THE Spanish drama of to-day is no longer that of a proud and prosperous people secure in its imperial power and in full possession of its splendid faculties, as was the Spain of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But the drama of the days of the great Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, and Calderon partook so intimately of, and was founded so deeply upon, national temperament and national conditions that it has been able to withstand, to a great extent, the assaults of foreign influence and to preserve the peculiar stamp of sacred tradition.
The great literary movements have affected the Spanish drama in a lesser degree than that in other countries. Romanticism left behind an enormous amount of literary junk, but it drew the public and the stage closer together. Realism and naturalism were slow in finding a welcome, and it was not until after 1890 that discussion grew warm as to the propriety of depicting immorality in ugly truthfulness on the stage. This tardy influence of Dumas, Augier, and their school was owing to a variety of reasons.
The first, I take it, was the manifest incompatibility existing between the very spirit of the French realists and the Spanish national dramatic ideals. The Spanish national drama deals in elemental passions, is poetic in language, melodramatic in situations, and magnificently conventional in tone; while its literary form is more important than its dramatic structure. On the other hand, the art of conversation, a French art par excellence, has given to the French drama its form. The modern prose dialogue seeks to hide any literary effort. Sociability, the soul of French literature, gives it its fine and subtle psychology, witty and ingenious, but sometimes a little attenuated. As for themes, it has found them, not in universal, and as it were virgin passions, but in complex and involved feelings, in the fevers, vices, and moral depravations induced by the upheaval of an old order of things. Now the Spaniard, though characterized by a warm, unembarrassed, exuberant southern sensuality, is nevertheless essentially modest. He cannot look upon irregularities as serious problems, nor does he like to exhibit himself on the operating table, nor does he wish to theorize about himself in intellectual subtleties. Therefore he was slow to appreciate the modern French realistic play; in fact he never did adopt it in its original and unadulterated forms.
Another reason for the tardy effects of French realistic influence lies in the simple fact that the Spanish public does not read much. The intellectual classes who were familiar with Flaubert and Dumas and Zola and the rest, understood and appreciated what was of value in realism and in naturalism; but the mass of the people knew nothing of dramatic impossibilities, or of truth, or of the new isms. All they asked was to be thrilled and moved and stirred by the action and the melody of their Calderonian compositions.
The northern realistic drama has also been doomed to unsuccess in Spain. Aside from the enigmatical character of some episodes and the puerility of some of the allegories, the dramas of Ibsen have interested the reading classes because of the vitality, not so much passional as intellectual, of their subjects. But the harsh individualism, the intimate and subtle sentiments of self-centred men cannot be understood by the Spanish public. Such types as are found in Ibsen, Björnson, and Sudermann are unknown in Spain.
Attempts have been made to imitate Ibsen. The most notable is by Echegaray in El hijo de Don Juan, which is a Spanish version of Ghosts. The author states that he has been inspired by Ibsen, but if inspiration means to feel the spirit of the original, then Echegaray has signally failed. In reading the two plays, one is struck by the differences rather than by the resemblances. There is nothing in the Spanish play which reveals any struggle between duty and moral freedom, nothing which touches on the problems of divorce, of education, or of social regeneration, There is neither dispute of ideas, nor opposition of characters, nothing in fact that makes up the essential elements of Ibsen’s work. Echegaray does appropriate the last incident; but it now lacks significance. The morning sunrise loses its tragic brilliancy because it is not preceded by the terrible night of ghosts.
Neither has foreign symbolism been grafted on to the Spanish growth with any degree of success. The individuality of Maeterlinck consists in the fact that he has been able to give to his plays a total effect, vague, impossible to define, but very impressive. In order to produce this effect he accumulates indeterminate insinuations, half-uttered hints, sentences constantly repeated, incomprehensible trivialities, flickering dying lights, incoherent episodes, and unexpected horrors. From this combination there results at the end a sort of obsession which does not come from this or that detail, but from them all, as though seen at one time. Now the Spanish public rarely applauds at the end of the act the sum total of emotions aroused during the act. It demands every now and then in the course of the play a coup de théâtre, and at the end a final emotion, in order to resume and condense all the preceding ones in a round of applause. The “ Princesse Maleine,” “Pelleas and Mélissande,” “ Les Aveugles,” leave the audience curious but cold. Another reason for the failure of foreign symbolism is that the Spanish public demands definiteness and action. Maeterlinck is the playwright of dreamland, of a dreamland that is spiritual, impalpable and colorless. The stage, however ideal and poetical it may be, is after all a plastic, material, tangible and highly colored realization. To the Spaniard the two terms are antithetical.
