Heath's Modern Language Series: Mariucha by Benito Pérez Galdós - HTML preview

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1. Realidad, drama en cinco actos. Madrid, Teatro de la Comedia, March15, 1892. Condensed from the "novela en cinco jornadas" of the same name(1889). Ran twenty-two nights, but did not rouse popular enthusiasm.

Realidad presents the eternal triangle, but in a novel way.

Viera, theseducer, is driven by remorse to suicide, and Orozco, the deceivedhusband, who aspires to stoic perfection of soul, is ready to forgivehis wife if she will open her heart to him. She is unable to rise to hislevel, and, though continuing to live together, their souls arepermanently separated.

Realidad has superfluous scenes and figures, and a scatteredviewpoint. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most original andprofound of Galdós' creations, a penetrating study of unusualcharacters. There are two parallel dramatic actions, the first, moreobvious and theatrical, the fate of Viera; the second, of loftier moral,the relations of Orozco and Augusta, which are decided in a quiet scene,pregnant with spiritual values. Running counter to the traditionalSpanish conception of honor, this drama was fortunate to be as wellreceived as it was.

To understand the title one must know that Realidad, the noveladialogada, is only another version of the epistolary novel, Laincógnita, written the year previous. The earlier work gave, as Galdóssays ( La incógnita, pp. 291-93), the external appearance of a certainsequence of events; Realidad shows its inner reality.

Browningemployed a somewhat similar procedure in The Ring and the Book.

2. La loca de la casa, comedia en cuatro actos. Madrid, Teatro de laComedia, Jan. 16, 1893. This play, a success, is printed in two forms,one as originally written, the other as cut down for performance. In aforeword to the former version, the author protests against the brevitydemanded by modern audiences. It was doubtless to the long version thatGaldós referred when he included La loca de la casa in the list oftitles of his Novelas españolas contemporáneas.

This is a drama of two conflicting personalities, united by chance inmarriage: Pepet Cruz, a teamster's boy, grown rich after a hard strugglein America, and Victoria, the daughter of a Barcelona capitalist who hasmet with reverses.

Its merit lies in the study of these characters, especially in the veryhuman figure of Pepet, homely, rough, and unscrupulous, who resembles inmany ways Jean Giraud of Dumas' La Question d'argent. The theme, theconquest of a rude man by a Christian and mystic girl, is also the themeof Galdós' novel Ángel Guerra. The first two acts are the best; thethird borders on melodrama, and the last, though containing someexcellent comedy, is flat. The real flaw lies in the extensive use offinancial transactions to express a psychological contest; Victoria'svictory over Cruz is ill symbolized in terms of money.

The title is based on a pun: "la loca de la casa" is a common expressionfor "imagination. "[11]

3. Gerona, drama en cuatro actos. Madrid, Teatro Español, Feb. 3,1893. Never published by the author, but appeared in El cuentosemanal, nos. 70, 71, May 1 and 8, 1908.—Galdós' worst failure on thestage; it was withdrawn after the first night, and critics treated itmore severely than the audience.[12]

Gerona is a dramatization of the Episodio nacional (1874) of thesame name, which describes the siege of the city of Gerona and its finalsurrender to the French (May 6—Dec. 12, 1809).

There are many minorchanges from the novel; among them, a nebulous love story is added as asecondary interest.

To a reader the play does not appear so bad as the event indicated. Thefirst act is conceded to be a model; and, in spite of confused interestsand some wildly romantic speeches, the whole presents a vivid picture ofsiege horrors, without melodrama or exaggeration. Possibly the failurewas due to the fact that doctor Nomdedeu, the chief character, placeshis daughter's health ahead of patriotism, and to the final tableau, inwhich the defeated Spaniards lay down their arms before the


4. La de San Quintín, comedia en tres actos. Madrid, Teatro de laComedia, Jan. 27, 1894.—Aroused great enthusiasm, and received fiftyconsecutive performances in Madrid. Was given in Paris, in Spanish, in1900 (?).

This "furiously romantic" drama, Galdós' most meretricious play, isintended to symbolize the union of the worn-out aristocracy and thevigorous plebs to form a new and thriving stock. The duchess of SanQuintín, left poor and a widow, weds Víctor, a socialist workman ofdoubtful parentage. The last act is weak and superfluous, the devices ofthe action cheap, and the motivation often faulty. Víctor's socialism ismore heard of than seen, and it appears that he will be satisfied whenhe becomes rich. He is not a laboring man in any real sense, since hissupposed father gave him an expensive education. He is no true symbol ofthe masses.

