Title: Women in the theatre of Gregorio Martínez Sierra
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00097971/00001
 Material Information
Title: Women in the theatre of Gregorio Martínez Sierra
Physical Description: iii, 275 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: O'Connor, Patricia Walker, 1931- ( Dissertant )
Worcester, D. E. ( Reviewer )
Ramirez, Adolfo ( Reviewer )
Kurth, Arthur L. ( Reviewer )
Hayes, Francis C. ( Reviewer )
Wershow, Irving R. ( Reviewer )
Page, R. E. ( Degree grantor )
Fernandez, Pedro Villa ( Thesis advisor )
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 1962
Subject: Spanish thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Spanish -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 271-274.
Additional Physical Form: Also available on World Wide Web
General Note: Manuscript copy.
General Note: Thesis - University of Florida.
General Note: Vita.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00097971
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000537912
oclc - 13018614
notis - ACW1118


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August, 1962


3 1262 08552 2026


The writer wishes to express her gratitude to

the members of her advisory committee, Dr. Francis Hayes,

Dr. Arthur Kurth, Dr. Adolfo Ramirez and Dr. Irving Wershow

for the responsible academic program they have recommended

and provided in her undergraduate as well as graduate


To her director, Professor Pedro Villa Fernandez,

she is particularly indebted and wishes to thank him

publicly and wholeheartedly for the years he has shown

her the loyalty of a friend, the patience and the occa-

sional severity of a father and the sensitivity, open-

mindedness and competence of a scholar.

To her husband, Dave, and to her children, Mike

and Erin, the writer owes a special note of thanks. With-

out their cheerful acceptance of the inconveniences in-

volved, the completion of this doctorate would have been





INTRODUCTION . . . . . .. 1





THE GRANDOTHER. . . . . . . .152

STRONG WOMAN. . . . . . . .194


BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . .271




A brief resume of woman's position as reflected
in Spanish literature prior to Gregorio
Martinez Sierra

The theatre has often been looked upon as merely

an entertainment medium, but it is indirectly a didactic

one as well in that it studies the attitudes that have

found favor with certain groups at certain times. For

this reason, the theatre may be considered documentary

evidence of the evolution of social and moral philosophy

if one keeps in mind always who accepts the ideas and when.

In this study, we are primarily concerned with the role

of woman as she appears in the theatrical works of Gregorio

Martinez Sierra, but to make the study more meaningful,

this chapter will be devoted to the part played by woman

in Spanish literature, particularly the theatre, before

Martinez Sierra.

There are several good reasons for accepting the

Spanish theatre as a reflection of the times. In Spain,

the theatre has been, since the sixteenth century, an ex-

tremely democratic medium and has been singularly unham-

pered by the dictates of the nobility and by Aristotelian

concepts of dramatic rules. Unlike the French theatre,

for example, the Spanish theatre has traditionally been a


place where all levels of society flocked to see them-

selves, or perhaps better still, to see their neighbors,

portrayed. In the Golden Age, we may assume that there

was a normal contact between the classes as exemplified

in La estrella de Sevilla, El mejor alcalde el rey, El

alcalde de Zalamea, and others. This generation of

theatre goers expected colorful action on the stage with

themes that catered to certain traditional and national

attitudes having to do with patriotism, religion, honor,

the proper position of women in society, etc.

High praise as well as slander has characterized

the commentary on woman, and rarely has there been an

author dealing with the subject who has been lukewarm.

The observer has generally been hyperbolic in his praise

or vitriolic in his condemnation.

It is the earliest literary documents of Spanish

literature that deal most severely with the so-called fair

sex. In the thirteenth century, El libro de los engannos

y essayamientos de las mujeres was a popular book of exem-

pla in condemnation of women, and uses a trial as its frame-

work. A young man is accused by his stepmother of attempted

violence. NVhen he is brought to trial, his legal counselor

advises him to keep silent until he is bidden to speak.

During the days of silence, the defense uses all the exam-

ples of feminine evil that it can unearth to suggest that

woman is cunning and vile by nature. At the end of the

defense, when the youth is bidden to speak, the judges

are quite conditioned to believe him against his step-

mother. She is, subsequently punished by being burned

at the stake. According to the story, incidentally, the

young man's version of the story is the accurate one.

While these tales, as well as many others circulating in

Spain in the thirteenth century, were of oriental origin,

by their widespread, acceptance and great popularity show
the low esteem in which women were generally held.

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries respec-

tively, two ecclesiastics give us an insight into woman's--

position in Spain. Juan Ruiz, the Archpriest of Hita, in

El libro de buen amor, recounts in an amusing and good-

natured way that woman is weak and can be deceived easily

and loves nothing more than to be the deceiver herself.

The book begins with a warning against earthly love and

attempts a sanctimonious air that is never really convincing.

The author states that it is human to sin, and proceeds to

discuss the various ways in which men and women joyfully

go about being human.

In El libro de buen amor, woman may sin and may

cause man to sin, but the admonishing finger seems wagged

in fun1 and woman is depicted as a rather desirable creature.

Alfonso Martinez de Toledo, the Archpriest of Tala-

vera, in his fifteenth century book, El corbacho, inspired


by the Corbaccio of the Italian Bocaccio, lacks the wit

and sparkle that one associates with El libro de buen amor.

The Corbacho, whose alternate title is Reprobaci6n del

amor mundano, says that illicit love is an offense against

God and is the cause of much earthly suffering. This

Archpriest blames woman for the evils of love and proceeds

to enumerate her various vices. Among other things, woman

is condemned as greedy, vain, boastful, inconstant, hypo-

critical, deceitful and conniving. The author's perverse

and one-sided examples paint a very dark picture indeed of

the pre-Renaissance woman.

At the time that the above mentioned works were

being written, court poets in Portugal and Galicia were

singing lyrical praises to women, an attitude which was in

line with the current chivalric trend. The increasing

devotion to the Virgin Mary also seemed to improve the

over-all position of woman. From this period, there is

no survival of lyric poetry in Castilian, but since it

existed in Portuguese and Gallician and since Castilians

often employed these languages rather than their own for

lyrical expression, we may consider that devotion and ad-

miration for women existed side by side with the deepest

scorn. Even in traditionally hard and unyielding Castile,

there must have been those who adored woman for her soft

and simple femininity and considered her the gem of God's



While the battle for supremacy between the sexes

is no doubt as old as Eve, the literary controversy con-

cerning the merits and defects of the sexes, so popular

in the Golden Age, probably has its roots in Medieval and

Renaissance literature. Scholasticism often extended it-

self to consider the pros and cons of the sexes.

Until thefifteenth century, there is almost no

preserved theatre, but the earliest documents show that it

was the arena for the attack upon as well as the defense

of women. With the appearance of the early playwrights

Gomez Manrique, Juan del Encina, Gil Vicente, Torres

Naharro and others, we see woman defended as well as vili-

fied in what was to become a very demaFmiti- and popular
medium.. The very early theatre, of course, cannot be con-

sidered to represent the views of a broad segment of the

population, for its performances were limited to select

audiences at court. The court, however, was no deterrent

in the controversy of Man versus Woman. Juan del Encina's

Egloga de los tres pastores is a primitive tragedy in lyric

verse. Fileno, in an impassioned monologue, recites the

vicissitudes of love and the cruelties of woman using the

arguments from Bocaccio's Corbaccio. This diatribe against

women was meant to please the male courtiers but in order

not to offend the women present, Encina introduced another

character to say that all women were not bad and that one

must not condemn them all because of one. The recognition


of her as a power and an element to be deferred to was at

least a beginning. By Juan del Encina's time, we see some

protest against the extreme and one-sided criticism of

woman. Encina has a poem entitled "Contra los que dicen

mal de las mujeres," that attacks the attackers of women.

This attitude of open admiration rather than mere

deference was a novel opinion for a man in his position

to express publicly. This attitude was more in the province

of the troubador than of the playwright.

Gil Vicente reworks the argument of the sexes in

his Comedia del viudo, in which the widower makes a strong

defense of women in eulogizing his dead wife after his

neighbor has bitterly complained of their defects.

The disdainful, man-hating woman, who was to become

so popular in the Siglo de Oro drama, appears in Gil Vicen-

te's Auto da Sibila Casandra. She sees only misery for

married women and refuses the shackles of inconstant man.

In the Coaieia d~_QRubge of Gil Vicente, we see an unmarried,
expectant mother the object of abandonment and mockery.

The situation is made light of and is meant to be funny.

Similar treatments of women in the early theatre are to be

found in Diego Sanchez Badajoz's Farsa del matrimonio and

Alvarez de Ayllon's Comedia Tibalda. These plays reveal

that little sympathy and respect were accorded to women be-

longing to the lower levels of society. They also show

that motherhood had not acquired the dignity and reverence

that it was to enjoy later, especially in the works of
Gregorio Martinez Sierra.

In the fifteenth century, the sentimental novel
was notably sympathetic to women. In Juan de Flores' CAr-

cel de amor, for example, we find Leriano, the gallant
lover, struggling valiantly to be worthy of his lady, who
is the embodimient of all that is good and lovely. Leriano
commits suicide because of the cruelty of his lady, but he

sings her praises up to his dying breath. He is dedicated

to the ideals of chivalry that teach him to protect and
revere women. Since the Virgin is the mother of God and

symbolic of womankind and motherhood, it would be blasphemy

to speak evil of woman. In speaking ill of her, one only
dishonors oneself, since all men are born of women.

On the brink of the sixteenth century, the Jew
Fernando de Rojas, circulated his monumental, dialogue

novel, La tragicomedia de Calixto y Melibea, which was later
to be known simply as La Celestina, after the Ovidian pro-
curess who forms the hub of the action. This work is in
direct contrast to the sentimental novels whose arguments

generally degenerated into one-sided sentimentalizing of
the feminine theme. Sempronio, Calixto's servant, takes
the part of the arch-misogynist and is thoroughly familiar

with all the woman-hating arguments. He concedes that only
a few women should be exempt from his general condemnation:


Lee las historiales estudia los fil6sofos, mira los
poetas. Llenos estan los libros de sus viles y malos
ejemplos, de las caidas que llevaron los que en algo
los reputaron... Oye a Salomon do dice que las mujeres
y el vino hacen a los hombre renegar. Cons6jate con
Seneca, y verbs en que las llene. Escucha a Aristote-
les, mira a Bernardo. Gentiles, Judios, cristianos,
y moros, todos en esta concordia estAn.... 1

Calixto sees and adores Melibea as an ideal. For

him, no other woman has more silken hair, greener eyes,

more melodious voice or more delicate features than his in-

comparable Melibea. While Sempronio does not deny the truth

of his master's praise, he says that it is rather meaning-

less since the mere fact of her being a woman cancels or

at least greatly reduces the worth she might otherwise have.

He feels that he is more worthy simply by virtue of his eex.

So, in the fifteenth century, we see woman praised in the

sentimental novel and in poetry while she is defamed on the

stage by certain dramatists and we see the two currents

contrapuntally interwoven in the dramatic novel, La Celes-


With the works of Bartolome de Torres Naharro, an

early sixteenth century dramatist, we see the general posi-

tion of woman emerge from that of the object of mockery

into the bearer of the family honor. The Comedia Jimena

is a nascent cape and sword play in which the heroine's

1Fernando de Rojas, La Celestina (Buenos Aires:
Espasa-Calpe, 1943), pp. 26-27.

honor is a serious and all-important commodity to be de-

fended by the male members of the family at all costs. The

honor theme continues its stage evolution in El infamador

of Juan de la Cueva. (The theory that this play is the

forerunner of Tirso de Molina's El burlador de Sevilla has

been suggested and also vigorously denied.) Leucinio, the

infamador, is determined to conquer Eliodora since she is the

only woman he has not been able to reach through his money.

She represents a challenge to him. Feliciana, Eliodora's

maid, helps her mistress to retain her honor. In the en-

suing struggle, however, Leucinio's servant is killed and

Eliodora is accused of murder and is condemned to death.

Even Eliodora's father desires her death since she has

brought dishonor to the family name and the loss of honor

saddens him more than the loss of a daughter. Eventually

Leucinio confesses his cowardice and proves the innocence

of Eliodora.

The pundonor play comes into full maturity with

Lope de Vega and other dramatists in the sixteenth and

seventeenth centuries. Lope de Vega has portrayed a whole

galaxy of women in his voluminous dramatic repertoire. He

shows all types imaginable in his minor characters, but his

major heroines are, for the most part, beauteous, long-

suffering devotees of their honor, which is inexorably

joined to that of their men. In Fuenteovejuna, the comen-

dador tries to court unconventional favors from Laurencia,

who is in love with Frondoso. On one occasion, Frondoso

fights the comendador after Laurencia has fled from the

latter's advances. The comendador goes to Esteban, Lauren-

cia's father, to ask him to reprimand her for her lack of

respect. In the conversation, both men speak of their low

opinion of easy women, though the hypocritical comendador

has just boasted to Laurencia that other girls, whom he has

not described as low, have consented to his advances. The

comendador has Frondoso abducted at the wedding celebration

of his marriage to Laurencia, and when no attempt is made

to free him, Laurencia begins to look like a walking ghost

and dramatically and eloquently calls the town to action.

The people, Fuenteovejuna, in a united action, kill the

lecherous comendador. Later, the king absolves the people,

for he can find no proof of who the murderer is and suspects

that the action is justified. The audience is made to feel

that the comendador got what he deserved for trying to dis-

honor a virtuous maiden.

In La estrella de Sevilla, the king is strongly

attracted to Estrella and tries to enlist the help of her

brother, Busto, to win her favor. Busto is the sole guard-

ian of his sister's honor and takes his responsibilities

seriously. Unknown to Estrella and with the help of a

maid, the king comes to Estrella's house in the evening

when Busto is customarily out. Busto returns unexpectedly

and duels with the king, pretending that he thinks the

king is not the king at all but an impostor. Estrella,


throughout the play, zealously guards her own honor. She

sincerely loves her soldier sweetheart, Sancho, and is not

tempted by the interest of so important a person as the


A similar situation exists in El mejor alcalde el

rey. Elvira, the daughter of a laborer, loves Sancho,
also a laborer on the land of don Tello, a nobleman. At

the betrothal of these young people, don Tello is struck

by the beauty of Elvira, whom he had never seen before, and

arranges to kidnap her. In the ensuing days, Elvira

bravely and steadfastly defends her honor in don Tello's

palatial home and cannot be swayed by his wealth and station.

She loves Sancho and feels that she is already his wife.
The king intervenes on behalf of Sancho and frees Elvira.

Before he executes don Tello for his offense against the

lady, he forces him to marry her, thereby making Elvira a

wealthy widow and free to marry her true love.

These virtuous heroines who are so strong to defend

their honor were described and extolled in the most lyrical

language by Lope de Vega. They were, however, not the only
women types prominent on the Siglo de Oro stage. Women had

become so closely guarded as the receptacle of the family

honor, that a special type of woman emerges on the stage.
She feels that since so many other people are looking out

for her, she need not bother. The male members of the fam-

ily are so intent upon preserving their honor that the woman


is virtually a prisoner, and any escape from her humdrum

existence is accepted. She and the lover often become

accomplices against the family. Thus we see that men do

not trust women, for they are likely to be indiscreet the

moment the father's or brother's or husband's back is

turned. This distrust of women is rather general in the

Siglo de Oro drama, and if we consider the theatre as a

reflection of the times, ample bases for these attitudes

are seen. Some good examples can be found in Tirso de Mo-

lina's El burlador de Sevilla, Lope de Vega's Amar sin sa-

ber a quien, El remedio en la desdicha, and La dama boba.

The galan, who may or may not love the lady, invariably

makes her a promise of marriage to gain her confidence.

This is a promise that the honor code of the day did not

require him to keep. Promises to women were not binding

as they were to men.

Tirso de Molina, who is outstanding in the creation

of women characters, not only portrays some women as vir-

tuous and witty, but gives them freedom and independence.

Until that time, we have seen an increase in the respect

and admiration for women, but Tirso carries this even fur-

ther. In Don Gil de las calzas verdes, dofa Juana dons a

man's disguise and as don Gil, courts a girl that her

betrothed, don Martin, is seeing, supposedly unknown to

her. Juana ironically wins the girl for don Gil, but in

the meantime, don Martin has recognized the villany of his

actions and vows to mend his ways and marry his betrothed.


