Rocío G. Sumillera
Universidad de Granada
La Zubia (Granada), Spain
Manuel Tamayo y Baus’s Un Drama Nuevo (1867)
and the Reception of Hamlet in 19th-Century Spain
e present article discusses how Tamayo y Baus appropriates and refashions in Un drama nuevo
(1867) the gures of Shakespeare and Yorick, as well as dierent elements of a number of tragedies
by Shakespeare (Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello), in order to render homage to Shakespearean
drama by means of a play that, even if set at the beginning of 17th-century England, particularly
addresses the tastes and concerns of 19th-century Spanish audiences. Additionally, this article
considers the extent to which the contemporary audience of Tamayo y Baus was acquainted with
Shakespeare and Hamlet, taking into account both the translations into Spanish of the play and
its performances in Spain up until 1867. e purpose of such an analysis is to speculate on the
reception and interpretation of Un drama nuevo at the time of its release, and on the role it had in
raising or renewing interest in Hamlet within the Spanish-speaking world.
Key words: Shakespeare, reception of Hamlet, Manuel Tamayo y Baus, Un drama nuevo, 19th-century
Manuel Tamayo y Baus: Un Drama Nuevo (1867)
ter sprejemanje Hamleta v Španiji v 19. stoletju
Članek ugotavlja, kako Tamayo y Baus v svojem delu Un drama nuevo (1867) prireja in preoblikuje
Shakespearove osebe in lik Yoricka, poleg tega pa tudi številne druge prvine dramatikovih tragedij (Hamleta,
Romea in Julije, Othella) kot poklon shakespearjevski drami, ki kljub temu, da se odvija v angleškem 17.
stoletju, še posebej naglaša okuse ter zanimanja španskega občinstva 19. stoletja. Poleg tega članek raziskuje,
v kakšni meri je bilo občinstvo Tamaya y Bausa seznanjeno s Shakespearom in Hamletom, upoštevaje
tako prevode v španščino kot njegove odrske postavitve v Španiji do leta 1867. Namen takšne razčlembe
je ugotavljanje sprejemanja in razlaganja dela Un drama nuevo v času njegove objave ter določanje vloge,
ki jo je odigral pri ohranjanju oziroma poglabljanju zanimanja za Hamleta v špansko govorečem svetu.
Ključne besede: Shakespeare, sprejemanje Hamleta, Manuel Tamayo y Baus, Un drama nuevo, drama
UDK 821.134.2–21.09Tamayo y Baus M.
UDK 821.111–21.09Shakespeare W.
72 Rocío G. Sumillera Manuel Tamayo y Baus’s Un Drama Nuevo (1867) and the Reception of Hamlet in 19th-Century Spain
Manuel Tamayo y Baus’s Un Drama Nuevo (1867)
and the Reception of Hamlet in 19th-Century Spain
To what extent were Spanish audiences acquainted with Shakespeare in general and with plays
such as Hamlet in particular by the end of the 19th century? How many times had Hamlet been
translated into Spanish, and how many times had it been performed in Spain by that time?
Providing an answer to these three questions constitutes a central element in the present article’s
discussion around Manuel Tamayo y Baus’s Un drama nuevo (“A New Play”) (1867), a tragedy
in three acts that revolves around the discovery of an adulterous relationship in the context of a
company of actors that are preparing to perform a play referred to as “a new play” which centers on
the discovery of an adulterous relationship in aristocratic circles. In this manner, the play is about
the preparation of a play whose argument eventually matches the actual events of the personal lives
of the three main characters that perform it: the husband, Yorick, who plays the role of Conde
Octavio; the male lover, Edmundo, who plays Manfredo, and the adulterous wife Alicia, who plays
the role of the unfaithful Beatriz. e adulterous situation complicates itself through the discovery
that Yorick’s wife Alicia is far younger than her husband and that her lover, Edmundo, is not only
another actor who works side by side to Yorick, but, furthermore, his adopted son, whom Yorick
has maintained and protected for years.
Un drama nuevo, undoubtedly Tamayo y Baus’s most renowned play and “the critics’ favourite”
(Flynn 1973, 78),
contains numerous references to Shakespeare and to a number of his plays,
chiey, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Othello, which makes 21st century readers
wonder whether audiences contemporary to Tamayo y Baus were suciently acquainted with
Shakespearean drama to, for instance, understand as meaningful the setting of the play: an early
17th-century London playhouse. Indeed, previous knowledge of Shakespeare and his dramas
are not at all necessary to perfectly follow the storyline of Un drama nuevo, as the latter works
independently from any work by Shakespeare (or by any other playwright whatsoever, for that
matter). Still, such previous knowledge would enrich the appreciation of the play by the audience
and indicate Tamayo y Baus’s willingness to play with the audience’s assumptions and expectations
of drama and the storyline itself.
e present article opens with an introduction to Manuel Tamayo y Baus’s production as a
playwright, and a discussion on the manner in which Un drama nuevo is built upon other
Shakespearean tragedies. en, the history of the reception of Shakespeare in Spain up to the end
of the 19th-century will be outlined, specically focusing on the trajectory of Hamlet in Spain, as
Hamlet was the rst drama by Shakespeare performed in Spanish theatres and, as will be seen, one
of the key pillars of the references to Shakespeare present in Un drama nuevo.
