Echegaray, José (19 April 1832 - 4 September 1916)
José Echegaray (19 April 1832 - 4 September 1916)
Judy B. Mclnnis
University of Delaware
BOOKS: Cálculo de variadones: Lecciones explicadas en la Escuela de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertas (Madrid: José C. de la Peña, 1858);
Memoria sobre los trabajos de perforación del tunel, de los Alpes escrita en el año 1860 durante las prácticas de la Escuela especial de Ingenieros de Caminos, Canales y Puertos, by Echegaray, Manuel Pardo, and Luis Vasconi (Madrid: Viuda de D. J. C. de la Peña, 1863);
Problemas de geometría (Madrid: T. Fortanet, 1865);
Discursos leídos ante la Real Academia de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales en la recepdón pública de Sr. D. José Echegaray: Historia de las matemáticas puras en España (Madrid: Eusebio Aguado, 1866);
Introductión a la geometría superior (Madrid: Eusebio Aguado, 1867);
Teorías modernas de la física: Unidad de las fuerzas materials: Cokcdón de artículos (Madrid: Francisco Roig, 1867; expanded edition, Madrid: M. Rivadeneyra, 1873);
Discurso pronunciado por el Sr. D. José Echegaray en la sesión celebrada en las Cortes Constituyentes el día 5 de mayo de 1869 en poco de los artículos 20 y 21 del proyecto de Constitutión (Madrid: M. Rivadeneyra, 1869);
Irfluenda del estudio de las ciencias en la educatió de la mujer (Madrid: M. Rivadeneyra, 1869);
Teoría matemática de la luz (Madrid: Viuda de Aguado e Hijo, 1871);
El libro talonario, as Jorge Hayaseca y Eizaguirre (Madrid: José Rodríguez/Alonso Gullón, 1874);
La esposa del vengador (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1874);
La última noche (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1875);
En el puño de la espada (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1875);
Un sol que nacey un solque muere (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1876);
Cómo empiezay cómo acaba (Madrid: R. Velasco, 1876);
Discursos y rectificación del Señor Don José de Echegaray pronundados en las sesiones de los días 7, 9 y 11 de Julio de 1877, con motivo del dictamen de la comisión de Informatión parlamentaria referente a las operacones del Tesoro (Madrid: Viuda e Hijos de G. Antonio García, 1877);
El gladiador de Rávena: Imitatión de las últimas escenas de la tragedia alemana de Frederico Halm (Munch de Belling-haussen), based on a work by Frederich Halm (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1877);
O locura o santidad (Madrid: José M. Ducazcal, 1877); translated by Hannah Lynch as Folly or Saintliness, in The Great Galeoto [and] Folly or Saintliness: Two Plays Done from the Verse of José Echegaray into English Prose (London: John Lane / Boston: Lamson Wolffe, 1895);
Iris de paz (Madrid: T. Fortanet, 1877);
Para tal culpa talpena (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1877);
Lo que no puede dedrse (Madrid: T. Fortanet, 1877);
En el pilary en la cruz (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1878);
Correr en pos de un ideal (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1878);
Algunas veces aquí (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1878);
Morir por no despertar (Madrid: Tip. Yagües, 1879);
En el seno de la muerte (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1879);
Bodas trágicas (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1879);
Mar sin orillas (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1879);
Ni la paciencia de Job (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1879);
La muerte en los labios (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1880);
El gran Galeoto (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1881); translated by Lynch as The Great Galeoto in The Great Gakoto, [and] Folly or Saintliness: Two Plays Done from, the Verse of José Echegaray into English Prose (London: John Lane / Boston: Lamson Wolffe, 1895);
Haroldo el Normando (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1881);
Los dos curiosos impertinentes (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1882);
Conflicto entre dos deberes (Madrid: Cosme Rodríguez, 1882);
Un milagro en Egipto (Madrid: Cosme Rodríguez, 1883);
Anales de teatro y de la música con un estudio sobre el realismo (Madrid: Ricardo Fé, 1884);
Piensa mal... y acerterás? (Madrid: Cosme Rodríguez, 1884);
La peste de Otranto (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1884);
Teatro, 10 volumes (Madrid: Cosme Rodríguez, 1884);
Obras dramáticas escogidas, 2 volumes (Madrid: Tello, 1884);
Vida alegre y muerte triste (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1885);
El bandido Lisandro (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1886);
De mala raza (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1886);
Dos fanatismos (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1887);
El conde Lotario (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1887);
La realidad y el delirio (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1887);
El hijo de carne y el hijo de hierro (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1888);
Lo sublime en lo vulgar (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1888);
Manantial que no se agota (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1889);
Los rígidos (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1889);
Siempre en ridículo (Madrid: Tip. Yagües, 1890); translated by T. Walter Gilkyson as Always Ridiculous (Boston: R. G. Badger, 1916);
Examen de varios submarinos comparados con “El Peral”: Colección de artículos publicados en “El Heraldo de Madrid” (Madrid: José M. Ducazcal, 1891);
El prólogo de un drama (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1891);
Irene de Otranto (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1891);
Un crítico incipiente (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1891);
Comedia sin desenlace (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1892);
Sic vos non vobis; o La ultima limosna (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1892);
Mariana (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1892); translated by Graham as Mariana (New York: Roberts, 1895);
Elpoder de la imciotencia (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1893);
A la orilla del mar (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1893);
Informe sobre la producción y distributión de electriddad de la Compañia Madrileña, by Echegaray, Ricardo Becerro de Bengoa, and Francisco de P. Rojas (Madrid: F. Rodríguez, 1894);