La pDudencia en la mu.er is an historical play in
which the wise queen acts as regent during the minority of

her son and through her prudence saves the throne for him.
Many consider this play the outstanding historical drama
of the Golden Age* It contains several elements that are

not characteristic of plays contemporary with it, however.
The protagonist is a mother, a personality type generally

absent from the Siglo de Oro stage, The lack of precedent
in the portrayal of a mother or a woman of her age may be
due to the fact that many women died in childbirth or lived

shorter lives because of inferior health measures. It
may also have been that the mother was not considered dra-
matic material because of her supposedly uninteresting and

unimportant role in real life. She was not necessary in

the cape and sword plays, whose outstanding characteristic
was flamboyance. La prudencia en la mujer also differs
from other plays in that it presents a woman who is wise,

loyal, dignified, just, intrepid, devoted to the memory of
her husband and dedicated to the preservation of the throne

for her son. How far woman has progressed since the Engannos

y essayamientos de las muJeres, In selecting this wise queen
and in portraying her as an ideal, Tirso de Molina shows us

that good women who were not young and beautiful did not go

In El burlador de Sevilla, Tirso de Molina is ap-
parently interested mainly in showing evil, and that it is

ultimately punished. In this play, no one character, by

our standards of morality, seems to be wise or possess will

power, or even a conscience, with the possible exception

of Juan's father, who disowns his son.

A popular feminist device of the Golden Age was

the man-hating woman typified by Diana of Moreto's El des-

den con el desd6n. She censures men harshly as deceivers

of the gentle sex and swears never to fall into any man's

trap. The feminist argument, however, loses some of its

force in these plays, since the authors, who were invariably

men, always produce the happy ending in the form of the

happy submission of the once proud and haughty beauty to
her lord and master.

In the plays of Pedro Calder6n de la Barca, the

honor theme reaches the peak of intensity. Such a fetish

is made of honor in his plays that some modern day scholars

have wondered if he was really serious or if he was ridi-

culing a custom of which he did not approve. Beginning

with Torres Naharro, we have seen an increasing tendency

for men to point an accusing finger at the woman who is

the object of men's advances, regardless of whether or not

she responds. In a representative honor play of Calder6n,

we see what appears to be an extreme situation in which the

innocent wife is killed by her husband because of a suspected

taint on his honor. He is even commended for his actions

by the king. In El m6dico de su honra, dofa Mencia is ap-

parently willing to be unfaithful to her husband with Prince


Enrique, but she never really is unfaithful. Furthermore,

the husband, far from being sure about her actions or her

intentions, merely suspects his wife's guilt. He, nonethe-

less, feels justified in cleansing his honor with her

blood. Doia Mencia, the wife in this play, is almost in-

credibly submissive. Her marriage had been arranged for
her by her father and was not a love match. Prince Enrique

had courted her before her marriage but had left on a trip

without making any commitments. In his absence, the father

had decided to marry her advantageously to don Gutierre.

Dofia Mencia is still emotionally involved with the prince

but shows no hint of it in her attitude toward her husband.

She embraces him when he comes home and prepares his supper.

In answer to his suggestion that a slave prepare his meal,

she says:

Ya, seior,&no va una esolava?
Lo soy, y lo he de ser. 1

Later, when don Gutierre decides that sufficient

doubt has been cast upon his honor, he tells doia Mencia

that she has but two hours to live. Instead of trying to

prove her innocence, begging her husband's forgiveness,
screaming for help or trying to escape, she accepts her

fate calmly and unquestioningly. Don Gutierre's actions

were apparently normal for the seventeenth century, but

Ipedro Calder6n de la Barca, Dramas de honor.
Introduction by Angel Valbuena Briones (Madrid: Espasa-
Calpe, S.A., 1956), p. 142.


from the vantage point of the twentieth century, they seem

appalling, and one wonders how such things were possible

in so Christian a country as Spain. Perhaps the civil and

lay authorities recognized the honor code as barbarous and

contrary to Christian teaching and therefore refused to

give it official recognition. This would explain the lack

of official documentation surviving from the Golden Age.

The code is well documented in the plays of the period,


With Calder6n, the honor theme has reached a climax

and now the pendulum must swing the other way. The peak

as well as the decline can be noted in his plays. In Cal-

der6n's El alcalde de Zalamea, we see quite an advance in

man's attitude toward woman's worth and toward her as the

bearer of the family honor. Military men in that day were

exempt from civil jurisprudence, so outrages similar to

those described in this play were not uncommon. Some sol-

diers have been ordered to remain in Zalamea, and a few

have been quartered in the Crespo home where the town beauty,

Isabel, resides. As a precaution, Crespo, her father, and

Juan, her brother, hide Isabel and her cousin, but one of

the officers in the house, a captain, discovers their pres-

ence and gains entry to their room. Isabel, not the shrink-

ing violet that we have seen on other occasions in dramas

of this period, appeals to the gentleman in the captain.

She tells him that men should defend women if only because

they are women. He leaves her honor intact this time. Soon

the soldiers are ordered to leave Zalamea and Crespo is
delighted for he knows of the encounter between Isabel
and the captain. The father intends to ignore it, but
Juan is determined to seek revenge for the possible damage
the captain might have done the family honor. It is sig-
nificant that his anger is directed toward the captain
and not his sister.

Juan enlists in the army so that he may follow the
captain, and Crespo, believing that the danger to Isabel
is past, allows her to sit in the doorway of the house.
The captain appears and carries her off to a mountain.
When Crespo tries to rescue her, he is tied to a tree by
soldiers. The next morning, Isabel finds her way home
and frees her father. She begs him to kill her since not
having a daughter is to be preferred to having no honors

Para que de ti se diga
Que por dar vida a tu honor
Diste muerte a tu hija. 1

Grespo's reaction is also significant. Instead of
killing her, he consoles her. He feels that she is not
the one at fault so should not be the one punished. They
return to the city to help Juan. On arriving in the city,
Crespo finds that he has just been elected alcalde and he

1Pedro Calder6n de la Barca, El alcalde de Zalamea
(Buenos Aires: Editorial Sopena, 1931), p. 145.


uses his power to imprison the captain. When the captain

refuses to marry Isabel, Crespo swears vengeance. Juan

has already attempted to kill the captain, and Crespo,

despite his own violent emotions, that must correspond to

his son's, orders Juan to be locked up for having attacked

his superior officer. The king arrives to intervene in

the affair and after hearing both sides suggests that the

captain should have been hung instead of merely being im-

prisoned. This represents a considerable change from the

attitude of the king in El mAdico de su honra in which he

condones the husband's killing of his wife for a suspected

blight on his honor*

With the demise of Pedro Calder6n de la Barca, the

Spanish theatre goes into a period of decline or at least,

of dormancy. The next dramatist of note to come upon the

scene with an important message for or about women is

Leandro Fern4ndez de Moratin with his comedy El si de las

nifas. Dofa Irene, a widow, is very much in favor of mar-

rying her only daughter to a much older man for the simple

reason that he is wealthy. It seems not to matter that

the young girl, doia Francisca, is in love with a young

man, who, ironically, turns out to be the nephew of don

Diego, the intended husband. When don Diego finds out the

truth of the situation, he deplores the supposedly proper

education of young ladies that teaches them to lie and to

hide their true feelings to please their families who, in

turn, seem to be only interested in material values with
little regard for the spiritual values in life:


He aqui los frutos de la educaci6n. Esto es lo que se
llama criar bien a una nifa: ensefiar a que desmienta
y se oculte las pasiones mas inocentes con una p6rfida
disimulaci6n. Las juzgan honestas luego que las ven
instruidas en el arte de callar y mentir. Se obstinan
en que el temperament, la edad ni el genio no han de
tener influencia alguna en sus inclinaciones, o en que
su voluntad ha de torcerse al capricho de quien las
gobierna. Todo se las permit, menos la sinceridad.
Con tal que no digan lo que sienten, con tal que fin-
jan aborrecer lo que mAs desean, con tal que se presten
a pronunciar, cuando se lo manden, aun si perjuro, sa-
crilego, origen de tantos esc&ndalos, ya estan bien
criadas, y se llama excelente educaci6n la que inspire
en ellas el temor, la astucia y el silencio de un es-
clavo. 1

In the nineteenth century, further evidence is

shown of the progress of woman toward acceptance on equal
terms with men, though to be sure, she has not yet arrived

at this goal.

In El drama nuevo, by Manuel Tamayo y Baus, Alicia
is married to Yorick, an older man. In spite of her good

intentions, she falls in love with Edmundo, a young man who
had been received as a member of the family by her husband.

Alicia, Yorick and Edmundo are all actors in Shakespeare's
theatrical troupe and are performing a play that simulates,

to a certain extent, their real life predicament. Alicia
and Edmundo, out of respect for Yorick, whom they both love,

have not yielded to their desires. The play in which they

act shows Alicia in love with Edmundo and unfaithful to her

1Leandro Fernandez de Moratin, El si de las niias
(Buenos Aires: Editorial Tor, 193?), P. 97-


husband, portrayed by Yorick. When Yorick's suspicions

are aroused and the drama becomes real in his mind, he

kills Edmundo. The important point relative to woman's

position in this very popular play is the sympathetic at-

titude the audiences must have taken toward a woman, who,

though she remained legally faithful to her husband, was

in love with another man. The sympathies of the audience

must have extended to each member of the triangle, for

among them there was no villain; each was a victim of

circumstances. Yorick's killing of Edmundo was not an act

to cleanse his honor, but rather a crime passionnel.

With the advent of Jos4 Echegaray, who was to

dominate the Spanish stage for the last quarter of the

nineteenth century, there is a resurgence of Romanticism

with a thesis. While Echegaray uses no Middle Ages set-

tings, the passions and actions described are rather prim-

itive and decidedly reminiscent of Calder6n, and cannot

be said to reflect validly the customs of his own time.

In Mar sin orillas, for example, a man kills the wife he

adores for it is said that she has been unfaithful. He

knows that she is innocent of the accusation but feels that

his honor must be cleansed.. Mancha que limpia is another

play in this vein. El gran galeoto, however, may give a

subtle hint of woman's progress toward freedom and equality

in the author's time. A situation somewhat similar to the

one in El drama nuevo exists in this play. Teodora is mar-

ried to Julian, an older man, who invites Ernesto, the son


of a former benefactor, to live in his home as his son.

Since Julian is much engaged in business, he leaves the
young people at home alone daily. While their conduct is
exemplary, the neighbors speak about what they imagine to
be happening* When Julian is killed in a duel fought in

place of Ernesto, to defend his own honor, Teodora is left

alone in a world that is ready to think the worst of her.
Ernesto realizes that he does love Teodora and that the

world has played the Galeoto, or go-between. By the end

of the play, the suggestion is given that Teodora loves
Ernesto, but only when all, including her husband, have

turned against her. She does not, at any time, admit to

anyone else or to herself that she loves Ernesto in any but
a fraternal way. The reader may suspect that she does but

the fact is never substantiated.

It should not be surprising that Benito P6rez Gal-
d6s, the great liberal, should have favored women's rights.
Thus far on the stage we have seen sympathy for women in

affairs having to do with their virtue only when they were

innocent. Gald6s portrays an adultress in Realidad and
shows that her husband, far from killing her or the man
involved, pardons her and tries to help her to readjust
her life. Although this situation must always have existed
in real life, men in the past didn't care to talk about it
or admit that it might happen. Since Gald6s theatre is

such a realistic and sane one, it seems only logical that
it should be he who first presents this situation on the

stage. This same philosophical serenity on the part of the

wronged husband is portrayed again by him in Amor y Ciencia.

In Gald6s' theatre, there are many strong women

who not only achieve equality with men, but dominate them

and dwarf them. Such a woman is dofa Perfecta, the pro-

tagonist of the play and novel by the same name. The

heroine of La loca de la casa marries to save her family

from economic ruin and becomes not only the redeemer of

her family but of her primitive husband as well. Galdos'

plays, like his novels, are dedicated to progress and

tolerance, and while woman's rights were not his main con-

cern, they were purposely included in the broad scope of

his liberalism. Although dramatic technique was probably

the element that least concerned him in the composition of

his works, he may be considered a forerunner of the modern

dramatic school in his approach to situation and dialogue.

As the nineteenth century comes to a close, Jacinto

Benavente's stage techniques provide a model for the devel-

opment of the future Spanish drama. He makes a sharp break

with the school of Echegaray, whose success largely depended

upon bombastic speeches, violent passions and turbulent

action, and whose appeal was popular and strongly national.

Benavente's theatre, on the other hand, was generally

universal in tone. It is true, however, that in his later

years Benavente tended to use more traditionally Spanish

themes and material. 3enavente continues the general

trend of admiration for women that was apparent in his
predecessors for women in his plays are characteristically
strong and ambitious. They may have humble beginnings
but are able to rise above them, as does Imperia of La
noche del sabado. Benavente favors the right, in extreme
cases, to divorce, as in La moral del divorcio and de-
picts the working wife in El pan comido en la mano. In
some plays, however, women are shown as decidedly infe-
rior to men. (El rival de su muJer, Literatura, La ver-
dad inventada.) In answer to the accusation that he suf-
fered occasional attacks of mysogeny, Benavente replied
in this manner and showed himself to be at least a senti-
mental feminist:

El feminism merece triunfar porque las mujeres, aun
cuando en puestos inferiores, siempre han sido sin
duda superiores a los hombres, y Isi mejorasenl 1

While Benavente continued to write, Gregorio Martinez
Sierra produced plays whose themes deal almost exclusively
and most often romantically and ideally with some facet
of woman's life.

lIrene Zimmerman, "Benavente's Picture of Spain
in the Early 1930," (Unpublished Master's Thesis,
University of Chicago, 1937), p. 230.


Gregorio Martinez Sierra was born in Madrid in

1881, the city in which he was to die sixty-seven years

later in 1948 after a brilliant and varied career.

Martinez Sierra showed his literary genius early

with the publication of his Poema del trabajo in 1898 at

the age of seventeen. He attended the University of

Madrid but discontinued his studies there to devote his

energy and time to writing. Of his university career,he


Estuve a punto de ser fil6sofo por obra de la Univer-
sidad de Madrid, pero me malogr6 en la Historia
Critical, sin duda por mi horror a las batallas. 1

In 1900 he married Maria de la O. LejArraga, a

brilliant and cultured young lady who shared his literary

enthusiasm. To her the theatre of don Gregorio is deeply

in debt for many ideas, characterizations as well as actual

dialogue. While Maria's name does not appear on the title

page with her husband's, it is common knowledge that she

was her husband's co-author. Of her refusal to take credit

at the time of publication, she says:

1Andres GonzAlez Blanco, Los contemporaneos
(Valencia: Editorial Cervantes, 1921), p. 73.


Decidi que los hijos de nuestra uni6n intellectual no
llevaran mAs que el nombre del padre. Otra Eraz6n],
que siendo maestra de escuela, es decir, dispensando
un cargo pfblico, no queria empafar la limpieza de
mi nombre con la dudosa fama que en aquella epoca caia
como sambenito casi deshonroso sobre today mujer "lite-
rata." Sobre todo literate incipiente. ISi se hubiera
podido ser cAlebre desde el primer librol La fama
todo lo justifica. La raz6n tercera, tal vez la mas
fuerte, fu4 romanticismo de enamorada.... Casada, y
oven y feliz, acometi6me ese orgullo de humildad que
domina a toda mujer cuando quiere de veras a un hombre.
"Puesto que nuestras obras son hijas del legitimo ma-
trimonio, con el nombre de padre tienen honra bastante."
Ahora, anciana, y viuda, v ome obligada a proclamar mi
maternidad para poder cobrar mis derechos de autora.
La vejez, por much fuego interior que conserve, est&
obligada a renunciar a sus romanticismos si ha de
seguir viviendo,,,, aunque- ya sea por poco tiempo. 1

Maria Martinez Sierra was born in San Mill&n de la

Cogulla in 1875 but moved to Madrid where she met Gregorio.
She had been trained as a teacher and was teaching at the

time of her marriage. The families of both Maria and Gre-

gorio were of the middle class and had long been friends.

Maria and Gregorio worked happily and successfully
as a team for many years, until Catalina BArcena, the

actress who played the heroine in so many of their plays,

came to occupy a similar place in Gregorio's heart. She
has been described as the delightful embodiment of the Mar-

tinez Sierra heroine, outgoing, independent, beautiful and

feminine. When Gregorio saw her, he must have felt an

1Maria Martinez Sierra, Gregorio 7 yo (M6xico:
Biografias Gandesa, 1953), pp. 29-30.

emotion similar to Pygmalion's when he saw Aphrodite give

life to Galatea. The irony of the situation, however, is
that Maria was probably as responsible for the creation of

this ideal as Gregorio. Although he never married Catalina

BArcena, Gregorio lived very close to her for the last

twenty-five years of his life, and while she was never a

literary collaborator as Maria had been, she was an artistic

collaborator in the stage portrayals. It is not surprising

that Gregorio's works are characterized by a strong feminine

influence when one realizes that a large measure of his suc-

cess is the result of the help given him by the two women

whose influences span all of his adult life: Maria Marti-

nez Sierra and Catalina Barcena.

