José Echegaray.

The son of Don Juan; an original drama in 3 acts inspired by the reading of Ibsen's work entitled Gengangere online

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tones become softened and their eyes downcast.
They uncover their heads and compel us to do the
same. For they have led us into the presence of the
dead ; and before the lowliest or the loftiest of their
fellows Meg Merrilies or the Abbe* Faria, Betty
Higden or Colonel Newcome these rare spirits
incline themselves in solemn veneration.

Of Echegaray's power over the pulses of sorrow
and terror, without the intervention of death, an
example may be found in " El Hijo de Don Juan."
And here, perhaps, a few words may not be out of
place, even in view of Echegaray's own " Prologue,"
as to the true source of this drama. That it was
inspired by the reading of Ibsen's " Ghosts," we have
the Spaniard's own declaration. But were it permis-
sible to put aside the fact that both works treat of the
problem of heredity in its most hideous and harrowing
form, and the minor circumstance of the borrowing of

A SKETCH, i 19

Oswald's phrase, " Mother, give me the sun ! " words
which, to the mind of Echegaray, embody such
picturesque and profound significance Mr. William
Archer himself might not be reluctant to admit the
essential originality of the Spanish play. The truth
is that " El Hijo de Don Juan " is a sombre and
relentless satire upon the real national hero of Spain,
the being immortalised by Molire and Mozart, and
more or less caricatured in the cruder imagination of
Jose" Zorilla. Don Juan, the gamester, the libertine,
the duellist, the bully, has been transported from the
sixteenth century to the nineteenth. He is in en-
tirely new surroundings and has become in a measure
reformed. We find him past the sixtieth year of his
age, with a wife whom he has indeed ill-treated, but
with a son of whom he never tires of boasting. The
disorders of his youth have left him with none the
strongest of brains. And now the sins of the parent,
in accordance with Echegaray's unsparing rule, are
visited upon the child. The father's own mental
weakness is developed in the most grim and terrible
form in the gifted son. And so the flames in which Don
Juan Tenorio was untimely plunged, are rekindled in
the hell of misery and remorse with which the heir to
his shameless renown sees the final overthrow of his
boy's intellect. It is hardly too much to say that the
"Ghosts" is almost bright and frolicsome in com-
parison with the " Son of Don Juan." Echegaray
has here deliberately chosen colours of funereal
blackness, and has laid them on with little regard for
the feelings of the sensitive reader. Ibsen leads us
to the edge of his own " Inferno," and points to the
pale faces of those whom his genius has condemned
to immortal suffering ; but he hurries us aside before
we have time to become giddy. , Echegaray drags


us pitilessly down and holds us fast, while in our very
presence his victims are whirled shrieking past us
borne along on burning winds, or stretched in agony
on the rack. Still with all deductions, the gift of
true impressiveness, which has been so abundantly
acknowledged in Ibsen, will scarcely be denied to
the Spaniard who so frankly admits the influence
of the Northern master. This impressiveness may
be set down to pathological causes, to the un-
wholesomeness of the subject, to the lugubrious
moral atmosphere in which a pessimist like Ibsen, a
teacher of Hebraic sternness like Echegaray, loves
at times to fold himself round. But whether the
effect of plays of this kind may or may not be
illegitimate, it is, perhaps, within its peculiar limits,
entirely unexampled. Plays of high name, plays filled
with scenes of violence, with the ring and storm of
battle, with midnight murder, with death in its worst
forms, might be placed for comparison beside the
" Son of Don Juan." And though there is not a death,
not a blow struck from beginning to end of the
Spanish drama, such plays, with all their accumula-
tions of misery and ferocity, might be found to yield
in the element of sheer horror to the spectacle of the
brilliant Lazarus, the poet, the dramatist, the coming
glory of Spain, waking from a trance under the
anguished eyes of his father, his mother, his betrothed,
and bursting into the ravings of a hopeless madman.

