In Jacinto Benavente's El marido de su viuda, Casalonga gives a speech towards the end of Scene IX. What is Casalonga suggesting in this speech?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Scene IX of Jacinto Benavente y Martínez's one-act comedy El Marido de su Viuda is quite clever and funny in many ways.

As you know, the main problem of the story is that Casalonga produces a publication in which the memoirs of the great and now deceased patriot, Don Patricio Molinete are exposed. These include a letter in which he divulges his knowledge about his wife Carolina's secret love affair with Don Patricio's best friend, Don Florencio. Carolina and Don Florencio are now married, and about to attend a ceremony where a statue of Don Patricio will be unveiled and dedicated. The publication of this article, then, comes with very bad timing.

Nevertheless, it is in Scene IX where two people come to give explanations to Florencio, who is really to challenge Casalonga to a duel: the men who come to explain themselves are Casalonga himself, and Valdivieso,the bookstore owner where the publication is being sold.

In an exchange that is both funny and quite clever, Casalonga ignores Florencio's insistence in having a duel to safeguard the honor of Florencio and Carolina.

Casalonga: Deja ese tono trágico. ¿Un duelo? ¿Entre
nosotros? ¿Y por qué? ¿Porque la mujer de
un amigo... que hoy es tu mujer, se la pega-
ba contigo? ¡Si hubiera sido con otro!

There is more to that reason, though. Casalonga is actually more focused on Valdivieso than on Florencio's anger. This is because, according to Casalonga, Valdivieso did not pay him enough for the advanced copies of the article.

Considering that Casalonga is aloof but clever as can be, he diverts the energy of Florencio's anger from the conversation and places it all on Valdivieso. This is also another quite clever way to diffuse any chance of a duel with Florencio, as well! Hence, it is now Valdivieso, and not Casalonga, who will be the focus of the dialogue.

Taking advantage of the situation, Casalonga calls Valdivieso a thief and Valdivieso backfires calling him a "trapisondista", which is the same as a fiddler, or the equivalent of a modern-day, third-rate reporter just out to make a quick buck. This totally upsets Casalonga, who immediately challenges Valdivieso to a duel- "batirse" is the old word for challeging to a duel.

This challenge is quite comedic. Valdivieso is quite scared, especially since he is a father and a husband. Moreover, only the upper-classes do duels, making Casalonga's proposition outrageous.

Hence, to add to his weirdness, Casalonga once again takes the opportunity to diffuse himself from drama and tells the words to Florencio:

si quieres bartirte con él, te cedo mi puesto como primer ofendido

With this, he basically tells Florencio that, if he is really in the mood for a duel, to go ahead and challenge Valdivieso and that Casalonga is more than willing to volunteer his role as the "offended" in the duel. In other words, Casalonga tricks them into dueling themselves, and hence slips out of the drama that he causes in the first place.


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