Gregorio Martinez Sierra, at the outset of his career,

was considered a modernist. His works were light and

fanciful and very reminiscent of Maeterlinck, whom he

admired. Los diAlogos fantAsticos and Teatro de ensueio,

for example, were written in this vein. Under the influ-

ence of the more practical Maria, though, his works became
a combination of the ideal with the real. His subject mat-

ter, after his first fanciful sallies, came to be most often

concerned with small domestic problems which were solved

through the resourcefulness of the heroine. While Martinez

Sierra follows the lead of his dramatic maestro, Jacinto
Benavente, in the use of normal, conversational dialogue,

there are frequently passages delicately tinged with


lyricism. While the dialogue never approaches the bom-

bastic quality of Echegaray's, there is real eloquence in

some plays. His works prove him to be an incurable opti-

mist. Of this quality of her husband's, which was always
an anticipation of future successes, never a dwelling on

past defeats, Maria says:

Para quien hace tan poco desapareci6, jamAs hubo pasado
ni present: vivi6 siempre en maiana, en proyecto, en
deseo, en ansia de hacer y de lograr lo que no habia-
mos hecho ni logrado. Mi primer lamento, cuando la
voz impersonal de la radiodifusi6n londinense me trajo
la noticia de su muerte, no fu6 por mi, sino por Al.
Dentro del alma viuda clam6 una voz: "lInfelizi Ha
muerto sin realizar lo que tanto anhelara." Luego
pense: "Aunque hubiera vivido mil anos, lo mismo se-
ria." Porque la esencia de su vivir fue el anhelar. 1

Martinez Sierra treats no really controversial

themes nor does he undertake any universal problem of any
magnitude. He rather limits himself to problems revolving

around the Spanish home. It is for these reasons that his

theatre is often considered rather light.

He was not satisfied to be merely a poet and a
dramatist. He also wrote highly successful novels, such

as To ores la paz. Sol de la tarde, La humilde verdad, El
amor catedrAtico and others. In addition, he wrote many

essays on the modern woman that have been collected in
several volumes. He managed the Teatro Eslava and super-

vised the movies that were made from his plays in North

Ibid.* pp* 9-10.


and South America. He directed the publications of his

firm, El Renacimiento and was the head of the literary re-

view, Helios. Under his name, though probably with a great

deal of help from nis linguist wife, were translations to

Spanish of the works of Rusiiol, Brieux, Ibsen, Bjorson,

Dumas, Goldoni, Barrie, Shakespeare and Maeterlinck.

In this study we are concerned with the various

types of feminine characters found in the theatre of Gre-

gorio Martinez Sierra. At times it seems that our author

was writing for a stock company that included a conservative

mother of forty-five, a giggling ingenue of eighteen, a

beautiful, independent heroine of undefined age but who is

eternally youthful and a man who might be a conniving don

Juan or a spineless seiorito. The reasons why he chose

these characterizations for the various types seem simple

but may be complex and of course all of the pertinent in-

formation is not known to -this writer. We have only assumed

what was probably the case from the material at hand. These

literary types are full-length portraits of types well

known in Spanish society. In some cases, not only were

they well-known social types, but they were types intimately

related to the author's own experience, as in the case of

the mother, who fits the description that Maria Martinez

Sierra makes of her mother-in-law:

Ni el padre ni la madre tuvieron jamAs curiosidad cien-
tifica ni literaria.... En casa de mis suegros no en-
tr6 mAs muestra de literature que un peri6dico ultra-
conservador ni otro libro que los de texto que exigie-
ron los studios del primogenito, el cual sali6 avis-
pado y buen estudiante.

Era mi suegra cat6lica que hubiera merecido ser cal-
vinista, enemiga de toda blandura para si y para el
pr6jimo, atisbando el pecado hasta en un suspiro, tra-
bajadora encarnizada exigiendo de todos los suyos
intransigent adhesion al dogma cat6lico tal como ella,
educada por monjas, lo entendiera, y no les consentia
moment de ociosidad material que pudiera dar lugar a
un ensueno pecaminoso o siquiera frivolo. 1

From the description of the grandfather that Maria

makes, one might believe that the grandmother, too, had

been suggested from his real life experience:

La familiar de Grogorio Martinez Sierra pertenecia al
grupo comerciante-industrial. Su abuelo materno,
hijo del pueblo, vivo de inteligencia y emprendedor,
fue uno de los primeros espaEoles que comprendieron
la importancia pr&ctica de la recien nacida electri-
cidad e introdujo en Espafia el uso de no pocas nove-
dades, arriesgando su vida al instalar con medios im-
provisados, en la celebraci6n de un fausto aconteci-
miento palatino, un arco de triunfo iluminado electri-
camente.... Herencia suya debi6 ser el infatigable
espiritu de empresa, la curiosidad por toda cosa
nueva, el desenfrenado amor al trabajo del que durante
medio siglo fu6 mi compafero. 2

The abundant references to the maternal instinct

and all that is ideal and beautiful about motherhood may

have been inspired by Maria's own frustrated childhood.

It may also have been the expression of her own subcon-

cious feelings, which were never given release in children

of her own. According to Maria, she never wanted children.

Rather than play with dolls as a child, she had preferred

her cardboard theatre. Her adult preferences did not change,

though, of course, her theatre was no longer cardboard and
was very much a public rather than a private demonstration.

lIbid., pp. 23-24. 2Ibid., p. 23.


Since the plays of Martinez Sierra almost all

revolve around women, and since the story is almost always

told from a feminine point of view, it is to be expected

that the men characters will suffer in comparison to the

women. While it is not true, as some writers have said,

that there are no strong or admirable men in the theatre

of Martinez Sierra, there are very few.

In the following chapters, the name of Gregorio

Martinez Sierra will be used to designate the author of

the plays discussed, but it should be kept in mind that

Maria was his collaborator.


The heroine in the plays of Gregorio Martinez

Sierra is essentially Spanish, but she is an independent

young woman who desires and actively seeks full equality

of opportunity and responsibility in a world that tradi-

tionally has favored men. She is attractive without being

glamorous and is poised and aggressive without being mas-

culine. She is sympathetic, feminine and strong, all at

the same time and is consistently able to solve the

domestic problems which confront her and around which

most of the plays revolve. Though it is true that the man

playing opposite the heroine is often weak in comparison

to her, she never intentionally makes him aware of this.

She solves whatever situation arises discreetly and takes

as little credit for the accomplishments as possible.

The heroine, portrayed so often and for so many

years by Catalina BArcena, is the subtle blend of the ideal

and the real that has had such a long and successful tra-

dition in Spanish literature. She has high ideals and

ambitions but never loses sight of the smallest problem

of those around her. In the case of the heroine who is

not a nun, religious fervor is not a factor, but she holds


dear the sanctity of marriage and the home. Divorce never

enters her mind as a solution to her marital problems.

Rather she seeks to solve them, when they arise, through

planned action. She diagnoses the ills of her marriage,

then sets about to correct them. She is not one either

to bemoan her lot or to resign herself to a life of misery.

She is essentially a woman of action.

Estrella, of Mujer, is a rather typical Spanish

wife whose consuming interest in life has been her husband.

She has lived a simple and very uncomplicated life until

she finds out that her husband is involved with another

woman. While she is a traditional Spanish wife who does

not consider divorce, she shows that she is modern enough

to be repelled by what her grandmother or mother might

have accepted as a normal part of marriage: the menage A


LPretendes que sigamos representando a la ultima moda
la divertidisima comedia del amor a tres? Puede que
tu pasi6n ... arrolladora te permitises (Con burla.)
hasta hacerme limosna de lo que es mi derecho.... Pero
mi dignidad no me permite ciertas combinaciones. Por
lo cual (Muy seria.) yo te digo: iElige entire las
dosi (Sonriendo.) Ya s6 que no te causo pesar nin-
guno, porque es precisamente lo que has ido buscando
con tus ... sinceridades.... 1

Estrella loves her husband and has no intention

of accepting defeat at the hands of another woman. Three

months have elapsed between the first and second acts and

1Gregorio Martinez Sierra, Obras completes (Madrid:
Estrella, 1920), VIII, 43.

by the setting we see immediately that Estrella has spent

the time in analyzing her difficulties and has taken steps

to change the situation. Instead of the very conventional

furniture, decorous Watteau painting and the rather drab

maid that were in evidence in the first act, we see a

bold arrangement of furniture, a painting of a nude that

has replaced the Watteau and a sculptured piece of Cupid

and Psyche. The atmosphere is seductive, modern and

infinitely more interesting. There are cigarettes and

coffee available and a very pretty and refined young maid

to serve. A change is equally apparent in Estrella. She

now wears very chic clothes and has learned to smoke ciga-

rettes and is frequently absent from home without making

any explanations about her activities. Gabriel, who has

been away for these three months, is taken aback and some-

what dismayed at his wife's new-found independence, al-

though he attempts not to show it. Estrella is giving him

a taste of his own medicine and he does not like it. When

he complains that she is going out on his first evening

home, she says:

(Con vehemencia dolida.) Despues de una ausencia de
tres meses, &verdad? Quu6 quieres? &Que me siente en
una butaquita, frente a ti, que made encender la chi-
menea, porque a fin de septiembre son los anocheceres
un poquito mas frescos que lo eran en junior, cuando te
marchaste, y que te pida (Sonriendo.) que me cuentes
tus impresiones de viaje? ZMe las vas a contar? 4En-
tonces? Ya sabemos que has ido ... de negocios ... y
que las mujeres no entendemos de eso.... Cuando te
fuiste, dea&ndome completamente sola, al dia siguiente
de casarse mi hermana, me guard muy bien de preguntar-
te a donde ibas ni con qui6n ... Ipero al cerrar la

puerta, perdiste para siempre el derecho de pregun-
tarme a mil IMi vida es mial Agradece el silencio
discrete con que dejo a la tuya correr libre y feliz
por los caminos que m&s te convienen y en la compafia
que mAs te agrada. Aprovecha mi buena disposici6n y
dejame a mi en paz. Es lo 1nico que pido, ly me pa-
rece que bien me lo he ganadol 1

Although Estrella is essentially a traditional

Spanish wife of her period, she feels that she and Gabriel

are equal partners and that in their marriage, he has no

more right to stray than she. When crisis strikes her

marriage, she becomes fiercely aware of the necessity of

this equality that she wants, and makes Gabriel aware of

it too. Since he has the liberty to come and go without

question, she takes the same liberty. Since he has sought

companionship and love outside of marriage, she will at

least have the satisfaction of tormenting him with the

thought that she has done likewise. She wants him to think

that she is not helpless or without admirers and wants him

to realize that she is still desirable and that for the

moment she is lost to him. Her intention is to awaken

masculine pride in him so that he will be challenged to

win her back even though he is her husband. She has roses

sent to herself with a suggestive note in English and then

manages to drop the note so that it will be found by Gabriel.

Her ultimate coup, however, is allowing Gabriel to believe

that she is out with her lover, when in reality she is in

her room. After searching the streets frantically for his

lIbid., p. 73.


wife, Gabriel returns home at three in the morning and

bursts into Estrella's room where he finds the very sleepy

but still dignified lady's maid, Carlota, keeping vigil.

After a few loud words with her, a small light goes on

that illuminates with a rosy glow the sleepy face of Es-

trella as she rises from the bed seductively swathed in
silk, tulle and lace. The serviceable bathrobe that she

might have worn in the first act is no longer part of her

attire. She hides her feelings behind yawns of feigned
disinterest as Gabriel becomes more and more desperate*

She sends him away in the hope that if she can be strong
for a little while longer, she will have won him back per-

manently. She has learned from this experience that inde-

pendence in a woman is more likely to be appreciated than
blind devotion and submission.

Rosario, of Suefo de una noche de agosto, is the

epitome of the Spanish young lady who ardently desires the

freedom to assert herself and be the mistress of her own

fate. Resenting the liberty of her three brothers to come

and go without any explanation to anyone, she feels the

great injustice of being a woman with many civil liberties

but no personal ones. She envies their right to work and

be respected for goals they have accomplished. Rosario

does not want to shine by the light reflected by her
brothers or the man she may some day marry. She wants to

be responsible to and for herself alone, as she explains

to her grandmother:

No les envidio la libertad de pecar, ni la de diver-
tirse, ni siquiera la de salir por el mundo en busca
de su propio amor, mientras que nosotras nos tenemos
que estar esperando, isentadasl, a que el amor ajeno
se antoje venir a buscarnos.... Les envidio la f4,
la confianza que tienen en si mismos, la seguridad de
vencer al destiny por sus propias fuerzas.... Ya les
oyes.... (Mirando en derredor como si estuvieran
presents sus hermanos.) "Trabajare, ganar6 ..., lu-
char6...." LY yo? (Imitando a Pepe.) "Pues t*, te
casaras, naturalmente." (LevantAndose enfadada.)
ITe casarsl1 Es decir, hablando en plata, te dejarAs
comprar y mantener por un caballerito que haya triun-
fado.... Y si no me caso. (Imitando a Emilio.) "TG,
pidele a Dios que nosotros lleguemos a ricos, y vergs
que vidita te pasas." (Enfadada.) IPues no me da la
gana de pasarme vidita ninguna a costa de nadie!
Imitando a Mario.) "Ahi va la hermana de Mario Cas-
tellanos" (Muy digna.) IQu6 fatuidadi INo es eso,
senor mio, no es eso! Lo que a mi me hace falta que
digan, si dicen, es: Ahi va Rosarito Castellanos ...
ella ... ella ... ella ... si, senor, ella misma, fea
o bonita, tonta o discreta, triunfante o derrotada,
pero orgullosa de su propia vida y no de los laurele1
de ningun hombre. iEal 1

On another occasion, Rosario says to her grand-


Acabo de cumplir veintitres anos: soy mayor de edad;
la ley me concede el uso pleno de no s6 cuAntos dere-
chos civiles; puedo vender, comprar, emprender un
negocio, tirar mi corta hacienda por la ventana, mar-
charme a America, meterme a cupletista..., en vista
de lo cual desearia tener un llavin, lo mismo que
cualquiera de mis hermanos, y usarle para entrar y
salir libremente como ellos, sin darle cuenta a nadie,
a cualquier hora del dia y de la noche.... LQud te
pareceria? 2

One evening as Rosario puts out the light to re-

tire, the wind blows a man's hat into her room and in a

1Gregorio Martinez Sierra, Sueno de una noche de
agosto. Ed. May Gardner and Arthur L. Owen (New York:
Henry Holt and Co., 1926), pp. 13-14.

2bid,, p. 13.


few moments, the owner appears at the window to look for

it. Believing the room to be empty, the well-dressed but

hatless gentleman climbs in to retrieve his possession.

On entering the room, however, he is confronted by a ter-

rified Rosario, and in trying to assure her that his in-

tentions are honorable and that he seeks only his hat, her

hair becomes entangled in his buttons. Rosario's hairdo
is symbolic of her rebellion and desire for freedom. She

wears it unbound and defends her right to wear it as she


El Aparecido: He querido decir tan ... enredoso ...
se engancha en todas parties. &Es que le lleva Ud.
siempre flotando al viento?
Rosario: (Con mal humor.) ILe llevo como me parecel 1

We are reminded of the injustice of a double

standard of morality for men and women as we will be re-

minded again in La pasi6n and Torre-de marfil.

Rosario: Si Ud. salt por mi ventana y el mundo se
figure que salta Ud., con mi consentimiento, su fama
de Ud. no va perdiendo nada en la opinion, y en cambio
la mia se hunde para siempre ... HIe parece a Ud.
bien? 2

Although Rosario is from a well-to-do family and

has no financial obligation to work, she feels that she

wants to do something for her own self-satisfaction and

Ibid., p. 28. 2bid., p. 32.

!Ganarme la vida? Es verdad ... no lo necesito ... lo
cual quiere decir que en mi familiar hay hombres que
pueden trabajar para mi.... (Patgtica.) iEsa es pre-
cisamente la amargura mAs grande, la humillaci6n m8s
negra de mi destino de mujerl Quiero trabajar, quiero
ganar el pan que como. IEstoy cansada de ser un par&-
sito! 1

As we will observe in the chapter on the idealiza-

tion of motherhood, Martinez Sierra seems to question the

wisdom of placing women behind convent walls. He shows

the frustration of women who are denied the rights of

natural motherhood, and shows that a woman in such a po-

sition has a sense of futility, loss and incompletion for

which no amount of rules, work, ceremony or religious de-

votion can compensate. Although the sacrifices of these

women may be heroic and touching, Martinez Sierra favors

an active public and domestic life for woman rather than

a cloistered one.

While all of Martinez Sierra's plays seem to ad-

vocate marriage for women, it seems that he would not have

them devote all of their time and talents to the home.