Of Echegaray's use of dramatic resources when he
indeed brings death upon the stage, a few examples
may be quoted. In " El Gran Galeoto " the sudden ex-
posure of the body of Julian to his unforgiven wife.
In " Mariana " the bloody sacrifice of the heroine
in presence of her real lover by the husband whom
she loathes and defies. Lover and husband stand


armed over the corpse ; but the stage is not therefore
converted into a shambles ; we are merely left to con-
jecture that the two desperate men confronting each
other will not long survive the woman who has
coloured in such sinister fashion the lives of both.
Another example, more openly verging on the melodra-
matic, may be encountered in an earlier drama than
these, " En el seno de la Muerte." Here is one of the
rare instances in which Echegaray has chosen a purely
romantic period for the scene of his play. A husband,
treacherously wronged by the brother and the wife
whom he had almost equally loved, contrives his
revenge. He locks himself and the two culprits in
the family mausoleum, of which he alone has the key
and he alone knows the secret. He does not ignore,
they do not ignore, the fact that there is no escape for
any one of them. After a painful scene of reproach,
at the end of which the traitor brother kills himself,
the husband first throws the key which had locked
them in, then the torch which had illumined the
dismal magnificence of their surroundings, down a
deep cavity which yawns between the monuments.
Finally, in utter darkness", he stabs himst'f dead at
his wife's feet ; and the curtain falls amicst an un-
definable impression of haunting dismay at the alter-
natives of fate before the lonely survivor. V

For obvious reasons Echegaray has b^-n here
referred to in connection with Ibsen. Whether an
apology for such a conjunction of names mi^ht in
reason be demanded by the most loyal of Ibsenites is
doubtful, under the present conditions of criticism. It
cannot but be a source of relief to any one helping to
introduce a new author to the public, that the process
of comparison has been simplified of late ; that the
qualifications exacted from competitors are drawn up


in a spirit of charming leniency ; that the certificate
of immortality is made more than ever easy of attain-
ment. Some years ago a writer thought fit, not only
without seeming sense of shame, but with the com-
placent air of one who sees " a new planet swim into
his ken," to couple the names of Mr. Rudyard Kipling
and Charles Dickens. It must have been under the
inspiration of such criticism as this that Shakespeare
was immediately dethroned for at least the hundredth
time and once again at the hands of " our lively
neighbour the Gaul." Corneille, Racine, and Victor
Hugo were allowed to slumber tranquilly in their
graves, and it was admitted on behalf of England by
the Paris Figaro that the author of " Othello " was
surpassed by M. Maurice Maeterlinck. Even under
these encouraging circumstances, however, it will not
be here contended that Senor Echegaray shows in his
work anything comparable "et oserai-je le dire,"
as M. Mirbeau rvould say " superieure en beaute a
ce qu'il y a de plus beau dans Shakespeare." It might
be suggested "Mariana" Senor Echegaray's
masterpiece in/female creation would have been
readily accept/id as a companion with Charmian and
Iras in attendance on the most complex of all heroines
Cleopatra. Further than this it will not be safe
to go.

Echer aray may be noted as displaying, even in the
following mournful drama, a genuine and, as a rule,
unforced sense of humour. In his comic passages,
ho .vever, he has a fault which he shares with Shakes-
peare and the editor of Punch. He is a remorseless

This poet's genius, as may have been remarked, burst
into bloom at a time beyond the midsummer of life.
He was forty-two before his first drama was produced.


That is twenty-one years ago. Since then his activity
has never known exhaustion. He is now the author of
some fifty plays. There are particular years among
the past twenty-one in the course of which he has put
upon the stage as many as four dramas, not one of
which is carelessly written, though one imitation from
the German, "El Gladiador de Ravena," was com-
menced and completed within three days. During
these twenty-one years, indeed, he appears to have
determined on making up for what, in other important
respects, had certainly not been lost time. Civil
engineers have found and still find it to their advan-
tage to consult him on points which are the special
study and occupation of their lives. He has published
three formidable volumes on the " Modern Theories
of Physics." A well-known book of his has appeared
on sub-marine vessels of war. He has lectured on
Political Economy and Geology with equal success.
He is admitted by Spaniards to be the chief of their
own mathematicians ; they further claim for him the
honour of being one of the first mathematicians in the
world. He is an orator who has won the applause of
Castelar himself. There were only wanting his labours
as a poet and a dramatist to set the seal upon a career
of almost universal aptitude. Those labours have
earned for him a renown which will assuredly not be
allowed to die in his own country.

Be the praise high or low, in view of the condition
of Spanish literature between the seventeenth century
and the nineteenth, Spaniards declare that for more
than two hundred years their drama has not brought
forth a serious rival to this man. And there can hardly
be a doubt that, in any selection of names of the
greatest dramatists ever sprung from Spain, Lope de
Vega and Calderon de la Barca will find the place
nearest to themselves occupied by Jose Echegaray.