In the drama of the last ten years of the nineteenth century we see the persistence of ancient tradition, the imitation of the great plays of the Age of Gold. Side by side with these are the second-rate dramas, reminiscent of the Romantic school. We notice also the strong repugnance to accept integrally a drama imitated from the French without any veiling of the subject, without rude passions in the persons, without poetical and oratorical effusions in its language. But we also notice certain effects of the foreign influence. Naturalism is definitely taking possession of the stage and becoming sociological; there is also an idealistic reaction, with all its ancient variations, poetical drama, symbolism, and mysticism. From all this intermixture of elements there is being evolved a new drama, more real, more lofty, more spiritual, more adapted to human needs.
The exponents of this new drama are legion, but certain names and plays stand out prominently. Galdós with earnest, serious face stands decidedly in the foreground; Echegaray’s intellectual figure and distinguished manner impose on one a little, and the glitter of the Nobel prize dazzles the eyes to his true value, but he is well to the front. Jacinto Benavente, whose social manner and half cynical smile promise hours of spicy conversation and deliciously satirical comment, stands respectfully behind; while the handsome, attractive faces of the two brothers, Serafin and Joaquin Quintero, tell of unforgettable evenings with joyous innkeepers, pretty pure-hearted young girls of the people, and a whole gallery of Dickens types. At one side, and seen through a mist, is the tragic face of Ganivet, whose one mystic drama was almost the last act of his short life.
The great fame of José Echegaray rests upon his play of “ El Gran Galeoto,” which was produced for the first time in 1881 and is therefore almost a classic. In this play he reached the climax of his talent, for he accomplished an almost impossible feat. He constructed a drama of thrilling interest in which the principal personage never appears upon the scene, and yet he is the one who animates it with life, who creates the situations, and who precipitates the catastrophe. This moving spirit of the play, malevolent, insidious, omnipresent, — he who filters slowly but relentlessly into the soul the sure poison of suspicion and evil-thinking, — is not a person but a thing, a monstrous thing with a thousand tongues, whose deadliest weapons are a meaning smile, an uplifted eyebrow, a curious look, a dubious nod, a forked sentence. This all-pervading, ever-vanishing hero of the drama is the cruel, careless world hastening eagerly to cast the first stone, and soon, tired of the sport, hurrying on to find some new excitement, leaving death and destruction in its wake.
Echegaray has written over sixty tragedies, comedies, and dramatic legends. His earlier works are more or less in the romantic manner, later he came under the influence of the northern writers, with what success has already been indicated in his imitation of Ibsen’s Ghosts. The result of this inspiration - El hijo de Don Juan — is expressive of the quality of Echegaray’s talent. The very fact that he made use of that famous final scene and sentence, without in any way seeming to seize the significance of the whole drama, shows his intellectual enthusiasm for what is striking, brilliant, and dramatic, without that deeper comprehension of what is fundamental. This is particularly well shown in one of his last plays, “ The Mad God,” which is a sort of pathological study of a man of magnificent physical development who is possessed by the idea of human perfectibility. His obsession becomes a madness and he believes himself to be God. There is a love episode, which complicates but does not elevate the play from being a mere tour de force.
Echegaray is a wonderful stage mechanician. He reminds one in his work of the complicated and clever creations of Scribe, but il a les défauts de ses qualités, and he has never again attained to the perfection and strength of “ El Gran Galeoto.”
