History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Late Spanish 18th
Leandro Fernández de Moratín
Leandro Fernández de Moratín (1760-1828) was the main Spanish dramatist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. One of his most notable works in the late 18th century is "La comedia nueva" (The new comedy, 1792).
"The new comedy"
Time: 1790s. Place: Madrid, Spain.
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Eluterio reads aloud his first comedy entitled "The siege of Vienna" to Antonio and Pedro concerning a woman who dies from starvation but not before pronouncing a lengthy diatribe against a vizier. Antonio murmurs some mild compliments while Pedro calls it stupid. Hermogenus, devoted to Eluterio's sister, Mariquita, settles the question. According to Eluterio, he is the "most eminently capable arbiter of the question that so agitates us". Hermogenus admits that Eluterio has arrived at the "pinnacle of knowledge". But before judgment is rendered, Pedro leaves in disgust at these discussions. Because Hermogenus is threatened by his landlord for failing to pay his rent for a period of 18 months, he and Eluterio are counting on the play's success. Mariquita has doubts about Hermogenus' sincerity either towards the play or her own person, a regrettable fact because her own love has no limits. "Has a Pyramus, a Marc Antony, Ptolemies of Egypt or all the Seleucides of Assyria ever nourished a flame like mine that burns up all my being?" she asks. Eluterio's sister, Agustina, also has aspirations as an author. She complains of often being distracted from writing by nursing her children. "For learned women, fecundity is a malediction," she asserts. Hermogenus waxes particularly eloquent on the subject of poetry, certain that "verses are written thanks to the pineal gland..." But the group is abashed on learning from Eluterio that only three copies of his play were sold. In talking thus, no one has noticed that Hermogenus' watch has stopped and so they are late for the opening of the play. Pedro encounters Antonio, who had left before the ending of the play, who reports hearing among the crowd "a low grumbling sound, harbinger of the storm". The group of friends re-enter defeated by the play's outcome. Mariquita adds further comments on the public reaction. "How agitated they were, how they coughed, how they yawned! At last from all sides infernal noise!" The famine scene was interrupted by ironic applause and out the public went. Hermogenus now agrees with public opinion, and is cursed by all for his hypocrisy. Having lost him, Marquita becomes anxious as to her future. "Sixteen of age already and without a husband!" she exclaims. Due to the play's failure, Eluterio is also worried about the future, mainly because of impending poverty, all the more so with having to care for a family of four children, none older than six years old. However, Pedro hires him to free him of his debts.