History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Late Spanish 18th
Leandro Fernández de Moratín (1760-1828) is an important Spanish author 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"
"The new comedy". Time: 1790s. Place: Madrid, Spain.
"The new comedy" text at ?
Eluterio has written his first comedy entitled "The siege of Vienna", which he reads aloud to Antonio and Pedro, about a woman who dies after starving for six days, but not before pronouncing a very long diatribe against a vizier. Antonio murmurs some mild compliments, but Pedro calls it stupid. Hermogenus, devoted to Eluterio's sister, Mariquita, arrives to settle 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. Because Hermogenus is threatened by his landlord for failing to pay his rent for 18 months, he and Eluterio are counting on the play's success. Mariquita has doubts about Hermogenus' sincerity either towards the play or herself, which is regrettable, 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. Agustina, sister to Eluterio, 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 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 they are late for the opening of the play. Pedro encounters Antonio, not having remained to the end of the play. He reports that he heard among the crowd "a low grumbling sound, harbinger of the storm." The group re-enters, defeated. Mariquita reports 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, Mariquita is anxious for her future: "Sixteen already, and without a husband!" she exclaims. Due to the play's bad reception, Eluterio is worried as well, mainly about his finances, 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.