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The Plays of Benito Pérez Galdós


Associate Professor of Spanish in the University of California



Galdós is said to have written two verse dramas before he was twenty-five, neither of which was ever staged. One, La expulsión de los moriscos, has disappeared. The other, El hombre fuerte, was published in part by Eduardo de Lustonó in 1902. It appears from the extracts to be a character play with strong romantic elements. It is written in redondillas.

Some of Galdós' novels have been dramatized by others: El equipaje del rey José, by Catarineu and Castro, in 1903; La familia de León Roch, by José Jerique, in 1904; Marianela, by the Quinteros, in 1916; El Audaz, by Benavente, in 1919.

1. Realidad, drama en cinco actos. Madrid, Teatro de la Comedia, March 15, 1892. Condensed from the "novela en cinco jornadas" of the same name (1889). Ran twenty-two nights, but did not rouse popular enthusiasm.

Realidad presents the eternal triangle, but in a novel way. Viera, the seducer, is driven by remorse to suicide, and Orozco, the deceived husband, who aspires to stoic perfection of soul, is ready to forgive his wife if she will open her heart to him. She is unable to rise to his level, and, though continuing to live together, their souls are permanently separated.

Realidad has superfluous scenes and figures, and a scattered viewpoint. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most original and profound of Galdós' creations, a penetrating study of unusual characters. There are two parallel dramatic actions, the first, more obvious and theatrical, the fate of Viera; the second, of loftier moral, the relations of Orozco and Augusta, which are decided in a quiet scene, pregnant with spiritual values. Running counter to the traditional Spanish conception of honor, this drama was fortunate to be as well received as it was.

To understand the title one must know that Realidad, the novela dialogada, is only another version of the epistolary novel, La incógnita, written the year previous. The earlier work gave, as Galdós says (La incógnita, pp. 291-93), the external appearance of a certain sequence of events; Realidad shows its inner reality. Browning employed a somewhat similar procedure in The Ring and the Book.

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

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

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

The title is based on a pun: "la loca de la casa" is a common expression for "imagination."

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

Gerona is a dramatization of the Episodio nacional (1874) of the same name, which describes the siege of the city of Gerona and its final surrender to the French (May 6—Dec. 12, 1809). There are many minor changes from the novel; among them, a nebulous love story is added as a secondary interest.

To a reader the play does not appear so bad as the event indicated. The first act is conceded to be a model; and, in spite of confused interests and some wildly romantic speeches, the whole presents a vivid picture of siege horrors, without melodrama or exaggeration. Possibly the failure was due to the fact that doctor Nomdedeu, the chief character, places his daughter's health ahead of patriotism, and to the final tableau, in which the defeated Spaniards lay down their arms before the French marshal.

4. La de San Quintín, comedia en tres actos. Madrid, Teatro de la Comedia, Jan. 27, 1894.—Aroused great enthusiasm, and received fifty consecutive performances in Madrid. Was given in Paris, in Spanish, in 1900 (?).

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

However, the duchess Rosario is a charming figure, and the secondary figures are well done. There is excellent high comedy in the famous "kneading scene" of the second act, in which the duchess kneads dough for "rosquillas" while her lover looks on. The kneading is symbolic of the amalgamation of the upper and lower classes. Without doubt, the popularity of this play in Spain is in part due to its propaganda.

Again, a punning title. "La de San Quintín" means "a hard-fought battle" (from a Spanish victory outside the French city of Saint-Quentin, in 1557).

