Plays: Second Series

Plays: Second Series

Plays: Second Series

Plays: Second Series

Excerpt

A writer so subtle and various as Benavente must of necessity have conducted experiments in technique. Talent of the first rank moulds its own instruments of expression, or adapts those which exist to new purposes. It will be interesting to consider this aspect of the Benaventian theatre in the light of its history, and to anticipate, perhaps, the conclusions of the reader.

When Spanish criticism appraised the youthful Benavente as pre-eminently a satirist, it was unquestionably correct in its judgment. Although much of his early work had been serious, and the complexion of his thought as well as his attitude toward life had become apparent by 1893, wit and humor in their different forms were the qualities most characteristic of his genius; they were most personal to it, most original, and most conspicuous. His wit was incisive and penetrating, free from bias in any special connection, exhibiting remarkable power of detachment, but unmistakably, also, it was illuminative of character, with the passage of time growing more many-sided and tolerant.

The literatures of the Latin peoples have habitually been hospitable to secondary meanings, double ententes , which in certain languages, such as the Italian, have been erected into definite codes of communication. The idea is unmasked by veiling it. In its cruder phases, the by-play is one of vulgar jest, but in skilful hands, like those of Bracco in his Il frutto acerbo , it arrives at the dignity of a continual traffic in forbidden subjects, which imparts to the entire work a perpetual grimace of sex. It was apparent to Benavente that here was a medium which was susceptible of wholly different application. More than the sexual motive falls under the social ban. The mind is alive with reticences and reservations far more interesting than any ideas which it may see fit to express. Benavente develops this system of double ententes , previously confined to traffic in contraband wares, into a system of multiple ententes , in which he attempts to . . .

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