2. Un drama nuevo: Shakespeare and Hamlet
Manuel Tamayo y Baus (Madrid, 1829‒1898) was a precocious actor and playwright who came
from a family of actors and who released his rst play, El cinco de agosto (1849), before even
turning twenty. In 1858, before he was twenty nine, Tamayo y Baus was appointed member of the
1 Esquer Torres analyses the enthusiastic reception of Un drama nuevo by the most renowned critics of the time (Esquer Torres
Spanish Royal Academy of the Language, where a year later he read his academic discourse La verdad
considerada como fuente de belleza en la literatura dramática (“Truth considered as source of beauty in
dramatic literature”), which was in fact his manifesto for dramatic realism. From the time he entered
the Academy, Tamayo stopped signing his dramatic creations with his own name and began using
a series of pseudonyms instead, no doubt out of fear that failure on the stage would damage his
reputation as an academic. After the release of Los hombres de bien (1870), Tamayo y Baus decided
to stop writing for the theater, and during the rest of his life he dedicated himself to academic and
intellectual activities dierent from literary creation. Finally, in 1884 he was appointed director of the
National Library of Spain and Head of the Body of Archivists and Librarians.
Tamayo y Baus experimented with various types of dramatic genres, amongst them, tragedies (Virginia,
1853), historical dramas (La ricahembra, 1854; Locura de amor, 1855), moral comedies (La bola de
nieve, 1856; Lo positivo, 1862), and problem plays (Lances de honor, 1863). Traditionally, Tamayo y
Baus’s dramatic career is thought to evolve from Romanticism to, eventually, the realist comedy of
manners. Un drama nuevo (1867) represents a transition stage between the Romantic and the Realist
– even if, in the view of some critics, it can be read as one of the most representative plays of the
Realist movement in 19th-century Spanish drama (Lassaletta 1974). In total, Tamayo y Baus wrote
thirty four dramatic pieces; his early ones highly inuenced by Romantic authors such as Schiller
and Victor Hugo,
and his later ones, by others like Calderón de la Barca. Interestingly, Shakespeare’s
dramatic inuence, and the inuence of English drama in general, seems to be exclusively felt in Un
drama nuevo and therefore completely absent from any other play by Tamayo y Baus.
Un drama nuevo’s relationship with Shakespeare and his dramatic production is rst of all
established by setting the play in England in 1605, and by making Shakespeare himself one of
its eight characters. Shakespeare is depicted by Tamayo y Baus as the most famous and successful
playwright of Elizabethan England, as a director of plays, a former actor, and the author of
Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth (the three plays by Shakespeare explicitly mentioned in
Un drama Nuevo).
Shakespeare is moreover a man of moral authority, respected by all who know
him, a friend to Yorick, Alicia, and Edmundo, and someone able to control and handle dicult
situations. He is presented as a man of multiple virtues, as for instance he does not feel envious
or jealous before the success of others. Indeed, the play performed in Un drama nuevo is not a
play by Shakespeare but by a novel playwright who is praised on several occasions; Shakespeare,
the director of the play, is the rst to acknowledge the virtues of the novel author and to applaud
his achievements and potential. To Yorick’s suggestion that the play has some aws (“Téngola yo
también por cosa excelente, aunque algunos defectillos le noto”, “I have it as an excellent thing
too, although I nd in it some small aws”), Shakespeare replies the following: “Los envidiosos
contarán los defectos; miremos nosotros únicamente las bellezas” (“e envious will count the
aws; let us only contemplate its beauties”). Yorick then states: “A ti sí que nunca te escoció la
2 As N.H. Tayler explains, from Schiller Tamayo “learned to appreciate and handle the philosophical play and to make use of the
stage virtues and resources of the melodrama”; also, “Tamayo parts company with Hugo in that he steadily increases his didactic
practices on the stage through his moralising and his application of religion to the aairs of daily life” (Tayler 1952, 397).
