In addition to his dramatic work, José Echegaray y Eizaguirre also wrote critical articles and essays on the nature of drama, some of which were collected in 1894 in his book Algunas reflexiones generales sobre la crítica y el arte literario. In 1912, he published a small collection of short stories, Cuentos, and wrote Recuerdos, an autobiography in three volumes, which was published posthumously in 1917. His true claim to literary importance, however, resides in the seventy-four dramas, satiric comedies, and one-act plays that he produced between 1874 and 1905.
Undoubtedly the most successful Spanish dramatist of the late nineteenth century, José Echegaray y Eizaguirre ruled as undisputed king of the stage from 1874, with the appearance of his first play, El libro talonario (the checkbook), until shortly after the turn of the twentieth century. Highly imaginative and prolific, Echegaray produced two or more successful plays a year throughout his dramatic career. The public response to his dramas, tragedies, and satiric comedies was, with a few notable exceptions, always enthusiastic. Each premiere was received with acclaim, and his works were nearly always judged popular successes before the curtain went up. Echegaray was also the first modern Spanish playwright to enjoy ample recognition and popularity outside Spain; his best plays, The Great Galeoto, Folly or Saintliness, The Son of Don Juan, and Mariana, were translated into several European languages and successfully staged in Europe and in the United States. Echegaray was elected to the Royal Spanish Academy in 1894 and was formally inducted in 1896. In 1904, he became the first Spaniard to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (which he shared with the Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral).
Echegaray has not fared well, however, at the hands of twentieth century critics. The young intellectuals and writers of the Generation of 1898 strongly criticized the extreme sentiment and exaggerated style of his drama....
Gies, David Thatcher. The Theatre in Nineteenth Century Spain. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Provides an overview of the theater in Spain during the time in which Echegaray wrote. Bibliography and index.
Gregersen, Halfdan. Ibsen and Spain: A Study in Comparative Drama. 1936. Reprint. New York, Kraus Reprint, 1966. A study of Henrik Ibsen’s influence on Spanish writers including Echegaray. Bibliography.
Ríos-Font, Wadda C. Rewriting Melodrama: The Hidden Paradigm in Modern Spanish Theater. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1997. An analysis of Echegaray’s use of melodrama and his influence on the dramatists who followed. Bibliography and index.