La rencorosa (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1894);
Mancha que limpia (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1895);
El primer acto de un drama (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1895);
El estigma (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1895);
De la legalidad común en materias literarias (Madrid: Hijos de F. A. García, 1896);
La cantante callejera (Madrid: Evaristo Odriózola, 1896);
Amor salvaje (Madrid: Evaristo Odriózola, 1896);
Semíramis, o, La hija del aire, adapted from Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s play (Madrid: Evaristo Odriózola, 1896);
La calumnia por castigo (Madrid: Sucesores de Rodríguez y Odriózola, 1897);
Resolucion de ecuaciones y teoria de Galois: Lecciones explicadas en el Ateneo de Madrid (Madrid: J. A. García, 1897);
Discurso leído por el Excmo. Sr. D. José Echegaray el día 10 de noviembre de 1898 en el Ateneo científico, literario y artístico de Madrid con motivo de la apertura de su cátedra: iQué es lo que contribuye la fuerza de las naciones? (Madrid: Sucesores de Rivadeneyra, 1898);
La duda (Madrid: R. Velasco, 1898);
El hombre negro (Madrid: R. Velasco, 1898); translated by Ellen Watson as The Man in Black (N.p., 1899);
Silencio de muerte (Madrid: R. Velasco, 1899);
Dramas (Madrid: La Novela Ilustrada, 1900);
Lances entre caballros: Este libro contiene una reseña histórica del duelo y un proyecto de bases para la redacción de un código del honor en España (Madrid: Sucesores de Rivadeneyra, 1900);
Páginas escogidas: Estudios literarios de E. Gómez Carrillo, Conrado Solsona, José Echegaray, by Echegaray and others, edited by Juan Navarro Reverter (Paris: Ganier Hermanos, 1900);
El loco Dios (Madrid: R. Velasco, 1900); translated by Elizabeth Howard West as The Mad Man Divine (Boston: Gorham Press, 1908);
Congresos internacionales de ferrocarriles, tranvías y electricidad, celebrados en Paris en el año 1900: Memorias de los ingenieros de caminos, canales y puertos, by Echegaray and others (Madrid: Hijos de J. A. García, 1901);
Malas herencias (Madrid: R. Velasco, 1902);
Observadones y teorías sobre la afinidad química (Madrid: Antonio Marzo, 1902);
La escalinata de un trono (Madrid: R. Velasco, 1903);
La desequilibrada (Madrid: R. Velasco, 1904);
Discurso leído en la Universidad Central en la solemne inauguración del curso académico de 1905 a 1906 por D. José Echegaray y Eizaguirre: La Cienda y la Críitica(Madrid: Imprenta Colonial [Estrada Hermanos],1905);
Ciencia popular: Colectión de artículos publicados en los periódicos “El Impartial” y “El Liberal” (Madrid: Hijos dej. A. García, 1905);
Afuena de arrastrarse (Madrid: R. Velasco, 1905);
Los tres sueños de Colilla (Madrid: Viuda de Rodriguez Serra, 1905?);
Mono´logos en verso: “Entre dolora y cuento,” “El moderno Endimión,” “El canto de la Sirena” (Madrid: R. Velasco, 1906);
Conferences sobre fiska matemádtka, 5 volumes (Madrid: Imprenta de la “Gaceta de Madrid,” 1906-1910);
Elpreferidoy los cenicientos, as Librado Ezguieura (Madrid: R. Velasco, 1908);
Muestras (Madrid: Editorial Ibero Americana, 1908);
Vulgarizatión cientifica (Madrid: Rafael Gutiérrez Jiménez, 1910);
Recuerdos, 3 volumes (Madrid: Ruiz Hermanos, 1917).
Editions and Collections: José Echegaray: Teatro escogido, edited by Amando Lázaro Ros (Madrid: Aguilar, 1955)—includes El libro tahnario, La última noche, En el puño de la espada, 0 locura o santidad, En elseno de la muerte, La muerte en los labios, El gran Galeoto, Piensa mal... y acerterás ?, De mala raza, Sic vos non vobis o la última limosna, Mancha que limpid, La duda, and A fuerza de arrastrarse;
Echegaray, edited by Julio Mathías (Madrid: Espasa,1970)—includes selections from El libro talonario, En el puño de la espada, El gran Galeoto, Mancha que lim-pia, and A fuerza de arrastrarse.
Editions in English: Mariana, translated by Frederico Sarda and Carlos D. S. Wuppermann (New York: Moods, 1909);
The Atonement of Helen: A Drama in Four Acts by Franklin Winter from the Spanish of Josée Echegaray (New York: Manuscripts Universal, 1915).
PLAY PRODUCTIONS: El libro talonario, Madrid, Teatro Apolo, 18 February 1874;
La esposa del vengador, Madrid, Teatro Español, 14 November 1874;
La última noche, Madrid, Teatro Español, 2 March 1875;
En el puño de la espada, Madrid, Teatro Apolo, 12 October 1875;
Un sol que nace y un sol que muere and Cómo empieza y co´mo acaba, Madrid, Teatro Español, 9 November 1876;
El gladiador de Ravena, Madrid, Teatro Novedades, 10 November 1876;
0 locura o santidad, Madrid, Teatro Español, 22 January 1877;
Iris depaz, Madrid, Teatro Español, 10 February 1877;
Para tal culpa tal pena, Madrid, Teatro Español, 27 April 1877;
Lo que no puede decirse, Madrid, Teatro Español, 14 October 1877;
En elpilary en la cruz, Madrid, Teatro Español, 26 February 1878;
Correr en pos de un ideal, Madrid, Teatro Español, 15 October 1878;
Algunas veces aquí, Madrid, Teatro Apolo, 15 October 1878;
Morir por no despertar, Madrid, Teatro Apolo, 10 February 1879;
En el seno de la muerte, Madrid, Teatro Español, 12 April 1879;
Bodas trádgicas, Madrid, Teatro Apolo, 24 May 1879;
Mar sin orillas, Madrid, Teatro Español, 20 December 1879;
La muerte en los labios, Madrid, Teatro Español, 30 November 1880;
El gran Galeoto, Madrid, Teatro Español, 19 March 1881;
Los dos curiosos impertinentes, Madrid, Teatro Españl, 8 April 1881;
Haroldo el Normando, Madrid, Teatro Español, 3 December 1881;
Conflkto entre dos deberes, Madrid, Teatro Españiol, 14 December 1882;
Piensa mal... iy acertarás? Madrid, Teatro Españiol, 5 February 1884;
Un milagro en Egipto, Madrid, Teatro Españiol, 24 March 1884;
La peste de Otranto, Madrid, Teatro Españiol, 12 December 1884;
Vida alegre y muerte triste, Madrid, Teatro Españiol, 7 March 1885;
El bandido Lisandro, Madrid, Teatro Españiol, 13 February 1886;
De mala raza, Barcelona, then Madrid, Teatro Españiol, 4 March 1886;
El conde Lotario, Valencia, 2 June 1886;
Los dos fanatismos, Madrid, Teatro Español, 15 January 1887;
La realidady el delirio, Madrid, Teatro Español, 12 April 1887;
El hijo de carne y el hijo de hkrro, Madrid, Teatro de la Princesa, 14January 1888;
Lo sublime en lo vulgar, Barcelona, 4July 1888;
Manantial que no se agota, Madrid, Teatro Español, 9 March 1889;
Los rígidos, Madrid, Teatro Español, 19 November 1889;
Siempre en ridículo, Madrid, Teatro Españiol, 21 December 1890;
Elprólogo de un drama, Valladolid, 27 December 1890;
Irene de Otranto, Madrid, Teatro Real, 12 February 1891;
Un crítico incipiente, Madrid, Teatro de la Comedia, 27 February 1891;