3 Tayler (1959) dedicates his book entirely to analyzing the sources and inuences of Tamayo y Baus’s plays. Tayler discusses in
independent chapters the inuences of the German (Ch. 2), the Spanish (Ch. 3), the French (Ch. 4) and the English (Ch. 5)
dramatic traditions upon Tamayo y Baus’s oeuvre, and he highlights that Un drama nuevo is the only play by Tamayo y Baus
in which the inuence of English drama is truly perceived. For a study that connects the work with the biography of Tamayo y
Baus, see Sicars y Salvadó (1906).
4 Here there is a discrepancy with reality, as Tamayo y Baus’s play, set in 1605, includes references to the performance of Macbeth
while this tragedy is known to have been completed after that year.
74 Rocío G. Sumillera Manuel Tamayo y Baus’s Un Drama Nuevo (1867) and the Reception of Hamlet in 19th-Century Spain
envidia en el pecho. Cierto que cuando nada se tiene que envidiar….” (“Never did envy irk your
breast. True it is that when there is nothing one can envy…”) (Tamayo y Baus 2008, 62).
Shakespeare behaves not only as the director of the play but also as a counselor, almost as a father-
gure to the actors. He worries about them and tries to help and protect them the best he can. In
contrast with Shakespeare, the actors (Alicia, Edmundo, Yorick, Walton) are troubled by diverse
problems, prove emotionally unstable, under the rule of their passions, unsure of their decisions,
and generally seek the help and advice of Shakespeare. Shakespeare eventually nds out about Alicia
and Edmundo’s adulterous love, and oers to help them put an end to the morally reprehensible
situation in which they are caught. Indeed, the two lovers are tormented by tremendous feelings of
guilt and seek the advice of Shakespeare (a model of moral superiority) to stop loving each other:
E. – Sois noble y generoso.
A. – Tendréis lástima de dos infelices.
E. – No querréis aumentar nuestra desventura.
A. – Al contrario: nos protegeréis, nos defenderéis contra nosotros mismos.
S. – Vamos, hijos míos, serenidad.
A. – ¡Hijos nos llama! ¿Lo has oído?
E. – ¡Oh, besaremos vuestras plantas!
A. – Sí. (Yendo a arrodillarse.)
S. – No; en mis brazos estaréis mejor. (Abriendo los brazos.)
E. – ¡Guillermo! (Deteniéndose con rubor.)
A. – ¿Es posible? (Con alegría.)
S. – ¡Venid!
E. – ¡Salvadnos! (Arrojándose en sus brazos.)
A. – ¡Salvadnos, por piedad! (Arrojándose también en los brazos de S.)
S. – Sí; yo os salvaré con la ayuda de Dios. (Pausa, durante la cual se oyen los
sollozos de E y A.) (Tamayo y Baus 2008, 83-4)
[E. – You are noble and generous.
A. – You will have pity of two poor devils.
E. – You will not want to make our misfortune greater.
A. – On the contrary: you will protect us, you will defend us from ourselves.
S. – Come on, my ospring, stay calm.
A. – Ospring, he calls us! Did you hear?
E. – Oh! We will kiss your soles!
A. – Yes. (Beginning to kneel.)
S. – No; in my arms you will be better. (Opening his arms.)
5 All the translations of Un drama nuevo into English, as well as all the translations into English of quotations from secondary
sources in Spanish, are mine.
E. – William! (Staring and blushing.)
A. – Is it possible? (With joy.)
S. – Come to me!
E. – Save us! (rowing himself to his arms.)
A. – Save us, have mercy! (rowing herself to S’s arms too.)
S. – Yes; I will save you with the help of God. (Pause, during which E
and A’s sobs can be heard.)]
e melodramatic overtone typical of 19th-century Spanish drama appears evident in the above
fragment; indeed, from the perspective of a 21st century reader it seems too exaggerated to be
the means of expression of true and honest feelings. Shakespeare concludes that “[s]iesta buena
obra pudiera yo hacer”, referring to putting an end to the adulterous aair, “reiríame de Otelo y
Macbeth, y de todas esas tonterías” (“If I could do this good deed, I would laugh at Othello and
Macbeth, and at all that nonsense”) (Tamayo y Baus 2008, 88).
Shakespeare in Tamayo y Baus’s play works as a symbol, as he evocates the fruitful theatrical
environment of Elizabethan England. Still, the fact that the play is set in 1605 does not by any
means imply that Tamayo y Baus aimed at reproducing the atmosphere, the thought, or the stage of
Renaissance England; certainly, Un drama nuevo does not have the slightest ambition to accurately
recreate that particular historical period. Otherwise, it would have been a terrible mistake to make
Alicia a professional actress in the company of actors directed by Shakespeare in which both Yorick
and Edmundo also work.