T N trying to interpret the idea of my last drama,
* "The Son of Don Juan," the critics have said
many things. That the idea was the same as that
which inspired Ibsen in his celebrated work entitled
" Gengangere." That the passions which it sets in
movement are more natural to the countries of the
North than to our sunnier climes : that it deals with
the problem of hereditary lunacy. That it discusses
the law of heredity. That it is sombre and lugubrious,
with no other object than that of arousing horror.
That it is a purely pathological drama. That it con-
tains nothing more than the progress of a case of
lunacy. That from the moment when it is perceived
that Lazarus will go mad, the interest of the work
ceases, and nothing remains but to follow step by step
the shipwreck of the poor creature and so forth. I
think that all this is but a series of lamentable equivo-
cations on the part of the great and little judges of
the dramatic art. The idea of my drama was not one
of those mentioned. Its motive is very different, but
I shall not explain it. Why should -ULJ In all the
scenes of my work, in all its personages, in nearly all
its phrases it is explained. Moreover, to explain it
2 as


would be dangerous ; it might be imagined that my
proposal was to defend the poor Son of Don Juan
under the pretext of exposing the central idea from
which he drew birth. I never defend my dramas ;
when I write their last word I leave them to their fate.
I neither defend them materially nor morally. I finish
a drama, I give it to the management of a theatre, it is
put on the stage, it is liked or not liked, according to
the favour of God. The management does what is
most suited to its interests, without my interference :
the actors represent it as they can, almost always very
well, the public pronounces its judgment in one sense
or another, according to its feelings, and the critics
unbosom themselves to their satisfaction^ I neither
wish nor ought, ifconly from good taste, to defend my
new drama ; bujfit contains one phrase which is not
mine, which is Ibserts ; and that phrase I must defend
energetically, for I consider it one of extraordinary
beauty : " Mother, give me the sun,'' says Lazarus.
And this phrase, simple, infantile, almost comic, en-
folds a world of ideas, an ocean of sentiments, a hell
of sorrows, a cruel lesson, a supreme warning to society
and to the family circle. Thus I look at it. A gene-
ration devoured by vice ; which bears even in its
bones the virus engendered by impure love ; with a
corrupted blood which in its course drags along organ-
isms of corruption mingled with its ruddy globules,
this generation goes on falling and falling into the
abysses of idiocy : the cry of Lazarus is the last twilight
of a reason which founders in the eternal blackness of
imbecilityj And at the same time nature awakes and
the sun comes forth another twilight which will very
soon be all light. And the two twilights meet and
cross and salute each other with the salutation of
everlasting farewell at the close of the drama.


Reason, which is precipitated downward, impelled by
the corruption of pleasure. The sun, which springs
upward with immortal flames, impelled by the sublime
forces of nature. Below, human reason which has
come to an end ; above, the sun which begins a new
day. " Give me the sun," says Lazarus to his mother.
Don Juan likewise asked for it from between the
tresses of the woman of Tarifa. On this point there is
much to be said : it gives room for much thought.
For, in truth, if our society. . . . But what the devil
are these philosophical speculations that I am plung-
ing into ? Let every man compose such for himself
as best he may, and let him clamour for the sun or
beg for the horns of the moon, or ask for what suits
his appetite. Does nobody understand or take an
interest in these matters ? What then ? This, at
most would prove that the modern Don Juan con-
tinues to bequeath many sons to the world, though
they have not the talent of Lazarus. Let us give a
respectful greeting to the sons of Don Juan.












First represented March 29, 1892.

{Rights of adaptation atui stage representation reserved.}


The scene represents a room for business or study. It
is mounted in elegant yet severe taste, with some-
thing of a worldly style, indicated by some artistic
object which betrays predilections of that kind.
On the left of the spectator is a very light and
charming tea-table, to accommodate three or four
persons j upon the table is a candle or night-light
with a bright-coloured shade ; and surrounding
it are three small arm-chairs or cushioned seats
and smoking chairs . On the right is a desk not
very large, though massive and sober in style :
behind, a chair or writing stool. At the side of
the desk a high stool or better still an arm-chair.
Upon the desk a lighted lamp with a dark shade.
Also on the desk, in a framed easel, the photograph
of CARMEN. On the left first wing a balcony, to
the right a fireplace with a very bright fire : at
one side a large portative screen. Over the doors
and the balcony thick, sober-hued curtains. A
door in the background, and a door at either side.
If it be possible, there should also be in the back-
ground a small bookcase, dark and rich : at the
left forming a pendant, a cabinet, dark like the
bookcase, and full of objects of art. If this be im-
~possible^ two equivalent pieces of furniture. In
short, a room which gives evidence of rich though


not opulent possessors, andjwhich above all denotes
^Jythe contrast of two tastes: the one austere, tht

