How does the action of Benevente's El marido de su viuda compare with the action of Lope's Fuenteovejuna?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The action of Benavente's El marido de su viuda is quite hard to compare, but easier to contrast, with Lope de Vega's Fuenteovejuna. This is because each of the comedies is delivered in two completely different formats. El marido de su viuda's one-act format differs greatly from Fuenteovejuna's three-act method of delivery. Hence, the key to the action lays, precisely, on the formats selected by each playwright. 

El marido de su viuda is a one-act play. This means that the dramatist has less than one hour to develop a plot that ends satisfactorily. With these limitations, Benavente can only choose ONE problem, a limited number of characters, and ONE solution that will fix the problem. 

Hence, the one-act format helps to speed up the action of El marido de su viuda at a much faster pace than Fuenteovejuna. It is also because Benavente's characters are not complex, nor researched. Their language is easily understood, and the comedic tone of the play is way more consistent and ever-present. This simplicity is what makes the one-act play so easy to relate to. 

Fuenteovejuna follows the theatrical tradition of the three-act play. Lope the Vega, like his Elizabethan English counterpart, William Shakespeare, brings many twists and turns to his plays. Characters also have more depth and complexity in three-act plays, making the reader build more schema and create more text to self, and text to world connections. 

Just looking at ONE of Fuenteovejuna's dialogues is enough to understand how much longer the action will take to develop. For every monologue in Fuenteovejuna we could build three or more separate dialogues in El marido de su viuda. Here is an example:


Pues en vano es lo que ves,
porque ha que me sigue un mes,
y todo, Pascuala, en vano. 
Aquel Flores, su alcahuete,
y Ortuño, aquel socarrón,
me mostraron un jubón,
una sarta y un copete.
Dijéronme tantas cosas 
de Fernando, su señor,
que me pusieron temor;
mas no serán poderosas
para contrastar mi pecho.

Even if the entire play is in verse, which often makes for a quicker read, the dynamics of the characters become more dramatic and intertwined with complex and researched language. Hence in El marido de su viuda, the simple and common use of language gives more freedom for the action to develop.
Here is an example of how the laughter is achieved almost instantly through the quick and witty dialogs of Benavente's characters in the one-act play
Florencio. ¿Del autor? Pero ¿está aquí el autor? Zurita. El; él mismo le ha vendido en firme los- ejemplares; llegó con ellos esta mañana. Florencio: ¡Ah! ¿Con que está aquí ese píllete de Casalonga? ¿Y usted sabe dónde se encuentra?... Zurita: En el Hotel de Europa. Carolina: ¡Florencio! No vayas tú. ¡Deténgale usted! Quiere desafiarle. Zurita: ¿Qué dice usted? No vale la pena. Usted está por encima de todo eso, y suseñora de usted mucho más por encima. Florencio:. y la gente, amigo Zurita. ¿Qué dirá la gente?' Zurita: La gente lo ha tomado a risa.
Conclusively, format either speeds up or delays to the action. The use of language and the style of dialogue does the same thing. El marido de su viuda's one-act format catches and delivers the action quicker than Lope the Vega's three-act play, Fuenteovejuna. This is why both plays are so hard to compare and way easier to contrast. 

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