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

Leandro Fernández de Moratín

Leandro Fernández de Moratín wrote two of the best comedies of the Romantic period. Portrait by Francisco Goya (1746-1828)

Forging even harder from his work from the previous century, Leandro Fernández de Moratín (1760-1828) hammered into social and psycho-social matters with "La mojigata" (The prude, 1804) and "El sí de las niñas" (The maidens' consent, 1806).

In “The prude”, “the action...tells how the cunning Clara gets her deserts, how her cousin, Inés shows her strength of character, and how Don Luis’ method of education is vindicated...Claudio is a grown-up delinquent…Claudio and Clara are indeed soulmates who richly deserve each other...Inés is a merry young woman who loves to dance and go to parties, all properly supervised by oldsters, to be sure. Her father regards her behavior as befitting her youthful exuberance, but her uncle is convinced she is bound for perdition” (Dowling, 1971 pp 77-79).

In "The maidens' consent", "Moratin's thesis was that young girls were taught at home and in convent schools to hide their true feelings, and thus were educated to hypocrisy" (Dowling, 1961 p 238). “The characters...are conceived with the warmth of mature understanding...The personality of Don Diego is pivotal to the action...He wants to enjoy the comforts and pleasures that marriage can bring him and he has let himself be deluded by Dona Irene into thinking that a young girl will be attracted to him. But he is a reasonable man, and his reason is at work from the moment he appears on stage, for he is concerned about the difference in age and what people will say...At the denouement, his renunciation of his illusions, his abdication in his nephew of his own dreams of family life make him one of Moratin’s finest creations. Dona Irene is Moratin’s best comic character...Self-centered, garrulous, she talks but never listens, and her chatter provides many of the laughs in the play. Widowed three times, and now aging, with drug and doctor bills and little money, she sees the only solution to her troubles in an advantageous marriage for her only surviving daughter. In Don Diego she has seen her opportunity and she has filled his head with illusions while nursing her own. There is pathos in the situation, but Moratin avoids both the pathetic and the opportunity for ridicule…Dona Irene really learns nothing, but she quickly grasps the significance of Francisca’s catch, for the nephew will have the uncle’s money...The young people are excellently conceived. Their passion is both romantic and believable. Dona Francisca is caught in a chain of events that she can resist only by being silent and unresponsive. Don Carlos’ determination to keep his girl is as convincing as his renunciation of her when he discovers who his rival is…When he is given the opportunity, his moving account of the courtship and his eloquence in speaking to his uncle convince Don Diego of the depth of the young man’s feeling. The three servants fill precisely the correct bounds. They serve the action without intruding into it. The affair between Calamocha and Rita, while it mimics as in the Golden Age comedy the love affair of master and mistress, is merely sketched...The good sense of Simon and the playful wit of the other two provide necessary notes toward the total harmony of the play” (Dowling, 1971 pp 101-103). "Don Carlos has many good qualities as is to be expected of the gallant (II,viii) in Spanish theater after Lope, but Moratin is not a servile imitator of Golden Age models. The hero is handsome, valiant, and rich, but he is not presented in the play as a model to be imitated for his life is anything but ordered and stable. As a romantic figure he is a menace both to his immediate society and to his country as a whole. Calamocha, his servant, describes him as a lover on the rampage, giving free rein to the excesses of his passion...What is particularly disquieting until the very concluding moments of the play is that the audience knows no details about the legitimacy of Don Carlos's claims to Doña Francisca's hand in marriage...He is a perpetrator and accomplice in deceit and fraud...Don Carlos is a romantic figure whose egocentricity and excesses are evidenced as the pursuit and exploitation of women, Machiavellian behaviour, and a complete disregard for social expectations. It is not until the concluding moment that the audience becomes aware of the fact that Don Juan has been converted to a life of virtue by Dona Francisca's innocent love...Only when Don Diego is sure that Don Carlos is honorable and worthy of respect does he surprise everyone by abandoning his own rights in the name of his nephew" (Quinn, 1977 pp 89-92).

"The prude"


Time: 1800s. Place: Toledo, Spain.

Text at ?