'. - _ .-. . ^^^^^ rrwi y __ _ ^

other gay and worldly. It is night.


covered seated round the tea-table, drinking strong
liqueurs and smoking. The three are old, but
give token of different types : the three bear the
stamp of life-long self-indulgence. It is recognised,
however, that DON JUAN^<M been a man of gaiety
and fashion.

JUAN. Timoteo !

TIM. What ?

JUAN. I have a suspicion.

TIM. What about ?

JUAN. That we are getting old.

TIM. How have you got to know ?

JUAN. I'll tell you : there are symptoms. When
the weather changes all my joints are sore. When I
wish to stretch out this leg merrily, it entails labour
on me, and in the end it is the other leg which moves.
Moreover my sight is failing : when I see a dark girl
in the street, she looks fair to me ; and if a girl
happens to be fair, she becomes so obscured as to
turn dark before my eyes.

NEM. That's weakness ; you should take a tonic.

JUAN. My stomach cannot endure alcohol now : I
drink out of compliment ; but I know that it does me

TIM. Because it is not the alcohol of our time.


NEM. This is corrosive sublimate alcoholised.

TIM. It is the alcohol which has grown old.
( Walks about jauntily.} I feel young still Ah !

JUAN. What's the matter ?

TIM. While simply moving I seem to have dis-
jointed my whole vertebral column. The devil, the
devil !

NEM. (drinking calmly). Something or other will
have got dislocated.

JUAN. Let us undeceive ourselves : we are nearing
the City of Old Age. By the life of life, how short is
life 1 (Strikes the chair with his fist.} Ah !

TIM. What ails you?

JUAN. A pain in the elbow and in this shoulder.

NEM. The weather ; it's damp. (Drinks.}

TIM. Juanito, you have never been very strong.

JUAN. I have not been ? I have not been ? I have
been stronger than you all. For twenty-four hours
running I have played cards : for three days running
I have been shut up with Pacorro and Luis emptying
bottles : and my patron Saint Juan Tenorio, from the
heaven where he dwells in company with Dona Inez,
will have seen how I have borne myself in amorous
enterprises. You, on the other handj have been
nothing more than the braggadocios of vice. Away
with such lay-figures.

TIM. We don't deny that you have been a greater
madcap than anybody else ; but strong what's called
a strong man that you have not been.

NEM. You have not been that confess.

JUAN. What have I to confess ?

TIM. Something has happened to you which never
happened to any one else.

JUAN. What happened to me ?

TIM. In order to get your spine straightened you


had to be put in a casing of paste, and they used to
hang you up by the neck twice a day.

JUAN. But that was because we were playing at
single stick in the Plaza de Toros, and they broke
two of my ribs ; that might happen to anybody.

TIM. No, no : you were not like us. Do you re-
member, Nemesio ? " Where is Juanito ? " " In
bed." " Where is Juanito ? " " At Panticosa."
"Where is Juanito?" "At Archena." "Where is
Juanito ? " " Shut up in his casing." " Where is
Juanito?" "At this moment they must be hanging
him." Ha, ha !

TIM. and NEM. laugh. DON JUAN looks at them

JUAN. Don't laugh very loud, or we shall have a
general breaking up. I have been a man and you
two have been pitiful fellows. You (to TIM.), got
married at forty : you locked yourself up in a corner
of this town with your wife, and there was an end of
Timoteo. You (to NEM.), flying like a coward from
the storms of the world, took refuge in Arganda,
where you drink each year the vintage of the year
before. I, on the other hand (speaking "with proud
emphasis)^ I it is true that I also got married at
forty-two ; but that's no proof of weakness. If Don
Juan Tenorio had been allowed the time, he would
have married Dona Inez, and indeed there is a rumour
that -they celebrated their mystic wedding in heaven.
But I, the other Don Juan, got married like a man,
like a free citizen ; yet I did not thereupon abandon
the field of honour. I am myself at home, myself
abroad, at nine in the convent, at ten in this street.
Well, then I had my Lazarus ! Eh ! There's a lad !
That's what it is to have a son.


