Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

The brothers Serafín Álvarez Quintero and Joaquín Álvarez Quintero were best known for their comedies, many of which were translated from the original Spanish into several other languages. They also, however, contributed work in other literary genres. Working together, they produced a novel, a number of fine short stories, and many poems, some of which were incorporated into their plays. Furthermore, as young men still developing their dramatic talent, they published theater reviews and other pieces of literary journalism.

One of the best known of their nondramatic works, La madrecita (1919; the little mother), is a short novel whose profound structure and sensibility achieved wide acclaim from the literary public. Also, their collection of short stories Con los ojos (1938; with the eyes) shows, as much as their plays, the graceful life lived around the patios of the Spanish province of Andalucía. Although these stories were written during the most fruitful period of the authors’ lives and achieved general acceptance, some critics found fault with the Álvarez Quintero brothers’ portrayal of Spanish life and customs, charging them with inaccuracies. Some critics singled out the brothers’ dialogue, which, the critics alleged, did not reflect the actual speech patterns of the various types of characters who are portrayed in their works. Such criticisms, however, miss the point: The aim of the Álvarez Quinteros was to create, in the various genres in which they wrote, a sui generis reality—a self-contained imaginary world.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Because Serafín Álvarez Quintero and his brother Joaquín Álvarez Quintero always worked together, it is difficult to separate their achievements. Comedy was their strong suit, and their interest in it began when they were quite young. In fact, when the brothers were still in their teens, they had the privilege of having one of their farces, Esgrima y amor, a one-act play, performed in the Seville Theatre. The success of this venture persuaded them to go to Madrid, where the Teatro español accepted their second farce, Gilito, for production. Madrid, however, was not Seville, and the Álvarez Quinteros suffered a waiting period before they were recognized.

In 1897, however, they established a reputation as comic playwrights with the reception of El ojito derecho and La reja. These plays won for them some favorable attention. Then, in 1898, with the presentation of La buena sombra, their reputations were assured. Literary and worldly reputation, fame, fortune, and popularity were theirs. During the prolific period between 1898 and 1920, the brothers saw more than one hundred comedies, farces, and zarzuelas (musical comedies) performed.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of the brothers was their perfect coordination as collaborators. They continued to work in harmony throughout their lives; indeed in almost every case it is impossible to separate the ideas or content of one brother from the other. This preternatural harmony is illustrated by an incident that happened when the brothers were still in high school: Serafín, being given only part of a stanza written by Joaquín, finished the verse. On comparing the completed stanzas, it was found that the brothers had, without knowledge of each other’s version, completed the stanza with identical words.

Their method of collaboration was quite simple. They would walk together, talk together, and discuss such items as dialogue, characterization, and plot. Then, once these details were worked out, Serafín would pen the actual lines. As he wrote, he would read the results to Joaquín, who would make comments and corrections on the spot. All details and matters of style were settled in this manner.

A second notable achievement of the Álvarez Quintero brothers was their great prolificacy without loss of quality. After their initial opportunity to show their talent in 1897 and to prove it in 1898, they often averaged five estrenos (debuts) per year. At that time, Spain...

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(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Halsey, Martha T., and Phyllis Zatlin, eds. The Contemporary Spanish Theater: A Collection of Critical Essays. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1988. These essays provide general information on the state of the Spanish theater in the twentieth century. Bibliography and index.

McCarthy, Jim. Political Theatre During the Spanish Civil War. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1999. Although the Álvarez Quintero brothers were not political writers, they were also influenced by the civil war. Bibliography and index.

Sánchez de Palacios, Mariano. Serafín y Joaquín Álvarez Quintero. Madrid: Gráf. Valera, 1971. A basic biography of the Álvarez Quintero brothers that examines their lives and work. In Spanish.