Clara has so often been punished by her father, Martino, that instead of religion she has learned dissimulation. Yet she intends to enter a convent. Her uncle, Luis, and Perico, servant to Claudio, to whom Luis intends to marry his daughter, Ines, though rejected by her, learn that Martino will inherit a large fortune from a dying cousin provided Clara enter religious orders. Clara learns from Perico that Claudio loves her, not Ines. Though the news is pleasing, yet she still intends to dissimulate. "In this world, whoever does not cheat does not succeed," she declares. Perico intercepts a letter meant for Martino, asking for money so that Clara can enter the convent. Pretending to be the brother to Lorenzo, commissioner of the convent, Perico pockets up the full amount and, after speaking to Clara, reveals to his master that "the charming novice burns and dies for Claudio". During a secret meeting, Claudio and Clara are surprised by Martino and Ines. Clara pretends she was "occupied in reading Kempis" while Ines accuses her of illicitly meeting Claudio, which Clara denies, though admitting she is "a vessel of iniquity". Martino calls Ines a "vile liar, an odious viper". But, in this matter, Luis believes his daughter, not his brother. Since Claudio's father, Pedro, is set to arrive, Luis insists that Claudio in filial duty should meet him in advance. Clara knows that Luis' purpose is to separate the loving couple. She meets Perico and forms plans to marry Claudio in secret and be "freed of the execrable crew" around her. One day, she notices her father lurking behind her, but while speaking to Perico pretends not to, saying for her father's benefit: "My heart's desire is to become a shoeless nun, for when austerity is greater, the palm is more magnificent." Martino advises her how to conduct herself inside the convent. At the mere mention of the tempter, Clara, always the false prude, holds his hands and trembles. Luis, wishing to help his niece to a favorable marriage, asks her to be more honest with him, "to throw out the mask of devotion", so that he may defend her against the "strange obstinacy" of her father, but instead she persists in pretending, so that he wishes to have nothing more to do with her. Meanwhile, fearing Luis has discovered their plot, Claudio contemplates leaving immediately, but Lucia, the servant, assures him that Luis is willing to help him in this marriage despite Clara's distrust of him. Luis receives a letter from the cousin in Seville, revealing that since learning of Clara's vocation, he has revoked his intentions and will give all his money to Ines instead. On learning this, Martino is in despair. Moreover, he discovers that his money was never received by the abbess. Perico's treachery is discovered and Claudio summoned, who reveals that he signed a marriage contract between himself and his daughter. Considering herself certain to receive the inheritance, Clara wishes to leave with Claudio, but Luis shows her the letter from Seville, revealing that Ines, not her, is heir to a fortune. Ines reconciles father and daughter by sharing her inheritance with Clara.

"The maidens' consent"

Carlos loves Francisca but since his uncle, Diego, is his rival, he must join the army to obtain the maiden's consent. Print of an 1830 book illustration of the play

Time: 1800s. Place: Alcala de Henarès, Spain.

Text at https://books.google.ca/books?id=6iC60t7HJH0C


Diego and Irene rejoice at his upcoming marriage with her daughter, Dona Francisca, fresh out of a convent. Irene is proud of her as a girl "raised without artifice and far from the world's pitfalls". But Irene's servant, Rita, reveals to her fellow servant, Calamocha, that Francisca, despite Diego's wealth, is in tears at the thought of being forced to marry a man of fifty years of age. But help may be forthcoming when Rita reveals to Francisca that Don Carlos, her lover and a soldier, has arrived. "Forever gratitude and love!" Francisca exclaims. In contrast, Irene's opinion is that Francisca should be thankful for the happiness of being able to marry Diego, attributed to her aunts' prayers rather than "your feeble advantages and my poor efforts," as she says. When Carlos arrives to prevent the marriage, he mentions a rich uncle likely to be a benefactor of his in support of his marriage plans with Francisca. "To love and to be loved, that's my ambition, my supreme felicity," Francisca responds. But when he meets this supposed benefactor, he discovers that his uncle is the rival of the woman he wants to marry. Unaware of his nephew's intention, Diego scolds him for leaving his garrison and orders him to return to it at once. Unwilling to defy his uncle openly, Carlos pretends to obey. Francisca is stunned at discovering her lieutenant gone. "My Lord God," she moans, "what is my crime? What is it?" Rita must hold up her distressed mistress as she walks back to her room. But at three o'clock in the morning, Diego spies Francisca out of her room, apparently reacting to the sound of a guitar. Carlos plays as a subterfuge while tossing up a letter to her, but in the darkness she is unable to find it. When she hears a suspicious sound inside the room, she escapes back to hers. It is Diego who finds the letter and immediately orders the innkeeper to bring back Carlos. Francisca thinks the letter contains merely excuses for her lover's abrupt departure. Discouraged, she hears Diego asking her to open her heart. He promises to help her and then shows Carlos the letter he tossed up to Francisca. A cornered Carlos promises his uncle to return to the garrison and informs Irene that her daughter loves someone without admitting the man is he. But Irene guesses it is he, a lover willing to go away for a time to obtain her. "Is it possible that you are prepared for such a sacrifice?" Irene asks in wonder. "That is the faith we must yield to obtain the maidens' consent," he replies.

