Manuel Tamayo y Baus began his life practically on stage because his family both managed and formed part of a company of itinerant players. After the birth of Manuel, which occurred in Madrid in 1829, the traveling troupe was to center its activities in the south of Spain, touring cities of Andalusia.
His parents, José Tamayo and Joaquina Baus, were able and distinguished artists. His father, an actor, directed the company, while the beautiful and talented Joaquina was a major leading lady of the day. Two of Manuel’s brothers, Andrés and Victorino, were also associated with the family’s enterprise in various professional undertakings. Indeed, Victorino and Manuel would eventually collaborate as writers, specifically on Tran-Tran, a minor play of the year 1850; of much greater import would be, however, another, later instance of their work together: Performing admirably as an actor in Manuel’s A New Drama, Victorino would introduce to the Spanish public for the first time the powerful and moving role of the tragic figure Yorick.
That triumph, however, would not come soon; it would have to wait until 1867, when Manuel’s activities as a playwright would be drawing very near their close. Being a principal role, and a masculine one, Yorick is a reminder, by way of stark contrast, of a fundamental characteristic of Tamayo y Baus’s professional inclinations. In the years that represent the very beginnings of his career, the young Tamayo y Baus had shown a marked preference for plays in which the leading character was female.
The partiality shown in his theater for feminine characters, clearly reflected in the titles of several of his earliest works—Juana de Arco, Angela, Virginia, and La Ricahembra—initially arose from his exceedingly close relationship with his mother. He adored her, and he yearned to compose dramatic parts that would provide her with vehicles to display her unusual acting skill. From Joaquina Baus, Manuel had received much of his initial training, his first lessons in the arts of stagecraft. He was intellectually prepared to reap the benefits of this guidance at a remarkably early age. What quite likely constitutes the most frequently repeated story regarding incidents in Tamayo y Baus’s life deals precisely with that particular. His biographers, beginning with Aureliano Fernández-Guerra y Orbe, invariably relate that when the youngster was still only...
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