Comedia sin desenlace, Madrid, Teatro de la Comedia, 17 December 1891;
El hijo de Don Juan, Madrid, Teatro Español, 29 March 1892;
Sic υos non vobis, o la última limosna, Madrid, Teatro de la Comedia, 1892;
Mariana, Madrid, Teatro de la Comedia, 5 December 1892;
Elpoder de la impotencia, Madrid, Teatro de la Comedia, 4 March 1893;
A la orilla del mar, Madrid: Teatro de la Comedia, 12 December 1893;
La rencorosa, Madrid, Teatro de la Comedia, 13 March 1894;
María Rosa, translated from Angel Guimerá’s play, Madrid, Teatro de la Princesa, 24 November 1894;
Mancha que limpia, Madrid, Teatro Español, 9 February 1895;
El primer acto de un drama, Madrid, Teatro Novedades, 25 February 1895;
El estigma, Madrid, Teatro Español, 15 November 1895;
La cantante calkjera, Madrid, Teatro Español, 26 March 1896;
Tierra baja, translated from Guimerá’s play, Madrid, Teatro Español, 1896;
Amor salvaje, Madrid, Teatro de la Comedia, 1896;
Semíramis o la hija del aire, translated from Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s play, Madrid, 1896;
La calumnia par castigo, Madrid, Teatro Español, 22 January 1897;
La duda, Madrid, Teatro Español, 11 February 1898;
Elhombre negro, Madrid, Teatro Español, 22 April 1898;
Silencio de muerte, Madrid, Teatro Español, 9 December 1898;
El loco Dios, Madrid, Teatro Español, 8 November 1900;
Malas herencias, Madrid, Teatro Español, 20 November 1902;
La escalinata de un trono, Madrid, Teatro Español, 19 February 1903;
La desequilibrada, Madrid, Teatro Español, 14 December 1903;
Afuerza de arrastrarse, Madrid, Teatro Español, 7 February 1905;
Elpreferido y los cenidentos, as Librado Ezguieura, Madrid, Teatro Español, 1908;
El moderno Endimión, Entre doloray cuento, and El canto de la sirena, Madrid, 1908.
TRANSLATIONS: Angel Guimerá, Marí-Rosa (Madrid: José Rodríguez, 1894);
Guimerá, Tierra baja (Madrid: Florencio Fiscowich, 1896).
SELECTED PERIODICAL PUBLICATIONS-UNCOLLECTED: “El tiempo y su medida,” Alma- naque de la Llustración Españolay Americana (1897);
“El reloj maravilloso,” Almanaque de la Llustración Española y Americana (1898);
“El tiempo al reves,” Almanaque de la Llustración Española y Americana (1900);
“El conflicto de los siglos,” Almanaque de la Llustración Española y Americana (1901);
“El loco de los relojes,” Almanaque de la Llustraci<n Españolay Americana (1903).
José Echegaray became Spain’s first Nobel Prize in Literature winner in 1904, sharing the prize with French poet Frédéric Mistral. He had distinguished himself previously as a politician and a scientist; but his literary fame came from his plays. For some thirty years he was one of Spain’s leading popular dramatists, and although the value of his work was disputed by critics, it earned him a place in the history of modern Spanish drama.
José Echegaray y Eizaguirre was born on Holy Thursday, 19 April 1832, the year preceding the commencement of the first Carlist War in Madrid. He was the eighth child born to José Echegaray Lacosta, of Ara-gonese descent, and Manuela Eizaguirre Chaler, of Basque origin. His father, who worked as both a medical doctor and a professor of botany, moved the family to Murcia in 1837. An industrious and gifted student, José had completed preparatory school at age fourteen and convinced his father to enroll him in the School of Civil Engineering, then considered the most difficult and prestigious profession. Upon graduation in 1853, he became second engineer on a road project in Almería, a post with so few duties that he had time to read voraciously in his favorite field of drama.
Seven months later he returned to Madrid, was appointed secretary of the School of Civil Engineering, and was assigned to teach the courses of hydraulics, differential and integral calculus, and applied mathematics, courses for which he produced several textbooks. Through the publication of various scientific and mathematical papers, he soon became Spain’s foremost mathematician. He devoted his speech upon induction into the Academy of Exact Sciences in 1865 to the dearth of skilled mathematicians in his country. Spain, he declared, had never produced even a third-rate mathematician because of the Inquisition and its legacy of fear and prejudice. Echegaray endeavored to correct this situation with an enormous production of scientific textbooks, papers, and articles, written for both special ists and laypersons. The journal of the Office of Public Works and the periodical El Economista, which he founded with Gabriel Rodríguez, published scientific papers and monographs by Echegaray in the early years of his career. In addition to reading his own papers at the Academy of Science, he introduced and responded to those of others; he undertook the same task after his induction into the Royal Academy. Among the authors he presented to the Spanish public were Fernanflor (Isidoro Fernández Flórez), Luis Soles Eguilaz, Enrique Segovia Rocaberti, Clarín (Leopoldo Alas), Arístides Sáenz de Urraca, Manuel Wertheimer, Fernando Soldevilla, and Mario Méndez Bejarano.
Avidly devoted to the theater, he attended opening nights and wrote his first play, “La cortesana” (The Courtesan), treating a woman’s rehabilitation in the style of Alexandre Dumas fils’s La Dame aux camélias (1852, The Lady of the Camellias). The actor/producer Joaquín Arjona softened his rejection of the play with praise of its energy but criticism of its impracticality for the stage. Echegaray tore it up and, turning his attention to economics, contributed many articles to El Eco nomista, in which he argued for free trade, as he did also in discourses delivered at El Ateneo, a prestigious debating society. Meanwhile he continued reading French, German, and Spanish contemporary fiction and drama, and his attendance at the theater never faltered. He dabbled in poetry, writing a poem of 150 lines for his literary brother Miguel Echegaray in 1854. The latter’s success in having his drama Cara o cruz (Heads or Tails) staged in Madrid at the Teatro Circo prompted Echegaray to try his hand at dramaturgy once again. He completed a verse drama in three acts and a prologue but regarded it as an apprenticeship and did not seek its staging or publication. In the late 1850s he brought his third attempt in the dramatic genre, “La hija natural” (The Illegitimate Daughter), to the attention of the actress Teodora Lamadrid. She praised the play but did nothing to encourage its production, which did not occur until 1877 under the title Para tal culpa tal pena (The Punishment Fits the Crime).