The typical Martinez Sierra heroine combines successfully

a career with marriage. No doubt the feminist Maria was

responsible, to a great extent, for this factor in the

plays. The right of the woman to work outside the home

was defended in such a way as to indicate the writer's

belief that the best wife and mother was the one who did

lIbid., p. 38.


not stagnate in the home but who got out anddeveloped her

talents and intellect* He felt that she would thereby
be better able to understand her husband and her children

and would be contributing to the progress and economy of
a country that stood sorely in need of both. We are
shown the potential power of woman in various heroines
who cherish their liberty and their right to take their

place independently in a society that begins to cede them
at least some professional equality. These are the capable,
ambitious young women so admired by Maria Martinez Sierra.

The woman in these plays is never the feminist in

the sense that she is part of an organization to fight for
women's rights. Perhaps the Spanish personality is too

independent to conform in such a way or perhaps it would
have been considered unfeminine. At any rate, the heroine

who represents the modern woman in Martinez Sierra's plays,

exerts herself and isactive because she herself wants to
be, not because she iL blazing a path for the future of
womankind. Her brand of feminism is typically Spanish in

that it is an individual effort and is only subtly related

to feminism in the sociological sense of the word.

Fernanda, of Seamos felices, is in her own way a
feminist if we accept the definition of feminism that Mar-
tinez Sierra gives in La auJer modern:


... entiendo por feminismo la igualdad de la mujer y
el hombre en derechos civiles y politicos, y por lo
tanto, la facultad de intervenir efectivamente y direc-
tamente en la vida de la naci6n. 1

Fernanda is a pianist who has always dreamed of a

concert career. She lives with her mother, a member of

the older generation that felt it was in poor taste for a

girl in the upper class to do work of any kind outside of

her own home. When Fernanda falls in love and marries

Emilio, she solves the problem with her mother temporarily.

Suddenly, however, she is presented with the opportunity

to make a concert tour. She will be paid well and believes

that her husband will be delighted since he hasn't had the

economic success that he had hoped for. She believes that

he will be happy at the prospect of the unexpected trip

with all their expenses paid. Emilio is a modern young

man, but his modernity has its limitations. He is not happy

at the idea of his wife's enjoying economic success while

he is suffering failure, and he is particularly unhappy

at the suggestion that she support both on her income, even

though this would be a temporary arrangement. Emilio is

academically in favor of the equality of the sexes, but

loses his objectivity when the problem touches his own


Fernanda: Si. (Sonrie.) Pero piensa que yo te dijese:
"Vida mia,.., puesto que eres mi amor, ... renuncia a
todo, ... vive para quererme, ... exclusivamente, ...

Gregorio Martinez Sierra, La muJer moderna (Madrid:
Renacimiento, 1930).

no mas esperanzas de ser algo en el mundo, de afirmar
tu poder, de dominar la vida con tu arte, con tu vo-
luntad* ... Ad6rame ... y deja que te adore ..,. Para
qu6 mas?" &No te despreciarias a ti mismo si te sin-
tieras capaz de aceptar? ONo me despreciarias a mi
por haberme atrevido a propon6rtelo? IVerdadI
Emilio: (Sincero.) Es distinto. ... Soy hombre. ...
Fernanda (Con terror y con pasi6n al mismo tempoo)
Emilio: (Realmente sobrecogido por el tono en oue ella
ha pronunciado su nombre.) LQu6?
Fernanda: (Pas&ndose las manos por los olos en su
gesto familiar de espantar negruras y mirandole com
si no le conociese.) LEres tf ... quien ha dicho eso?
T" un hombre tan modern ... en tu arte, ... yo creia
que en tu espiritu, ... has sido capaz de decir .*.
de decir ... de pensar ... esa (Sonrie.) LAberraci6n?
(Repite.) "Yo soy hombre" *.. es decir, soy un ser ...
sobrenatural, ... el inico del par que formamos ti y
yo que tiene derecho a la vida (Se rie con buen humor.)
IEs bromal iQu6 tonto eres y que susto me has dadol
(El la mira con bastante desconcierto.) IDe repente
crei que me habia casado con el hombre de las cavernasi
IJa, ja, Jal IPideme perd6ni 1

Fernanda is a modern girl who treasures her liberty
and has a deep and long-standing ambition for a career.
Her music teacher considers her talent to be an extraordinary
one and feels strongly that she should share it with the
world. Fernanda, as well as many another Martinez Sierra

heroine, refutes the opinion Lord Byron expresses in Don
Juan that:
Man's love is of man's life a thing apart;
'Tis woman's whole existence. 2

While she loves her husband and is happy in her
home, she feels frustrated and incomplete. The challenge

1Gregorio Martinez Sierra, Obras completes, XIII,
2George Gordon Byron, Don Juan (Garden City, N. Y.:
Doubleday, Dover and Co., Inc.,- 19359 p. 94.


of the home is not sufficient and she feels thwarted in

her desire to be recognized and respected for her accom-

plishments. These feelings are not new or peculiar only

to Fernanda. Doubtless they are frustrations that have

been borne with varying degrees of patience down through

the ages. Fernanda, however, is fortunate enough to live

in a changing Spain where her ambitions are viewed with

some degree of tolerance and sympathy. The Generation of

'98 favored liberalization and a breaking away from the

old ways of life. The feeling was that a general stag-

nation had been at the root of Spain's disaster and that

drastic changes had to be made. Young people the world

over have always favored more freedom for themselves so

they would hardly fail to rejoice and rise to the occasion

when they heard the suggestion from the lips of their

elders. Women saw their opening and fought for more rights

in the changing society. Most of all, these women wanted

to prove that they had talents that were valuable outside

the home. They wanted a fair market for their abilities

in which they would not be discriminated against or paid

less simply because they were women. They wanted equality

and the right to shoulder responsibilities, if it became

desirable or necessary, and to work side by side with their

men. As Fernanda says to Emilio:

lAfortunadamente! IY yo tu mujeri LYa no te acuerdas
de lo que te dijo el cura? "Para tu mutuo auxilio."

4Mutuo, eh? ISi vieras el gusto que me da gastar el
dinero que tu ganasl &Por qu6 te ha de dar a ti me-
nos que gastemos juntos el que gane yo? 1

Fernanda would have liked to erase forever the

image of the little woman who is supremely happy and normal
and respectable only when she is in her own home perform-
ing small services for the adored members of her family.

She speaks with sarcasm of this attitude:

Fernanda: Le he dado a firmar el contrato ... y no
ha querido. ... Se opone ... terminadamente a que yo
d& conciertos.
Cristina: APor que?
Fernanda: Por nada, ..* es decir, por lo mismo que mi
madre ... correcci6n, abnegaci6n, modestia femenina,
amor exclusive, ... huerto cerrado, perfume misterioso
que se evapora, ... palabras sin sentido, no s6 ...
1, un hombre tan modern, ... Ime parece mentiral 2

She feels that the concept of the wife whose every
thought centers around her husband is a romantic one per-

petuated by men because the picture pleases them and is

accepted by women because they haven't the education or
the freedom to do anything else. When Fernanda says that

she will work because she needs to be a person in her own

right, and that love, no matter how great, is insufficient

to keep her satisfied, she touches a universal note that
women, the world over, will understand:

1Gregorio Martinez Sierra, Obras Completas,
XIII, 85.
Ibid. p. 89.

(Separdndose de $1 con un poco de impaciencia.) IAy,
no seas testarudol Parece mentira que con el talent
que tienes, finjas career *.. porque creerlo de verdad
no es possible, ... que yo, tYOL soy capas de pasarme
el dia entero, desde que te marchas por la maiana hasta
que vuelvas por la noche, pensando Anicamente: "Ya
falta una hora menos para verle. ... IC6mo le quierol
Ahora estara subido en un andamio. ... IC6mo le quierol
Esta noche, al volver, subira la escalera muy de prisa
... IC6mo le quierol IMe darg un beso aquil (Sefala
graciosamente un rinconcito en la meiilla cerca. d la
boca.) I6mo le quiero, c6mo le quiero, c6mo le
quirol" Hijo, te lo confieso con sinceridad, ... te
quiero ... hasta un poquito demasiado, (Sonrie con
picardia.) digo, ... me parece, ... Ipero si no tuviera
otra cosa que hacer me moriria de aburrimientol (Coge
el contract Que esta sobre la mesa y se lo ofrece son-
riendo.) En vista de lo cual, firma, hijo mio. 1

While the traditional Spanish mother is constantly

preoccupied with institutions, conventions, appearances

and opinions, the heroine concerns herself with the more
abstract values of truth, honesty and freedom. She wants

the right to choose her own husband and insists that there

are more criteria than financial or social gain involved

in this choice. Maria Luisa, of El coraz6n ciego, has a

special problem. She has been attracted to a man who has
left her in a compromising situation. She swears to her
family that nothing serious has happened and that she will

not go out alone again. When tongues begin to wag in the
town, Maria Luisa's mother becomes anxious for her daughter

to accept the proposal of Antonio, a penniless young man
who is obviously marrying her for her money. The mother

is anxious for the protection she feels marriage offers
her daughter at this time. To Maria Luisa, the thought

IIbid., p. 87.

that to be honorable and to be respected one has to marry

someone one does not love is hideous. She sees the hypoc-

risy of people and is revolted. She feels trapped by her

mother, by institutions, by society, by conventions, and

by gossip.

Maria Luisa: (Violenta y casi delirante.) &Que?
AQue tambign, segun tu, merezco el mal que me pasa?
ISi, si, si lo merezco, por necia, por ilusa, por
inocentel Si, he querido, he querido a un hombre con
toda mi alma ... creo que, ni yo misma lo sabia; pero
ahora lo se, ahora que le he perdido lo s6 ... ly me
pesal IMiserable l1, miserables todos! Y por lo visto,
no hay remedial IPara tener honra, no hay que ser hon-
rada; para poder ir con la frente alta, para poder
vivir en este mundo hip6crita, siendo mujer, no hay
mAs recurso que colgarse legalmente del brazo de un
hombre, por deshonrado que 61 esteI Es curioso ...
muy curioso: con un juramento en falso y una firma,
da honra el que no la tiene. ... IHay que casarsel
Aurelia: (Asustada.) C&lmate, cAlmatel
Maria Luisa: I Hay que casarsel iVerdad? Tf lo has
dicho. ... Para que Pierrot y todos los Pierrots del
mundo me respeten, me tengo que casar; para que tu,
mi madre, te quedes tranquila, me tengo que casar;
para que tus amigas, las seforas correctas, no me abru-
men con su noble desprecio, me tengo que casar; para
que las nifas no me insulten, con su curiosidad del
mal g6nero, me tengo que casar. ... LCon qui6n? ICon
unol LCon cual? INo importal Con el mas cobarde,
que a fuerza de tenerle miedo a la vida, es 61 que a
m&s se atreve. 1

Maria Luisa has the preoccupation of the typical
Martinez Sierra heroine: equality of the sexes, profes-

sional as well as moral. Both she and Antonio, whom she
ultimately marries, have made their mistakes in the past,

but Antonio would like to believe that his are less grave
because he is a man:

1Gregorio Martinez Sierra, Obras Completas, X, 99.


Antonio: IEs muy distinto!
Maria Luisa: (Con apasionamiento.) IEs iguall (Se
aparta de ,l.) Cada uno quiere a quien quiere. Ta-
jando la voz.) iEn el carifo no hay por qu!e 1

After their marriage, Maria Luisa and Antonio
have taken up residence in Tangier, where Antonio is

struggling to make a lot of money so that he will not

feel that he is being supported by his rich wife. In

order to fill her life, IJaria Luisa has begun to study

Arabic. She feels that her knowledge of the language

may serve her husband in some way. The Martinez Sierra

heroine is not content to lead a sedentary and perhaps

stagnating life. Maria Luisa, for example, feels com-

pelled to work or do something outside of her domestic

duties that will further the career of her husband and

give her a feeling of accomplishment. (Often shared work

is the basis for building a sound marriage that had begun

under rather shaky circumstances, as is the case with El

coraz6n ciego, Amanecer and the novel El amor catedrAtico.)
Sidi Mohamed, Maria Luisa's tutor, gently criticizes her
way of helping her husband by telling her what he feels is

the obligation of the wifo:

Maria Luisa: No como mimarido, sino con mi maridoi
quiero ayudarle. LNo es mi obligaci6n?
Sidi Mohamed: La obligaci6n de la esposa buena no es
ayudar al hombre en su trabajo, sino en su descanso.
La mujer es el jardin del hombre fatigado, la flor que
perfuma su sueno, el agua que calm su sed. LQuieres
ser Atil al hombre? Dale el placer, dale los hijos,
que son el fruto de su vida, dale la casa con silencio,
la sombra con paz, dale el amor. 2

Ibid., p. 29. Ibid., p. 116.

Although Sidi Mohamed presents a very attractive

and convincing picture of the matrimonial idyl, Maria

Luisa knows herself and knows that she will be happiest

being a partner with her husband. Equality is almost an

obsession with the Martinez Sierra heroine.

Maria Luisa: Quiero vivir aqul ... en silencio .
(Viendo que no deja de mirarla.) contigo ... traba-
jando. ...
Antonio: (Con protest masculine.) ITd, no!
Maria Luisa: lYo, sil (Sonriendo.) ISoy muy orgullosal
No quiero, como dice Mohamed, ser el jardin del hombre
fatigado; quiero plantar a medias y cosechar a medias.
(Alargandole la mano.) LQuieres? 1

El palacio triste is superficially a fairy-tale

type of play, but the protagonist is a very down-to-earth

young princess who fits perfectly into the pattern of Mar-

tinez Sierra's modern woman. Princess Marta had left the

palace three years before at the age of twelve to look for

the meaning of life. She became tired of her idle life
and of her sterile knowledge, and decided that she would

explore the world for herself. Like the Martinez Sierra

heroine, she is brave and her main defense is action. After

three years, she returns to the palace but finds that little

has changed in her absence. She tells her little brothers
about the wonderful things that exist outside their limited

world. She tells them that outside of their fairy-tale
lies reality and that it is beautiful. Martinez Sierra's

optimism and lyrical expression are most apparent in Marta's

speech to her little brothers:

No hay duendes, no, pero en el coraz6n de la tierra
estAn guardados los tesoros; no hay ninfas en las
fuentes ni dentro de los Arboles, pero los Arboles
dan sombra y buen olor, y muchos, fruta para comer y
esencias, y flores que sirven de adorno y de remedio,
y las fuentes tienen el agua clara, que es limpieza
y salud y vida de la tierra; no hay hadas en los bos-
ques, pero si los nifios pierden el camino y se les
echa encima la noche, le encuentran sin que lo diga
nadie. 1

Marta is the practical girl who had been frustrated

with her studies in the palace for they seemed unrelated

to life. She has a burning desire to earn a living and

be independent. Rather than be a parasite, she wants to

work for what she has. She is prouder of her little cot-

tage in the woods than of her palace, for she has worked

for it, and feels a pride of accomplishment and ownership.

The doll that she will buy with the money she has worked

to save will be dearer to her than the hundreds of dolls

she has been given in the palace, because she will have

worked and sacrificed to get it:

INo seforl Ahora tengo una casa mia, toda de madera,
chiquita como un pufo, pero donde hago siempre lo que
me da la realisima gana; y al lado de la casa un
huerto chico tambien, con una parra que da uvas blan-
cas y otra que da uvas negras, y un cerezo, y un
guindo, y un peral, y un manzano, y un cuadro de ju-
dias y otro de berzas y otro de guisantes, y muchi-
simas flores, y una colmena para que las abejas hagan
miel, y una cabra que d& leche tibia, icon una espumal
(A Juan.) Si, si, relAmete, y un borriquillo para
llevar la fruta y la verdura que me sobran al mercado
y comprar con los cuartos que me dan una porci6n de

1Gregorio Martinez Sierra, El palacio triste (New York:
Ginn and Co., 1921), p. 30.

cosas: ropa, jab6n, cintas para el mofo, libros de
cuentos, estampas, papel de escribir, esta gargantilla
de crystal. IQu6 s6 yol Con lo quo ahora ahorre de
aqui al invierno quiero comprarme una muneca asi de
grande. 1

Marta has come back to get her brothers and their
mother so that they may live happily together, each con-
tributing something to the life and happiness of the others.
The normal family group that works and loves in harmony is
Marta's dream.. She, her mother and her brothers, will

live far from the dark palace in the light of liberty and

love, where their mother may share their dreams as well
as their table and where she may kiss them when she wishes:

Marta: Nos marchamos todos ahora mismo.
Teodora: LTodos?
Marta: Augusto, Reinaldo, Juan, td, yo ...
Teodora: Si, hija, si ...
Lejos de este palacio, de este tediol a vivir solos,
libres; It con nosotros, madrel
Teodora: LDunde, hija?
Marta: Con nosotros ... donde puedas besarnos siempre
que te lo pida el coraz6n. 2

Marta, even at fifteen, is a person of decision
and action. She seeks responsibility rather than protection.
She epitomizes the Martinez Sierra heroine in her search

for love, responsibility and freedom:

(ravemente.) Van a vivir fuera de este palacio triste,
lejos del tedio, al aire, al sol, fuera de las palabras
que no quieren decir nada indudable, con libertad, con
responsabilidad, con amor, con deberes que sirven de
algo, con leyes que no vengan de libros viejos, pasando
por bocas de maestros que no las entienden, sino que naz-
can en el fondo mismo de sus conciencias. IVan a vivir
como hombresi IPaso francol 3

p. 31 .I., p.34. 37

lIbid p. 31*

2Ibid., p. 54.