Ironically, it was precisely up on a stage, in a previous performance of
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, that Alicia (/Juliet) and Edmundo (/Romeo) declared their mutual
love through the loving words that Romeo and Juliet exchanged in the play. at is, Alicia and
Edmundo’s love declaration occurred through a Shakespearean dialogue; thus, ction and reality,
feigned and actual feelings, again merge in Un drama nuevo, as if real life developed through
dramatic texts, or as if drama shaped and constructed reality.
e particular setting of 1605 England is therefore purely a framework selected to render tribute
to Shakespeare as a playwright, and to a specic historical moment in which drama experienced a
golden age. Indeed, the worries, concerns and general behaviour of characters are closer to those
of 19th-century Spain than to 17th-century England, and hence, closer as well to the mentality of
the audience that would go to see a play by Tamayo y Baus (Sánchez 1980).
Hamlet is the most direct allusion to a play by Shakespeare in Tamayo y Baus’s Un drama nuevo.
References to Hamlet in Tamayo y Baus’s play appear in several ways. Firstly, through direct
quotations from Hamlet: in Act I, Scene I, after Yorick tries to eloquently convince Shakespeare
to give him the tragic leading role of Conde Octavio, Shakespeare praises Yorick’s elaborated
arguments, to which Yorick replies: “No, no creas que ahora encajaría bien aquello de ‘Palabras,
palabras, palabras’ that Hamlet says” (“No, do not think that now those ‘Words, words, words’ that
Hamlet says t here”) (Tamayo y Baus 2008, 66). Another clear reference to Hamlet is established
through the character of Yorick, who, from the mere skull of a buoon in Hamlet, turns into a
fully-edged character in Un drama nuevo, where he becomes a double protagonist: the protagonist
of the main plot of the tragedy, and the actor that plays the leading role of Conde Octavio in
6 As is well known, in the 16th century, all female roles onstage were performed by men dressed as women, and it would not be
until the Restoration, in the second half of the 17th century, that women would appear onstage too.
76 Rocío G. Sumillera Manuel Tamayo y Baus’s Un Drama Nuevo (1867) and the Reception of Hamlet in 19th-Century Spain
the play within the play.
Other connections appear through the device of the play-within-a-
play, and also through references to incestuous relationships: Gertrude and Claudius in Hamlet
as wife and husband’s brother, and Alicia and Edmundo as, in a way, step-mother and stepson,
even if of the same age. Additionally, Un drama nuevo blends ction and reality as the events of
real life merge with those of the play that the actors have to perform on the stage. In Hamlet,
this happened with ‘the Mousetrap’, and in Un drama nuevo, apart from Alicia and Edmundo’s
declaration when rehearsing Romeo and Juliet, Yorick eectively ends up killing Edmundo while
they are both performing the scene in which Conde Octavio kills Manfredo for having an aair
with his wife. this bloody ending in which the main character gets his revenge is reminiscent of
Hamlet (Hamlet kills Claudius, and Yorick, Edmundo); also, the nal sword ght scene between
Yorick and Edmundo reminds us of that between Hamlet and Laertes.
Un drama nuevo moreover suggests a number of other works by Shakespeare: both Macbeth and
Romeo and Juliet are explicitly mentioned; the technique of a-play-within-a-play is also used, for
instance, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; the topic of jealousy within relationships inevitably
reminds us of Othello, and Yorick’s considerations to kill his own wife directly point at the previously
e forbidden love between Alicia and Edmundo, the two young lovers, recalls
that of Romeo and Juliet, and the character of envious Walton has been seen as “an incarnation of
Iago” (Stern 1979, 70). Precisely the character of Walton, an actor of the same company jealous
of Yorick’s performing the leading role, nally becomes the means through which Yorick nds out
about Alicia and Edmundo’s relationship, as Walton, during the performance of the play, maliciously
gives Yorick a letter in which Edmundo explains to Alicia his plans to run away with her. Again,
reality and ction meet, as, within the play, that letter disclosed to Conde Octavio the identity of the
lover of his wife Beatriz.
For having revealed the secret of the two young lovers, the play hints that
Shakespeare nally murders Walton in the streets after a sword ght; still, to preserve Shakespeare’s
portrayal as a virtuous man, it is made explicit that Walton died with a thrust through his chest
and his sword in his hand, hence suggesting that he died ghting face to face against his opponent,
who had not killed him in cold blood but in the context of a proper and fair ght. Walter’s murder
denitely reminds readers of the violent death of Christopher Marlowe in London.
Surely, the sources of inspiration for Tamayo y Baus’s Un drama nuevo are diverse and go well
beyond Shakespeare too. ey include Cervantes’s Pedro de Urdemalas, Calderón de la Barca’s
El gran teatro del mundo, Corneille’s L’Illusion comique, Rotrou’s Saint Genest, Lope de Vega’s Lo
ngido verdadero (House 1922) and El castigo sin venganza (Flynn 1973, 134),
Dumas’ Kean ou Désordre et Génie, adapted into Spanish by Tamayo y Baus himself with the title
Navegar a la aventura (1856) (Rogers 1954, 115).