TIM. God help me, with your glorious triumph !
Jump into the street, and you won't see a neighbour
who is not the son of somebody. Each individual has
a father.

NEM. One father at least.

JUAN. Yes, but I was the libertine ; I was the man
that drained the cup of pleasure and the cask from the
wine-cellar : the invalid of the orgie. " That fellow
is consumptive," they used to say. " That fellow will
die some morning," you thought. And suddenly I
became restored to life in Lazarus. Lazarus is my
resurrection. And how robust and strong he is. And
what talent he has ! A prodigy a Byron, an
Espronceda, an Edgar Poe a genius. That's not
what I alone say : you have it written in all the
journals of Madrid.

TIM. Yes, the lad is able.

NEM. He is able.

JUAN. Well, now, frankly he who has led the life
that I have led he who while saying : " I must rest
for a time," has a son like Lazarus : that man is he
not a man, indeed ?

TIM. Fine subject of rejoicing for a Tenorio.

JUAN. What subject ?

TIM. This of yours. Does it not come to this that
you are the father of a genius ?

JUAN. And what then, dotards? Strength is
strength, and becomes transformed : you don't under-
stand this. I make no doubt that I had all the genius
of Lazarus concealed in some corner of my brain ;
but as I gave it neither time nor opportunity it could
not exhibit itself. At last it grew tired of wait-
ing, and it said : " Eh ! I am going with the son,
because with the father I can make no headway."


TIM. Don't delude yourself, Juanito. The talent of
Lazarus, for indeed he seems to have great talent, is
not inherited from you : he must have derived it from
his mother. /The paternal heritage will have been
some rheumatism, some affection of the nervesV

NEM. The sediments of pleasure and the dregs of
alcohol. (Drinks.)

JUAN. Blockheads I I went through my school-
days badly, and I lived worse ; but there was some-
thing in me.

TIM. Quite a genius frittered away ori a lost soul.

JUAN. It may be so.

NEM. And by what did you recognise this some-

TIM. When was it ?

NEM. And where ?

JUAN. It was on awaking from a drunken bout.

TlM. Now that you are going to ascend to the
sublime don't say a drunken bout.

JUAN. Well then, on arising from an orgie.

NEM. That's well. "To Jarifa in an Orgie,"
Espronceda. (Drinks.)

JUAN. Yes, senor, the very thing. I once felt that
which neither of you ever experienced.

NEM. Tell us, tell us. This ought to be curious.
Another little glass, Timoteo.

TIM. Come. To the health of the disappointed
genius. (Coughing.)

NEM. Of the unsuccessful genius. (Drinks.)

DON JUAN is thoughtful.

TIM. Begin.

JUAN. You remember the season we passed at
my country seat in Sevilla, in the year in the
year ?


TINT. The year I don't recollect but very well
do I remember the country-house, on the banks
of the Guadalquivir, with an Oriental saloon, divans,
carpets those famous carpets.

NEM. True, true ! I was always walking on them.
Aniceta, the little gipsy you remember? used to
cry out, " I am sinking, I am sinking."

TIM. True, true I and as she was so little she used
to sink out of sight, really.

NEM. Delightful time. Don Juan's country seat
so we called it.

TIM. What I liked was that running balcony or
gallery, or whatever it was. What a view ! The
Guadalquivir ! And it looked towards the East -you
saw the sun risej it was enchanting. (To JUAN.)
Have you fallen asleep ?

JUAN. I ? I never sleep. That's what I should
like to sleep. For this is the way I pass the night
with a wrench of this nerve and a wrench at the other.
The little pain which is in the neighbourhood of my
elbow goes for a walk. My cough appears before it
and says, " Good evening, neighbour." My head
cries out, " I am going to waltz for a while, stand
away there." And my stomach heaves, "No, for
God's sake ; I shall be sea-sick." Sleep, indeed !
It's ten years since I have slept.

NEM. But you are not telling us the story.

JUAN. What story ?

TIM. Why, man, that about the fiery outbreak of
genius. When you learned that you had something
inside here. (Touching his forehead.} Something
sublime, eh ?

NEM. I should think so, corrosive sublimate. Ha,
ha ! Another little glass.

TlM. Come. However, we are left at where you


got to know once upon a time that you were a larva-

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Online LibraryJosé EchegarayThe son of Don Juan; an original drama in 3 acts inspired by the reading of Ibsen's work entitled Gengangere → online text (page 2 of 8)