Jacinto Benavente in his thirty and more plays deals almost entirely with contemporaneous life and social foibles. The repartee and brilliant play of words are much more than the situations; the actors talk much more than they act or think. Sometimes he chooses for his stagesetting the waiting room in a fashionable dressmaker’s shop, sometimes the elegant house of a society-worn family, sometimes a mechanic’s simple home. He is sometimes gay, sometimes satirical, and occasionally he falls into a more serious vein, as in “ Sacrifices,” “ The Witches’ Sabbath,” and “ The Fiery Dragon;” but his touch is always light. An idea of his style may be best obtained by lines taken at random from his most successful plays. In “All Natural,” a society-worn young girl who has fads expresses herself thus: —
Anita. I’ve always wanted to be a nun. Is there any convent near here?
Olalla. Of course. The Sisters of Saint Eduvigis.
Anita. What do they wear?
Olalla. A gray uniform.
Anita. I don’t like that. In France I saw some lovely nuns in blue and white. Do you remember where it was, papa ?
The Marquis. Yes, my dear; in a comic opera, “ The Gray Musketeers.”
Luisa, a precocious young lady in “ Sin Querer,” says, “There’s nothing a woman likes better than to have her husband present her with a little gift once in a while; ” then, concealing her pleasure, she chides him affectionately and says, “ What made you buy that? You know we cannot afford it! ”
The French dressmaker in “ Modas ” says, with an expressive gesture, “ Art and matrimony are incompatible, and Spanish actresses are so addicted to matrimony! ”
Augustin, the intelligent young husband in “ Lo Cursi,” reads a homily to his newly-made wife, Rosario. “ Your grandmother was a great lady. Her palace was most severe, her servants all old, the candelabras of solid silver, — ah yes, that was style. There were neither electric lights, nor bells, nor telephones, nothing of all this progressive rubbish that is so antipathetic and so cursi. . . . That’s the modern spirit ; eager for everything, it wants to live in one instant all the past and all the present. Look at our houses: they contain everything from Flemish tapestries to Liberty silks, from the choir in a Gothic cathedral to a flimsy French chair, — every form, every style. And they say that modern life has no character; just as though not having it were not in itself characteristic.”
The conventional but humorous Marquis of this same play admonishes Augustin thus : “ Rosario is your wife, and you should treat her always with respect. Respect is the foundation of marriage, respect and consideration. I read if in an English novel.”
Felix, a young novelist à la mode, says, “ What we must do to-day is to deprecate everything that does n’t exist at the present moment, immortalize the ephemeral, fix the fleeting, exaggerate the diminutive, — this is art.”
“ Pepita Reyes ” is the most popular play that has come from the fertile pen of the two brothers Quintero. It is a charming comedy in two acts, which tells the story of the pretty daughter of a lazy and bibulous house-porter. She has ambitions to go on the stage and succeeds in carrying them out, being represented in the second act as a Zarzuela star. But with the intoxication of success comes a bitter taste of tragedy. The curtain rises on Morritos, a fifteen-year-old child, so abjectly poor that she is reduced to being the servant of a house-porter and his daughter Pepita. She wears an expression of chronic alarm, for her life is an exciting one, between the blows of a drunken mother and her insatiable hunger for penny-dreadfuls. Her eyes are always very wide open, as though she were continually expecting something disagreeable to happen to her. She is devoted to her yellow literature and to her mistress Pepita. There is a delightful scene between the two, when the little seamstress and her maid discuss the possibilities of the former’s theatrical career. They are sitting in the dingy porter’s lodge. Morritos is peeling potatoes and Pepita is at her sewing-machine. Pepita is discouraged. Her last customer refused to pay for her sewing.
Pepita. Oh, the stage, the stage! If it weren’t for that illusion! But alas! Morritos, each day it’s getting further away!