Additionally, omas Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy
7 As Crocker remarks, “Yorick is appropriated as the symbolic jester, metamorphosed into a comic actor. He is used, not to
betoken the transitoriness and ultimate uselessness of action, as in Hamlet, but to reect the tragic quality of certain human
interrelationships” (Crocker 1956, 412).
8 As Tayler remarks, “La única verdadera diferencia entre Otelo y Yorick es que éste no mata por cálculo y con sangre fría, sino en
el fulgor cegador de sus pasiones sobreexcitadas” (Tayler 1959, 185). In English: “e only true dierence between Othello and
Yorick is that the latter does not kill in cold blood, but in the blinding fury of his overexcited passions”.
9 Mazzeo (1968) provides a dierent reading of the play, and sustains that Yorick was in fact aware of Alicia and Edmundo’s aair,
and hence himself played the part of unaware husband: “To assume that Yorick, years older than his spouse, was ignorant of the
relationship existing between Alicia and her young lover Edmundo […] is entirely implausible” (Mazzeo 1968, 276).
10 Flynn (1973, 84‒7, 135) discusses the way in which Un drama nuevo follows the precepts laid down by Lope de Vega in his Arte
nuevo de hacer comedias (e New Art of Writing Plays) (1609).
11 Rogers (1954) particularly discusses the stratagem of the letter-substitution device in Un drama nuevo, which is also used in
Benito Pérez Galdós La corte de Carlos IV (1873), within the series of his Episodios Nacionales. Rogers speculates that Galdós, a
drama lover, might have seen Tamayo’s play performed in Madrid and borrowed the strategy from him.
(staged in 1592) constitutes a remarkable source of inuence: in Kyd’s tragedy, an actor kills a
colleague onstage to avenge himself for a past injury, thus also taking advantage of a murder-scene
within the play he was performing and turning it to a real stabbing episode. Finally, Un drama
nuevo has some similarities with other plays by Tamayo y Baus such as Una apuesta, El castillo de
Balsaín, or Más vale maña que fuerza (Checa 2002, 57), and the title “Un drama nuevo” itself
constitutes a reference to La comedia nueva o El café (1792), a play that also discusses the world of
actors and dramatic authors and that at the end includes a failed performance of a new drama.
Interestingly, La comedia nueva o El café was written by Leandro Fernández de Moratín, precisely
the rst to translate Hamlet into Spanish directly from the English original text.
3. Hamlet in Spain and the Reception of Un drama
In Spain Shakespeare was traditionally mainly known as an author of tragedies rather than comedies
or historical dramas. e tragedies that stand out for the number of times historically mentioned
or discussed are, rst and foremost, Hamlet, followed by Othello, Macbeth and King Lear (Pujante
and Campillo 2007, xxv).
Ramón de la Cruz’s adaptation of Hamlet was the rst Shakespeare
play to be performed in Spanish theatres. e version, entitled Hamleto, rey de Dinamarca, was
performed in Madrid in 1772 (and only published in 1900 by the Revista Contemporánea by
instalments) and was based on the free adaptation of the play by Jean-François Ducis released in
France in 1769. Ducis had in his turn based his version on the translation by Pierre-Antoine de
La Place (published in the eight volumes of his Le théâtre anglois, 1745-1748) and not upon the
English original, as he did not speak English.
Certainly, the French were the ones to introduce
Shakespeare to non-English-speaking audiences, and it was Voltaire’s “On tragedy”, letter XVIII
of his Lettres philosophiques ou lettres anglaises (written between 1726 and 1730), the result of his
three-year exile in England, that truly introduced Shakespeare in continental Europe. In his letter,
Voltaire mentioned Shakespeare’s dramatic production with recognition of the English playwright’s
natural and sublime genius, as well as with criticism of his lack of good taste and respect for the
dramatic rules. When Pierre Le Tourneur began translating all of Shakespeare’s plays in 1776,
Voltaire soon enough regretted mentioning Shakespeare and opening the door for the spread of
his drama in France.
