Social satire in the works of Manuel Bretón de los Herreros

Chaskin, Silvia Novo (Blankenship), University of Virginia

Manuel Bretón de los Herreros was the most popular
writer of comedies of the Spanish nineteenth century.
He was second only to Lope de Vega as the most prolific
playwright in Spanish letters. His literary production is
remarkable: one hundred and three original plays sixty-two
translations of foreign comedies, ten adaptations of
Golden Age dramas, innumerable poems, a number of
artículos de costumbres, and some linguistic studies.
The contribution of this author to the literature of
his nation, and in particular to the theater, is of great
importance. With Bretón the regeneration of the national
theater that began with Leandro Fernández de Moratín was
finally completed. As a proponent of realism he preserved
the comedy of manners throughout the romantic apogee,
thus laying the foundation for the alta comedia and the
modern theater of Benavente and Martínez Sierra. He was
the first Spaniard who attempted to write comedies in
their purest sense. The comedia bretoniana was a satirical
reflection of the middle class, its customs and manners.
With poignant satire and fine humor, its creator defended
traditional Spanish morality in an epoch of romantic
excesses, materialism, and frivolity. In a century convulsed
by political, economic, and social upheaval he was the
representative of the sesuda Castilla, the advocate of
the justo medio.

In this essay I shall attempt to study the satirical
manner in which Bretón de los Herreros presented the
society of his day. I shall attempt to indicate the
influence his works had upon later playwrights such as
Ventura de la Vega, Galdós López de Ayala, and Benavente.

The first part of this study shall be devoted to a
brief account of the author's life. The emphasis here
shall be placed on events and factors that contributed
to the formation of Bretón as a writer and satirist. In
the second chapter of this essay I shall trace the development
of the Bretonian comedy. Here we shall indicate
why Bretón's comedies are the first true examples of the
comedy of manners in Spain; analyze the plays he wrote
previous to 1831, known as comedias moratinianas; ·and
through an analysis of Marcela outline the characteristics
of the comedia bretoniana. In the following chapters I
shall discuss Bretón's satirical treatment of the effects
that romanticism, and political and social changes had upon
the Spanish people.

I wish to express my gratitude to Dr. A. A. del Greco
under whose. guidance and· directorship this dissertation was
prepared and written.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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