However, the duchess Rosario is a charming figure, and the secondaryfigures are well done. There is excellent high comedy in the famous"kneading scene" of the second act, in which the duchess kneads doughfor "rosquillas" while her lover looks on.

The kneading is symbolic ofthe amalgamation of the upper and lower classes. Without doubt, thepopularity of this play in Spain is in part due to its propaganda.

Again, a punning title. "La de San Quintín" means "a hard-fought battle"(from a Spanish victory outside the French city of Saint-Quentin, in1557).

5. Los condenados, drama en tres actos. Madrid, Teatro de la Comedia,Dec. 11, 1894. (The Prólogo is important as a piece of self-criticismand an exposition of the author's aims.)—A failure, given three nightsonly, and severely criticized in the press.

Los condenados is an ambitious and fascinating excursion into symbolicethics. Salomé, the inexperienced daughter of a rich Aragonese farmer,elopes with a wild character, José León, who does not repent till hissweetheart loses her mind as a result of his perversity. No play ofGaldós contains more glaring weaknesses of construction or greater flawsin logic, many of them admitted by the author in his preface. To maketwo saintly characters take oath to a lie (II, 16) in an attempt to savea man's soul (spirit above letter) was, in Spain at least, a deliberatecourting of failure. And why introduce a bold example of a justified lieinto an indictment of false living? The purest romanticism reigns in theplay, as Martinenche has pointed out; José León and Salomé are not otherthan less poetic versions of Hernani and Doña Sol. Paternoy, the spiritof eternal justice, resembles Orozco of Realidad, and still more,Horacio of Bárbara.

The lesson conveyed is that we all live in the midst of lies, and thatsalvation is attained only by sincerity and by confession of one's ownfree will, not under compulsion. This is an idea familiar to Ibsen andTolstoy; the added element, that conditions fit for complete repentancecan be found only after death, is perhaps original. Martinenche thinksthe failure of Los condenados was due to the fact that the Spanishpublic was not accustomed to the spiritual drama. But one shouldremember that Calderón's autos are both spiritual and symbolic. Thefailure was more probably due to faults of form than to any

inherentweakness of theme.

6. Voluntad, comedia en tres actos. Madrid, Teatro Español, Dec. 20,1895. Coldly received. Ran six nights.

Voluntad, which contains some good genre scenes in a Madrid pettystore, is meant to show how energy, in the person of a wayward daughter,can repair the faults of sloth and laxness. But Isidora, who saves herfather's business, can hardly conquer the will of a dreamy idler whomshe loves.

Yet there is no real conflict of wills, only of events, and the lover'sconversion to a useful life by means of poverty is cheap, and the endingcommonplace. On the whole, the stimulating exhortation to will and workis run into a mold not worthy of it.

Galdós has, in fact, mingled here, with resulting confusion, two themeswhich have no necessary connection,—the doctrine of salvation by work,and the doctrine of the necessary union of complementary qualities.(Cf. page xxiv.) The latter theory is the central one in Voluntad, anda failure to discern this fact has led critics to some unwarrantedconclusions.

7. Doña Perfecta, drama en cuatro actos. Madrid, Teatro de la Comedia,Jan. 28, 1896. Adapted from the well-known novel (1876). Successful.

The novel Doña Perfecta, one of the best Galdós ever wrote, both as anartistic story and as a symbol of the chronic particularism of Spain,has been somewhat weakened in dramatization. The third act is almostunnecessary, the dénoûment hurried. One misses especially the first twochapters of the novel, which furnish such a colorful background for thestory. Yet, as a whole, the play gives a more favorable impression ofGaldós' purely theatrical talent than almost any other of his dramas.The second act, with its distant bugle calls at the end, is one of thebest he ever wrote, and the first is not far behind. It is to be notedthat the motivation, especially in the part of Perfecta, is made muchclearer here than in the novel; the play serves as a commentary andexegesis to the earlier tale. The gain in clarity is offset, however, bythe loss of the mysterious grandeur which clothes Perfecta in the novel.There, her reticences speak for her.

8. La fiera, drama en tres actos. Madrid, Teatro de la Comedia, Dec.23, 1896. Coldly received.

La fiera is allied in subject to the Episodios nacionales, althoughit is not taken from any of them. The year is 1822, the scene, the cityof Urgell, in the Pyrenees, attacked at that moment by the liberalsunder Espoz y Mina, and defended by the absolutists. A young liberal spyis loved by an absolutist baroness, and after numberless intriguesduring which the hero's life is in danger from friends and enemies, hekills first the leader of the liberals, then the commander of thefortress, "the two heads of the beast," and the lovers flee towardregions of peace.

