Theatre Database
Home | Ancient Theatre | Medieval Theatre | 16th Century | 17th Century | 18th Century | 19th Century | 20th Century


A brief analysis of the play by Jose Echegaray

The following analysis is reprinted from The Continental Drama of Today: Outlines for its Study. Barrett H. Clark. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1914.

The Great Galeotto is one of the finest examples of the thesis play. The thesis is made clear in the Prologue and during the course of the play proper is never lost sight of, yet never are the situations or the characters in any way strained to the detriment of the truth, or the verisimilitude of the story. Theme and plot go hand in hand, and are so admirably welded that if either were developed more than it is, the play would suffer as an artistic unit. The skill with which the thesis is handled is the more remarkable when we consider that Echegaray had very little experience at the time he was writing. Augier and Dumas fils, the originators of the modern thesis play, were still at work, and were both to write some of their most characteristic pieces, while Ibsen had hardly begun his social plays.


1) Compare the Prologue of The Great Galeotto with that of Andreyev's Anathema and Alexandre Bisson's Madame X (La Femme X). Of what use is the introductory act? Why does the author call it the first act, or, omitting it entirely, introduce the material into the exposition of his next (and consequently first) act?

2) For psychological and artistic reasons, we are now aware, a dramatist must vary his scenes. Study Echegaray's methods in the second act.

3) In the Nirdlinger version (The World and His Wife), new characters are introduced, and the time of the play has been changed. Compare the original with this stage version. Which is better, and why?

4) At the time when this play was written, the soliloquy and aside had not gone out of style; yet how does Echegaray handle these? Had Pinero, for instance, been writing the play, in what way could he have modified the dialogue so as to do away with these "worn-out conventions"?

5) Which is structurally the better play, The Great Galeotto or Madman or Saint? Consider the works as stories; which is the more effectively presented? Which, on the stage (so far as you are able to visualize them), would be more interesting to the average audience?

6) Echegaray's theme is universal: the tongue of more or less innocent gossip does incomparable harm. In her little one-act comedy Spreading the News, Lady Gregory treats much the same theme, but from its comic side. In what other respects are the plays similar?

7) Does the author consider the Prologue as his first act? That is, does he include in it all the exposition proper, and build from it to the development and climax?

8) If some characters had of necessity to be eliminated from the play, which would go first, with the least injury to the whole? Has Echegaray practiced that economy in the number of characters which is so essential to the drama?

Back to Jose Echegaray