Ángel de Saavedra

Ángel de Saavedra, third duke of Rivas, showed how one accident changes the course of one's entire life. Painting of the author by Federico de Madrazo y Kuntz (1815–1894)

Another important figure of the Romantic Movement is Ángel de Saavedra, duke of Rivas (1791-1865), who wrote "Don Álvaro o La fuerza del sino" (Don Álvaro or The force of fate, 1835).

"The deteriorated condition of the marques' household seems to indicate that we are viewing a play that is taking place, not only in the eighteenth century as has been indicated, but also during the later years of that century. But this is impossible, just as it is equally impossible that the action is taking place during the early years of the so-called Age of Enlightenment. We find in scene IV of the third act that the hero, Don Álvaro, is fighting with Spanish troops in Italy...Carlos I of Spain, then, being the fifth of the Hapsburg empire in Germany, has to be the only Spanish monarch to whom the duke of Rivas was referring...There is further collaboration that the action of Don Álvaro takes place in the sixteenth century and not in the eighteenth as the author indicated for reasons known only to himself. This is found in scene IX of the last act. Don Alfonso finally finds himself face to face with the scourge of his family who is naturally Don Álvaro. But many years have gone by. Felipe is now found to be the king of Spain, and it is learned that he has pardoned Don Álvaro's parents for their treason against the State. This new monarch can be none other than Felipe II, the son and heir of Carlos I" (Quinn, 1975 pp 483-485).

Alvaro is often associated with the sun and so his fall resembles Phaëton’s (Knowlton, 1972) or Lucifer’s (Grey, 1968). In Grey's view, "a man of such unusual abilities should be destined to become the light of his age. He has one weakness: pride. He refuses to appeal to the marquis to obtain Dona Leonor's hand on the basis of his being the son of a Spanish viceroy and an Inca princess, nor does he want to disclose his parents' present condition. He wishes to be recognized on his own merits, on the basis of his own personal worth" (p 301). Alvaro "conceives of a destiny that prolongs his life only the more to exercise its torment even though he actively seeks release in death...Manfred's 'sorrow is knowledge' is particularly significant and the key to Rivas' attraction to Byron...Rivas' hero believes himself to be the victim of divine injustice, that is he has lost his faith in a benevolent existence...His upbringing in the wild has stamped Alvaro as and exile and outsider" (Cardwell, 1973 pp 562-563).

“The play encloses a cycle of heroic attempts to fulfill desires that are then frustrated only to be renewed in the next moment. The hero is caught in a vicious circle which excludes his personal [goal] of love or honour. In the final scene, he manages to break out of this catastrophic eternal quest, this yearning for something that always lies beyond his grasp, but only by exchanging the [goal] of desire for one of death. The ultimate act of self-betrayal frees the hero from the unending journey through desire's desert” (Rosenberg, 1989 p 628).

Rivas "set a new fashion in 'The force of fate', a romantic masterpiece the staging of which has something of the importance of 'Hernani'. Don Alvaro succeeded by virtue of its daring mixture of prose and verse, its striking situations" (Fitzmaurice-Kelly, 1922 p 96). “There is a vigour and fluency in the piece which makes it one of the best representatives of the romantic movement in Spain” (Laborde, 1931 p 202).