Morritos. You’re a-sayin’ that to-day ’cause you’re all broke up. But you’ll see, the time’s comin’ sure. Did n’t it come fer me when I skinned out from home ? And you bet that was a regular jail, Pepita, lots worse’n yours. My daddy, — I mean mammy’s second husband, not the one she has now, but last year’s, —well, he was always drunk, and always had a grouch on him, and he used to take after mammy with a stick, and that made her so mad she used to take after me, and that made me so mad that I used to get after the cat . . . and that’s the way it was all the time. But when I come here, ’t ain’t a year ago, I did n’t weigh eighty pounds, and now just look at them cheeks!
Pepita. (cheering up). Well, then, Morritos, would you like to go with me to the theatre and be my maid ?
Morritos. Oh, sure I would.
Pepita. I’ll be in my dressing-room, like a queen. A room with lots of electric lights and looking-glasses. And then the authors will come, and the manager, and the reporters, all very polite, and they’ll pay me compliments. And I’ll call you and send you out to the stage, and I’ll say, “ Morritos, go and see what scene is on.” And then you will go and come back and tell me, and I’ll hurry, and then I’ll go out and sing, and the audience will applaud and throw me flowers, and my salary will be raised every month . . . and I’ll have my picture taken every day.
Morritos. Won’t it be grand ? And I’ll help to dress you!
Pepita. I wish it were going to happen right away. I was n’t born to be a porter’s daughter, Morritos, nor to sew anybody’s clothes. I dream of the stage every night, every day. But what’s the use! Who could ever go from this place to the theatre? I guess I’m crazy to think of it. There, there is joy and light and flowers and money and applause, things that help one to live . . . while here . . . you see what there is here, Morritos.
Morritos. Yes. Codfish and potatoes every day.
Well, Pepita has her wish. She is called upon unexpectedly to replace some one who falls ill and to sing a little part. She makes a hit. The flowers and the applause and the adorers all come true; but there are other things not quite so pleasant. Her lover leaves her; a score of worthless, lazy relatives swarm and buzz about her, and she is too kind-hearted and happy-natured to refuse to support them. They determine that their gold mine must have no outsiders tampering with it, and so they intercept letters from the now repenting lover. Morritos alone remains faithful, for her dream, too, is realized and she is living a drama more exciting than any she ever read in her beloved dime novels. By her intervention, Pepita and her lover are brought together for a while on the evening of Pepita’s greatest triumph. He begs her again to give up her stage life. She refuses. Just here she is called away, and Victor deceives her by promising to await her return. Unusually moved, she does better than she has ever done, and takes the house by storm. She returns to her dressing-room, followed by her parasitic relatives and voluble admirers, to find that Victor has gone. She dismisses her friends with smiles, but the curtain goes down on a lonely little woman sobbing in the arms of the faithful Morritos.
The character of the good-for-nothing father, whose maudlin sentimentality increases in the same ratio as his daughter’s prosperity, that of the pretentious uncle who prates of the purity of Art and the necessity of keeping it free from human entanglements, the drowsy fat old aunt who is wide awake only when the conversation takes a gastronomic turn — all these are inimitably drawn, and the comedy trips along quite merrily, until our laughter is suddenly checked by the shocked feeling that everything is, after all, wrong, and that poor Pepita’s world is out of joint.
I have left Galdós until the last because he is by far the greatest in the lofty conception of his thoughts, and his success has been such that his popularity proves the high ideals of the Spanish people. Benito Perez Galdós, or Don Benito, as he is affectionately called, is still in the prime of life. An indefatigable worker, he has produced over fifty novels and plays. By far the larger and all the earlier part of his work was in the novel. His first dramatic effort was to dramatize one of his novels, “ Realidad.” It was not a success and the elements that caused its failure were its spirit of tolerance, of considerate love, and of charity. The central idea of the play is to demonstrate that the real is more extraordinary than the imaginary, that reality is the great inventor, the ever fruitful and ever original master.