3bidi., p* 37.


In the Martinez Sierra theatre there are a series

of heroines who seem to be more admirable because they

work to support themselves. Unlike Rosario of Suefio de

una noche de agosto and Fernanda of Seamos felices, who

want to work to prove a point, these heroines work from
pure financial necessity.

Madame Pepita in the play by the same name has

established a very lucrative dressmaking business and has

supported herself and her daughter for many years. In

La mujer del h&roe, Mariana supports not only herself and

her several children on the proceeds from her ironing

shop, but she supports her husband as well. The title

character of La suerte de Isabelita has worked long and

hard in a shop which makes artificial flowers, and dreams

of winning the national lottery and taking life easy.

When her dreams come true and she wins the premio gordo,

she quits her job to take a trip abroad. She falls in

love on board ship with a wealthy Spaniard who believes

that she is his social equal. When Isabelita disillusions

him with the truth of her background, they separate and
Isabelita, having spent all of her money, returns to the
flower shop where she is loved and respected for herself,

not for her station or money. Juan, Isabelita's shipboard

sweetheart, meanwhile, has become aware of her true nobility

of spirit and comes to the flower shop to ask her to be his


Vida y dulzura, written in collaboration with the

Catalan artist and writer, Santiago Rusifol, was Martines
Sierra's first dramatic effort to be seen on the boards.

Julia, the heroine of the play, must have been the

prototype of what was called, derisively or admiringly,
the modern woman around the turn of the century. She has
an education that had formerly been accorded only to men.

She expresses her convictions forthrightly and without
apology, for she feels that they may be of some interest

or value to others. Gay, witty and like a catalyst at
works she manages to convert the men, at least, to her

philosophy of life, which includes large measures of

laughter, love and the enjoyment of life. She is married
to a city dramatist but has come unaccompanied to the

country to visit her relatives and to get some rest and

fresh air. In spite of her independence and erudition,

she is attractively feminine and completely human. Unlike
her scholarly relatives whose research seems unconcerned
with humanity, she feels that learning should make life

happier or more beautiful. To the extent that she thinks

that all things should be useful, she is a pragmatist. The
most important factor in life, she feels, is love, for with-

out it, nothing else can matter. Sterile wisdom is a com-
modity she thinks the world can do without. She sums up

her philosophy of life this ways

IPero 6scuchenme, infelices! Si no hablan Uds. nunca
de amor, ZC6mo pasan la vida en este pueblo? ISi el
amor es lo unico que vale la pena de viviri ISi todo
va a parar lo mismol Que ya no hablen los viejos, lo
comprendo; pero Plinio, y Uds. ... ILos j6venesl
1Que lAstima les tengol Suerte que no lo dicen Uds.
en serio, porque si no,seria una cosa de renegar de la
sabiduria. 1

The philosophy of Genio alegre of the Quintero
brothers is similar to the one expressed in Vida y dulzura.
Consolaci6n puts it in these words:

Yo he hecho siempre, y hago, y har6 todo lo possible
para alegrar mi vida y la de aquellos que me rodean.
Alegrar la vida es quererla, y quererla es una manera
de adorar a Dios que nos la ha dado. Conv6nzase Ud.
don Eligio: El que estA alegre es mAs noble, mAs
bueno, menos egoista, mas fuerte. 2

Both plays put the accent on happiness for the
present. Love and happiness are two terms that seem to
become interchangeable in both plays.

After reading Vida y dulzura and noting the per-
sonality and attitudes of Julia, Maria Martinez Sierra's
commentary on Santiago Rusinol's opinion of women is
interesting and suggests that his role in the composition
of the play was a minor one:

1Gregorio Martinez Sierra, Obras completes, I, 34.

2Serafin y Joaquin Alv&rez Quintero, Obras com-
pleta, II, "El genio alegre" (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe,
. A., 1947), 1689.

En sus comedies, en sus novelas, en sus ensayos no
hay mAs que hombres ... y algin suave y desvanecido
fantasma de mujer. Porque a las mujeres nunca nos
entendi6. Nos tenia por series irresponsables, sin
otra virtud que la instintiva de la abnegaci6n mater-
nal, lindos p&jaros que cruzan la vida del hombre can-
tando, para adormecerle, canciones sin sentido, lloran-
do cuando quieren lograr un capricho, gatas que saben
ronronear imitando el arrullo de'la paloma, y que, a
mitad de arrullo, dan un arafazo ... por el gusto de
afilarse las ufias; flores en el Jardio de] hombre,
pero flores cuyo perfume hay que respirar sin demasiada
insistencia porque suelen dar jaquecas molestas. ...
Un dia le ol decir, ly con qu6 convencimientol "La
mujer no ha nacido para ser la perdici6n del hombre;
la mujer no ha nacido para la felicidad del hombre; la
muter ha nacido para m6lestar al hombre." Sentia
hacia las hembras p&nico mortal, no por fatales, sino
por insoportables. Y en toda su obra se nota este des-
d6n tan profundo y sincero que llega en ocasiones a
ser compasivo. A veese-pocas--al estudiar un tipo
de mujer del pueblo, su claridad de vision le hace
casi topar con la fuente escondida, pero aun entonces
no comprende del todo lo que va diciendo el agua que
corre, Siempre hemos leido las comedies que estabamos
escribiendo y le hemus pedido su opinion y consejo por-
que era maestro en tecnica dramatica y consejero y cri-
tico leal. Y recuerdo que al escuchar el tercer acto
de nuestro "Amanecer" exclam6 indignadisimo: I"Ese
final inverosimill INo hay mujer capaz de alegrarse
de que su marido se quede sin dinerol" No podia career
en el desinteres de mujer ninguna. Su antifeminismo
era el de la vieja copla andaluza: "De la costilla
del hombre hizo Dios a la mujer para darnos a los hom-
bres ese hueso que roer." 1

Since it seems unlikely that Rusiiol would have

created such a character as Julia, and since she is so

typical of the heroines to follow in the theatre of Grego-
rio Martinez Sierra, it would seem likely that she was the

creation of the latter. Indeed, the entire play may have
been largely his. Rusiiol was a generous artist, always

karia Martinez Sierra, Gregorio y yo, pp. 51-52.

ready to help and encourage young talent. Martinez Sierra
had not succeeded in having his plays performed because he

had become known to empresarios through his Modernist
poetry, and a Modernist, at that time, was considered to

be an incurable idealist who wrote lyric and symbolic works
that were not understood by the respectable pfblico. Since
the life blood of the empresarios was the box office, their

attitude was understandable. When, however, so formidable

and popular an artist as Santiago Rusifol was willing to

place his name in collaboration with the young playwright,
the staging was assured.

Rusiiol wrote a Catalan version of the play called

Els savis de Vila Trista (Los sabios de Villa Triste)

which opened in Barcelona simultaneously with the Spanish

version in Madrid. Rosario Pino, who was considered the

best actress of the day, played the part of Julia and doubt-
less contributed greatly to the success of the work. So it
was through the generosity of a friend that Martinez Sierra
got his opening into the theatre and it was largely thanks
to a woman's role and the actress who interpreted it that
his career as a dramatist was successfully launched.

Isabel, of La pasi6n, has a nature that is dreamy,
sweet and fiery at the same time. She is very feminine

but treasures her liberty. She is an actress, as her mother
was before her, and is about to make the same mistake that
her mother made. Her mother had fallen in love with an

adventurer who left her with a daughter to rear alone.

Although she knows first-hand the problems that befall the

offspring of a socially unsanctioned love affair, she

persists in being unconventional. She goes out alone for

walks when she wants to and insists on continuing the re-

lationship with Alfredo, a very immature and selfish young
man, in spite of the counsel of Pascual, an older friend

of the family. In this case, her love of independence and
liberty bring her unhappiness, a rather novel idea in the

plays of Martinez Sierra. Perhaps he wanted to convey
that liberty for women must be tempered with judgement

and a sense of responsibility, and that equality simply
for the sake of promiscuity was not what he had in mind.

Isabel continues to flaunt convention and ultimately'has
Alfredo's child outside of wedlock. On the eve of the

opening of an important play in which Isabel has the lead-

ing role, a friend tells her that Alfredo plans to marry

the very unattractive daughter of a wealthy politician for

he needs the money. Al this moment, Alfredo enters and

confesses sheepishly that what she has heard is true, but

that he sees no reason for them to change their relationship.

Isabel, crushed by the realization that she has ruined her

life and at least hampered the chances for a happy life for
her daughter, attempts to end her baby's life and her own

by jumping from the balcony. A family friend, Pascual,
whose entrance is perfectly timed, stops her and tries to

calm her* He reminds her that it is time to go to the

theatre, suggesting that her salvation is in dedicating

herself to work, at least for the present. The rehabili-

tative power of work is an oft-repeated message.

Another working girl, Teresa, of Torre de marfil,

has a similar problem. She meets the Marqu6s Gabriel, who

has been completely dominated all his life by his mother.

She responds to his need to be loved, but hers is not the

consuming passion that Isabel felt in La pasi6n. Sensing

the great tragedy in Gabriel's life and his lack of will

and strength, she responds protectively, almost maternally.

In a way, she becomes the mother he has always wanted and

gives him the tenderness and belief in himself that he has

always needed. For several months, the marques and Teresa

live happily on the money he has left and on what Teresa

earns as a seamstress. Gabriel, who had been a student,

has abandoned his classes. The marquesa, his mother, at

last finds out where he is and when she comes to get him,

he faints and is carried unconscious from the little home

that he and Teresa have happily shared without any blessing

but that of their mutual love. In the months to follow,

Gabriel is sick and delirious. Teresa writes him telling

him of the son they have had and that she has almost died,

but the letters are intercepted by Gabriel's mother. When

Gabriel is better, Teresa comes to the house and tells him

of her letters and their contents. He seems to gather

strength from knowing of Teresa's deep and sincere love and

of their child. For the first time in his life, he has

responsibilities and feels that he is a man. He decides to

leave his idle existence and his domineering and scheming

mother for a life of honor and happiness with those he loves.

These two plays, La passion, written in 1914 and

Torre de marfil, written in 1924, deal with the illegiti-

mate child, although this theme is subordinate to the main

plot. In the first play, Isabel makes a mistake in judge-

ment and suffers for it. The basic as well as the social

inequality of the sexes is shown in that Isabel must accept

the responsibility of their child and is made to feel guilt

while Alfredo feels neither responsibility nor guilt. He

is even left free to marry whom he pleases. His reputation

is left intact and if anything, is enhanced by the knowledge

that a beautiful young actress has lost her head over him.

In Torre de marfil, the treatment is somewhat different.

Teresa does not flaunt her freedom simply because she feels

entitled to it, as Isabel does in La pasi6n. She gives

Gabriel her love because that seems to be the most natural

thing to do. Her actions have no overtones of feminism but

are the actions of a kind and generous girl who loves another

more than she loves herself. She shows the spirit of feminism

in her refusal to accept defeat when Gabriel is taken from

her and knows that he loves her and will come to her when

he knows the truth. This play has a happy ending in the

reunion of Gabriel and Teresa. Teresa has suffered

temporarily but we are led to believe that great happiness

awaits her. In the case of Isabel, we feel that she will

continue to suffer for her mistake in judgement and that

her immediate hope of salvation lies in her career, for

work is a healing balm.

In La pasi6n as well as in El coraz6n ciego, there

is an implied criticism of the double standard that pun-

ishes the woman who errs and sets free her equally guilty


La Tirana, of a play by the same name, works as

a singer in a dance hall. The play as well as its heroine

are a combination of realism and idealism. Tirana has

earned her title by being aloof to the attitudes of those

around her and by clinging tenaciously to her own ideals.

She wants to prove that, although she must work for a

living, she is decent and will be respected. Although

she sings suggestive songs and listens to nonsense from

men because it is part of her job, her private life is

above reproach. Her exalted concept of honor is reinforced

by her constant struggle to live a decent life in the midst

of those who would have her follow another pattern.

Although Tirana is idealistic about her responsi-

bility to lead a decorous life, she is realistic about

earning a living. Unlike Rosario of Sueio de una noche

de agosto, she does not work to prove a point; she works

because she has to. Her realism in this respect is con-

trasted to the idealism of Quintin, a young man who loves


Quintin: Gracias a que de todo le consuela a uno la
esperanza, la vision de la gloria future, el ideal ...
Tirana: IEl ideally LY eso con qu& se come?
Quintin: No se come.
Tirana: Lo siento, chico.
Quintin: IPero se sueial
Tirana: Algo es algo.
Quintin: lEs much, Lucia, muchisimol
Tirana: IAh sil
Quintin: 1E1 ideal, el ideal es una cosa de una impor-
tancia capital
Tirana: IEl ideal, el ideally LAstima grande que no
alimente un poco mas.
Quintin: Yo me consuelo de mis penas sonando con el
Tirana: IPues ya veras cuando te despiertas como te
vas a divertirl 1

A millionaire falls in love with Tirana and wants

to buy her jewels. Tirana is highly insulted and tells him

firmly that although she is poor, she is decent and cannot

be bought at any price. Again the realism of her manner

of speech is contrasted with the idealism of what she feels:

.Pero Ud. se ha creido que la Tirana, porque baila pa'
todos desde unas tablas, y canta cuatro cosas desver-
gonzadas va a perder la vergUenza pa' andar por casa?
IPues ech6 Ud. la cuenta equivocadal lEsos tratos no
sirven con la Tirana, que es mas pobre que nadie, pero
es honradal 2

1Gregorio Martinez Sierra, Obras completes, III,
2bid., p. 178.

When Fernando knows Tirana better, he realizes

that her morals are not just a pose. He loves her and asks

her to marry him. In her case, beauty, virtue and stead-

fastness have rewarded her. They have found her a husband

who loves and respects her and will give her all the com-

forts that she deserves. As usual in the plays of Martinez

Sierra, marriage to a man who respects her as an individual

in her own right is the goal of the heroine. When she has

acquired respect, love and a certain degree of independence,

the play is over.

Fernando sums up the heroine of this play this way:

Si seiores, me caso con la Tirana, con la furia espa-
Kola, con la aberraci6n de la naturaleza, con el enigma
que nosotros, hombres miserables, no acertabamos a de-
cifrar, porque 6ramos indignos de comprenderlo. Esta
mujer feroz, esta rareza, este prodigio contra natura-
leza, era sencillamente una mujer honrada. 1

Carmen, the heroine of Amanecer, is a typical

frivolous debutante in the first act. She has just put on

her first long dress and hopes to be married in a year to

some young man who has not yet been chosen. The flight of

her father after embezzling some funds in his keeping

considerably alters Carmen's future as well as her philos-

ophy of life. She goes to work to help support her mother

and retains her ideals and her honor even when her sister

seems to prosper without benefit of these luxuries. Then

Mariano, the young man Carmen thinks she loves, leaves for

lIbid., p. 185.

a business position in Africa, she is dejected. JuliAn,

her wealthy employer loves her and wants to marry her if

only to make her life easy once more. She refuses at first

because she does not love Julian, but gives in when her

mother takes for granted that she will marry him in order

to save the family. During three years of marriage to

Julian, Carmen is a martyr, for she believes that she has

sacrificed her ideals and has sold herself to JuliAn. She

believes that she loves Mariano until he returns from Africa

and finds her in much improved circumstances. Even though

he knows that she is married, he comes and declares his love

for her. Carmen realizes for the first time how Mariano

suffers in comparison with JuliAn, and that what she thought

was love for Mariano was only a childish illusion. She

knows now that she does love her husband. When JuliAn tells

her that he has lost his money and that she need not share

his poverty, she is almost pleased, for now she may prove

her love by remaining at his side in adversity. She will

become a partner with her husband and help him regain his

lost fortune. No longer must she be the parasite that she

has been since the beginning of the marriage. The stage

directions and final speech of Carmen sum up the importance

of work and the sense of accomplishment and partnership in


(Mira a su marido con inauietud afectuosa. Se levanta
con much cuidado, poni6ndole almohadones .unto a
cabeza, para que no note su ausencia; le besa sobre

el pelo muy levemente. Luego apaga la luz central,
enciende la del portAtil Que hay sobre la mesa y
sent&ndose, empieza a revisar los papeles que ha traido
el criado. y abre los telegramas, tomando notas con l-
piz en un pedazo de papel; levanta los ojos y dice,
con sonrisa de felicidad:) IHoy empieza mi vidal
(Vuelve a leer los telegramas mientras cae el tel6n
muy despacio.) 1

That the woman is happier and the marriage more

stable when husband and wife share responsibilities and

work side by side is an idea portrayed repeatedly not only

in the theatre of Martinez Sierra, but in the novels and

poetry as well. The importance of partnership in marriage

was not just something Gregorio and Maria Martinez Sierra

wrote about; it was something they lived. Perhaps this

explains the frequency with which the theme appears.