"The force of fate"

Because her lover killed her father, Leonor expiates the crime in a remote part of the world. Hermit's cell at St Mary the Virgin, Bletchingley, United Kingdom

Time: 16th century. Place: Spain and Naples.

Text at https://muse.jhu.edu/book/20980

Rejected as a son-in-law by the marquis of Calatrava, Don Alvaro seeks to elope with Leonor, but is prevented by him. As Alvaro drops his pistol in submission, it goes off by accident and kills the marquis. Alvaro and Leonor flee but are separated after a battle ensues between his men and the marquis'. Leonor reaches the convent of the Holy Angels, where she requests the father superior's permission to live inside a hermitage in penance for her father's death. He accepts. The new marquis of Calatrava, Carlos, seeks to avenge his father's death and his sister's dishonor but is unable to find Alvaro. By chance, neither knowing who the other is, Alvaro saves Carlos' life in a tavern brawl. Both use assumed names while fighting in Naples against the Germans, when Carlos returns the favor by saving Alvaro's life. As Alvaro lies in surgery from a bullet wound in the chest, Carlos at last discovers who he is and, once his sister's lover recuperates, challenges him to a duel, although against the law as recently promulgated by Charles III of Spain. Alvaro hesitates before accepting this challenge until Carlos mentions he knows his sister to be alive but intends to kill her, too. In the duel, Alvaro kills him and is imprisoned for it. When the Germans attack the Spaniards, Alvaro is set free, vowing to enter a life of religion should he survive. He does so, entering the convent of the Holy Angels, where he is discovered by Carlos' younger brother, Alfonso, who also challenges him to a duel. Alvaro succeeds in stabbing him. Fearing his end near, Alfonso asks for spiritual comfort. To accede to his desire, Alvaro knocks at the hermitage door for the saintly hermit reported to be living there. Recognizing Leonor, Alfonso stabs her to death and dies by turning the weapon on himself. In despair at losing her, Alvaro plunges to his death down a deep ravine.

José Zorrilla

José Zorrilla drew a romantic picture of the Don Juan legend

Sources of the play include Tiro de Molina’s “The mocker of Sevile” (1630) and Antonio de Zamora’s “There are no unmet deadlines and no unpaid debts” (1714) (Fitz Gerald, 1922). As a follow-up to interpretations by Tirso de Molina and Molière on the Don Juan legend, José Zorrilla (1817-1893) wrote his own Don Juan Tenorio in two parts (1844). Although his crimes or extravagances are similar as before, this Don Juan is romantically saved from the fires of hell by a woman's hand, as was the case in Alexandre Dumas the Elder's play, "Juan de Marana" (1836).

“Tirso’s king belongs to a time when absolute monarchy was still in the future; the relativity of his power is underscored by the coexistence of various kings: the King of Naples, the King of Portugal, and that of Castile, Alfonso XI. In contrast, Zorrilla resets the action in a time that is governed by a strong, nearly omnipotent king: Emperor Charles V. And then something interesting happens. Zorrilla deletes the part of the king, removing him from the action. Whereas Tirso’s king is a human (and thus imperfect) representative of a theocratic principle, Zorrilla disembodies him and turns him into a metapolitical framework for the action. The king disappears so that the entire play can be contained and permeated by his presence…[Under capitalism, there was no limit to the possibility of reward so that] the guarantor of the absolute order upsets the medieval proportionality between sin and expiation by introducing unlimited hope as the chief motivator” (Resina, 2000 p 57).

