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Social Satire in the Works of Manuel Bretón de los Herreros

Chaskin, Silvia Novo (Blankenship)
Thesis/Dissertation; Online
Chaskin, Silvia Novo (Blankenship)
Manuel Bretón de los Herreros was the most popular writer of comedies of the Spanish nineteenth century. He was second only to Lope de Vega as the most prolific playwright in Spanish letters. His literary production is remarkable: one hundred and three original plays sixty-two translations of foreign comedies, ten adaptations of Golden Age dramas, innumerable poems, a number of artículos de costumbres, and some linguistic studies. The contribution of this author to the literature of his nation, and in particular to the theater, is of great importance. With Bretón the regeneration of the national theater that began with Leandro Fernández de Moratín was finally completed. As a proponent of realism he preserved the comedy of manners throughout the romantic apogee thus laying the foundation for the alta comedia and the modern theater of Benavente and Martínez Sierra. He was the first Spaniard who attempted to write comedies in their purest sense. The comedia bretoniana was a satirical reflection of the middle class, its customs and manners. With poignant satire and fine humor, its creator defended traditional Spanish morality in an epoch of romantic excesses, materialism, and frivolity. In a century convulsed by political, economic, and social upheaval he was the representative of the sesuda Castilla, the advocate of the justo medio. In this essay I shall attempt to study the satirical manner in which Bretón de los Herreros presented the society of his day. I shall attempt to indicate the influence his works had upon later playwrights such as Ventura de la Vega, Galdós López de Ayala, and Benavente. The first part of this study shall be devoted to a brief account of the author's life. The emphasis here shall be placed on events and factors that contributed to the formation of Bretón as a writer and satirist. In the second chapter of this essay I shall trace the development of the Bretonian comedy. Here we shall indicate why Bretón's comedies are the first true examples of the comedy of manners in Spain; analyze the plays he wrote previous to 1831, known as comedias moratinianas; ·and through an analysis of Marcela outline the characteristics of the comedia bretoniana. In the following chapters I shall discuss Bretón's satirical treatment of the effects that romanticism, and political and social changes had upon the Spanish people. I wish to express my gratitude to Dr. A. A. del Greco under whose. guidance and· directorship this dissertation was prepared and written.
University of Virginia, , PHD, 1968
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