Academic journal article West Virginia University Philological Papers

Drama as a Forum: Spanish Contemporary Society Reflected in Dramatic Works

Academic journal article West Virginia University Philological Papers

Drama as a Forum: Spanish Contemporary Society Reflected in Dramatic Works

Article excerpt


This work examines the relationship between literature and reality. To be precise, we will be talking about drama and its reference to the current situation in Spain.

Since drama is a creation of artistic nature, it is a medium to represent human activity. As a consequence, the recreated universes in plays offer very interesting images to help understand the immediate social reality, therefore, we will analyse the reflection of several matters affecting Spanish contemporary citizens in some theatrical pieces where this reflection is particularly shape and clear.

This analysis will be structured as follows: the first part is devoted to the treatment of the general aspects of human beings as a group; and the second part will review more specific situations, such as concrete problems of coexistence. In both sections, the analysis is based on a selection of plays that although not numerous, stand out because they offer (very) eloquent images of contemporary Spanish reality.


We will consider, in this first part, those plays in whose imaginary references there an integral or partial visions of the socio-political Spanish system. As we know, Spain's democratic system today has been built by the will of citizens and political consensus in two consecutive stages: the Political Transition (1975-1982) and the Democratic Stage (from 1983 to the present). The 1978 Spanish Constitution is the reference judicial framework for that system.

Naturally, the political and social being of a country is based on the concept of the collective entity of its citizens, which is the reason why we shall begin with the analysis of this particular concept.

1.1. Identity and the collective being

Most sensible Spanish people think that the important collective problems nowadays (which we will look at through drama in the second section) have a common origin: hesitations about the Spanish identity.

Especially since the change of government in 2004 (after the assassination of almost two hundred people on several trains in Madrid) the concept of "Spain" has often been questioned within the nation. Due to political interests and regional tensions, the name of Spain has suffered a loss of prestige in official institutions and in the media, and it has often being replaced by expressions like "this country" or "the State" referring to the Nation, while equally this last term has also been denied for the country as a whole and has been attributed to each particular region.

Drama, in general, has followed a similar path, silencing all the problematic matters or facts that need to be considered relative to today. However, some important contemporary plays have included as a topic the issue of the concept and the name of Spain. Naturally the clarification of this reality is intuitive and emotional, neither conceptual nor discursive. In the following examples, the perspectives turn out to be varied and sometimes surprising.

The surprise is especially intense in La camisa (1960) by Lauro Olmo. When writing this play, Franco's regime was about to start its second stage: "Development". Until then, those plays which were closer to the theme of Spain frequently had triumphalist (triumphant?) perspectives according to and agreed with the official attitude of the Dictatorship or with positions avoiding confrontation with this attitude.

However, Lauro Olmo wrote a drama of opposition, at least in the approach and solution of the conflicts of his plays, generally different to those of the predominant ideology. Although unexpected, the scene where Spain is cheered in a particularly emotive moment of the play, it is not unexpected that it was done from a demanding position, since it is the people who express their collective solidarity (Olmo 140):

TIO MARAVILLAS. (Ordenando en voz alta.) !Soltad los globos e inmortalizarme, machos! …

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