The author has chosen an episode which is as old as human passion, and has given it a modern setting. We are introduced into the luxurious home of a benevolent and wealthy financier in Madrid. His great aim in life is to reach perfectibility, to dominate himself, and to rise into the clear cold regions of a passionless spirituality. His wife is beautiful, with a mind filled with ideas as charming, tenuous, and fleeting as clouds in a summer sky, an excitable imagination, and a certain recklessness of spirit that makes her love what is unknown, irregular, and extraordinary. She has a lover, an extravagant, moody, erratic sort of a poet, who at moments exults over his conquest and at others execrates himself for having betrayed the wife of a man who has been his benefactor. This mènage à trois is surrounded by a circle of friends and enemies who carry on their minor intrigues and help on the catastrophe. The lover, unable to bear the burden of financial ruin which threatens him, and equally unable, because of some tattered shreds of honor left him, to accept the generous help of the man whose friendship he has betrayed, shoots himself in the presence of the wife.
The scandal is hushed up, and in the last of the five acts we see husband and wife face to face. She is in agonizing doubt as to whether he knows the truth as to her relations with the dead Frederico, and he, knowing all, endeavors to dominate certain very human feelings and waits only to have her voluntarily confess her sin to him. They fail to meet on a common ground. His cold and lofty soul chills hers and she cannot bring herself to confess. Those who do not know, see a husband and wife saying good-night to each other in a slightly absent-minded way. But the reality is that two souls have forever taken leave of each other, and that the divine moment for the salvation of both is past, irretrievably and eternally. One will now be frozen into a lifeless perfectibility, and the other will nevermore feel the saving impulse of weeping repentance at the feet of divine compassion.
The persistence of the traditional national sentiment was nowhere shown so emphatically as in the utter failure of the character of the husband, Orozco. So far as I know, Orozco is the first husband in Spanish drama to pardon a guilty wife, the first one to break the Calderonian tradition, — to kill for honor’s sake. There is nothing in the pardon of Orozco which lowers or degrades his character. There is no cowardice, or weakness, or egotism, nothing incompatible with his manliness. On the contrary, there is in this last act of his the nobility, the grandeur of soul of a superior man. But with all this it was enough that he was the deceived husband who does not kill, for the whole world to rise against him and to see in him an anti-national type. The reluctance in accepting the intellectual Orozco is the most emphatic proof of the criterion of the Spanish public.
This play was produced in 1892. A dozen or more years later we are to see another play by the same author in which another national prejudice is assailed, family honor, and which has been the greatest success of the last decade. Thus proving that the public may change in sentiment and may be educated to higher ideals, even by the stage.
Between this first dramatic effort and his last great success, his work has shown increasing power. “ Los Condenados,” produced first in 1894, illustrates the author’s ability to handle a spiritual and religious theme. It is a long play in three acts, and of faulty construction. The author is too slow in leading up to the catastrophe, and the audience is wearied by the long dialogues. But it is intensely spiritual and lofty in tone, essaying to teach a lesson which is too seldom given in a positive age.
The plot itself is not complicated. The action takes place in a town where the typical Spanish religious fervor predominates. A vagrant, José Leon, who for thirty years has been committing all the sins in the calendar, at last falls in love with a pure and good woman, Salomé. Her unselfish love for him awakens in his heart a desire to have her always with him. Under the promise of marriage he persuades her to leave her home and go with him. She knows nothing of his past; she knows only that he is unhappy and needs her for his regeneration. He is tracked and followed by justice, in the person of a revengeful victim of his crimes, and Salomé is at last forced to believe in his past wickedness. Stunned by the blow, she enters a convent, whence her lover tries to carry her off by force, so great does he feel the need of her. His design is discovered by a holy woman in whom devotion and humanity are happily joined, and she permits him to see Salomé in the convent garden. Here comes the most dramatic moment of the play. José Leon, confident in his power over her, and yearning for her with the purest passion his guilty soul has ever known, awaits her coming. She steps slowly out from the cool shadow of the convent walls, clothed in the conventual dress, her face calm, her eyes seeming to see nothing near. Her lover approaches with endearing expressions and outstretched arms, but she shrinks from him and speaks to the old nun in a childish, trembling voice, —
Salomé. His eyes frighten me. He is still living, as much in life as he used to be— (Her voice grows awed and mystical as she goes on, unheeding her lover’s anguished entreaty.) No — you cannot see me. I am now invisible. Go away; you weary me. I am dead. I am resting. Until you die as I have done you cannot be with me in peace. You are living and weighted down with many sins.