In addition to de la Cruz’s adaptation, there are three other neoclassical Spanish versions of Hamlet
also based on Ducis’s work that remained in manuscript until 2010:
an undated anonymous
version preserved in the Menéndez y Pelayo library in Santander that cannot stem from much
prior to 1793 nor much posterior to 1800; one by Antonio de Saviñón carried out at some point
between 1809 and 1814; and another by José María de Carnerero that dates from 1825. ese
four neoclassical versions have in common that they are in verse and were devised as dramatic
12 Lassaletta (1974, 856) discusses the dierences in meaning of the adjective ‘new’ in Leandro Fernández de Moratín’s La comedia
nueva, and Tamayo y Baus’s Un drama nuevo. Flynn (1973, 87) dedicates a paragraph to Tamayo y Baus and Leandro Fernández
de Moratín, and Checa (2002, 53-7) discusses the importance of the title of the play, referring to Leando Fernández de Moratín
and Lope de Vega. Additionally, Checa discusses the implications of the title Yorick, which Tamayo y Baus originally and
provisionally gave to the play.
13 For a comprehensive story of Shakespeare’s inuence in Spanish literature and the history of early performances of plays by
Shakespeare in Spain, see Par (1935, 1936).
14 Four other adaptations by Ducis of Shakespeare’s plays also found their way to Spanish scenes: Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth,
King John and Othello in the rst half of the 19th century. In France, Ducis’ neoclassical version of Hamlet got represented two
hundred and three times in the Comédie Française from 1769 to 1851, and sixty-ve between 1831 and 1840, already in the
middle of the Romantic movement (Pujante and Campillo 2007, xxx).
15 Pujante and Gregor (2010) have edited these four neoclassical versions.
78 Rocío G. Sumillera Manuel Tamayo y Baus’s Un Drama Nuevo (1867) and the Reception of Hamlet in 19th-Century Spain
texts, not as works in prose simply meant to be read, although it is highly improbable that any of
them got performed. At the end of the 18th century, the renowned playwright Leandro Fernández
de Moratín translated Shakespeare’s Hamlet directly from English into Spanish for the very rst
time. Published in 1798 in the Madridian Ocina de Villalpando under the pseudonym Inarco
Celenio, and never taken to the stage, the translation has received considerable scholarly attention
(Díaz García 1989; López Román 1989; Regalado Kerson 1989; Zaro 1998; Bobes Naves 2005).
José María Blanco White, expatriated in England from 1810 to 1841, was the rst after Moratín
to translate directly from English into Spanish two fragments of Hamlet: Act II, Scene I, and Act
III, Scene I, the renowned “to be or not to be” soliloquy. e chosen excerpts appeared in 1824
printed in the London newspaper Variedades o Mensajero de Londres under the title of “Shakespeare:
Traducción poética de algunos pasajes de sus dramas”. A few decades later, in 1856, Pablo Avecilla
corrected Moratín’s version giving way to his own one. In spite of the new translations and versions
that appeared after Ramón de la Cruz’s 1772 staging, the next performance of an adaptation of
Hamlet in Spain after Ramón de la Cruz’s happened as late as 1866, this time with the peculiarity
of it being in Italian. Indeed, it was the company of the Italian actor Ernesto Rossi that performed
it. Rossi, who was part of the Spanish intellectual life of the time (a friend to Bécquer and other
writers, for instance), dramatically failed in his rst performance, and it was only in his second
attempt two years later that he achieved great success (Berenguer 1989, 141). In addition to Hamlet,
in the 1860s Ernesto Rossi staged in Spain Othello, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, in 1875 e
Merchant of Venice, and in 1884 King Lear (Pujáis 1975, 19). Other Italian opera companies led
by, for instance, Ristori, Giovanni, Virginia Reiter, Ernete Novelli and Olga Gianni popularized
Shakespeare’s works in Spain to the extent that, between 1772 and 1900, Hamlet was performed in
Madrid by Italian companies six out of fourteen times, and in Barcelona twelve out of twenty six
(omas 1949, 15; Berenguer 1989, 140-1).
Manuel Tamayo y Baus’s Un drama nuevo opened at the Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid on 4
May 1867, with the role of Yorick played by Tamayo’s brother Victorino. us, by the time that
Manuel Tamayo y Baus’s Un drama nuevo was performed for the rst time in 1867, there had
been very few performances of Hamlet upon Spanish stages, and only one of the productions that
performed did so in Spanish. From this naturally follows that the majority of those who went to
see Tamayo y Baus’s Un drama nuevo had never seen any Shakespeare performed at all, and only a
small group of them would have read translations of Hamlet into Spanish (either the 1798 version
by Leandro Fernández de Moratín, or the 1856 version by Pablo Avecilla). us, when Julio Checa
speculates on the reasons why Un drama nuevo became a success on theatres in the 19th century,
he unsurprisingly does not allude to Tamayo y Baus’s interplay with Shakespeare’s works:
Seguramente, la clave de su aplauso estaría en la presencia de elementos melodramáticos cuya
vigencia obedecía a unas coordenadas muy concretas y a la comprensión de la obra desde una
interpretación, desde un horizonte de expectativas, más concreto aún. Si tenemos en cuenta
alguna de las críticas publicadas con motivo de su estreno, veremos claramente las razones
de su éxito. No hace falta señalar que esta crítica en ningún momento valoraba el drama por
su tratamiento de las relaciones entre la realidad y la cción, ni siquiera por su habilidad
técnica, y, sin embargo, lo hacía precisamente por aquello de lo que el propio Tamayo huyó:
el planteamiento moral del problema del honor. (Checa 2002, 64‒5)
[Surely, the key to their [19th-century audiences’] applause was the presence of melodramatic
elements whose existence obeyed to very specic coordinates and to the understanding of the
work from an even more specic interpretation and horizon of expectations. If we bear in mind
some of the critiques published after its opening, we will clearly see the reasons for the play’s
success. It is not necessary to remark that critics never appreciated the drama for its treatment
of the relations between reality and ction, nor even for its technical ability, and yet, they did
so precisely for the aspects from which Tamayo himself ed: the moral problematic of honour.]
