restrain the feelings that she has solong concealed from everybody. Instead of father she calls him Esteban;she embraces him, and Raimunda realizes the final truth. Her daughterhas always loved her stepfather.
Infuriated, she calls upon everybodywithin hearing, and tells the dreadful secret. Esteban tries to escapewith Acacia, in order to enjoy his newly discovered love. When he findsthat he is unable to get away, he fatally wounds his wife, Raimunda.Fatality again places Acacia, the "Ill-beloved," on the side of hermother, and this time forever; Raimunda prepares to die, satisfied withher final victory.
The Latest Plays. —The estreno of a play of Benavente is now one ofthe principal events of the theatrical year in Madrid.
His reputation issecurely established, and the public looks to him for the great eventsof the season. It is true, perhaps, that no play since 1913 has reachedthe heights achieved by La malquerida and other masterpieces. Thekeynote of El collar de estrellas, La propia estimación, and Campode armiño seems to be the building of character. Nowhere else, perhaps,is the author quite so insistent in setting a standard of human virtue.As a natural consequence he paints some personages who come perilouslyclose to being angels or villains. The tendency is quite in line withthe progressive development of Benavente's dramatic and intellectuallife. Possibly his art has suffered slightly from a desire to exert agood moral influence, but his reflections have become correspondinglymore profound and valuable. Moreover,
we must not forget his astonishingversatility. He can stop in the midst of a series of didactic plays andcompose something like Los intereses creados or La malquerida.Therefore it is fair to assert that each new step in the evolution ofhis teatro adds to what has gone before without supplanting it.
Replies to Criticism. —Certain criticisms of methods employed byBenavente have been noticed. Replies made by him
to unfavorable commentare contained in the following
"If any remorse troubles my artistic conscience, it is because I haveoften sacrificed art to preaching; but in Spain... it is necessary topreach so much, and the theater is such a good pulpit! "
"And what shall I say of myself? I am the same man that I was in 1897;even my concessions to middle-class sentimentalism, as I coulddemonstrate with texts, do not belong to the present day alone. And whynot? An author has the whole work in which to
say what he feels and whathe thinks; later, in the conclusion, seeing that life does not concludeanything, why not please the public? If this public, with or withoutconcessions, had not been on my side from the beginning of my dramaticcareer, could I have continued to present plays? The public was my realsupport against the critics, who were almost unanimous in affirming thatthat was not drama. "
"No one is more opposed than I am to giving scandal either in books orin conduct. I shall never defend my works as literary works, but I willdefend them as works of spotless morality. If in any of them there isanything that may seem sinful in appearance, it is not I who amspeaking; it is some person for whose morality I am not responsible. Iam accustomed to allow the personages of my works to express themselvesaccording to their
evilcharacters are the ones who are always closest to the truth.
Only Godand my artistic conscience know that it is necessary for us to lie whenwe wish to moralize. "
"My life as a dramatic author cannot be remembered without rememberingRosario Pino, the ideal interpreter of so many comedies of mine when mycomedies were pleasing only to myself; whereas at present they arepleasing to many people, and not at all to me. And I am more mournfulnow at not being in accord with the applause, than I was then, when Icould not agree with the censure. "
Teatro del pueblo. —The opinions of Benavente on various technical andcritical matters related to the stage are found in a book of essayscalled Teatro del pueblo after the first article, which is an argumentin favor of the establishment of a free theater for the people. Many ofthe themes discussed in the book allow the author to give free play tosatire and irony. He criticizes savagely theatrical conditions in Spain,favors translations,
vaudeville,the circus, photography, etc., at the expense of the legitimate stage;but through it all there appears a man fond of poetry, interested in thelower classes and in children, an artist and a clear-headed man ofaffairs.
De sobremesa. —It remains only to describe the impression made byBenavente in matters unconnected with the theater. The periodicalwritings contain more about dramatic criticism than about any other onetopic, but they also include a great many discussions of themes ofnational and world-wide interest; they were naturally affected by thecurrent events of the years 1908-1912. The author of De sobremesa shows himself to be a typical product of modern life. Possessing thecultivation characteristic of intellectual life in a modern Europeancapital, his mind is encumbered by few, if any, illusions. He is bothsatirical and practical. Irony and hatred for Spanish abuses do notprevent him from exhibiting a pure and noble patriotism. Cosmopolitan ashe may be in theories, his nature is essentially and intensely Spanish.It is a genuine comfort to find that the scientific observer of humannature, the man who can make acute
comments on the most diversifiedsubjects, can occasionally give way to a noble passion, and even to apardonable prejudice; not too often, but just often enough to prove thathe is human. One cannot turn away from Benavente without feeling that hehas been enriched by communion with a master spirit and benefited byassociation with a broad, clear-thinking, sympathetic nature.
Conclusion. —When an author is still alive, and especially when he is inthe prime of life, it is difficult to pass judgment upon him. The futuremay show an evolution hitherto
unsuspected. As far as can be told atpresent, Benavente's position is unassailable. He has been admitted tothe Spanish Academy, he is recognized as one of the leading dramatistsof Spain, and many consider him the foremost figure in the modernSpanish theater. Before the outbreak of the European War he was almostuniversally admired in his native country.
The bitterness ofinternational discussion has crept into dramatic criticism, but such asituation should be only temporary. There is every reason to expect thatfuture historians of Spanish literature will reserve a post of honor forJacinto Benavente.
JOHN VAN HORNE