Manuel Tamayo y Baus Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

The reputation of Manuel Tamayo y Baus rests almost exclusively on some twenty years of creative work for the theater. Historical dramas and thesis plays concerned with contemporary mores were the centerpieces of this literary activity. Abundant, too, were the contributions that he made to subdivisions of the primary genre for which he wrote, inasmuch as he authored many humorous one-act plays, cultivated the short dramatic allegory called the loa, and composed librettos for the Spanish version of the musical comedy, the zarzuela. In addition to plays, he wrote three disquisitions on theatrical matters: his prologue to Angela; a formal letter meant for publication addressed to his closest friend, Manuel Cañete, concerning the tragedy Virginia; and his maiden speech before the Royal Spanish Academy on his public reception into that body in June of 1859. These essays on poetics provide valuable insights into his own art and into the dramatic theory and aesthetics of the day.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Some critics consider Manuel Tamayo y Baus to have been Spain’s foremost playwright of the nineteenth century. Agreement seems fairly general that his masterpiece is A New Drama and that his was a leading role during a period of transition, uncertainty, and tentativeness for the national theater, then somewhat in decline. His best writing came to the fore when the Romantic school was in the process of being supplanted and when there was a reorientation in the direction of greater realism on stage, more penetrating psychological study, and a new insistence on moralizing satire aimed at unwholesome aspects of the acquisitiveness of an emerging middle class. All these tendencies were grist for his own dramatic mill.

For Tamayo y Baus, realism involved a certain degree of poetizing; however, he called for an idealized imitation of nature rather than advocate the painting of harsh realities exactly as they are. In his treatises, he propounded the depiction of a purified reality, in which conformity to fact still implied a kind of truthfulness never devoid of beauty. He himself succeeded in incorporating this unifying technical process into his own work. Leopoldo Alas (Clarín), one of the most prestigious and demanding critics of the day, found human truth in Tamayo y Baus’s greatest masterpiece, A New Drama, but truth in combination with what Alas defined as the two ultimate elements of beauty: the rudimentary integrals of forcefulness...

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(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Flynn, Gerard. Manuel Tamayo y Baus. New York: Twayne, 1973. A basic biography of Tamayo y Baus that also provides literary criticism of his works.

Mazzeo, Guido E. “Yorick’s Covert Motives in Un Drama Nuevo.” MLN 83 (1968): 275-278. Mazzeo maintains that the character of Yorick already suspected that his wife was not faithful and therefore wanted to play the part of Octavio.

Podol, Peter L. “The Evolution of the Honor Theme in Modern Spanish Drama.” Hispanic Review 40, no. 1 (Winter, 1972): 53-72. Podol looks at the concept of honor in Lances de honor and A New Drama.