At the age of twenty-five, on 16 November 1857, Echegaray married Ana Perfecta Estrada, a young woman so exquisite that King Amadeus (Amadeo de Saboya) later declared that the surpassing beauties of Spain were the Cathedral of Burgos and the wife of Jose Echegaray. The happy marriage produced two children: daughter Ana, who went on to have three children of her own before her early death, and son Manuel, who never married and remained in the parental home throughout his father’s life. While Echegaray enjoyed considerable prestige in his scientific career, his salary did not adequately support a comfortable middle class standard. To augment his income, he established a preparatory academy but soon had to yield to his School of Civil Engineering boss’s protests against moonlighting, an activity in which most professionals of the time engaged. The same boss prevented him from accepting a lucrative position as adviser to the building of a network of railroads and bridges throughout Italy. However, his employer did finance a journey to view the solar eclipse from Las Palmas and to visit major cities in England, France, and Italy, then to study the tunnel built through the Alps.
Meanwhile, between 1860 and 1862, Echegaray found time to write two one-act plays, Un sol que nace y un sol que muere (Sun Rising and Sun Setting) and Morir por no despertar (To Die Not To Awake), that were eventually staged successfully in 1876 and 1879, respectively. “El banquero” (The Banker), a play in three acts that Echegaray wrote in 1864, was staged in 1875 under the title La última noche (The Last Night). Its cold reception confirmed Echegaray’s belief that a dramatic author had best not attempt direct representation of his own philosophy and experience. The play dealt with the financial world the playwright knew well, but his ruthless, conniving principal character did not appeal to the Spanish audience.
Echegaray shaped and was shaped by a period of great political upheaval. During the nineteenth century there were revisions of the Spanish Constitution in 1808, 1812, 1834, 1837, 1845, 1856, 1869, 1873, and 1876, primarily because of the unresolved issue of the throne. Fernando VII had suppressed the Salic Law to make his daughter Isabella, rather than his brother Carlos, heir to the throne. Carlist supporters enveloped Spain in civil war three times in the nineteenth century, and their descendants still cavil over the diversion of the throne to Isabella’s line. The economy suffered while the country depleted its resources on efforts to maintain the remnants of empire in Cuba and the Philippine Islands, lost finally in war against the United States in 1898.
The deaths of the exiled soldier-politician Leopoldo O’Donnell in 1867 and the dictator General Ramón María Narváez in 1868 weakened the government of the Liberal Luis González Bravo. Generals Juan Prim and Francisco Serrano y Domínguez marched on Madrid, and Queen Isabella II was forced to seek refuge with Napoleon III in Biarritz. Echegaray was pleasantly surprised to be named director of public works, since he had not sought the appointment by actively engaging in politics. He held the post only until 1869, when he replaced his superior Serrano as minister of development. Echegaray was handily elected representative from Asturias. He endorsed the Liberals’ platform and championed both religious and economic freedom while instituting reforms in engineering schools and the mining industry.
Echegaray headed the commission to welcome Amadeus as king of Spain upon his arrival in the southeastern city of Cartagena on 30 December 1870. Receiving word that General Prim had been assassinated and that revolutionaries also planned to assassinate Amadeus, Echegaray, speaking for the king (who had not yet learned Spanish), calmed the crowds with a brilliant discourse. He resigned as minister of development in that year but was reappointed again in the summer of 1872. During this chaotic period, with uprisings of the separatists in the colonies and of the Carlists on the peninsula, Amadeus abdicated on 11 February 1873, and the Senate declared Spain a republic. Military forces dissolved the government ministers’ emergency meeting, and Echegaray narrowly escaped death on his way home through the street mobs to pack his bags and seek refuge in Paris.
He used the six months he resided in France with his family to write the one-act play El libro talonario (1874, The Account Book). Upon his return to Madrid, he presented the play to the actress Matilde Díez as the work of his fictitious friend Jorge Hayaseca. Díez saw through the ruse and perceived that the play could be a success, especially if the public knew it was written by such a highly placed person as Echegaray, who had since been appointed as minister of finance, following General Manuel Pavía y Rodriguez’s coup d’etat on 3 January 1874. In that position Echegaray saved Spain from bankruptcy by creating the Bank of Spain, which could lend money to the state, thus freeing the country from the usurious interest rates of foreign banks. Borrowing 500 million pesetas at 5 percent, the state was able to repay its debts incurred in the Carlist civil wars. Then, to the amazement of his friends, Echegaray decided to resign from political life and from his scientific career to dedicate himself exclusively to drama. The success of En elpuño de la espada (On the Hilt of the Sword), performed at the Teatro Apolo in 1875, and the dissolution that same year of the Democratic Party, his political affiliation, precipitated this career change, one he stuck to except for a brief period in 1905 when he was again recruited to serve as minister of finance and again managed to balance the budget.
A man of prodigious energy throughout his life, Echegaray kept abreast of developments in science, politics, and literature, the three careers in which he distinguished himself. The degree of his success in literature was corroborated by his election in 1882 to the Royal Academy of the Language, a seat he had to wait twelve years to occupy because Ramón Mesoneros Romanos, the man selected to give the induction speech, was too busy to devote time to a task that he felt merited a superlative effort. Echegaray remained an active member of the organization until his death in 1916. His production of stage successes ceased with the Nobel Prize in 1904; his last success was A fuena de arrastrarse (By Dint of Crawling), produced in February 1905. Elprefer-ido y los cenicientos (The Chosen One and the Disregarded Someones), which the playwright presented in 1908 under the pseudonym Librado Ezguieura to avoid the protests that had swamped his most recent works, flopped. He devoted the last years of his life to quiet home life, writing his memoirs, and editing his collected works.
