Last modified on 26 February 2014, at 10:04

History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Spanish Realist

An important part of late 19th century Spanish drama must include José Echegaray (1832–1916), with "El gran Galeoto" (The great Galeoto, 1881) and "Mariana" (1891). Despite some borrowings from Ibsen's "Ghosts", especially at the end, "El hijo de Don Juan" (Don Juan's son, 1892) is another worthy effort of his. A pastoral drama, "Terra Baixa" (1896) (Lowlands, also known as Martha of the Lowlands) is a Catalan-language play written by Àngel Guimerà.

José Echegaray is the dominant dramatist of late 19th century Spanish theatre

"The great Galeoto"Edit

"The great Galeoto". Time: 1880s. Place: Madrid, Spain.

"The great Galeoto" text at http://www.archive.org/details/greatgaleotofol00echegoog

The great Galeoto is the opinion of the crowd. Image: crowd gathering in the late 19th century

Julian, a banker, owes much in his business advancement to Ernesto's father. "Don Juan of Acedo risked for my family name and wealth, almost his life," he avers. In return, for the past year, Julian has housed and fed Ernesto at his expense. Because Ernesto feels guilty about this arrangement, Julian offers him a post as his secretary. Julian's brother and sister-in-law, Severo and Mercedes, falsely suspect Ernesto of being the lover of Julian's wife, Teodora. Alone with her, Mercedes says their arrangement is viewed suspiciously by the common talk of society. Teodora is offended by this suggestion and sobs. Ernesto guesses the interfering couple has maligned him and so changes his mind about the secretary position, preferring instead to travel, but Julian refuses to consider it. "I have not the habit of changing my mind or the plans I have matured because of a boy's caprice or a madman's folly," he pronounces,"and I have still less intention of weakly subjecting my actions to the town's idle gossip." Yet Ernesto leaves him to live in a shabby apartment. Julian and Severo learn from Pepito, the latter's son, that because of Viscount Nebreda's innuendos, Ernesto struck him and provoked a duel. "I mean to do what I ought and can, to avenge myself and save Don Juan of Acedo's son," says the outraged Julian. "Observe: until today calumny was impalpable. There was no seizing its shape. I have now discovered it, and it has taken a human form. There it is at hand, in the person of a viscount." Later, Pepito asks Ernesto who is Galeoto, the title of Ernesto's play, referring to a character in Dante's "Divine Comedy". "Galeoto was the go-between for the queen and Launcelot and in all loves the third may be truthfully nicknamed Galeoto, above all when we wish to suggest an ugly word without shocking an audience," answers Ernesto. Hearing of his impending duel and his intention to depart to America, Teodora begs him to avoid the duel, for it is her husband's duty to defend her reputation. He disagrees. "Every honorable man has the right to defend a lady," he says. On hearing a nearby noise, Teodora runs to hide in his bedroom. It is Julian carried inside by Severo and Pepito as a result of being wounded by the viscount's sword. Both wish to deposit him on Ernesto's bed, which he attempts to obstruct, but Severo pushes past him, so that Teodora is revealed to Julian as he faints. Seeking revenge for harming his friend, Ernesto clashes with the viscount and succeeds in killing him. When Mercedes informs Teodora of the viscount's death, she probes into her conscience regarding Ernesto, declaring she is sure he loves her. Alone with Ernesto, Teodora angrily turns him away, at which he pleads with her on his knees not to leave him in this way. When Severo discovers the two together, he guesses the worst about the nature of their relation, declaring to Ernesto: "I can find no word or epithet adequate to the passion of contempt I would express, so I must be content to call you a blackguard. Leave this house at once." But hearing him insult Teodora, Ernesto refuses to go. Instead, he forces him to kneel to her. A dying Julian enters, forcing the guiltless Ernesto down on his own knees. "Bad friend, bad son!" he cries and strikes him on the face, then totters out to his death. Still incensed and indignant, Severo orders Teodora out of the house, so that Ernesto claims her as his: "She is mine." he declares. "The world has so desired it, and its decision I accept; it has driven her to my arms." The great Galeoto has won: public opinion has driven the lovers in each other's arms.

"Mariana"Edit

"Mariana". Time: 1890s. Place: Spain.

"Mariana" text at http://www.archive.org/details/marianaanorigin00grahgoog

The rich widow Mariana has two suitors, Pablo, a general, and Daniel, a rich man's son. To both she offers a flower from her bosom. She invites Daniel to escort her to a ball, but he cannot, as his father may be dying. He asks her not to invite Pablo in his place. She refuses. "Lead us to victory, my dear general," she commands. "And where is the victory?" asks Pablo. "And does a general ask that?" answers Mariana defiantly, "Where someone may be conquered." Eager to help his friend, Daniel, Joaquin speaks favorably of him and requests her to declare herself one way or another. "Why?" she asks. "If he is happy at my side, if he is happy in his suffering, and I am happy in making him suffer, why should we be separated?" Despite her ambivalence, Daniel is still unwilling to leave her. She says she is that way as a result of her mother running away from her father for the sake of a lover named Alvarado. "I feel no love, I feel no tenderness, and I don't want to feel them." He accepts to continue in this way, but at least let her not love another; otherwise, he promises to kill both her and him. When Mariana discovers that Daniel is Alvarado's son, she promptly decides to marry Pablo. On the evening of their marriage night, Mariana pretends to suffer from a headache. Daniel surprises her alone, proposing to take her away. She refuses. Having heard some noise, Pablo enters with a pistol. He shoots to death Mariana and invites Daniel outside for a duel, but he refuses. "There was only one life that was worth combating for and that lies there." concludes Daniel. "What does such lives as ours matter? Adieu. No! I shall be with you soon, Mariana, I shall be with you soon."