Un drama nuevo immediately became a successful performance and toured not only throughout
Spain but also in several other countries.
Interestingly, shortly after the opening of Un drama
nuevo the number of translations of Hamlet into Spanish and the performances of this play
in Spanish rapidly escalated, which allows for speculation on whether there was a cause-eect
relationship between the success of Tamayo y Baus’s play and an increase in the general interest in
Hamlet on the part of translators, editors, theatre companies and audiences and readers – or simply
a general realization that there were very few translations of the play available in Spanish and,
similarly, few performances of it in Spain. us, in 1872, Carlos Coello’s El príncipe Hamlet was
performed in Madrid, experiencing a considerable success, as it was performed fteen times in the
capital, and the following year the show was taken to Barcelona. at same year of 1873, two new
verse translations of Hamlet were put forward by two non-Spaniards: James Clark, who translated
three tragedies and seven comedies by Shakespeare, and William Macpherson, who eventually
translated twenty-two other plays by Shakespeare, and who, between 1885 and 1897, published
them in eight volumes in a series of the Biblioteca Clásica. In the American continent, a translation
of Hamlet by Mateo Martínez Artabeytia was published in Havana in 1872, and in 1886 one by
Manuel Pérez Bibbins and Francisco López Carvajal appeared in México. In the 20th century,
translations of Hamlet into Spanish ourish.
Additionally, Hamlet was rendered into Catalan
in the 19th century: dating from 1896, there is a translation into Catalan of Act V, Scene I by
Celestino Barallat y Folguera, which was read in the Reial Academia de Bones Lletres of Barcelona;
and in 1898 Arthur Masriera translated Hamlet into Catalan too. Indeed, Hamlet would end up
becoming the most translated and adapted work by Shakespeare in Spain (Pujante and Gregor
2010, 41), to which success Manuel Tamayo y Baus contributed in the mid-19th century with his
Un drama nuevo, no doubt partly accountable for a growth in interest in Hamlet on the part of
Spanish-speaking translators, editors, readers and audiences.
Berenguer, A. 1989. La suerte de Hamlet en España entre 1772 y 1900. Parole: Revista de Creación Literaria y de
Filología 2: 137‒44.
Bobes Naves, M.C. 2005. e Translation of Hamlet by Leandro Fernández de Moratín: Neoclassical Genius and
Dramatic Rules. In Post/Imperial Encounters: Anglo-Hispanic Cultural Relations, ed. J.E. Tazón Salces and I.
Carrera Suárez, 87‒99. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
16 Among them, the United States: on 5 December 1874, Un drama nuevo was performed in New York at Daly’s Fifth Avenue
eatre. e version in English was prepared by Augustin Daly, and the actor Louis James featured Yorick. As Charlotte
Stern remarks, “According to Daly’s brother Joseph, James rose to the occasion and gave a stellar performance, but the public
boycotted the play, thereby forcing it to close one week later” (Stern 1979, 70). Apart from the translation by Daly, there was
a second one by William Dean Howells, called Yorick’s Love. As J.D. Fitz-Gerald explains, these two American versions were
“adaptations that took many liberties with the original” (Fitz-Gerald 1924, 175). Both of them, however, are now lost, and the
play is currently available in the English version of J.D. Fitz-Gerald and T.H. Guild (A New Drama, New York: e Hispanic
Society of America, 1915), which does not take many liberties with the text.
17 For a complete list of Spanish translations and versions of Hamlet from the 18th century up until our days see Pujante and Gregor
(2010, 513‒6). Also, Juliá Martínez (1918, 255‒61) includes a chronological index with all the translations and imitations of
works by Shakespeare in Spain or in Spanish until 1918. He particularly discusses those derived from Hamlet on pages 115‒36.