Echegaray accurately gauged the taste and temper of the Spanish public and ruled the stage from 1876 to 1905. He worked closely with the major actors and actresses of the period, often tailoring his plays to their strengths. He approached his writing like carpentry, constructing the taut development of plot and action to reach a surprising climax coinciding with the fall of the curtain. In this choice he diverged from the newer literary trends of realism and naturalism, whose authors focused upon character and often presented works with little plot development, concentrating instead on the setting and ambience, which often fatalistically determined the characters’ choices. Echegaray rejected determinism and frequently chose to present characters who challenge theories of inherited weakness or defect. The playwright favored Romantic free form over the neoclassical rules in drama as much as he favored free trade in the economic sphere. His decision to limit scene changes and concentrate dramatic action within a relatively circumscribed time frame stemmed more from economies of production than from respect for the neoclassical unities of time, place, and action.
No single factor has complicated the evaluation of Echegaray’s work more than the Nobel Prize he shared with Mistral in 1904. The strong protest of a group of young writers and critics against the Nobel committee’s choice of Echegaray, whom they regarded as an outmoded dramatist catering to the bad taste of the Spanish public, has made all subsequent critics of his plays take a stand upon the literary merit of his works and to defend or deplore the committee’s selection. The Nobel award sparked a furor in Spain comparable to igniting the dynamite whose discovery had enabled Alfred Nobel to fund the prize.
In one of his sonnets, Echegaray used the metaphor of a scientist constructing and igniting a dynamite stick to describe his creative procedure in the writing of a play:
Escojo una pasion, tomo una idea,
Un problema, un carácter . . . y lo infundo,
Cual densa dinamita, en lo profundo
De un personaje que mi mente crea.
La mecha enciendo. El fuego se propaga,
El cartucho revienta sin remedio,
Y el astro principal es quien lo paga.
(I choose a passion. I take an idea,
A problem, a character . . . and I infuse it
With powerful dynamite, in the depths
Of a character that my mind creates.
I ignite the fuse. Fire breaks out.
The cartridge explodes necessarily and inevitably.
And the principal star is the one who pays for it.)
The plays produced under this impulse are today generally classified as melodramas depicting tragic conflicts between love and honor, “’drama ripio” (potboilers) in which the primary marks of punctuation are the exclamation point and the ellipsis, the first to indicate high emotion and the second to indicate emotion so extreme that the speaker is reduced to silence as he or she stands in a tableau vivant with the other actors. Of the sixty-eight dramas that Echegaray presented on the Madrid stage, only a handful receive accolades from modern literary critics and historians, and even these plays are sometimes criticized for their bombastic expression of hackneyed sentiments and their pedestrian versification. That Echegaray wrote nearly half of his plays in verse indicates the extent to which he still adhered to Romantic theories of dramatic construction, even at the end of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth, when the realist preference for prose dialogue had become the norm in the theater.
The virulent reaction to the Nobel Prize, in the form of a manifesto published in a major newspaper and signed by fifty intellectuals, among them the foremost drama critics and several members of the “Generation of 1898” (including Azorín, Miguel de Unamuno, Rubén Darío, Ramiro de Maeztu, Manuel Machado, Antonio Machado, Jacinto Grau, Francisco Villaespesa, Ramón del Valle Inclán, and Pío Baroja), has predisposed modern critics to concentrate upon the defects of his plays and consign them, often unread, to the dustbin of the vagaries of public taste. Absorbed with the issue of his meriting or not meriting the Nobel Prize, critics only in the late twentieth century have gone beyond addressing the negative judgments of his plays to evaluate their form and content in the contexts of their specific period and of the history of Western drama. Several of the protesting contemporaries later recanted their condemnation, and not one ever achieved Echegaray’s success on the stage.
The dramatist’s health did not permit him to travel to Stockholm to receive the prize. In lieu of that ceremony, his Spanish champions organized a national homage of four major events: Alfonso XIII’s conferring of the prize upon the playwright in the Senate palace before an impressive array of Spanish writers and intellectuals and the Swedish ambassador; an impromptu parade on the following day in which the Madrid populace, led by bands of students, filed past the Biblioteca Nacional, where Echegaray received their ovation; a ceremony in the Ateneo attended by Alfonso XIII and government officials, in which the renowned writers Benito Pérez Galdós, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Juan Valera, and Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo participated; and a production of El gran Galeoto (1881; translated as The Great Galeoto, 1895) in the Real Theater.
Most modern scholars would concede that— within Spain—Galdós, Clarín, and Emilia Pardo Bazán produced works of more lasting import and aesthetic merit than Echegaray’s and would therefore have been more fitting recipients of the Nobel Prize, just as outside Spain and in the genre of drama, Henrik Ibsen was clearly the most influential writer of the period. A similar controversy was sparked when Bjernstjerne Bjørnson, an author today known outside Norway no more than Echegaray is known outside Spain, received the Nobel Prize in 1903, in what some critics consider a direct insult to Ibsen. In the first years of the Nobel Prize in Literature, members of the committee put a narrow construction upon Nobel’s instruction to select a “person who shall have produced... the most distinguished work of an idealistic tendency.” In the committee’s view, this description precluded giving the prize to naturalistic or even realistic writers: neither Emile Zola nor Thomas Hardy ever received the prize. C. D. af Wirsén, secretary of the Swedish Academy, despised both Ibsen and August Strindberg, and he spoke for the committee in praising Echegaray not for signaling the future but for resurrecting the past glory of Lope de Vega and Pedro Calderon de la Barca. Echegaray, in Wirsén’s view, purified the Golden Age concepts of honor and devotion to duty by rejecting intolerance and fanaticism. He continued the Spanish tradition of “luxurious flowering of fantasy” combined with “subtle and at times conventional casuistry,” “brilliant coloring,” “affection for rhetorical antithesis,” “emphatic language,” and “tangled intrigue.” Along with praise for Echegaray’s intense lyricism, sharp disharmonies, tragic resolutions, and vigorous dialectic, Wirsén cited Echegaray’s sometimes violent “striking effects” as especially laudable: the spectacular conflict combined with high-flown passion and rhetoric that today most repels critics and amuses spectators rather than purging them of pity and fear, the Aristotelian tragic imperative that Wirsén credited the Spanish dramatist with achieving.