José Leon. My sins are the chains that I drag. You will free me from this dreadful weight!
Salomé. I? I cannot, alas! Don’t you know that God condemned us both for our dreadful sins. We were condemned — you, because you betrayed me, and I, because I betrayed you. . . . I have cried so much that God has at last told me he will pardon me. But while waiting I am here a prisoner. This is a sweet prison, in which we, the dead, are so glad not to be alive!
José Leon is at last convinced that Salomé is lost to him, and in his despair he is more than willing to confess all his sins and to give himself over to justice. His avengers come upon him at this moment; but a powerful friend, touched by his deep repentance, intervenes and pleads with him to live, for he can save him. José asks that his fate be left to the will of Salomé. She says, —
“ I ? Am I to be his judge ? ” (Her face lights up with a mystic glow.) “ Then — I wish him to come to me, I condemn him to death.”
The lesson which Gaidós has striven to give us seems to be this: we are all condemned to deceit, dominated by a false conventionality which drags us down from sin to sin and ever into deeper depths. In order to free ourselves from this atmosphere of untruth that surrounds us on all sides, we must be sincere, and fling far from us our sins. It is thus only that man may be regenerated; only when, by the exercise of his will and in the enjoyment of his perfect freedom, he accepts the expiation, does he fulfill the law which governs his spiritual nature. But this may not be attained on earth; in order to possess it we must go beyond. The truth is beyond the border of this life and we can reach it only by crossing the threshold of death.
Nearly five years ago “ Electra ” aroused enthusiastic approval and disapproval throughout all Spain. The play was first produced, as nearly all of Galdós’s plays have been, at the Teatro Español at Madrid, and has held the boards ever since.
It was an instantaneous success, and on the first night the author was called before the curtain twelve times. It also caused an immense sensation because of its apparent attack upon Jesuitical methods of coercion. This, however, does not seem to me to be the aim of the author. The methods used by Electra’s aunt and Pantoja to attain their ends are merely details. The real interest of the play lies in the character of Pantoja, rather than in that of Electra. He is a man whose intense egoism had in early life led him to sacrifice anything and any one for his own gratification, and whose selfishness in later life led him to sacrifice everything to his soul’s welfare. To appease his own conscience, he wished to sacrifice Electra, confident that in immolating her he is expiating his own sin. Not for an instant does he doubt the efficacy of this method, and his anxiety for his soul’s safety leads him into mendacity, cruelty, and a ferocious determination that he will be saved, cost what it may to others.
Another interesting play is “ Alma y Vida,” produced in 1902, a symbolical play with an eighteenth-century setting, in which, clothed in melodramatic action, decked out with the Spanish accompaniments of soothsayers, dark caverns, abductions, rhetorical speeches, maledictions, and prayers, there runs a dominant note that rings clearly and powerfully, a note that repeats unceasingly the power of love, of spiritual love, and that life without that love is death. The frail Duchess in the play is the symbol of the soul, Juan Pablo of life; and when the two are intermingled, when exuberant, joyous physical life recognizes the beauty and power of the spiritual life, there results a completeness of joy that nothing can shake, for it fears not death.
“ Mariucha,” the great success of two years ago, also merits attention, — a social study in which there is a call to the youth, and a lesson to the old; in which it is vividly shown that the hope of Spain lies in this: that the shackles of false convention be thrown off, that the generation of to-day be given the courage to walk uprightly and in freedom, thus creating a new world of energy and of soul.
And so we come to his last, greatest success, which is not only one of the greatest plays ever produced on the Spanish stage, but one of the greatest in contemporaneous drama.
Here we again see the striving to place before the public lofty themes and high ideals. We sit before the stage, and when the curtain rises we are transported to a world of struggle and passion, but not the base struggle of fleshly lusts and passions. There is ever present a spiritual element which strives for the victory, and which finally calms and dominates the petty prejudices, the rigid traditions, and the false ideas which have been contending in bitter and hopeless strife.