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

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

The lesson conveyed is that we all live in the midst of lies, and that salvation is attained only by sincerity and by confession of one's own free will, not under compulsion. This is an idea familiar to Ibsen and Tolstoy; the added element, that conditions fit for complete repentance can be found only after death, is perhaps original. Martinenche thinks the failure of Los condenados was due to the fact that the Spanish public was not accustomed to the spiritual drama. But one should remember that Calderón's autos are both spiritual and symbolic. The failure was more probably due to faults of form than to any inherent weakness of theme.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

La fiera is allied in subject to the Episodios nacionales, although it is not taken from any of them. The year is 1822, the scene, the city of Urgell, in the Pyrenees, attacked at that moment by the liberals under Espoz y Mina, and defended by the absolutists. A young liberal spy is loved by an absolutist baroness, and after numberless intrigues during which the hero's life is in danger from friends and enemies, he kills first the leader of the liberals, then the commander of the fortress, "the two heads of the beast," and the lovers flee toward regions of peace. As an appeal for tolerance, La fiera is unexceptionable, and Galdós, the radical, has painted the excesses of both sides with perfect impartiality. But as a drama, it is an example of wildly improbable romanticism, and might have been written in the thirties, except that in that case the comedy element would not be so insipid as it is, but would have tasted of the pungent realism which was the virtue of the best romantics. The characters are unconvincing, the love-story a poor parallel to Romeo and Juliet.

9. Electra, drama en cinco actos. Madrid, Teatro Español, Jan. 30, 1901. A wild success. A French adaptation made a hit in Paris in 1905.

This "strictly contemporary" drama depicts a contest for the hand and soul of Electra, an eighteen-year-old girl whose mother was a woman of dubious life. She loves the young scientist Máximo, but Pantoja, the religious adviser of the family with whom she stays, believing himself her father, desires her to enter a convent. Since he cannot otherwise dissuade her from marriage, he tells her falsely that she is Máximo's half sister. She cannot be convinced that this is a lie until the spirit of her mother reassures her.

Concerning Electra and the battle which it excited between radicals and clericals, one can consult contemporary periodicals, and Olmet y Carraffa, cap. XIV. Its estreno happened to coincide with a popular protest against the forced retirement to a convent of a Señorita de Ubao, and the Spanish public saw in the protagonist a symbol of Spain, torn between reaction and progress. Consequently, no play of Galdós has been so unduly praised or so bitterly attacked. Two facts appear to stand out from the confusion: (1) Galdós did not deliberately trade upon popular passions, since this play was written before the exciting juncture of events arose; (2) The enormous vogue of Electra, its wide sale and performance in many European countries, were not justified by its intrinsic value.

Electra appears now as a drama of secondary importance, with some cheap effectism, excellent third and fourth acts, and a weakly romantic ending. The ghost of Eleuteria is less in place than the corresponding spirits of Realidad and Casandra, both because it is unnecessary for the solution of the plot, and because it is an anachronism in a play devoted to the eulogy of the modern and the practical. On the other side, it is clear to an impartial reader that Galdós did not intend an attack on the clergy, much less an attack on religion. Máximo is careful to affirm his belief in God. And Pantoja is not the scheming hypocrite that some have seen in him; he is a man of firm convictions and courage, sincere in his religious mysticism. Galdós was interested in studying such a character and in showing that his religion is not of the best type.

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

10. Alma y vida, drama en cuatro actos. Madrid, Teatro Español, April 9, 1902. (Published with an important preface.) Succès d'estime.

This play is Galdós' vital contribution to the sentiment aroused in Spain by the Spanish-American war. The heroine, Laura, an invalid duchess of the late eighteenth century, is ruled by a tyrannical administrator, until freed by the love of a vigorous young hidalgo. But the effort of will involved exhausts the delicate girl, and she dies just as the triumph of her partisans is announced. She was the divine beauty of the soul; without her there is left only a tyranny of one sort or another, and evil, injustice, corruption, are perpetuated.

Alma y vida is Galdós' most ambitious attempt to write a literary symbolic drama on a grand scale. In it he resumes, with Aragonese stubbornness (to use his own words), the attempt made unsuccessfully in Los condenados, only this time the symbolism is not abstract, but has a definite application to Spain. The extreme care which Galdós took with the costumes of the pastoral interlude in the second act, going to Paris for advice on their historical accuracy, the spectacular and costly settings, the length of time, four hours, consumed in the performance, the passages of verse, all demonstrate that Galdós put his full will into the elaboration of this drama. The result was disappointing. Audiences were bored, despite their desire to approve. They knew some symbolism was involved, but could not decide upon its character until the author solved the problem in his Prólogo. He there defended the vagueness of his play, as more suggestive than clearness, and explained that Alma y vida symbolizes the decline of Spain, the dying away of its heraldic glories, and the melancholy which pervades the soul of Spain; the common people, though possessing reservoirs of strength, are plunged in vacillation and doubt. The sad ending is the most appropriate to the national psychology of the time. Warned by Electra, he says, he deliberately avoided popular applause, and sought to gain the approval of cultured persons.