Echegaray’s neo-Romantic dramas polarize good and evil: the audience never vacillates about which character they should identify with, and even if a good character meets a tragic end, he or she always emerges as the moral victor. The mixture of good and evil within a single character, which distinguishes realistic and naturalistic drama, was a “confusing” mixture Bjørnson condemned in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in 1903. Echegaray sometimes makes the villain the principal character of a drama, but he never “confuses” the public about the good or evil in a character for more than a few scenes—just enough to maintain interest and mystery. Echegaray lays a road map of his villains’ descent into evil; such persons may retain a high position, but the dramatist depicts them as utterly alienated from society. Having abandoned the ideal of fostering love for their fellow human beings and instead concentrating entirely upon the acquisition of power and material wealth, they enjoy an empty triumph. In Echegaray’s dramas, vice must be punished, either directly upon the perpetrator or indirectly upon his or her offspring and/or his or her accomplices.
Echegaray’s A fuena de arrastrarse anticipated Jacinto Benavente’s Los intereses creados (1907, Bonds of Interest) in the portrayal of the cynical Plácido, who joins astuteness with sycophantic flattery to marry his employer’s physically and spiritually ugly daughter. To achieve power Plácido manipulates the press and court gossip, while making a joke of the honor code. Echegaray contrasts Plácido with his friend Javier who, relying only on his talent and industry, rises not so high and more slowly, but with his self-respect intact and his happiness unsullied. Plácido loses not only his self-respect but also the respect of Blanca, the one good woman whom he truly loved. His self-loathing is so extreme that he asks Blanca to keep the portrait of his mother, which he had sold to finance his initial foray into the capital, because he believes it will be contaminated by the ambience of the palace where he lives with his vapid, unfaithful wife and his cowardly and pompous father-in-law. Throughout A fuena de arrastrarse, Echegaray emphasizes the metaphor of life as theater, specifically a farce. Throughout his career Echegaray depicted a corrupt society dominated by ruthless, materialistic, and self-seeking opportunists.
Benavente found in Echegaray a cynical view of the world stage, but in contrast to his mentor the later playwright would leave the spectator with a rueful shrug, while the earlier would prompt the audience to recall the Christian ideal. In La última noche, Don Carlos abandons Ernesto, the son of his friend Don Juan, to his death after having persuaded him to conspire against the government. Don Carlos switches sides to his profit, then tries to woo the boy’s sister, Elena, away from his own son, Alfredo, with the offer of a diamond necklace. Teresa, Don Carlos’s long-suffering Catholic wife, reminds Alfredo that however great are his passions (love of Elena and hatred of his father), the soul has the power to choose for good or ill:
Es libre la humana grey,
y al que tiene libertad
nunca la fatalidad
se impone, Alfredo, por ley.
Esto me dijiste....
(The human flock is free,
And upon one who has liberty
Never can fate
Impose itself, Alfredo, as a law.
This you told me....)
Don Carlos denounces his family for following Christ’s teachings—teachings that led to crucifixion. His friend Ramón agrees that Christ rules in few hearts in the modern world:
Eres por Cristo bien cándido.
En el siglo en que vivimos,
y en el globo en que habitamos,
sólo verás conversiones...
militares, o en los altos
círculos de la política,
o en la deuda del Estado;
pero en las conciencias nunca,
pero en las almas... iay, Carlos!
no busques ya conversiones cual la conversión de Pablo.
You are through Christ very innocent.
In the age in which we live,
And on the globe that we inhabit,
You will only see such conversions as
Military ones, or those in the highest
Reaches of politics
Or in the State’s debt level;
But never in peoples’ consciences,
But in their souls . . . Oh, Carlos!
Don’t look now for conversions
Like Paul’s conversion.)
Although Echegaray does not often enunciate the Christian ethic so clearly, it is always implicit; his own doubts about its impact upon society determined his preference for tragedy.
Even in the second half of his career, while sometimes adopting realistic and naturalistic topics, Echegaray clung to the Catholic doctrine of free will, refusing to show the determination of character by heredity or environment. Thus, in De mala raza (1886, Bad Roots), Adelina, whose mother and grandmother were rather free with their favors, guards her virtue, while Paquita, a woman with impeccable background, takes a lover. In El hijo de Don Juan (1892; translated as The Son of Don Juan, 1895), Echegaray follows Ibsen’s Ghosh (1881) in the presentation of the son who suffers from syphilis because of his father’s promiscuity; but he does not allow the physical infirmity to taint the son’s moral or spiritual character. While Ibsen’s Oswald planned to marry Regina because he knew she would terminate his existence once sickness destroyed his mind, Echegaray’s Lázaro renounces his fiancée to spare her seeing his descent. Echegaray underscores the sinful life and egotistical lack of concern for anything but pleasure, the flaws that produced disease, by presenting Don Juan and his cronies onstage and insisting that they freely chose their evil life. Lázaro’s name recalls the biblical Lazarus, whom Christ resurrected from death; thus, Echegaray returns to Catholic doctrine to suggest that Lázaro will be rewarded in heaven, if punished on Earth. Modern critics tend to perceive such moralizing as facile, puerile idealism, clichés, and superficiality in art, attributes that masked what Roberto G. Sánchez calls the “fundamental insecurity” of both the playwright and his contemporary bourgeois public.
To appreciate Echegaray’s immense popularity at the height of his career, not only in Spain but also in Mexico, Germany, Italy, France, and England, one needs to consider his milieu. Like Echegaray, most of the popular dramatists of the nineteenth century exploited sensationalism and spectacle and continued to write their plays in verse; dramatists were slow to adopt the prose medium favored by the realist and naturalist writers. This period was the age of great actors and actresses who cultivated a high-blown style best shown off in melodramatic vehicles such as those triumphing then in Paris, London, and New York as well as Madrid. Echegaray deliberately catered to public taste, and he gave lessons to such “highbrow” authors as Galdós in how to do so—lessons that Galdós took to heart, although the latter tended to show the triumph of the good character, while his mentor showed that character’s defeat. Echegaray’s formulaic art held the stage for thirty years and was succeeded by the “School of Echegaray,” made up of Eugenio Sellés Marqués de Gerona, Leopoldo Cano y Masas, José Feliú y Codina, and Joaquín Dicenta, dramatists who, as Wanda C. Ríos-Font points out, rewrote the “melodramatic paradigm.”