"The opening scene is borrowed from Dumas, where Zorrilla describes a meeting of several profligates who have assembled to give an account of their conquests. Don Juan is declared winner, but as in Dumas' play, one man, Luis de Mejfa, refuses to acknowledge him his superior until he has seduced his sweetheart and abducted a nun. In this case the nun is Don Juan's own betrothed, Inés, whose father, Don Gonzalo, has placed her in a convent to assure her safety against her unscrupulous suitor. He succeeds in both enterprises, but in the attempt kills both Mejia and Gonzalo; Inds dies heartbroken. The second part is more original, though the idea of a repentant Don Juan is not entirely new. In Zorrilla's play we have the first suggestion of love in Don Juan. Heretofore he never had any feeling of love for women; he simply looked upon them as a means of satisfying his passion. But here he really loves Inés, and weeps at the sight of her grave. In the same cemetery he finds the statue of Don Gonzalo, which he invites to supper, thus following the old legend. Gonzalo comes, and in turn asks Don Juan to come to his sepulchre on the following evening. The latter, as in Tirso's 'Burlador', accepts. There Don Gonzalo announces that he has been sent to conduct him to hell; but, just as he is about to do so, the shade of Inés appears, and rescues him from eternal perdition" (Waxman, 1908 p 199).

Don Juan "is never Inés' seducer. The customs regarding marriage at the time of the action (1545), before the reforms of the Council of Trent consider it to exist when two parties sincerely pledge their free exchange of consent regardless of church ceremony. At the moment that he writes the letter to Inés, Don Juan is aware of the betrothal arranged by their fathers, which already constitutes parental permission for intimacy...When Don Juan subsequently falls in love, the couple's free exchange of consent supersedes the arranged marriage, and subsequent annulment. By acts which confirm the sacramental nature of his commitment to Ines, Don Juan is simultaneously acknowledging divine authority, which, if it does not deter the course of human retribution, more than satisfies the conditions necessary to avoid the eternal damnation that became the fate of Tirso's Don Juan" (Soufas, 1995 p 310).

“In the opening scene of Zorrilla’s Don Juan Tenorio, the hero appears on stage dashing off a letter to Inés, whom he intends to seduce...When Don Juan writes the letter, he is still engaged to Inés; Don Gonzalo has not yet broken off their engagement. At this point in the play, that is, the hero has no reason to woo Inés over covertly, no need for clandestine letters...Like carnival, we might say, Don Juan’s writing makes august happen in February...Don Juan’s relation with both money and writing becomes clear in the famous boasting contest at the tavern. Don Juan and his rival, Don Luis, have made a bet as to who will make the most conquests and wreak the most havoc over the course of a year… in contrast to Don Juan, who inserts himself in an aristocratic, epic tradition, Don luis draws on popular forms: a proverb and the tongue-and-cheek theology typical of picaresque humor. This shift in genre reflects a movement toward economic reality. What Luis ultimately mirrors back is the financial underpinnings of Juan’s exploits…We never see Don Juan break a promise on stage or hear that he has broken one...Don Juan’s conquest of Luis’s fiancée, Ana, is an inverted and monetary reflection of his conquest of his own beloved, Inés...Don Juan succeeds...he gets his rival out of the way by having his servant bind and gag him...it is clear that he has broken no promises and told no untruths...Unlike Molière’s seducer, the cunning of Zorrilla’s hero lies not in falsehoods but rather in his knack for imitation and substitution: he triumphs over Ana by entering her room in the dark in place of Luis, whom she is expecting...What is striking about Ana’s seduction is the opposition, introduced in Pascual’s speech, between force and cunning, the latter presented as a writerly strategy. With the courtship of Inés, in contrast, the focus now shifts to an opposition between writing and orality…As Inés reads Don Juan’s letter, her maid Brígida, whom Don Juan has bribed to act as a go-between, offers an oral commentary that backs up his claims. Whereas Don Juan’s cunning and writerly seduction of Ana is supported by the force of hired hands, here his writing is abetted at first by a hired tongue…In the sofa scene...Don Juan backs up his words not with his purse (the hired hands of Ana’s seduction or the hired tongue of the first moment of Inés’) but rather with his voice” (Amann, 2008 pp 513-524).