Although the pathetic figure of Laura is most affecting, the author did not fully reach the goal he had set for himself, yet "no mediocre mind or ordinary imagination could have conceived such vast thoughts."

11. Mariucha, comedia en cinco actos. Barcelona, Teatro Eldorado, July 16, 1903. Given for the first time in Madrid on Nov. 10, 1903. A fair success, especially in the provinces. The aristocratic portion of the Madrid public did not like it.

Mariucha carries a moral aimed directly at the Spanish people. Like Voluntad, it preaches firm will and the gospel of labor; like La de San Quintín, it points out a new path which the decayed aristocracy may follow in order to found a renovated Spain. In the exaltation of stoicism (V, 4) it resembles Realidad. Clericalism does not enter into the discussion. Instead it is caciquism which Galdós attacks in passing. The play overflows with daring and optimism; it is like a trumpet call summoning the Spanish youth to throw off the shackles of tradition and political tyranny, and to walk freely, confiding in its own strength. One's best impulses must be followed, no matter what ties may be broken or what feelings hurt in the process. We recognize here a favorite doctrine of Ibsen.

Mariucha is not quite so good a drama as its theme deserves. The two chief characters suffer from the weight of the message they bear, and are, in fact, rather symbols than characters or even types. The play possesses, however, many interesting features. One is the fact that the "good angel" of the play is a priest. His figure proves that Galdós grew in sympathy for the representatives of religion, if not for bigots, as he grew older. Another is the protest against thoughtless charity, which fosters shiftlessness. Galdós gave expression to a different point of view in Celia en los infiernos.

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

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

El abuelo is beyond question Galdós' best play, practically considered. The plot is simple, the handling of it direct and skilful, there is no propaganda to interfere with the characters, who are few, interesting, and admirably drawn. The contrast between the lion of Albrit (so often compared to King Lear) and the playful children is a master-stroke. Free from effectism, dealing only with inner values of the heart and morals, El abuelo can properly rank as one of the masterpieces of modern drama. Its theme is diametrically opposed to the traditional Spanish conception of family honor (cf. Realidad), and so its popularity at home is a sign that Galdós was able to educate his public to some extent.

In condensing the dialoged novel to a drama, Galdós made a number of alterations in character and action, and all, in our opinion, for the better. Nevertheless, Manuel Bueno says: "Prefiero, sin embargo, la novela. Me llena más."

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

The overshadowing figure of this drama is Horacio, governor of Syracuse in 1815, who "entertains the idle moments of his tyranny modeling out of human wickedness the ideal statue of justice." He forces the countess Barbara, who stabbed her brutal husband, to marry the latter's brother, instead of a chivalrous and mystical Spaniard whom she loves, and who is blamed for the murder. How does such an outcome represent ideal justice? It seems to teach that unhappiness, caused by oppression, must not provoke any effort for freedom on the part of the victims. Revolt must be punished and expiated. Letter is placed above spirit, and the theme is repeated often: "There is no change, no reform possible in the world. All things must return to their first state." How to reconcile such doctrine with the body of Galdós' work?

These considerations nonplussed contemporary audiences and critics, and caused Martinenche to regard the play as an "ironique divertissement," intended to demonstrate that "Galdós' art was supple and objective enough to set forth an idea apparently at variance with the general inspiration of his theater." Such an explanation would be in harmony with Galdós' favorite custom of balancing one argument against another, but perhaps Bárbara may be interpreted in the light of Los condenados, where also penance for both lovers was insisted upon. In the ideal justice, it makes no difference whether the crime committed is against oppression or against liberty. In the latter case, punishment assumes the form of a liberal revolt; in the former, it appears reactionary. This is why Galdós, holding the balance even, with the impartiality which is the root of his character, seems in Bárbara to advocate a static philosophy, whereas in most of his work he is the liberal whom Spain, a backward nation, needed.