Echegaray shifted from plays featuring a male protagonist to works featuring a female lead, less from concern for women’s liberation than from the decline of Antonio Vico and the death of Rafael Calvo, two outstanding actors whose companies presented his works, and from the emergence of Maria Guerrero as the most talented performer of the period. In Echegaray’s dedication of Mariana (1892; translated, 1895) to the acting company of the Comedia Theater, he singled out Guerrero for her skill in displaying the wide range of emotions of the lead role, “from the insubstantial coquetry of the salon, from deep and painful feeling to the ultimate screams of passion and tragic outbursts.” From his description the reader easily perceives the grandiloquent style of acting that Echegaray characterized as “inspired” and “sublime.” For this style and for his clear division of good and evil, modern critics classify Echegaray’s plays as melodrama.
Ríos-Font points out that Echegaray never used the term“melodrama” to describe his plays but instead coupled them with tragedy, or if they had a happy ending, comedy or farce. The word “melodrama” in his time referred primarily to monologues or dialogues incorporating song to express a character’s high emotion. The basically conservative genre affirmed the triumph of society in a happy ending in which the good hero or heroine emerges victorious over the evil villain and is reintegrated into society. The genre had been imported from France; there it enjoyed great success with a bourgeois audience, whose tastes were beginning to dictate what would be presented onstage. It demanded spectacle, and the melodramas soon incorporated lavish sets and sound effects with such elements as storms at sea, battles, and horses onstage. From the melodrama Echegaray adopted the polarization of good and evil in distinct characters; from Romanticism he borrowed the alienated hero and the theme of tragic love. In his first period, from 1874 to 1885, he continued under the spell of Romanticism, writing primarily in verse, often setting his plays in the distant past, and frequently reworking Spanish legend or showcasing figures such as physician and theologian Michael Servetus in La muerte en los labios (1880, Death Upon His Lips) or the title character of Haroldo el Nor-mando (1881, Harold the Norman). From 1885 to 1888 he wrote mostly in prose, returning to verse in 1888 and 1889 and then continuing in prose as he shifted to more realistic and naturalistic drama.
Ríos-Font demonstrates that Echegaray’s drama, like melodrama in general, always affirms society’s conservative values. Sensitive, good heroes or heroines may find themselves on the wrong side of society’s and their own values, but they do not pose fundamental questions about those values even when their lives are at stake. En elpuño de la espada features Don Fernando’s killing himself upon discovering that he is the illegitimate offspring of Don Juan Albornoz’s rape of Violante. His respect for patriarchal law is such that he cannot commit patricide; yet, his mother’s stain, though incurred against her will, must be washed out with blood. Since she failed in her suicide attempt immedi ately following the rape and lived to marry Don Rodrigo while bearing Albornoz’s child, Fernando must assume the burden of excising the bastardized bloodline and preventing the public from ever learning of the rape. In Mancha que limpia (1895, The Cleansing Stain) Matilde, falsely accused of an illicit affair with Julio, kills Enriqueta (the seeming innocent who, in fact, is Julio’s mistress) immediately after the latter has exchanged wedding vows with Matilde’s beloved Fernando. The falsely maligned Matilde cleanses not her own stain but that which has spread over Fernando through his alliance with an impure woman, one who would have borne children of questionable paternity. Fernando then claims the deed as his own, for the old code accorded immunity for men avenging their honor. He protects Matilde, who would have been subject to a life sentence or death for committing murder. Thus, Echegaray varied the resolution of honor-code conflict in his contemporary plays, while still upholding the basic tenets of that code; he expected the audience to applaud Matilde’s deed, not condemn it.
In Cómo empieza y como acaba (1876, How It Begins and How It Ends) Magdalena attempts to cleanse the stain of adultery by murdering her blackmailing lover Don Enrique de Torrente, but in the darkness she mistakenly stabs her gentle husband, Don Pablo de Aguilar, instead. This twist was perceived as a revolutionary revision of the denouement the seventeenth-century Calderón de la Barca imposed upon his famous honor plays—a denouement in which the woman always paid with her life for adultery, real or imagined, and society endorsed the husband’s vengeful murder. In Echegaray’s play, the dying Don Pablo forgives Magdalena and conceals her murderous act from their child, María, by claiming that he inflicted the wound by his own hand.
In Mariana the stain upon a woman’s honor awaits cleansing until the next generation. Discovering that Daniel Montoya, the man she loves, is the son of the lover who had ruined her mother, Mariana rejects Daniel’s marriage proposal and instead marries a military man twice her age. On her wedding day Daniel appears at her home and entreats her to escape with him. Prostrate from her conflicting emotions (passion for Daniel, vengeance for her mother, duty to her husband), Mariana throws herself into Daniel’s arms, all the while screaming for the General to come and take vengeance upon his unfaithful wife. He does, and she dies at his hand. The play ends with the promise of a duel between Daniel and the General, a duel in which Daniel will receive the death he longs for.
In some plays Echegaray returns to the ancient association of bastardy with a flawed moral character. The prime example is the evil, lascivious Manfredo of En el seno de la muerte (1879, In Death’s Bosom), who seduces his brother Jaime’s wife, Beatriz. Besieged by the French, Jaime chooses not to open the floodgates over the route Manfredo and Beatriz are traveling, even though doing so would save the lives of many Spanish soldiers and give great support to the king of Aragón. When his crime is discovered, Manfredo takes his own life after offering the knife to Jaime; the latter, brokenhearted upon discovering the infidelity of the persons he loved most in the world, also kills himself for having betrayed his country to save the unworthy lovers. At the conclusion of the play, Echegaray indicates that the repentant Beatriz will join her husband in death. Echegaray depicts the illegitimate Child Snow in Piensa mal... y acerterás? (1884, Impose an Evil Construction... and Be Right?) much as Nathaniel Hawthorne portrayed Pearl in The Scarlet Letter (1850): precocious, imaginative, but strange. Child Snow’s undefined status within the patriarchy disturbs the adults, all of whom invent genealogies for her. Her mother, Forgetfulness, loves the child but treats her coldly and in the end gives her up to Hope and her newly discovered biological father, Valentine. It is not surprising that Echegaray would resort to the honor code and its ancillary themes of adultery and bastardy in his period plays taking place in earlier centuries (En el seno de la muerte takes place in 1285, En el puño de la espada in the early sixteenth century), but he develops it as well in dramas set in contemporary times. Of course, adultery is a piquant problem in every age, and its bloody resolution in terms of the honor code was less anachronistic in late-nineteenth-century Spain than it would be today. The theme permitted Echegaray to do what he did best: portray characters driven to the edge of madness or beyond through conflict of emotions, sometimes brought about by conflict of duties.