As an appeal for tolerance, La fiera isunexceptionable, and Galdós, the radical, has painted the excesses ofboth sides with perfect impartiality. But as a drama, it is an exampleof wildly improbable romanticism, and might have been written in thethirties, except that in that case the comedy element would not be soinsipid as it is, but would have tasted of the pungent realism which wasthe virtue of the best romantics. The characters are unconvincing, thelove-story a poor parallel to Romeo and Juliet.

9. Electra, drama en cinco actos. Madrid, Teatro Español, Jan.

30,1901. A wild success. A French adaptation made a hit in Paris in 1905.

This "strictly contemporary" drama depicts a contest for the hand andsoul of Electra, an eighteen-year-old girl whose mother was a woman ofdubious life. She loves the young scientist Máximo, but Pantoja, thereligious adviser of the family with whom she stays, believing himselfher father, desires her to enter a convent. Since he cannot otherwisedissuade her from marriage, he tells her falsely that she is Máximo'shalf sister. She cannot be convinced that this is a lie until the spiritof her mother reassures her.

Concerning Electra and the battle which it excited between radicalsand clericals, one can consult contemporary periodicals, and Olmet yCarraffa, cap. XIV. Its estreno happened to coincide with a popularprotest against the forced retirement to a convent of a Señorita deUbao, and the Spanish public saw in the protagonist a symbol of Spain,torn between reaction and progress. Consequently, no play of Galdós hasbeen so unduly praised or so bitterly attacked. Two facts appear tostand out from the confusion: (1) Galdós did not deliberately trade uponpopular passions, since this play was written before the excitingjuncture of events arose; (2) The enormous vogue of Electra, its widesale and performance in many European countries, were not justified byits intrinsic value.

Electra appears now as a drama of secondary importance, with somecheap effectism, excellent third and fourth acts, and a weakly romanticending. The ghost of Eleuteria is less in place than the correspondingspirits of Realidad and Casandra, both because it is unnecessary forthe solution of the plot, and because it is an anachronism in a playdevoted to the eulogy of the modern and the practical. On the otherside, it is clear to an impartial reader that Galdós did not intend anattack on the clergy, much less an attack on religion. Máximo is carefulto affirm his belief in God. And Pantoja is not the scheming hypocritethat some have seen in him; he is a man of firm convictions and courage,sincere in his religious mysticism.

Galdós was interested in studyingsuch a character and in showing that his religion is not of the besttype.

A punning title. Beside the Greek allusion, Máximo's laboratory is a"taller de electrotecnia."

10. Alma y vida, drama en cuatro actos. Madrid, Teatro Español, April9, 1902. (Published with an important preface.) Succès d'estime.

This play is Galdós' vital contribution to the sentiment aroused inSpain by the Spanish-American war. The heroine, Laura, an invalidduchess of the late eighteenth century, is ruled by a tyrannicaladministrator, until freed by the love of a vigorous young hidalgo. Butthe effort of will involved exhausts the delicate girl, and she diesjust as the triumph of her partisans is announced. She was the divinebeauty of the soul; without her there is left only a tyranny of one sortor another, and evil, injustice, corruption, are perpetuated.

Alma y vida is Galdós' most ambitious attempt to write a literarysymbolic drama on a grand scale. In it he resumes, with Aragonesestubbornness (to use his own words), the attempt made unsuccessfully in Los condenados, only this time the symbolism is not abstract, but hasa definite application to Spain.

The extreme care which Galdós took withthe costumes of the pastoral interlude in the second act, going to Parisfor advice on their historical accuracy, the spectacular and costlysettings, the length of time, four hours, consumed in the performance,the passages of verse,[13] all demonstrate that Galdós put his full willinto the elaboration of this drama. The result was disappointing.Audiences were bored, despite their desire to approve. They knew somesymbolism was involved, but could not decide upon its character untilthe author solved the problem in his Prólogo. He there defended thevagueness of his play, as more suggestive than clearness, and explainedthat Alma y vida symbolizes the decline of Spain, the dying away ofits heraldic glories, and the melancholy which pervades the soul ofSpain; the common people, though possessing reservoirs of strength, areplunged in vacillation and doubt. The sad ending is the most appropriateto the national psychology of the time. Warned by Electra, he says, hedeliberately avoided popular applause, and sought to gain the approvalof cultured persons.