“Don Gonzalo’s ghost appears to him and is about to take him to hell, but Doña Inés’s ghost persuades Don Juan to repent for his sins. The couple ascend to heaven and celestial paradise. We have seen how within the history of the literary Don Juan, the figure deconstructs before our eyes. Don Juan the dissolute libertine, who flouts God’s law, turns into Don Juan the pious observer of faith, in a radical volte face” (Wright, 2007 p 12). "Zorrilla's 'Don Juan Tenorio' has been the object of much criticism by commentators who stress the author's supposed lack of orthodoxy in the last act of the play when he permits Don Juan to repent after death and gain salvation...Don Juan's salvation in no way violates the teachings of the church but rather serves to illustrate an important aspect of Catholic doctrine. This argument is based on our contention that Don Juan's repentance precedes death...As he converses with the ghost of the commander, Juan is not dead but merely in the throes of death" (Abrams, 1964 pp 42-43).

"Don Juan Tenorio, part 1"

Don Juan is hard at work in the Teatro de la Comedia de Madrid, 1911

Time: 1540s. Place: Seville, Spain.

Text at http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Spanish/Zorilla.htm http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5201

Don Juan Tenorio and Don Luis Mejia have wagered on who should prove the most accomplished man within a year. Each boast of women cheated and men dead in duels, Juan being the winner in total numbers of both measures. Juan is ready to do more: take away from Luis his betrothed, Donna Anna. Their talk is interrupted by Don Gonzalo, commander of Calatrava, who was asked by Don Diego, Juan's father, to yield the hand of his daughter, Ines, in marriage to Juan, but overhearing the scandalous conversation between Juan and Luis, declares he will never have her. Affronted, Juan replies that either he gives her to him or he will take her away by force. Overhearing this, a masked man comes forth to say he will never know him more, at which Juan tears off his mask, revealing his father. These interruptions do not prevent Juan and Luis on betting who will obtain each other's intended. Both are arrested, as each denounced the other to the law, and both easily released. A worried Luis heads straight for the house where Anna stays the night before the promised wedding day, but so does Juan, whose servant, Cuitti, sneaks up behind Luis and ties him up while his master steals her away, as well as Ines from the convent. He removes Ines to his country house, where the liberated Luis arrives to challenge him, but they are interrupted by the arrival of Gonzalo, incensed at having lost his daughter. Juan tries to convince him of his conversion. "Commander, I adore Donna Ines, persuaded that heaven sends her to guide my steps in the path of goodness," he pleads. But the commander does not believe him. Angry at this refusal, Juan shoots Gonzalo to death and then stabs Luis to death before jumping in the river and entering a tug-boat as officers of the law contemplate the murder scene.

"Don Juan Tenorio, part 2"

Don Juan is threatened with damnation by the commander's statue but escapes by repenting his sins, a scene depicted in 1830-1835 by Alexandre-Évariste Fragonard (1780-1850)

Time: 1540s. Place: Seville, Spain.

Text at http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Spanish/Zorilla.htm http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5201

Don Juan contemplates the pantheon paid for by his father before his death, comprising statues of his son's victims: himself, Gonzalo, Luis, and Ines, dead after Juan abandoned her. A repenting Juan is astonished at seeing Ines' statue disappear over the pedestal and her shade appear before him, who reveals she will either save or lose her soul with his. Juan believes he is delirious. To shake it off, he invites two friends over to his house, where he says they will be alone unless the statues care to join them. As Juan sups with his friends, a knock is heard at the door, yet his servant, Ciutti, looking out from a window, can find no one. A second knock is heard with the same result, then five more times nearer and nearer inside the house until Juan asks the presence to enter through the chamber door, which the commander's statue does. The two friends faint at the sight of this vision, who reveals that Juan will die the next day, having one last chance to be converted, daring him to meet him, then disappearing through the wall. Juan next receives the visit of Ines' statue, who before disappearing the same way, discloses that tomorrow they will sleep in the same tomb. Seeing his friends awake, he accuses them of infusing a drug in the wine, as do they, so that a duel becomes as inevitable as the two friends' deaths. Juan goes back to the pantheon and finds a supper table laid with garter-snakes, bones, fire, and ashes, followed by the commander's statue, who declares: "All that you see before you is where valor, youth, and power end" after which the death-knell sounds. The commander's statue takes hold of one hand to drag him down to hell, but the other hand is raised towards heaven and taken by Ines' statue, by which Don Juan is saved from perdition. "Let it be known to all," Juan concludes, "that the God of clemency is also that of Don Juan Tenorio."