Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Ernesto (ehr-NAYS-toh), a young playwright taken into the home of his father’s close friend Don Julián as secretary. Don Julián has a young and beautiful wife, Teodora, and the presence of the handsome young secretary in the household causes gossip. When Don Julián’s brother Severo voices his suspicions, Ernesto, though entirely innocent, moves from Don Julián’s house into a garret. The Viscount Nebreda repeats the malicious slander publicly in Ernesto’s presence and is challenged to a duel. Before they can fight, Don Julián finds Nebreda, fights him, and is gravely wounded. He is taken to Ernesto’s room, where he finds Teodora, who has innocently come to say goodbye before Ernesto leaves Spain the following day. The circumstantial evidence now seems overwhelming. Before he dies, Don Julián slaps Ernesto’s face and threatens to kill him in a duel. After his death, Severo claims his brother’s house and orders Teodora banished from the premises. When she faints, Ernesto denounces Severo and all gossiping society as no better than an evil panderer determined to bring two innocent people to ruin with vague innuendoes and vicious rumors. The title of the play is derived from Galeoto, the go-between for Lancelot and Guinevere, as referred to in Dante’s story of Paolo and Francesca.

Don Julián

Don Julián (hew-lee-AHN), a wealthy businessman who befriends Ernesto. He is then led by slander to suspect an affair between Ernesto and Teodora.


Teodora (teh-oh-DOHR-ah), Julián’s young and faithful wife, wrongly suspected by society of being in love with Ernesto. Severo bars her from her dying husband’s room and later tries to put her out of the house. When she faints, Ernesto lifts her up and tells Severo that he will take her away.


Severo (seh-VEH-roh), Julián’s brother. He voices the rumors of Madrid. He is forced by Ernesto to apologize on his knees to Teodora.


Mercedes (mehr-THAY-dehs), Severo’s gossiping wife, who passes on the rumors of scandal to Teodora.


Pepito (peh-PEE-toh), the son of Severo and Mercedes. He carries the news of Julián’s duel.

The Viscount Nebreda

The Viscount Nebreda (neh-breh-dah), who is challenged to a duel by Ernesto for slandering Teodora. Julián, taking up the challenge, is fatally wounded by Nebreda, who, in turn, is killed by Ernesto.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Chandler, Frank W. “The Peninsular Tradition.” In Modern Continental Playwrights. New York: Harper & Row, 1931. Shows the passage of tradition from Calderón. Insightful regarding the power of self-examination and self-fulfilling gossip.

Clark, Barnett H., ed. Masterpieces of Modern Spanish Drama. New York: Duffield, 1917. A preface on the period, with a review of Spanish drama of the Golden Age. A biography of Echegaray, as a mathematics professor and government minister. Chronological list of his plays.

Hartnoll, Phyllis, ed. Oxford Companion to the Theatre. London: Oxford University Press, 1967. Pages 906-907 put Echegaray in the company of other writers of Spanish Romanticism, “essentially an alien growth, nurtured in France and England by the Liberal exiles of the 1820’s and brought back to Spain with the return to power of the Liberals in 1835.”

Newberry, Wilma. “Echegaray and Pirandello.” PMLA 81, no. 1 (March, 1966): 123-129. Echegaray, here given credit for philosophical and aesthetic innovations not normally recognized in his work, aspired “to communicate a certain intellectual content in his plays” and dealt with the history of ideas. His plays remain relevant because they dramatize “the position of honesty for its own sake in our modern corrupt society.”

Shank, Theodore J., ed. A Digest of 500 Plays. New York: Crowell-Collier, 1963. A summary, with staging problems, cast size, and other information helpful to produce the play. Points out the inadvertent humor of taking the play too seriously, but sees as the center of the play “violent situations violently portrayed.”

Shaw, Bernard. Dramatic Opinions and Essays. Vol. 1. New York: Brentanos, 1925. Contains a discussion of Echegaray’s talents in general. Acknowledges Echegaray’s indebtedness to Henrik Ibsen.

Shaw, Bernard. Dramatic Opinions and Essays. Vol. 2. New York: Brentanos, 1925. Argues in a review that Echegaray was “a man who comprehends his world and knows society not as any diner-out or Mayfair butler knows it, but as a capable statesman knows it.”