Although the pathetic figure of Laura is most affecting, the author didnot fully reach the goal he had set for himself, yet "no mediocre mindor ordinary imagination could have conceived such vast thoughts."

11. Mariucha, comedia en cinco actos. Barcelona, Teatro Eldorado, July16, 1903. Given for the first time in Madrid on Nov. 10, 1903. A fairsuccess, especially in the provinces. The aristocratic portion of theMadrid public did not like it.

Mariucha carries a moral aimed directly at the Spanish people.

Like Voluntad, it preaches firm will and the gospel of labor; like La deSan Quintín, it points out a new path which the decayed aristocracy mayfollow in order to found a renovated Spain. In the exaltation ofstoicism (V, 4) it resembles Realidad.

Clericalism does not enter intothe discussion. Instead it is caciquism which Galdós attacks inpassing. The play overflows with daring and optimism; it is like atrumpet call summoning the Spanish youth to throw off the shackles oftradition and political tyranny, and to walk freely, confiding in itsown strength. One's best impulses must be followed, no matter what tiesmay be broken or what feelings hurt in the process. We recognize here afavorite doctrine of Ibsen.

Mariucha is not quite so good a drama as its theme deserves.

The twochief characters suffer from the weight of the message they bear, andare, in fact, rather symbols than characters or even types. The playpossesses, however, many interesting features.

One is the fact that the"good angel" of the play is a priest. His figure proves that Galdós grewin sympathy for the

representatives of religion, if not for bigots, ashe grew older.

Another is the protest against thoughtless charity, whichfosters shiftlessness. Galdós gave expression to a different point ofview in Celia en los infiernos.

12. El abuelo, drama en cinco actos. Madrid, Teatro Español, Feb. 14,1904. Adapted from the "novela en cinco jornadas" of the same title(1897). Galdós' greatest public success, next to Electra.

In this drama Galdós considers a general problem of inheritance ofcharacter. The aged, poor and nearly blind count of Albrit knows that ofhis two granddaughters one is not his son's child. Which? His efforts toread the characters of the children are vain, and when at last he learnsthe truth, it is to realize that the girl of his own race is fickle andvain while the bastard is generous and devoted. Then his pride knowsthat good may come out of evil, that honor lies not in blood, but invirtue and love.









practicallyconsidered. The plot is simple, the handling of it direct and skilful,there is no propaganda to interfere with the characters, who are few,interesting, and admirably drawn. The contrast between the lion ofAlbrit (so often compared to King Lear) and the playful children is amaster-stroke. Free from effectism, dealing only with inner values ofthe heart and morals, El abuelo can properly rank as one of themasterpieces of modern drama. Its theme is diametrically opposed to thetraditional Spanish conception of family honor (cf.

Realidad), and soits popularity at home is a sign that Galdós was able to educate hispublic to some extent.

In condensing the dialoged novel to a drama, Galdós made a number ofalterations in character and action, and all, in our opinion, for thebetter. Nevertheless, Manuel Bueno says:

"Prefiero, sin embargo, lanovela. Me llena más."

13. Bárbara, tragicomedia en cuatro actos. Madrid, Teatro Español,March 28, 1905. Coolly received.

The overshadowing figure of this drama is Horacio, governor of Syracusein 1815, who "entertains the idle moments of his tyranny modeling out ofhuman wickedness the ideal statue of justice." He forces the countessBarbara, who stabbed her brutal husband, to marry the latter's brother,instead of a chivalrous and mystical Spaniard whom she loves, and who isblamed for the murder. How does such an outcome represent ideal justice?It seems to teach that unhappiness, caused by oppression, must notprovoke any effort for freedom on the part of the victims.

Revolt mustbe punished and expiated. Letter is placed above spirit, and the themeis repeated often: "There is no change, no reform possible in the world.All things must return to their first state." How to reconcile suchdoctrine with the body of Galdós'


These considerations nonplussed contemporary audiences and critics, andcaused Martinenche to regard the play as an

"ironique divertissement,"intended to demonstrate that "Galdós'

art was supple and objectiveenough to set forth an idea apparently at variance with the generalinspiration of his theater."

