Ernesto, a young playwright, is taken into the home of Don Julián, a rich businessman who was a close friend of Ernesto’s father. Ernesto is working on a great play, but he has difficulty in putting down on paper what is in his mind. As he tells Don Julián, his play is to include everyone and to reflect the whole world, not simply a part of it, but the laws of the drama make it impossible for him to put down what he wishes to say within the space of a play. Don Julián, a practical man, tells Ernesto to go get some sleep and be ready to go partridge shooting the next day. After Don Julián leaves, Ernesto’s eye falls on a work by Dante Alighieri. From it he takes the title for his play, The Great Galeoto, after a character in the love story of Paolo and Francesca.
The following evening Don Julián and his wife Teodora sit watching the sunset. Don Julián tells Teodora that he is afraid Ernesto is unhappy because they have done so much for him, that Ernesto feels he owes them much that can never be repaid. Ernesto joins them and in the ensuing conversation readily admits his belief that he is living on charity and that people are talking about him. Don Julián says the situation can be remedied and suggests that Ernesto become his secretary, thus repaying, in the eyes of the world, what Julián gives him. Ernesto is pleased by the proposal and accepts.
Don Julián leaves the room. As the sun goes down and Teodora and Ernesto continue to talk, Severo, Don Julián’s brother, enters with Mercedes, his wife. Severo and Mercedes, speaking to each other, say that the whole city of Madrid is speaking of the affair going on in Don Julián’s house between his young wife and the young man he has befriended. After the men leave the room, Mercedes tells Teodora about the slander that is being voiced in the city. Severo goes to pass on the same information to Don Julián.
When Don Julián rejoins his wife, he expresses his anger that Severo should dare to insult his honor and Teodora’s by bringing such slander into his home. Don Julián insists that Ernesto remain in his house as he had before. Ernesto, told of the slander by Severo’s son, leaves Don Julián’s fine home to live in a garret. At first Don Julián is glad, thinking that there might have been some truth in the town’s gossip. Later he arrives at a different conclusion and goes to invite Ernesto to return. While he and his brother wait in Ernesto’s garret, Severo’s son appears with word that Ernesto is to fight a duel with the Viscount Nebreda, who openly...
(The entire section is 1050 words.)