"Don Juan's son"Edit

"Don Juan's son". Time: 1890s. Place: Spain.

"Don Juan's son" text at http://www.archive.org/details/sondonjuan00echegoog

Don Juan had led a riotous life, full of drinkings and adulteries, but he is confident his son, Lazarus, a writer, will make up for his lost life with a brilliant career. Juan's cronies are set to go off again, including Timoteo, father of Carmen, Lazarus' intended. "You gay young dog," Timoteo cries out to Juan, "lead us on to glory and to pleasure." Meanwhile, Carmen and Dolores, Juan's wife, are worried over Lazarus' failing health. He is often nervous and unable to concentrate while struggling and sweating over a book by Kant. Dolores consults Dr Bermudez about the condition of her son. Thinking the case concerns his cousin, the doctor blurts out his diagnosis: the first stages of syphilitic dementia transmitted to him by his father's frequent orgies. After finding out the truth of the matter, the doctor clumsily denies the certainty of his diagnosis, but Lazarus feels it to be true. He asks him when the disease will strike, but the doctor only answers him in a vague way. When Timoteo arrives to give away his daughter's hand, Lazarus refuses. Turning to his father, he says: "You gave me life, but that 's not enough: give me more life, to live, to love, to be happy- give me life for my own Carmen- give me more life, or cursed be the life you gave me!" then falls unconscious. Though his condition has fluctuated, Lazarus seems destined to die a miserable death. He no longer has any wish to speak to Carmen and calls for his father and mother. Raving, bitterly remembering childhood memories, he then rejects his father: "No. I remember everything now; between the two, no; I was alone with my mother; you were not there. Go away, go away," he says. Remembering how his mother chose to send him away during his childhood, he also rejects her. At last, beginning to go blind, he calls out, to the horror of all three: "The sun! The sun! I want the sun."

Ángel Guimerá wrote a village tragedy of love in the lowlands, 1917

"Lowlands"Edit

"Lowlands". Time: 1890s. Place: Catalania, Spain.

"Lowlands" text at http://archive.org/details/martalowlandste00gillgoog

Villagers in the lowlands have heard a rumor whereby the master of the town, Sebastian, has arranged a marriage between his ward, Martha, and Manelic, a goatherd living in the uplands. One of the villagers reveals in a low voice; "They can't fool me. The master's been huntin' a husband for her for a long time, but he couldn't find one. They both wanted a man who would be like a dumb brute, more so than any of us-" On his arrival, the villagers smile or laugh at Manelic's simplicity. "Every night, without missin' one, I say my prayers; first a paternoster, and then another paternoster, which makes two paternosters," he specifies. "The first for the souls of my father and mother, because they loved each other so; one is enough for both. And the other paternoster- do you know what it is for? Why, so the Lord would send me a good wife." Martha is not pleased to be the one, but yet submits to the powerful Sebastian. "Why, that's what I want." he says. "You don't know how glad I am to hear you say it. Do you think, if he pleased you, I'd let you marry him?" The planned marriage was helped by another villager, Thomas, but after hearing that Martha has been the master's mistress since she was a child, he baulks at it, but yet Sebastian imposes his will, Manelic to become the new miller. He himself is to marry another and thereby annul his uncle's testament whereby he would get nothing. After the ceremony, Martha insists that her husband sleep in a separate room. When she discovers her husband loves her, she is aghast with surprise and horror, having thought he accepted her for money. Hearing about the bad relations existing between husband and wife, the villagers laugh. Because Manelic suspects the presence of a man skulking about his house and because his wife shows no sign of love, he wants to return to the uplands without her, considering this place "a pit of misery". On learning this, Martha pleads to follow him and thereby escape from Sebastian's baleful influence, even goading him to stab her with a knife rather than abandon her. After doing so, he recoils from further violence and decides to take her with him after all, but Sebastian prevents it and removes him from his post. To encourage Manelic to come back to her, Martha reveals that Sebastian is the man he was worried about. As Marta is about to escape one night from the village, she is caught in time by Sebastian. She struggles. He catches her by the throat, at which point Manelic tears the door-curtain aside and stands peering in. He challenges Sebastian but, seeing him unarmed, throws his knife away. They fight. Manelic strangles him to death, then in front of the villagers points to the mountains. Martha nods absently. They run away, the people falling back to make room for them.