Such an explanation would be in harmonywith Galdós' favorite custom of balancing one argument against another,but perhaps Bárbara may be interpreted in the light of Loscondenados, where also penance for both lovers was insisted upon. Inthe ideal justice, it makes no difference whether the crime committed isagainst oppression or against liberty. In the latter case, punishmentassumes the form of a liberal revolt; in the former, it appearsreactionary. This is why Galdós, holding the balance even, with theimpartiality which is the root of his character, seems in Bárbara toadvocate a static philosophy, whereas in most of his work he is theliberal whom Spain, a backward nation, needed.

In any case, Bárbara is a fascinating, enigmatic play, too elevatedever to be popular, but one which, on account of its closely studiedcharacters, delicate motivation and suggestive ideas ought always to bea favorite among the thoughtful. No other play arouses greater respectfor Galdós as an original creator.

14. Amor y ciencia, comedia en cuatro actos. Madrid, Teatro de laComedia, Nov. 7, 1905. Coldly received.

The redemption of an erring woman is a frequent dramatic theme, from theRomantic era to the present. Malvaloca, of the brothers Quintero,presents it, as does Palacio Valdés' novel Tristán, with a plot andspirit not unlike that of Amor y ciencia.

Here, love and science areforces which together heal and redeem the soul of Paulina, the repentantwife of a famous physician. Once more, as in Realidad, and as in Tristán, we are shown a husband who pardons. But here the treatment ofthe theme lacks vitality, and the abstract idea is not beautified by theveil of poetry which gives charm to Los condenados, Alma y vida, and Sor Simona.

16. Pedro Minio, comedia en dos actos. Madrid, Teatro Lara, Dec. 15,1908. A fair success.

Galdós' only real comedy is distinctly a minor play, with a languidsecond act. The scene is laid in a wonderfully perfect Old Folks' Home.The hero is an inmate, once a jolly liver and spendthrift, who stillenjoys every moment, while as a foil to him is placed a wealthymoney-grubber, who at forty is ridden with a dozen plagues. There ismuch quiet humor, and some obvious symbolism,—perhaps also some not soobvious. That reformed profligates wish to restrict the pleasures ofothers, while the blameless allow them harmless freedom; that themoney-seeker meets with torment, while the generous spender liveshappily; that "peace, fraternity and innocent love of life are all Godhas given humanity, to make its passage through the world less painful";these are the plain morals. It is thus united in spirit with Galdós'latest work. But the form in which this lesson is conveyed is notcalculated to encourage a life of productive toil.

16. Zaragoza," "drama lírico en cuatro actos; música del maestro D.Arturo Lapuerta. Saragossa, Teatro Principal, June 4, 1908.

This opera, only the libretto of which has ever been published, wasgiven four nights during the centennial celebration of the siege ofSaragossa, and was never performed elsewhere. The book is a merescenario of the well-known Episodio nacional, and contains practicallyno spoken lines. It cannot be judged without the music. The chorus ofcitizens is the protagonist.

17. Casandra, drama en cuatro actos. Madrid, Teatro Español, Feb.28, 1910. Adapted from the "novela en cinco jornadas" of the same name,1905. The occasion of hot political demonstrations.

Casandra is frankly anti-clerical, but with an Olympian irony, notbitterness. The central figure is an aged, childless widow, whoseenormous wealth is eagerly awaited by a host of distant relatives. Shechanges her mind, and starts to give away her property to the Church,with natural disappointment to the heirs.

Casandra, not an heir, but themistress of an illegitimate son of Doña Juana's husband, is a womanwithout money-interest, but Doña Juana's desire to deprive her of herchildren and lover stirs her to stab the aged bigot. The novel isadmirably genial, full of convincing characters and pregnant thoughts;the play much changed, and inferior to it. It teaches that Dogmatism issterile and only Love is fertile. Only Love is powerful enough to driveaway the specter that oppresses Spain. Unconscious well-doing aloneaids humanity, not ostentatious aristocratic charity.

It is doubtful ifthe elaborate allegory suggested by R. D. Perés

(see above, p. xxii,note 1 [Footnote #8]) was intended by Galdós.

18. Celia en los infiernos, comedia en cuatro actos. Madrid, TeatroEspañol, Dec. 9, 1913. Successful.

The story of a beautiful, good-hearted marchioness who, being an orphan,comes at the age of twenty-three into the free management of herenormous property. She soon becomes disgusted with society life, and,accompanied by an elderly confidant, disguises herself as a peasantgirl, and visits the infernal regions of the slums, partly to learn howthe other half lives, and partly to learn the fate of some formerservants. After interviewing don Pedro Infinito, a half-dementedastrologer and employment agent, who furnishes the best scene and themo