Although Marta is only a secondary character in

Amanecer, she has many of the characteristics of the typical

heroine. She is very much the modern woman who wants in-

dependence and equality for herself and other members of

her sex. She plans for herself a career in medicine and

has no intention of allowing another to make so important

a decision for her as whom she will marry. She has her

feminine dream of a handsome Prince Charming, but is

realistic enough to know that such a man may not exist and

that if he did, he might not be attracted to her. Her

speech about independence occurring early in the play inspires

Carmen who at this point may not have thought about such

things before.

Gregorio Martinez Sierra, Obras completes, V, 117*

Carlos: Pero vamos a ver, (DAndose de hombre supe-
rior.) para qu6 necesita Ud. estudiar, siendo tan
Marta: (Con viveza.) Para no tenerme que casar con
un feo.
Carlos: ICon un feo! El hombre mAs buen mozo de Espaia
se merece Ud.
Marta: Es possible: pero, aunque yo me le merezco,
primero tiene que existir, y luego le tengo que encon-
trar, y luego me tiene que gustar, y luego le tengo que
gustar a 61 ... y por si era poco, tiene el hombre que
tener dinero para mantenerme ... y entire tanto, no tengo
una peseta. Conque ya ve Ud. si son dificultades, y si
me sobran motives para querer ganarme la vida,
Carmen: (Con entusiasmo.) IHaces bieni IA mi tambi6n
me gustaria saber much, y servir para algo, y ganar
Dofa Cecilia: (Molesta.) INiia, que dices!
Carmen: Si madre, si; ganar dinero, para que lo que
,uno gasta fuera suyo, y no ten6rselo siempre que agra-
decer a un hombre. Algunas veces, cuando entro en el
despacho de mi padre, y le veo tan preocupado, siempre
haciendo ndmeros, digo: IEs por nosotrasl Si tuviera
hijos en vez de tener hijas, ellos trabajarian tambi4n,
I y nosotras no hacemos mas que gastarl IY cuando
.pienso en eso me da mucha rabiacporque todo esto que
11evo encima me parece que me lo dan- de limosnal 1

Irene, of Cada uno y su vida, has the double task
of working to support herself in medical school and of

retaining her respectability. To help pay expenses for

her schooling, she works for a doctor whose wife looks upon

her as inferior because her family is poor. Carolina, the

doctor's wife, further considers Irene improper because

she is trying to follow a man's career. The doctor points

out to his wife that Irene's academic record in medical

school is superior to that of their son, Carlos, who is
more than mildly interested in Irene. In the face of

1Ibid*, pp. 13-14.


Carolina's coolness and insulting insinuations, Irene is

long-suffering and respectful without ever being subservient.

She is extremely ambitious but would never consider recourse

to marriage to further her career or even make her life

easier. She is very aware of her obligation to the doctor

who had bought her shoes when she was a child and had pro-

vided her with other things her family could ill afford.

Her mother has washed clothes to pay for her first year's

tuition fees. Irene is proud and would like to rise above

her former life and knows that for Carolina she will never

be any more than a laundress's daughter. When she realizes

that she and Carlos are becoming more and more attracted

to each other, she tries to break away. She tells Carlos

that she has decided to leave her job with his father:

Irene: Ud. es el primog6nito de un doctor ilustre ...
que me ha protegido desde que naci; que me ha comprado
botas cuando era niia, por la pena que le daba verme
andar descalza; aceite de higado de bacalao despubs,
por la tristeza que le causabe mirarme en camino de
ser mujer, amarilla de anemia; libros m&s tarde, por
la compasi6n de verme estudiar de prestado; que me ha
tomado como ayudante por la misericordia de que mi ma-
dre se pudiera morir en una cama ganada por su hija ...
Ud. es hijo del hombre a quien mas tengo que agradecer.
Si, me he enterado, uqu6 mujer no se entera? de que le
soy a Ud. ... demasiado agradable ... y por ser Ud.
quien es, no quiero verme en el trance de sufrir un
agravio que no merezco. Tiene Ud. raz6n, por eso me
march* *..
Carlos: ISoy un hombre decentel ...
Irene: Y yo una mujer nada mojigata, ... pero muy or-
gullosa *.. por lo mismo que vengo muy de abajo, quiero
llegar muy alto y sin tener que inclinar la cabeza ...
ante nadie. Por lo cual vale mAs poner tierra por
medic. 1

1Ibid., XIV, 153.


Carolina's daughter, Luz, shocks her mother with

the news that she too would like a career in medicine.

One of the major reasons the heroines in Martinez Sierra

want to work is so that they will not have to marry merely

for the sake of economic expediency. Luz shares the

heroine's role with Irene in that she wants a career. She

envies the independent career girl who is not obligated

to bow to the family's wishes about whom she will marry.

The heroine very much wants equality of opportunity with
men and resents the traditionalist assumption that her

place is in the home, in a position subordinate always to

the man. Equality is an often repeated word and concept

in these plays:

IPor eso quisiera tener una carrera como mi hermano,
como Irene. ... Me da una envidial Ayer dijo papa
que sera una eminencia, un gran m6dico alienista ...
Carolina: ITu hermano Ya lo sabemos, ...
Luz: No, ... ella, ... ya ves, se ganar& su vida y
su fama y el respeto del mundo, igualito que un hom-
bre, ... y se casar& con quien le d6 la gana, ... y
yo, ... por muchos ascos que le haga, ... pues tendr4
que acabar por casarme, ... bien, como dices td. ... 1

Carlota, of El ama de casa, has worked during many

years of her life due to financial necessity, but she en-

joys the feeling of independence and perspective that the

experience has given her. After being a widow for several

years, she marries don Felix, a widower with three nearly

grown children. She has quit her job at the time of her

Ibid., p. 144.


marriage to devote herself to her home, Carlota runs the

house efficiently but has difficulty with the children, who

refuse to accept her. To promote their independence, she

asks her husband to give them a regular allowance, but her

suggestion is misinterpreted and not appreciated:

Gloria: 4Con dinero quieres sobornarnos?
Don Felix: No, hija, no ... es que, veras ...
Carlota me ha dicho esta manana que os debia dar
una cantidad a cada una ... fija ... todos los
meses ... dice que para alfileres. ... A mi no
se me habia ocurrido. ... &Te parece que tendr6is
bastante con cinco duros cada una?
Gloria: IC6mo a la criadal
Don Felix: Pero, hija, si dice ella que es para
evitaros la molestia de tener que pedir para esas
pequefeces de mujer. ... 1

When don Felix despairs and feels that his daughters

will never accept his wife, he suggests that they move to

another house and leave the girls in the care of his sister-

in-law, who has been with them for thirteen years. Carlota

refuses. She asks don Felix to leave everything to her

and to back her in everything she says. She has seen that

kindness and patience have brought her no results, so now

she is deterzieed to show some will. In her first move in

this direction, as mistress of the house, she shows that

she may not be entirely satisfied with her exclusively

domestic duties. She advises don Felix's business manager

that she will assume half of his responsibilities. Her
conversation with him reveals her shrewdness:

lIbid.* I, 229.

Carlota: Es decir, que desde ahora voy yo a echar
una mano a las obligaciones: Ud. sigue encargado
del taller, y yo ire allA los sabados a pagar los
jornales; Ud. corre los aparatos y yo llevo la con-
tabilidad; Ud. hace los cobros, y yo los pagos, por-
que todas las cuentas me las manda Ud. a casa ... o,
lo que es lo mismo; que este banquito va a tener
tres patas: inventor, corredor y administrator.
Patricio: Eso ser& si a mi me conviene.
Carlota: Naturalmente, y sentiria much que no le
conviniera a Ud. porque no hay otro medio.
Patricio: Eso es decirme que aqui estoy yo de mas.
Carlota: IQui&, no sefor; si es Ud. un hombre muy
listo ... y muy utill
Patricio: Tantas gracias.
Carlota: No hay de que. &Hace o no hace?
Patricio: (Con mal humor.) tEstos no son asuntos
para senorasT
Carlota: Ay, amigo, va en gustos: Itengo yo una
pasi6n por la partida doblel De modo que esta tarde
me trae Ud. aqui el libro de Caja, y el Mayor, y el
Diario, o los que haya, y si no hay ninguno, que no
me asombraria, todos los papelotes que Ud. tenga, y
verA Ud. la mafa que me doy para abrir una contabi-
lidad. *.. 1

After having taken care of the business, she

proceeds to clear the air with doia Genovena, don Felix's

sister-in-law, who has resented greatly her loss of status
as the ama de casa. Carlota makes it quite clear that she

expects her domestic efficiency to become the rule and
will tolerate no return to disorder. When doia Genovena
feels insulted and obliged to leave, Carlota makes no move

to stop her. Her next project is to establish a rapport
with the daughters. Carlota makes Gloria wash the make-up

from her face and comb her hair in a style more suitable

for her age. When her sister, Laura, tries to elope with

Ibid., pp. 233-234.

her sweetheart to escape her stepmother, she fails because

her fiance is unwilling and reveals the plan to Carlota.

Carlota tells Felix to get Laura and not lecture her; she

knows that Laura will be feeling sufficient shame.

The last problem on her list is one with Pepe,

her stepson. He is going through the minor emotional

crisis of thinking that he is in love with Carlota. She

decides that engineering school for him in Belgium for two

or three years would be advisable and profitable. When

Carlota has established her authority in the home, life

there begins to run very smoothly.

In Esperanza nuestra, several character types seem

to be unusual, as the carping grandmother and the strong

idealistic man, but the heroine runs true to form. While

Rosina does not have the important role generally given

to the heroine, she has the qualities of strength, pride

and independence indispensable to being the heroine in

these plays. Rosina is the illegitimate daughter of Fuen-

santa and don Carlos. Carmita and Lorenzo, the latter's

grown children, discover an old picture of Fuensanta,

obviously an old flame of their father's, in a forgotten

chest. At that particular moment, Rosina appears at the

door looking for Don Carlos. They notice that she has the

same eyes and hair that they admired in Fuensanta's photo-

graph and suspect the truth. Fuensanta, on her death bed,

had told Rosina to resist temptation so that she might


lead an easier life than had been her own. She told her

that if she ever desperately needed help, to go to don

Carlos, but she encouraged her to live independently and

honestly without expecting favors from anyone. Gabriel,

Rosina's sweetheart, tells her that he wants to marry her

but that his family opposes the match because she has no

father. The people with whom Rosina lives show no personal

interest in Rosina and allow Gabriel too much freedom to

come and go. Fearing that she will be compromised, she

has come to don Carlos as a last resort. Though don Carlos

is mildly touched by Rosina's beauty and her striking re-

semblance to her mother, he treats her impersonally and

tells her that he will see what can be done and not to

worry. When it becomes apparent that Gabriel's interest

in Rosina is the political favor that he may gain through

don Carlos, Rosina shows her true strength of character

and independent spirit. Heeding the last words of her

mother to stand proudly on her own two feet, she renounces

Gabriel, although this apparently leaves her quite alone.

She has the integrity and character typical of the Martinez

Sierra heroine, and in the same tradition, her virtue is

rewarded. Carmita and Lorenzo, recognizing her nobility

of spirit as well as their need to help her, welcome her

into the family and share with her what has rightfully been

hers for many years.

As has been said, Rosario, played by Catalina B&r-
cena in the original staging of Esperanza nuestra, does not

command the attention and dominate the action that the

typical feminine lead does in so many Martinez Sierra

plays. The explanation, perhaps, is that social implica-

tions take precedence over those concerned primarily with

women and their specific attributes and ambitions. The

author wanted to show the injustice that allows inherited

wealth to make slaves of tennant farmers who have no choice

but to work the land and accept what little the owners

decide to pay them. The workers themselves, who are re-

sponsible for the profits, do not share the benefits. It

is rather the landowners who prosper in leisure. Carmita

and Lorenzo feel great guilt that they have lived in ease

at the price of poverty for others. The latter feels it

so acutely that he decides to leave home and do his part

to compensate for the injustices of his father. While

Lorenzo does not succeed, in the course of the play at

least, in bringing his father to his own type of idealism,

he does get him to consent to some changes. There may even

be some hope for don Carlos, who, unlike his mother, places

greater value on keeping his son than his fortune. The

ending, however, is rather Unusual for this author. A tip-

ical situation would have had don Carlos converted to be-

come a defender of the rights of the people. In this play,

one feels that don Carlos is doing the right thing for the
wrong reason. He will help the people only because he can-
not bear to lose his son. The triumph of Lorenzo's ideal-
ism seems incomplete since he can enlist only the financial
aid of his father.

The heroine of Triangulo, rather than being a

single person, is the result of the fusion of two quite

different personalities. In the tradition of Don Quixote,

Martinez Sierra uses two women to symbolize two aspects

of the feminine personality. Cervantes has created the

idealist in don Quixote and the realist in Sancho Panza,

two beings who fuse into one in each of us and can never

be separated, for one without the other would be incomplete*

Diana and Marcela conform to the same general pattern in

that the former is a primitive type while the latter is

extremely refined and ladylike. Were their two personali-

ties combined, Diana and Marcela would form the perfect


Diana is Faustino's first wife whom he loses on a

shipwreck while they are on their honeymoon. She is out-

going and violent and knows how to make herself loved.

She is aggressive, self-assured and frankly sensual. She

is completely open in her emotions although she has been

taught to hide them in the best European tradition. To

accentuate her primitive nature, Martinez Sierra has her

spared in the shipwreck to live four years with a tribe

of negro natives who accept her as a goddess. When she is

finally brought back to civilization by a flier who had

been forced to make a landing in the jungle, she is well

tanned and carries a crocodile skin filled with precious

stones. She is annoyed with chic clothes now after the

simplicity of the jungle. She tells a friend:

Margarita: IYo que pensaba que una de las cosas que
mAs te alegrarlan de haber vuelto al mundo civilizado
serian los trapitos elegantesi IC6mo eras tan coqueta!
Diana: Te dire. Me gustan los trapos, pero me molesta
la ropa.
Margarita: (Muy divertida.) IJa, ja, jal
Diana: IEl ideal seria poder ir muy compuesta y des-
nudal 1

After the supposed death of Diana, Faustino has

married Iarcela, a girl who in many ways is the opposite

of his first wife. He was very much in love with Diana,

but he married a different type of girl this time because

perhaps unconsciously he felt the lack of sweetness and

softness in Diana and has married Marcela to compensate

for this lack. Faustino had felt that he was happy with

both women, but both had felt that he needed something that

each was unable to supply, for each had asked him anxiously:

Marcela: ... Con saber que eres feliz, me basta.
(Le mira a los ojos. cogi6ndole por las solapas.)
.Eres feliz?
Faustino: (Sincero.) INo sS que le voy a pedir a la
Marcela: (Tan triste como Diana en el primer acto.)
INo eres feliz1 2

Diana is independent and in the tradition of the

modern woman, makes a life for herself outside of her home

and has interests other than her husband's happiness. For

Marcela, there is no other life than the one she shares

with her husband. She identifies herself with him to the

point of seeing him in the mirror rather than herself.

1 XI 89. 2Ibid 58.
Ibid., XIV, 89. Ibid. p. 58.

IAunque tengamos cientol Td eres td, y seras siempre
lo primero en mi coraz6n; el motive y la explicaci6n
de mi vida. ... Te voy a decir una cosa, pero no te
pongas tontoo Muchas veces, al mirarme al espejo, en
vez de verme a mi, te veo a til IYa ves si te debo
llevar dentrol 1

One evening, after the complicating and incredible

return of Diana, Marcela puts on a kind of white tunic

dress that accentuates and complements her angelical nature*

When Faustino sees her, he believes that he has made his

choice and that he must have the quiet affection and consol-

ing devotion that she can give him. Just when he believes

that he has made his decision, Diana appears in a low cut,

intensely red gown that seems to give a tawny glow to her

dark skin. The cut and color of the dress, the gold at

her throat, ears and wrists suggests an elegant wild savage.

When Faustino sees her, his animal nature responds and he

suddenly believes that it is Diana that he loves and needs.

Then he realizes that he needs both of them; that together,

they satisfy all of his physical and spiritual needs and

that one of them now would be incomplete. He thinks that

in another society or in another age, the three of them

could live very happily together, but here and now it would

be unthinkable. Faustino discusses the problem with his

father, don Gerardo:

1Ibid.s p. 71.