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

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

The redemption of an erring woman is a frequent dramatic theme, from the Romantic era to the present. Malvaloca, of the brothers Quintero, presents it, as does Palacio Valdés' novel Tristán, with a plot and spirit not unlike that of Amor y ciencia. Here, love and science are forces which together heal and redeem the soul of Paulina, the repentant wife of a famous physician. Once more, as in Realidad, and as in Tristán, we are shown a husband who pardons. But here the treatment of the theme lacks vitality, and the abstract idea is not beautified by the veil of poetry which gives charm to Los condenados, Alma y vida, and Sor Simona.

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

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

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

This opera, only the libretto of which has ever been published, was given four nights during the centennial celebration of the siege of Saragossa, and was never performed elsewhere. The book is a mere scenario of the well-known Episodio nacional, and contains practically no spoken lines. It cannot be judged without the music. The chorus of citizens is the protagonist.

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

Casandra is frankly anti-clerical, but with an Olympian irony, not bitterness. The central figure is an aged, childless widow, whose enormous wealth is eagerly awaited by a host of distant relatives. She changes her mind, and starts to give away her property to the Church, with natural disappointment to the heirs. Casandra, not an heir, but the mistress of an illegitimate son of Doña Juana's husband, is a woman without money-interest, but Doña Juana's desire to deprive her of her children and lover stirs her to stab the aged bigot. The novel is admirably genial, full of convincing characters and pregnant thoughts; the play much changed, and inferior to it. It teaches that Dogmatism is sterile and only Love is fertile. Only Love is powerful enough to drive away the specter that oppresses Spain. Unconscious well-doing alone aids humanity, not ostentatious aristocratic charity. It is doubtful if the elaborate allegory suggested by R. D. Perés (see above, p. xxii, note 1 [Footnote #8]) was intended by Galdós.

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

The story of a beautiful, good-hearted marchioness who, being an orphan, comes at the age of twenty-three into the free management of her enormous property. She soon becomes disgusted with society life, and, accompanied by an elderly confidant, disguises herself as a peasant girl, and visits the infernal regions of the slums, partly to learn how the other half lives, and partly to learn the fate of some former servants. After interviewing don Pedro Infinito, a half-demented astrologer and employment agent, who furnishes the best scene and the most interesting character in the play, they inspect a rag-picking factory. Celia buys it and promises to establish profit-sharing and old-age pensions, if all the workers will live decently. The project is hailed with delight, and the benefactress returns to her heaven. The rag factory is a symbol of Nature: "Nothing dies, nothing is lost; what we abandon as useless is reborn and again has a part in our existence." Only silk rags, the refuse of elegant things, are of no further use.

The plot of Celia en los infiernos is romantically commonplace. In dramatic interest each act is weaker than the one before. The slums shown here would never appal an unaccustomed visitor. Moreover, Galdós abets in Celia the vice of ill-considered charity which he condemned in Mariucha. Decidedly, the author's heart got the better of his intelligence in this play.

19. Alceste, tragicomedia en tres actos. Madrid, Teatro de la Princesa, April 21, 1914. Succès d'estime.

The sacrifice of Queen Alceste, who dies in place of her husband, Admetus, was used for a drama by Euripides, and from his have been drawn many later plays, as well as a famous opera by Gluck. In his Preface Galdós details the changes which he introduced into the story, so many that his plot and characters may almost be considered original. Galdós has abandoned the surpassing lyric quality of the Greek, so far removed from his own genius, and set the theme down into a key of everyday humanity, at times half humorous. The figure of the queen has lost at his hands its poignant tenderness, but Admetus has gained in dignity, and the dramatic movement is much heightened. The realistic visualization of Pherés and Erectea, Admetus' selfish parents, the excision of the buffoonery in the rôle of Hercules, who restores the queen to life, are excellent adaptations to modern taste. Galdós' Alceste, mingling comedy and pathos with singular charm, power, and discretion, must henceforth take its place among superior modern interpretations of the story, beside Alfieri's severely dignified Alceste seconda (1798). Balaustrion's Adventure (1871) by Robert Browning is hardly more than a rude paraphrase of Euripides.