The author seems to say, “ Oh, foolish generation, blind to the radiance of truth, and deaf to the harmony of the simple and eternal verities, — why do you grovel in the mire, seeking to sully and to injure and to kill ? Instead, look up and see an eternal, yet simple, truth which will make all things straight.”
In “El Abuelo” the action is simple. A financially ruined nobleman returns to one of his ancestral homes, no longer his, but now in the possession of a former servitor. He is old, poor, and, worst of all, unhappy, for his only son has lately died, leaving behind him his English wife from whom he had been estranged on account of her gallant adventures, and two young daughters, Dolly and Nell. From papers left, the grandfather has discovered that one of the granddaughters, he does not know which, is not the child of his son. Despite his poverty, he has never lost a jot of his immense Spanish pride and dignity, and the blot on his family name is more than he can bear. His one care, which now becomes an idée fixe, is to find out which one is his own granddaughter and then repudiate the other. The mother defies him and refuses to tell. The situation is painfully complicated by the fact that he loves them both. At one moment he is almost persuaded that Nell has the traits of his noble house, and the next instant he is plunged into an abyss of doubt by some fugitive characteristic in Dolly. It is finally decided that the old grandfather must be cared for in a retreat, as his mind seems to be unbalanced. Proofs are now found that Nell is his own and Dolly the spurious one. He makes a last appeal to Nell; she advises him to submit and go to the asylum. Broken-hearted and despairing, the old man turns to his faithful old friend, a simple village priest who has no mind for subtleties: —
El Conde. My heart is full of trouble and bitterness. I have no longer any children — I have no longer any love.
D. Pio. Love Humanity: be like God who loves equally all his people.
El Conde. But that is so lofty. He creates, he loves. He makes no distinction of rank — Tell me, great philosopher, what do you think of honor ?
D. Pio (confused). Honor — well, honor — I’ve always thought honor was something like — decorations — We speak of funeral honors, national honor, the field of honor— In fact, I don’t know what it is —
El Conde. I mean family honor, the purity of the race, the lustre of one’s name. I have come to the conclusion to-night — and I tell you this quite frankly — that if we could convert honor into a material substance it would be an excellent thing with which to fertilize the land.
D. Pio (trying to sharpen his wits). If honor is n’t pure living, neighborly love, wishing no evil, not even to our enemies, then by the beard of Jupiter, I don’t know what it is.
El Conde. It seems to me, my good Coronado, that you are discovering a new world — still far away — but you have caught a glimpse of it through the mist.
The Count fears pursuit and is about to escape and become a wanderer when he hears the voice of Dolly. She has learned of the plan to confine him, and her loving heart yearns to protect him. She has escaped from her mother and has been looking for her grandfather all the evening, for of course she is ignorant of the shameful secret of her parentage. When she finds him she clings to him. The old man feels his soul invaded and refreshed by her unselfish love; his prejudices, his sense of family honor, his anger, his outraged worldly dignity, all melt away under the warmth of this loving heart, and he exclaims with uplifted hands, —
“ O God! out of the heart of the storm come to me thy blessings. Now I see that human thoughts, plans, and decisions are as naught. They are but rust which crumbles and falls; that which is within is that which lasts. My child — God has brought you to me — love is eternal truth.”
In this play of five acts there is no love intrigue, and the dénouement is diametrically opposed to the Calderonian conception of honor as well as to the Cervantesque prejudice of the ties of kinship. Neither is it a work of tendencies or of literary theories, nor is it an analysis of vulgar passion, or a pathological study; it is much more than all this. The author has been able to look into the soul of the public, and he has realized that the true mission of the dramatic writer is to touch the chords to which all hearts can respond. The heart of the Spanish public has responded with quick enthusiasm and with warm sympathy to the clear strong note of love which rings persistently throughout nearly all the plays of Spain’s greatest writer. His lofty spirituality responds to a yearning in the people, a yearning which long since was classified as a beatitude.