Faustino: (Fatal.) INo s& cual de las dos me gusta
Don Gerardo: (Inefable.) IHombre, .** hasta cierto
punto ... es natural!
Faustino: :Es tr&gicol
Don Gerardo: Claro, si, ... desde cierto punto de
vista. ...
Faustino: (Sombrio.) ILas dos, las dos! Marcela, .**
claro, ... siempre me ha parecido bien, muy bien. ...
Don Gerardo: (Admirativo.) IEs una estatual
Faustino: IPrecisamente! Una estatua admirable, ...
mas, ... una imagen. A veces, ... lo confieso, ...
he echado de menos en su perfecci6n un poco de human
desequilibrio, de pasi6n pecadora, de ..* Ino s6 si
me comprendesl
Don Gerardo: (Que le escucha con los o.ios muy abier-
tos y la boca de par en par.) Sigue, ... sigue .
Faustino: iPero ahora, ... ahora, ... no se qu6
tiene, ... parece otra, ... me mira de un modo tan,
tan, ... le arden los ojos con un fuego tan, tan, ..
entorna los ojos y se muerde los labios despacito, ...
y a mi, ... soy un salvaje ... se me va la cabeza,
veo en el aire chispas, me dan vertigos, ... me abo-
fetearia a mi mismo, pero me dan v6rtigosl
Don Gerardo: (Comprensivo.) IHombre, despu6s de todo,
estabais todavia en la luna de miell
Faustino: (Desesperado.) Si, pero es que la otra me
.dA mareos. Siempre me habia vuelto un poco tarumba.
Don Gerardo: (Recordando, ilusionado.) IEra una cen-
Faustino.: Es que ahora es un volcAn. &Te has fijado?
En vez de decir lAyl dice iAul Un sonido extrafio, gu-
tural, de la selva. ... ICuando la oigo, me da un
escalofrio! iY luego, ese color tostado que es suyo
y no es suyol ... esa elasticidad de movimientos; pa-
rece una pantera, un tigre, ... se queda quiet y se
estira despacio, despacio, ... y yo, ... Isoy un mise-
rable! Ipero pierdo el sentidol IY me siento antro-
p6fagol 1

Faustino, realizing that there is no solution to

his problem, decides to go away. It is as if the author

had arrived at the final scene of his drama without being

able to solve the problems that he had created for his

lIbid., pp. 109-110.

characters. In desperation, that perhaps reflects the
desperation of the author, Faustino addresses the public:

AD6nde voy? He pasado la noche en el Palace, he
comprado este par de maletas, he tomado billete
circular-combinado, ... tren, *.. vapor, ... auto-
car, ... avi6n, ... para las cinco parties del mundo,
... pero 4d6nde voy yo? LDe qu6 me sirve salir de
Madrid, de Espana, de Europa, del planet, si no
puedo salir de mi mismo? 1Y no puedo, no puedol
CMira con desvazi en derredor de su persona como
buscando resquicio por donde escapar.) Y dentro de
mi mismo (Con desolacibn.) est&n las dos, ... Ilas
dos! Seiores, ic6mo se libra un hombre de esta ob-
sesi6n? Amigos, entire tantbs ... iluminenme. 4Qu6
hace un hombre cuando le gustan por igual dos muje-
res que, lay! son su mujer? Seflores, c6mo se libra
un caballero, ... Iporque soy un per ecto caballerol
de dos seforas? (Parece escuchar a un espectador.)
Elegir una de ellas, impossible. Adoro alas dos y
las dos me adoran. La ley me quita a Marcela, y Diana
no quiere ampararse en la ley. Si enganase a la una
con la otra y a la otra con la una, seria pagar con
una deslealtad el amor que me tienen. iEstablecer
un turno pacifico? Presumo que no iban a querer.
lConsolarse con otra? (Con horror.) INo, no, not
iUn cilicio m&sl IVade retro, Satands! Senores, por
el amor de Dios, ... senores, entire todos ustedes, ...
tuna soluci6nl 1

When he hears Diana call him and realizes that
she is pursuing him, he leaps from the stage to become a
spectator. He does this rather than make a decision. When
Diana sees that Faustino has left the stage, she knows that
the end has come and that the comedy, if it can be called
that, is over.

The heroine, as she must have been portrayed by
the actress Catalina BArcena, is a lively Spanish girl who
is not content to accept the traditions and conventions

1lid. p. 119.
Ib~id.~ p. 119.

that have ruled her mother's life. She is strongly in-

dividual and feels the need for expressing herself, her

talent or her intellect outside of her home. While a

career can never replace marriage and motherhood for her,

she often feels that the best way to occupy her time

until the right man comes along is to work. After mar-
riage, she often collaborates with her husband in his

business or profession or she may choose some career that
will not take her too far from home. The heroine, unlike

the ingenue, knows what she wants and how to get it. Un-

like the conservative mother, she is free of religious

dogmatism and would like to break with the traditions of

the past, especially with regard to her right to a career,

and to marry for love. She is a self-assured young woman

who very much knows where she wants to go and is in com-

mand of herself at all times. The heroine, as seen in

these plays, was more of a symbol of woman's aspirations

than a reality in the author's lifetime.


The pervading theme of almost all of Gregorio
Martinez Sierra's plays is the idealization of womanhood,
and to him, the maternal instinct is the essence of
femininity and is its loftiest expression. In many works,
such as El reino de Dios, Navidad, and especially Cancifn
de cuna, femininity and the maternal instinct are equated
and almost inseparable. It seems strange that Maria Mar-
tines Sierra, who probably contributed greatly to the
creation of the characters of the works published under
the name of her husband, never wanted children of her own:

Siempre engendr6 en mi espiritu tedio insufrible
jugar a las mufecas. Por lo visto, faltAbame el
instinto maternal. Jamas jam&s, ni adn en el mas
sincere de mis "trances" de amor, he sonado con
tener en los brazos a un hijo de mi care y de mi
sangre. Jugar con mi teatro de cart6n era mi gran
deleite, 1

The maternal feeling she claims not to have in her
private life emerges eloquently and beautifully in the
plays that she helped her husband to write. Perhaps she

1Maria Martinez Sierra, Gregorio y yo, pp. 26-

channeled her creativeness and her maternal instinct into

her literary output and looked upon the plays that she

and her husband produced somewhat as a parent regards his

children, and she was satisfied. Almost unfailingly, the

admirable female characters are endowed with a deep

maternal feeling that is idealized in a delicate, almost

romantic way. Despite Maria's disavowal of her own ma-

ternal instinct, it seems unlikely that the sentiments

expressed in the theatre on this theme are shallow or in-

sincere. They are too often repeated to be dismissed as

mere theatricalism.

The maternal theme is apparent on almost every page

of Canci6n de cuna. In this, Martinez Sierra's most suc-

cessful work, we find a group of women, all nuns, who have

been denied the natural outlet of their basic and common

need to mother. Even before the arrival of the baby, Teresa,

who is to fill this need, in some measure, the novices are

portrayed in the role of children who consider the Prioress

a mother. Martinez Sierra capitalizes on the very struc-

ture of the religious house here. The nuns are sisters

and they have a mother to guide them. The nuns keep the

subordinate roles that they had known in their families

before they entered the convent, so the community remains

much like a family might that has never given thought to

the marriage of the daughters. The Mother Superior treats

her charges like a loving mother treats her own children

in that she guides them gently and is indulgent with their

minor transgressions. She feels that their laughter and
joviality are normal manifestations of their youth, and

defends them lovingly against the Vicaress, who is inclined

to be more severe:

Vicaria: (uy humilde.) Lo que todas sabemos,
reverenda madre: que la bondad de vuestra reve-
roncia es inagotable.
Priora: 4A su reverencia le Desa que lo sea?
Vicaria: (Remilgada.) For ml, no; que con la
ayuda del Senor, procuro cumplir mi obligaci6n,
ajust&ndome a la letra y al espiritu de nuestra
Santa Regla; pero no faltarg quien, alentada por
tanta indulgencia, pueda resbalar, y aun caer. ...
Priora: 4Es que tiene su reverencia algo que pro-
clamar determinadamente? Si es asi, hable.
Vicaria: Vengo observando, y el Sefor me perdone
la malicia, que de algdn tiempo a esta parte, en
la comunidad abundan esas tentaciones de risa que
unida a otras manifestaciones de regocijo, no menos
extemporaneas, demuestra cierto relajamiento en la
virtud de la circunspecci6n.
Priora: No se preocupe Ud. por eso. La providencia
se ha servido dltimamente traernos al rebaio ovejue-
las j6venes, y triscan un poquillo por los prados
del Seior; pero no llevan malicia las pobres. 4No
es Waste el parecer de la sefora maestra de novicias? 1

At the outset of the play, the novices, who live

in the protected and rather unnatural life of the convent,

have not felt acutely the void that might have troubled
them in time. Sor Juana feels lonely and incomplete early
because she is accustomed to caring for little ones. She
reminisces wistfully about caring for her younger brothers
and sisters:

1Gregorio Martinez Sierra, Obras completes, II,

Itis veces he cantado yo eso, lavando los panales
de mi hermano el pequefol Porque somos siete, y yo,
la mayor. 1Y lo que es Ase,(Con entusiasmo.) me
tiene dada a mi mas guerral (Limpi&ndose los ojos
con las manos.) IAy, Seoor, siempre se me saltan
las lgrimas cuando me acuerdo del dichoso criol
IMas malo esl Pero me quiere a mi mas que a mi
madre, y el dia que salil de casa para venir aqui,
itom6 una perral 1

It is in Sor Juana that we see all that is

beautiful and ideal associated with the maternal instinct.

Her hunger for a child is so great that she imagines that

she receives the Lord as a little child when she receives

Holy Communion.

In the tradition of the Spanish mystic, she feels

this real presence acutely, except that there is a reversal
of roles. San Juan de la Cruz and Santa Teresa, for

example, feel themselves enveloped and protected in the

arms of their Lord, while Sor Juana imagines that she is

comforting the baby Jesus and that she holds him close

in her arms and asks his mother's help to stop his crying.

She longs to sing him lullabies:

... Yo, siempre que comulgo, me figure que recibo
al Sefor en figure de nifo, y asi lo aprieto contra
el coraz6n y me parece que como es tan pequefo y
tan desvalido, no me puede negar cosa que le pida.
Y luego se me antoja que llora, y le pido a la Virgen
que me ayude a callarlo. Si no fuera porque me df
vergUenza y porque se iban a reir de mi, le cantaria
coplas. 2

1lbid., p. 161. 2Ibid., p. 162.

This play might be compared to an opera in which

the idealization of motherhood is the major theme and is

sung by Sor Juana. The other nuns, who are all affected
in one or another way by the stifling of their innate
needs, form the chorus or the background.

Before the arrival of the baby, Sor Maria Jesds

suffers unexplained spells of melancholy, falls asleep

during the singing of the choir and has no appetite. After

examining her and finding that she has been in the convent

for two years and is now only eighteen, the doctor seems

to favor sending her home to get married, but prescribes

an alternate remedy of daily cold showers and exercises.

The implication is that under normal circumstances, all

of her yearnings would be expressed naturally and that

perhaps this novice would be better off married and the

mother of several children. She has not as yet found
another outlet for her frustrations and has actually be-

come ill.

Sor Marcela also suffers from melancholy, but has
different manifestations. She is moved to sigh when she

sees flowers in the garden and the blue skies above. She

is reprimanded for keeping a small mirror in her cell and
is accused of vanity, a serious sin for a nun. She ex-

plains, however, that she uses the mirror to catch the

light and make it dance around her cell pretending that it

is a bird or butterfly. She has an almost irresistible

impulse to leap over the walls and plunge into the water

outside or to do other things that a religious does not

do. Instead of yielding to her temptations, she catches

a ray of light and lets it dance as she would like to do.

This sister shows by her actions and her explanations of

them that she longs for the freedom of the world, and

that, like Sor Maria Jesds, perhaps was not truly destined

for the convent.

The Vicaress, in her sour ill-humor, is a good

example of the maternal instinct that has somehow become

frustrated and warped. She unconsciously yearns to be a

mother, but doesn't know how to begin. She craves love

but cannot admit it to herself or to others, so she covers

it up by apparently rejecting love. She criticizes and

nags unduly. She sees the laughter and high spirits of

the novices and is irritated because she is not a part of

their joy. She is the result of frustrated motherhood

that is manifested as the reverse of the kindly under-

standing attitude of the Mother Superior and of Sor Juana,

who are mothers by instinct. The Vicaress expresses her-

self in terms that show that she has neither sense of

humor nor tolerance for the minor foibles of her charges.

She wants to be obeyed and is ignored; she wants to be

loved and is unloved. It is probable that had she married

and had children of her own, she would have treated them

in the same way that she treats the novices. She is, in

fact, rather representative of the conventional Spanish

mother portrayed repeatedly by Martinez Sierra. This

type will be discussed in a later chapter. Like 3ernarda

of Federico Garcia Lorca's La casa de Bernarda Alba, she

is one of those unfortunates who do not know how to en-

dear themselves to others, She fails, partly because she

does not know how to go about getting other people to love

her and partly because she is unable to express the basic

maternal instinct that is out-going and protective at the

same time. She overlooks the fact that often the beginning

of receiving love is giving it. This would never occur to

Sor Juana either, who gives love spontaneously simply be-

cause it is part of her nature*

The end of the first act has almost arrived when

the baby is discovered at the convent door. The reaction

of all the nuns, with the exception of the Vicaress, is

that they want to keep this child, who seems to have ap-

peared miraculously as if in answer to their unspoken

prayer. The legal question is settled when the doctor

offers to adopt the child if the sisters will educate her.

When the bell summons the community to choir, Sor Juana

stays to care for the baby. This short scene tells more

of the tenderness and the beauty of motherhood than many

pages of description or analysis

(Las monjas salen todas. Sor Juana coloca la cesta
en el suelo y se arrodilla delante de ella. Se oye
dentro el rezo que gula una sola monja, y al cual

contestan todas las demAs, incluso Sor Juana de la
oz: (Dentro.) In nominee Patri et Filio et Spiritui
(Sor Juana se santigua 7 dice con las demas monjas:)
Sor Juana y voces: (Dentro.) Amen.
Sor Juana: (A la nia.) IQuA bonita eres, chiquilla,
rical LMe vas tu a querer much, coraz6n?
Voz: (Dentro.) Deus en injutorium meum intended.
Sor Juana: (A la nifa.) !Verdad que si, preciosa,
vida mia?
Voz: (Dentro.) Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui
Voces: (Dentro*) Sicut erat in principio et nunc et
semper et saecula saeculorum. Amen. Alleluia. (Pero
esta vez Sor Juana de la Qruz ya no responded, sino que,
inclinandose sobre la cesta, abraza a la niia apasio-
nadamenteg y dice:)
Sor Juana: IAy, que abre los ojosl IVida, vidital
LA qui6n quieres tf? 1

In the period between acts, the poet reads a poem,

the second stanza of which seems to sum up and emphasize

this play's theme of motherhood. The thoughts expressed

in this stanza apply not only to this play but to several

other Martinez Sierra plays as well:

lAy amor de mujer que asi nos ilusionas, a quien
tanto ofendemos y que tanto perdonasl Ide d6nde
te ha venido tu excelsa caridad? IDe que, sencilla-
mente, eres maternidadl
Si; todos, somos hijos, mujer, para tus brazos.
Tu coraz6n es pan que nos das en pedazos, como
niiosnos diste las miles de tu pecho; siempre
es calor de cuna el calor de tu lecho, aunque lo
prostituya nuestra care villana. IMadre si eres
amante, madre si eres hermana, madre por pura
esencia y madre a todas horas, si con nosotros ries,
si por nosotros lloras, ya que toda mujer, porque
Dios lo ha querido, dentro del coraz6n lleva a un
hijo dormidol 2

Ibid., p. 184.

lIbid., pp. 180-181.

In the second act, Teresa has grown up. She is
an innocent, happy young girl, but perhaps the impulses
of the blood that flows in her veins are stronger than the
influence of the atmosphere that has surrounded her for
eighteen years* She loves the convent and all of her
mothers, but is irrepressibly gay and is drawn to the out-
side world. She has fallen in love and plans to be mar-

ried soon. The nuns are resigned to losing their daughter,
knowing that she has no true vocation for the convent, but

cannot hide their disappointment that she has chosen to
go into the world rather than remain in the community. It

is not for Teresa's sake that they would have her stay;

it is rather because she has been the living expression
of their maternal instinct and when she leaves they will

feel a tremendous void.

