The Bonds of Interest Further Critical Evaluation of the Work - Essay

Jacinto Benavente y Martínez

Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Benavente y Martínez is a piquant realist at heart, but also a master of fantasy and always a proponent for the good, the beautiful, and the true. As is evident from THE BONDS OF INTEREST, he is most concerned with devising ingenious plots, like his Spanish predecessors, or illustrating the need for some reform, like the Northern writers in the theater of social criticism. Beneath the surface of the world as it is, he perceives an underlying reality, often opposed to the phenomenal world. In THE BONDS OF INTEREST, the best of Benavente y Martínez’s plays in a lighter vein, the playwright makes a moral use of the old Italian comedy of masks, but does so with a poetic delicacy intermixed with picaresque spice.

What interests Benavente y Martínez in this work is the contrast between body and soul so often set forth in Spanish literature and in the works of the French romanticists. Crispin is that within us which contrives and seeks gain. Leander, redeemed by his love for Silvia, disputes Crispin’s statement that “the ties of love are as nothing to the bonds of interest.” As for Silvia, she affirms the existence of some divine element in our lives which will live on after the physical death of the body. This affirmation poses a dilemma to some critics who regard Benavente y Martínez as a pessimist and see a dark shadow in the irony of the play. But although the author is a master of irony, he is surely not a pessimist. He is rather a keen observer commenting upon life agreeably and wisely, and with faith in the possibility of making it finer by educating the public; he writes in the hope that his dramas will affect meaningful changes in the attitudes of his audience.

THE BONDS OF INTEREST is an airy piece with a moral. Charming as it is in its fantasy, the comedy lacks the dramatic quality of some of Benavente y Martínez’s other works, but it is a favorite on many stages. Its morality is cheerful, sound, and sensible and requires no ardent revolt against established institutions, but is content to flick with a satiric whip those ancient butts of comedy—hypocrisy and vanity—so far as they affect the individual, rather than society as a whole.