Campillo Arnaiz (2005) analyzes in detail in the rst chapter of her dissertation (“Las traducciones de Shakespeare en España”)
the translations of Shakespeare’s works in Spain from 1772 until 2004.
80 Rocío G. Sumillera Manuel Tamayo y Baus’s Un Drama Nuevo (1867) and the Reception of Hamlet in 19th-Century Spain
Campillo Arnaiz, L. 2005. Estudio de los elementos culturales en las obras de Shakespeare y su traducción al
español por Macpherson, Astrana y Valverde. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Universidad de Murcia.
Checa, J. ed., 2002. Introducción, 7‒66. Un drama nuevo: Virgina. Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva.
Crocker, L.G. 1956. Techniques of Ambiguity in Un drama nuevo. Hispania 39, no. 4: 412‒8.
Díaz García, J. 1989. Las primeras versiones de Hamlet al español: apuntes para la historia de la traductología
anglo-española. In Fidus Interpres. Actas de las I Jornadas Nacionales de Historia de la Traducción, Vol. II, eds.
J.C. Santoyo et al, 60‒72. León: Universidad de León.
Esquer Torres, R. 1965. El teatro de Tamayo y Baus. Madrid: Instituto Miguel de Cervantes.
Fitz-Gerald, J.D. 1924. Un Drama Nuevo on the American Stage. Hispania 7, no. 3: 171‒6.
Flynn, G. 1973. Manuel Tamayo y Baus. New York: Twayne.
House, R.T. 1922. Lope de Vega and Un Drama Nuevo. Romanic Review 13: 84‒7.
Juliá Martínez, E. 1918. Shakespeare en España: traducciones, imitaciones e inuencia de las obras de Shakespeare en
la literatura española. Madrid: Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos.
Lassaletta, M.C. 1974. Un Drama Nuevo y el Realismo Literario. Hispania 57, no. 4: 856-67.
López Román, B. 1989. Procesos de transformación de Shakespeare en la traducción de Hamlet de Moratín.
BELLS: Barcelona English Language and Literature Studies 1: 117‒23.
Mazzeo, G.E. 1968. Yorick’s Covert Motives in Un Drama Nuevo. Modern Language Notes 83, no. 2: 275‒8.
Par, A. 1935. Shakespeare en la literatura española: juicios de los literatos españoles, con noticias curiosas sobre algunos
de ellos y sobre sucesos literarios famosos. Vol. II. Madrid: Victoriano Suárez; Barcelona: Balmes.
– – –. 1936. Representaciones shakespearianas en España. Vol. II. Madrid: Victoriano Suárez; Barcelona: Balmes.
Pujáis, E. 1975. On Translating Shakespeare into Spanish. Shakespeare Translation 2: 16‒29.
Pujante, A.L., and L. Campillo. 2007. Shakespeare en España: Textos, 1764-1916. Granada: Universidad de
– – –., and K. Gregor 2010. Hamlet en España: las cuatro versiones neoclásicas. Salamanca: Universidad de
Salamanca; Murcia: Universidad de Murcia.
Regalado Kerson, P. 1989. Leandro Fernández de Moratín: Primer traductor de Shakespeare en castellano:
Antecedentes y preliminares a su versión de Hamlet. Dieciocho: Hispanic Enlightenment 12, no. 1: 45‒65.
Rogers, P.P. 1954. Galdós and Tamayo’s Letter-Substitution Device. Romanic Review 45, no. 2: 115‒20.
Sánchez, R.G. 1980. Los comediantes del XIX: Un drama nuevo. Hispanic Review 48, no. 4: 435‒47.
Sicars y Salvadó, N.D. 1906. Manuel Tamayo y Baus: estudio crítico-biográco. Barcelona: Tip. Católica.
Stern, C. 1979. Actors, Characters, and Spectators in Tamayo’s Un Drama Nuevo. eatre Journal 31, no. 1:
Tamayo y Baus, M. 2008. Un drama nuevo. Alberto Sánchez, ed. Madrid: Cátedra.
Tayler, N.H. 1952. Manuel Tamayo y Baus: Some Early Romantic Inuences. Hispania 35, no. 4: 395‒8.
– – –. 1959. Las fuentes del teatro de Tamayo y Baus: originalidad e inuencias. Madrid: Graf. Uguina.
omas, H. 1949. Shakespeare in Spain. London: Goerey Cumberlege.
Zaro, J.J. 1998. Moratín’s Translation of Hamlet (1798): A Study of the Paratexts. In e Practices of Literary
Translation: Constraints and Creativity, ed. J. Boase-Beier and M. Holman, 125‒33. Manchester: St. Jerome.