The time is approaching for Teresa to marry and

leave her convent home. Before saying good-bye to her com-
munity of mothers, she speaks to Sor Juana alone and it is

apparent that she has been Teresa's special favorites

Teresa: Ahora que estamos solas, bendigame Ud. aparte
de todas, mas que ninguna, porque es Ud. mi madre,
mas que todas juntas.
Sor Juana: LevAntate. (Teresa se levanta.) No digas
eso; en la casa de Dios todas somos iguales.
Teresa: Pero en mi coraz6n es Ud. la primera. No se
ponga Ud. seria porque se lo diga. lQu6 le vamos a
haceri &Ud. quA culpa tiene de que yo a fuerza de
darle guerra, le haya tomado a Ud. este cariiazo? 1

Ibid., p. 207.

Teresa has told her fiance, Antonio, that Sor Juana

is her true mother and introduces him to her through the

convent grille. The scene is a poignantly unforgettable

one that has elements of humor and tenderness mixed with

abundant but restrained love:

Antonio: ANo puedes correr la cortina?
Teresa: No, porque no estoy sola. LA que no aciertas
quien esta conmigo? Mi madre.
Antonio: 4Sor Juana de la Cruz?
Teresa: (A la monja, con alegria porque 41 ha adivi-
nado,) LLo v6 Ud.? (A Antonio.) Sor Juana de la
Cruz, precisamente. Te hemos estado viendo desde
aqui, y dice que te encuentra muy buen mozo.
Sor Juana: iJesfis INo haga Ud. caso a esta cotorral
Teresa: No se apure Ud., madre, que a mi tambi6n
me lo parece.
Antonio: Pues no me lo habias dicho nunca.
Teresa: Es que aqui dentro, como no me ves, no me da
vergUenza. Mira, tenemos que avisar que has llegado;
pero antes dile a mi madre una cosa bonita, que si
te estas ahi con la boca cerrada, despues de las au-
sencias que he hecho de ti, me vas a dejar mal.
Antonio: LQu& quieres que diga?
Teresa: Lo que te pida el coraz6n.
Antonio: Es que no s& si a una religiosa se le puede
decir, aunque el coraz6n lo pida, que se la quiere mu-
Teresa: tAndal Yo se lo digo lo menos un mill6n de
veces al dia.
Antonio: Pues vayan dos millones; porque ha de saber
Ud., sefora, que es impossible conocer a Teresa y no
quererla a Ud.
Teresa: IComo que es un tesoro esta madre que tengol 1

The treatment of the nuns in the 1959 Rodgers and

Hammerstein musical, The Sound of Music, is very reminiscent

of Canci6n de cuna, though this similarity is apparently

only a coincidence. Richard Rodgers, in a personal com-

munication, states that he is unaware of any influence of
the earlier work on the 1959 production:

Ibid., pp. 214-215.

. I blush to say that I have never seen nor
even read Sierra's "Cradle Song," and perhaps it
is just as well* I might have been self-conscious
about treating the sisters as I did. 1

Maria, the heroine of The Sound of Music, is a

novice at the beginning of the play but decides not to

take her vows after being the governess of some children

whose father she comes to love as much as she loves them.

In the convent, Maria is lonely and goes alone into the

hills outside the convent and is often late for services.

She sings in the abbey and wears curlers under her wimple.

The Vicaress disapproves of her actions and feels that she

is not an asset to the community. The Mother Superior is

captivated by Maria's openness and spontaneity and defends

her lovingly in way that parallels the action of Canci6n

de ouna.

Ironically enough, it is in plays having to do with
nuns that the maternal instinct is a prominent factor.

For Martinez Sierra, the physical reality of giving birth
has little to do with being a real mother. We see this

attitude in Canci6n de cuna and see it repeated in El reino

de Dios. Although Sor Gracia has turned her back on

motherhood through natural channels and lives a supposedly

elevated life, she becomes a mother in the purest sense of

the word and is drawn to life in its most indelicate aspect

1Letter from Richard Rodgers, New York, N. Y.,
Oct. 6, 1961.

first in a home for the aged, then in a maternity home

and finally in an orphan asylum.

In the second act of El reino de Dios which takes

place in a home for unwed mothers, Candelas, a very special

kind of mother is portrayed. This dark-skinned girl who

comes from the lowest class of society has just given

birth to an illegitimate child, but by the end of the act

she has won for herself admiration and respect for her

loving and human outlook. She has loved and continues to

love the father of her child, but there is no bitterness

in her because she feels she has expressed herself in a

natural way. In her mind it is no disgrace to have had a

child, and she is sad because it did not live:

Sor Cristina: iYal LY te corria much prisa que en
tu pueblo supieran que estAs en una Casa de Maternidad?
Candelas: (Muy convencida.) lEso no es deshonral
Sor Cristina: No; es un honor muy grande.
Candelas: (Con apasionamiento.) La maternidad no es
ningUn presidio; que no me ha traido la Guardia Civil
por robar ni matar ni hacerle mal a nadie. He vivido
yo por mi voluntad, porque he tenio la desgracia de
querer a un hombre mis de lo que 61 se merece, y de
no haber nacio duquesa o infant de Espafa pa que hu-
biera venio mi hijo al mundo en paiales de oro. 1

In Candelas we see the true maternal instinct

without any of the affectations or fetishes of our so-

called civilized society. She says that if her child had

lived, she would have taken him in her arms and gone out

into the world, proud of having created something. Cande-
las is a natural woman with natural instincts completely

1Gregorio Martinez Sierra, Obras completes, V, 46.

unfettered by convention. Since she is a mother, she can-

not understand how another mother can abandon her child*

Sor Cristina explains that some mothers leave their chil-

dren at the convent and suggests that since her baby has

died, she might care for one of these little ones for six

months. This is her reaction to a mother's abandoning

her child:

ILobas, m&s que lobas! Echar un hijo al turno! ILo
mismo que si fuera un perrol ISi me yega a vivir
er mio, no iba yo a haber sallo por ese port6n con
la frente poco alta, yevAndolo a 41 en brazost 1

In the third act of El reino de Dios, Sor Gracia,

now old, is in an orphanage, where she has been for a

number of years. Suddenly, Juan de Dios, a twenty-year-

old boy, enters. He had grown up at the home but he is

now a bullfighter, and he has just had his first great

success in the ring, where he has been awarded an ear.

He rushes in looking for his mother, Sor Gracia. He at

last has something of value and he wants to share it with

her and honor her with it.. For Juan de Dios, the bloody

ear he was awarded for his bravery is the greatest gift

he can give her. This scene, in the hands of a less skill-

ful dramatist, could have been ridiculous. Here, it is

full of pathos and truth, and is very tender. The real

mother of Juan de Dios abandoned him but Sor Gracia took

him in and loved him, and did all the things a real mother

is supposed to do:

Ibid. p. 47.

Juan de Dios: IRiase usted, madrel (Con orgullo,
pasando un brazo por encima de los dos hombros de
Sor Gracia y mirando hacia el patio.) Porque 6sta
es mi madre ... esta, esta, esta ... la otra me
ech6 al turno y 6sta me recogio, esta me ha criao,
6sta me ha querido. Viva mi madre, que no quiero
otra. 1

Of El reino de Dios, Maria Martinez Sierra says:

De todas nuestras obras, Asta es la que prefiero,
y no porque haya sido afortunada en sus peregrina-
clones y navegaciones; aunque hubiese fracasado en
Europa y naufragado en el Atlgntico, no le tendria
menos amor, Las madres sabemos querer a los hijos
desafortunados. 2

When the little nun, Sor Teresa, of Lirio entire

espinas, happens to seek refuge in a house of prostitution

during a revolution, she is ill at ease until her maternal

instinct is given a chance for expression. She consoles

the mentally retarded Ricardito, and tells him that she

will take him to her convent where she will give him candy

and where he will be taught to earn a living. Although

Ricardito is chronologically a man, she speaks to him on

his level, as one might address a child:

Ricardito: (Sentimental.) Es que a mi no me quiere
nadie. (Se echa a 11orar como un nifo.)
Sor Teresa: IQu6 tonterial Te quiero yo ...
Ricardito: ZMe conoces? (Mir&ndola con asombro.)
Sor Teresa: A ti, no; pero en casa tenemos muchos
como td. ...
Ricardito: LEn tu casa?
Sor Teresa: Si, que es muy grande y muy limpia y muy
alegre; muchos, a los que son muy buenos les queremos
mAs, y les damos tantas cosas, Isi vieras! IA ti te
gusta el chocolate? Pues tengo yo alli una de bombo-
nes ... A ver si me queda uno. (Busca en el bolsillo.)

1Ibid. p. 97
2 a rtnez Sierra, reoro y yo p 82
Maria Martinez Sierra, Gregorio Y Yo, p. 82.

Es un caramel ... de pifa; mira qu& suerte tienes.
Ya veras maanana, cuando pase todo esto, te llevan a
casa y te curas, ... porque a ti te duele muchas veces
la cabeza, Lverdad?
Ricardito: Si. ...
Sor Teresa: Por eso dices tonterias. ... Pero alll,
ya veras ... te curamos y aprendes a ser bueno ... y
a leer ... y a rezar ... y un oficio, y luego eres un
hombre de provecho y te ganas la vida, 'Que te parece?
Ricardito: (Chupando el caramelo.) IQub rico estAl
Sor Teresa: IInfelizS Anda, vote td tambi6n a dormir,
que ya es hora. 1

In the one-act play, Navidad, Martinez Sierra
again uses a religious background to give dignity and

meaning to motherhood. The scene opens in the interior

of a cathedral of Christmas Eve. Midnight Mass has just
ended and the faithful have left. The nave of the church

is aglow with countless candles that give a celestial and

mystical appearance to the life-like statues of the Mother

and Child. Miraculously, the statues come to life and the

Virgin takes her babe out into the night. She goes to the

poorest section of town where she brings joy and faith

into the lives of people who had begun to wonder if the

love of God extended out of the beautifully decorated

church into their lives of poverty. The theme of the play

is hope for the outcast and sympathy for the oppressed--
Martinez Sierra's typically optimistic and charitable

expressions. Mary, as the symbolic mother of us all, is

seen leaving the church where she is not needed to go out

1Gregorio Martinez Sierra, Obras completes, II,


to bring beauty and renewed faith to those who have strayed

from the path. She chides no one and is at all times the

loving mother who understands the faults of her children

and forgives. Finally, the sacristan comes to find Mary

and pleads with her to come back. She is unmoved as he

tells her of the fine music that will be sung and of all

the wealthy people who will come to pay her homage. She

agrees to go only when the sacristan says that he will be

blamed for her absence. Before she leaves, she hands her

baby to the people in a supreme expression of love. She

gives them her most precious possession, the baby Jesus,

the symbol of faith and redemption. She has brought into

the lives of her children the things that they most needed:

faith and hope.

Maria Martinez Sierra was educated in a convent

and shows great respect and affection for these religious

characters who were no doubt her exclusive creation. It

is not likely that Gregorio would have had such a back-

ground or understanding. While Mary and some of the nuns

are idealized and are almost too good to be true, they are

in no sense sanctimonious. In their desire to alleviate

suffering and bring some happiness, they are drawn to the

most miserable element of humanity. The ambitions of these

characters represent femininity and motherhood at its

noblest. In general, the nuns are realistically portrayed

and are completely human and feminine.

Princess Teodora of El palacio triste, bears no

resemblance to the conservative Spanish mother who will

be the subject of the next chapter. She is, rather, an

idealization of motherhood, a fairy-tale mother and, as

such, is in perfect harmony with this little fantasy in

which she appears. She has three small sons, all younger

than her fifteen-year-old daughter, Marta. Three years

ago, Marta disappeared in the forest and the king, her

grandfather, has declared the child dead and has had a

statue of her built on the spot where she was last seen.

Teodora, the mother, however, has never given up hope for

her daughter and asks all travelers and beggars who come

to town if they have seen a beautiful little princess in

their travels. In the absence of her adored daughter, Teo-

dora wants especially to show love and affection to her

three sons, but is restrained by her childhood English

governess, Miss Quick, who feels that a queen should be a

queen even to her children. The princes are taught to bow

to their mother and to kiss only her hand:

(Al ver entrar a su madre, el prlncipe Juan, el prin-
cipe Augusto, y el principe Reinaldo se precipitan
hacia ella, queriendo abrazarla; pero Miss quick les
detiene dignamente, aunque ya la madre les ha abierto
los brazos.
Juan: lAy, mamal
Reinaldo: IMamal
Augusto: IMadrel
Teodora: iHijos de mi almal (Se queda con los brazos
abiertos un instant, y luego de.a caer lentamente
las manos.)
Quick: Principe Juan, no sea vuestra alteza incorrect,
Modere vuestra alteza, principle Reinaldo, esa viveza
de mal tono, ...

Teodora: Quick, &Por qu6 no dejar que me abracen los
niios? 1

Teodora is not even allowed to eat with her chil-

dren, for it is considered plebeian. She is by nature a

mother and would give up her title of princess for the

one of mother. She has no ambition at all to rule and

hopes that her father's reign will last until her eldest

son is old enough for this responsibility:

Teodora: (Mirando en derredor con cierta melancolia.)
IYa no estan aquil
Quick: Ya he tenido el honor de decirselo a vuestra
alteza: 4sta es la hora destinada a la comida de los
Teodora: Ya lo s6, ya lo s6. La hora de la comida.
IAy, Quick, puede que sea un sentimiento plebeyo,
como tu dices, pero lo que me gustaria, cuando comen
mis hijos, estar con ellos a la mesa y partirles el
panic ...
Quick: Vuestra alteza es demasiado sensible y ha
leido demasiadas novelas.
Teodora: INovelas, Quicki Todas las madres lo hacen.
Quick: Vuestra alteza es princess y pronto serA
reina. ...
Teodora: lAy, no por Diosl lOjala viva mi padre cien
afosl Por lo menos, hasta que el principle Augusto sea
mayor de edad y pueda llevar 41 la corona. IReina yol
S61o de pensarlo me duele la cabeza. (Pasea la habi-
taci6n deun lado para otro. cogiendo mirandoy aca-
riciand los libos s los papeles quehan tocado sus
hjos. Goge el papel en ue ha escrito sus consonan-
tes el principe Augusto.) 2

-artve finally returns to take her brothers and her

mother away from the sad palace to her humble little cot-

tage where they will live together in freedom and happiness

and where Teodora will be what she has always wanted to be:

a mother.

Gregorio Martinez Sierra, El palacio triste (New
York: Ginn and Co., 1921), p. 8.
2Ibid., p. 15.

Marta: Si, madre, nos marchamos todos ahora mismo,
Teodora: iTodos?
Marta: Augusto, Reinaldo, Juan, t", yo ...
Teodora: Sit hija, si ...
Lejos de este palacio, de este tedio; a vivir solos,
libres; itf con nosotros, madrel
Teodora: LD&nde, hija?
Marta: Con nosotros ... donde puedas besarnos siem-
pre que te lo pida el coraz6n. 1

In Mama, we see an unmistakable similarity to

Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House. It is as if Martinez Sierra

had taken the Nordic characters created by Ibsen and made

them Spanish. Nora, of A Doll's House, is a woman who

pretends to be frivolous to cover up her real astuteness.
To save her husband's life, it had been necessary to take

an expensive trip to a warmer climate. At the time, they
had no money, so Nora borrowed the money and told her
husband that she had inherited it. During the years after

the trip, Nora begs her husband for money for new clothes
and then gives the money to the usurer. She pretends to

be very empty-headed and very extravagant, but actually she
is very clever and dresses well on a small fraction of the
money that Helmer, her husband, gives her. When Helmer
finds out that Nora has forged her father's name on some

documents a4u-is being blackmailed, his only thought is

that he has been deceived. He does not appreciate what

Nora has gone through to save his life as well as his mas-

culine pride. Fearing that a scandal will endanger his

Ibid., p. 34.

position at the bank, he tells her that she must leave

because she is a bad influence on the children. Later

Helmer receives a letter from the usurer promising to

keep all the transactions secret. At this point, when

Helmer realizes that his position in the bank is safe,

he decides to pardon Nora. Nora, however, has already

been relieved of her mask of frivolity so there is no

longer any reason to pretend. She realizes that Helmer

has been treating her as a doll all these years and that

she is really not one. Since there is no understanding

and communication between them, there is no marriage, Nora

reasons, and decides to leave.

Mercedes, of Mama, is superficially almost as

frivolous and giddy as Nora pretends to be, but she is

less nervous ind is not aware that she is deceiving any-

one. She thinks that this is her true personality. In

order not to age his beautiful wife, her husband, Santiago,

has sent their children away to boarding school. For many

years, Mercedes has had little responsibility as a mother

or wife. For diversion, she has gambled. She feels she

cannot ask her husband for money to pay her debts at this

particular time since he has complained recently about her

extravagance and has asked her to economize. In despera-

tion, she borrows the money from Alfonso, a don Juan type

who is deceived by her gaity into thinking that he may re-

ceive in return more than the money. When Mercedes' son

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