20. Sor Simona, drama en tres actos y cuatro cuadros. Madrid, Teatro Infanta Isabel, Dec. 1, 1915. Received with applause, but soon withdrawn.

The action takes place during the last Carlist war (1875) in Aragonese villages. Sister Simona is a runaway nun, thought slightly demented, who devotes herself to nursing the wounded of the war. She attempts to save the life of a young Alfonsist spy by declaring him her own son. This serves only to destroy her reputation for saintliness, and the situation is suddenly saved by an offer to exchange prisoners.

It will be seen that there is, properly speaking, no plot, and the ending is full of improbabilities. Once more Galdós, with characteristic persistence, has used the justifiable lie, which failed so signally in Los condenados. The work is saved by its poetic atmosphere and by the spiritual central figure. Charity is not to be imprisoned in convents; it is as free as the divine breath that moves the planets. God is reached by good works; the only fatherland worth fighting for is humanity; the only king, mankind. These are the teachings of Sor Simona. Her name is to be connected with Simon Peter, the cornerstone of the Church of Christ.

21. El tacaño Salomón, comedia en dos actos. Madrid, Teatro Lara, Feb. 2, 1916. (Sub-title, Sperate miseri.)

The scene is the modest home of a Madrid engraver who earns good wages, but is victimized by all who appeal to him for help. Stingy Salomón is sent him by a wealthy brother in Buenos Aires to assist his want if he will reform and acquire thrift. The engraver proves incorrigible, but, through his brother's death, receives the money nevertheless.

The play is of the same type as Celia en los infiernos, but is less interesting and even more improbable. In a way it is a complement to Pedro Minio, which taught the beauties of an open and generous life, while El tacaño Salomón appears to preach thrift. But the author has hard work to become enthusiastic over that virtue, and at the close quite lets it slip away from him. Both Celia and the present play are the work of a man who has despaired of accomplishing any good in society by logical and practical means, and resorts to the illusions of a child dreaming of a fairy godmother.

22. Santa Juana de Castilla, tragicomedia en tres actos. Madrid, Teatro de la Princesa, May 8, 1918.

A picture of the old age and death of Juana la Loca, the daughter of the Catholic Kings, and widow of Philip the Handsome. The Queen's mad passion for Philip is barely mentioned, her figure is idealized, and she is made a symbol of humility, self-effacement, and love for the humble. Closely guarded by a harsh agent of her son Charles V, she escapes for a day to a country village, where she talks in a friendly way with the peasants, discussing their problems with a simplicity which conceals much wisdom. To those who wish to use her name as a standard to restore the power of the common people, she insists that she desires nothing but darkness and silence in which to end her days. She had been suspected of heresy, because she read Erasmus, but the Jesuit Francisco de Borja, a man of saintly life, is with her at her death, and bears witness that her faith is untainted and that she will receive in the bosom of God the reward for her many sufferings.

As far back as 1907 Galdós was deeply interested in the life of this wretched Queen: "No hay drama más intenso que el lento agonizar de aquella infeliz viuda, cuya psicología es un profundo y tentador enigma. ¿Quién lo descifrará?" In his interpretation of her last moments, Galdós has made the figure of the Queen vaguely symbolic of present-day Spain, like Laura of Alma y vida. But she embodies still more the soul of the aged author, blind, feeble, living in silence and obscurity, absorbed in contemplation of approaching death.

The construction of the play is flawless, of diaphanous simplicity, the dialog is pure and brief, the characters are delicately outlined in a few sure touches. "A mournful, somber triptych," says Luis Brun of its three acts, "the central panel of which is lit by a ray of light." An atmosphere of serene melancholy broods over this admirable drama, fitting close to the career of a well-poised spirit. 

Benito  Pérez Galdós