If one is willing to suspend disbelief and to accept the rather improbable situations into which Echegaray thrusts his characters, one must concede that few playwrights could better depict the various shades of emotion. His masterpiece, El gran Galeoto, provides occasion for myriad emotions: Julián’s indulgent love for his young wife, Teodora; her veneration and love for her husband and her affection for his protégée, Ernesto; and the malice that motivates Julián’s brother Severo and the latter’s wife, Mercedes, and son, Pepito. The members of Severo’s family initiate the slander that envelops the family, slander that has no cause other than Julián’s allowing Ernesto to escort Teodora to the theater and to promenades in the park. The playwright slowly reveals how the power of suggestion takes hold of Ernesto and Teodora, first to make them uncomfortable in each other’s presence, then to modulate their fraternal affection into a wistful romantic longing, a longing they never admit until others judge them guilty of having consummated an adulterous love affair. When Count Nebreda insults Teodora, Julián challenges him to a duel and is carried, dying, from the field to Ernesto’s nearby apartment. There, he discovers Teodora, who had come to persuade Ernesto to prevent the duel; Julián dies believing that the two young people were guilty. In the end Ernesto embraces Teodora and with that embrace accepts society’s false construction of their history. Alluding to the story of Guinevere and Lancelot, between whom Galahad served as intermediary, Ernesto declares that gossip has been the intermediary between himself and Teodora. He also alludes to the fifth canto of Dante’s Inferno, in which Paolo and Francesca recall falling into an adulterous affair upon reading about the love of Lancelot and Guinevere; the book itself served as their intermediary. Frederick A. De Armas has pointed out that Echegaray also relies upon this story to depict the guilty passion of Magdalena and Don Enrique in Cómo empieza y cómo acaba. This kind of intertextuality is a device Echegaray often uses in his plays.
While Echegaray frequently portrayed adulterous women, he could not, as Ibsen and George Bernard Shaw did, present reformed prostitutes or respectable women rejecting marriage or abandoning home and hearth simply from intellectual conviction. The women Echegaray put onstage abandon the home only if driven to do so by evil, tyrannical, and unfaithful husbands. In La desequilibrada (1904, The Unbalanced Woman), Teresina turns her son over to the man she truly loves. She judges herself an unfit mother because she precipitated her evil husband’s drowning and refused to save him. Again, unlike Ibsen and Shaw, Echegaray focused his female characters’ discontent upon love. If she could just find her one true love, even the wealthiest woman would sign over her fortune and become his voluntary slave. Teresina rejects her fiancé, Mauricio, when she discovers he has refrained from exposing her father’s criminal business deals—not to protect her but rather his mother. Scarcely touching upon the damage Mauricio himself would have suffered from the just or unjust tarnishing of the reputation of his own father (who was implicated since he was Tere-sina’s father’s steward), Echegaray maintains the rejected fiancé as a paragon of virtue throughout the play. Mauricio incarnates the good in contrast to the nefarious Roberto, who wins Teresina only to torment and betray her sexually and economically. In this play, as was his wont, Echegaray brought the curtain down with a surprising and highly dramatic finale.
Echegaray, while treating the topic of woman’s dependency and sometimes enslavement, never showed her establishing her economic independence as did Ibsen, Shaw, and Oscar Wilde. He presents wealthy women, but never women who have earned that wealth; it has always been earned by a male figure, father or husband. He did deal with the subject of men’s unprincipled economic exploitation of the poor and/or the gullible, as in La ultima noche, and with the issue of the tainted sources of wealth, as in La desequilibrada and 0 locura o santidad (1877; translated as Folly or Saintliness, 1895). His veneration for Miguel de Cer-vantes’s Don Quixote (1605, 1615) as well as the opportunity to fashion scenes of heartrending pathos or frightening violence led him to deal with the topic of madness in several plays, not only showing how male and female characters lose their hold on reality but also how family and society treat the insane, specifically how a person may be certified as mad and institutionalized. In several dramas Echegaray treated realistically the abuses this procedure might involve, especially when greedy family members wished to gain control of a reputedly unstable person’s fortune. In these plays, including La desequilibrada and 0 locura o santidad, Echegaray depicted most realistically the economic as well as the affective bases of marriage.
Critics today recognize that Echegaray deliberately developed a hybrid dramatic formula not from ignorance of the realistic and naturalistic dramas of Ibsen, Strind-berg, Zola, Shaw, and other European dramatists, but from an accurate assessment of the Spanish audience’s thirst for action and involved plot development. After several abortive efforts in the more realistic vein, Echegaray hit upon the formula that appealed to the Spanish public. The object of drama was to produce aesthetic emotions or pleasure, and this goal depended upon the aesthetic energy released in the well-made plot crafted by a playwright who could legitimately present the probable, the improbable, and even the impossible. In the prologue to El gran Galeoto, Ernesto struggles to write a play in which the villain is gossip—not a specific person but the accumulation of veiled innuendo and barbs leveled against the protagonist by everyone he meets. Julián informs him that his play must have love and jealousy, sensation and explosion, and characters interacting in ways readily perceptible to the audience. Echegaray then proceeds to give his audience this play, using Ernesto’s idea and Julián’s devices: a play with victims and villains, characters who embody the abstract concept and engage first in duels of words, then in duels of swords and pistols, to the delight and edification of the audience. Julio Mathías, in his notes for a 1970 volume of selections from Echegaray’s plays, describes El gran Galeoto and Echegaray’s other neo-Romantic dramas as made up of “40% traditional Romanticism: violent, exalted and anarchic, 25% Realism, then very much in vogue as heir to the Romantic movement, 20% melodrama in the exaggerated striving for effect in the depiction of situations and sentiments, and 15% a mixture of equal parts of local color and social satire.”
Echegaray proved the victim of his own successful formula: it stood him in good stead through the year following his reception of the Nobel Prize but then fell out of fashion. The prize focused attention upon Echegaray and fanned the flame of youthful critical disdain. The younger generation perceived him as an embodiment of the old guard’s conservative values in both form and content, when in fact he had been the standard-bearer of new liberal ideas throughout his lifetime; but his notable success in the fields of science and politics before he became Spain’s most popular playwright made him an easy target for discontented youth. One century later, Jose Echegaray’s readers and critics evaluate his works more dispassionately, both within the specific context of his national literature and within the larger context of world literature. They agree that he incorporated many new elements into his dramas, including a sophisticated use of intertextuality, symbolism, and metatheater.
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