Antonio Machado Essay - Critical Essays


Antonio and Manuel Machado’s interest in drama was inspired by translations of classical French and British dramas and adaptations of Golden Age plays. They developed a theory of theater as they collaborated, from scriptwriting to staging. They respected the traditions of playwrights who set the standards for themes and structure, from Lope de Vega and Pedro Calderón de la Barca to William Shakespeare. Their staging demonstrates modern trends practiced in twentieth century theater. Frequent monologues and asides to the audience invite its participation and the dissolution of the third wall. As playwrights, they favored popular theater trends over classical approaches to staging, while their language and verse structure were erudite.

Desdichas de la fortuna, o Julianillo Valcárcel

The brothers’ first dramatic collaboration opened at the Teatro de la Princesa in Madrid on February 9, 1926. María Guerrero and her theater company, the most renowned Spanish theater company at the time, performed the drama. It was based on a legend about the illegitimate Julián, adopted by the duke of Olivares. He falls in love with Leonor but weds Juana according to the duke’s wishes. Leonor disguises herself as Don César in order to befriend Julián, who does not discover her identity until his death.

The brothers’ use of Golden Age plot twists, disguises, monologues, asides, and references to stock characters and proverbs resulted in a play that was basically an updated version of the cape and sword play. The lines were written in eight-syllable verse, following classical Spanish versification. Contemporary audiences familiar with Golden Age drama responded favorably to Machado’s dramatic adaptation.

Juan de Mañara

Antonio and Manuel Machado’s second collaboration debuted in Madrid on March 16, 1927. The tragedy was based on a legend about a man who followed selfish desires until his spiritual transformation. In the Machado version, Mañara is symbolically a hunter as he is literally hunting for fulfillment. He is also deceived by a woman whom he helps escape from the law. Juan de Mañara’s plot and characters resemble those of the Romantic play Don Juan Tenorio (pr., pb. 1844; English translation, 1944) by José Zorrilla y Moral. The Juan depicted by the Machado brothers is more complex than that of Zorrilla; he questions his actions and motives as he undergoes the process of spiritual transformation. In addition, the female characters are more developed than those of the nineteenth century play, fluctuating between good and evil forces.

Las adelfas

The play, a psychological drama in the style of Henrik Ibsen, opened in Madrid on October 22, 1928. The plot revolves around several complex characters, and dialogues and monologues explore psychoanalytic approaches to dreams and life experiences. Characters suffer from spiritual crises and interpersonal confrontations. The speech patterns incorporate foreign and invented vocabulary from scientific and dialectical usage. Telephone conversations and disjointed speech with noncorresponding dialogue refer to the disillusioned post-World War I European society. Although the drama won critical acclaim, its run was shortened by the lack of financial and popular success.

La Lola se va a los puertos

The play debuted November 8, 1929, at the Teatro Fontalba in Madrid. Its popular appeal and long run made the play the most successful of all the Machado plays. It incorporated elements of the andaluzada, flamenco themes and plots popular in Andalucía. The...

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