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By Benavente, Jacinto
Edited and translated by Stanley Appelbaum
New York: Dover Publications, 2004 (from the 1908 Spanish edition)
ISBN # 0-486-43086-3
105 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
August 2013

Jacinto Benavente was born in 1866 and won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1922. The Bonds of Interest was published in 1908 and is considered his most famous work. It is set in the 17th century and was much influenced by Commedia dell’arte. The translator suggests that “bonds of interest” is not the best translation of the Spanish title. However, he kept that title since it’s been known in English by that name since it was first translated. However, he suggests “Vested Interests” would be a more accurate title.

The translator/editor says:

“It’s a farce for puppets; its subject is nonsensical and it’s completely unreal. You will soon see that its entire action could never have taken place, that its characters aren’t and don’t even resemble, men and women, but are puppets or marionettes. . .”

I found his description to be accurate, but that lead me to think it would therefore not be very interesting or fun to read. Quite the contrary. It is a lark, and a delightful one, reminiscent to me of some of Shakespeare’s crazy comedies.

It seemed to me that in the period of radio and TV sit-coms there were many extremely successful shows which were just as unrealistic and silly as this is, but since there were typically set in everyday scenes in our own times, those who heard or watched them were somehow aware of how impossible and utterly silly they were, but they were close enough to reality to make the humor transparent. What makes Benavente’s comedy seem so outrageous is that most of us just aren’t very familiar with the period in which he set the play, and that contributes to the seeming unreality of it all.

In our own times people seem to watch fewer such sitcoms, and to spend much more time on-line in chat groups and similar such sites, but introduce in bodiless form more of the social interaction as in stories which “go viral.” Thus a similar sort of silliness exists in our own times as well.

We follow the story of two con men, Leador and Crispin. The latter is the brains of these crazy plans and Leador, a fairly decent fellow, is more of a modestly innocent follower, but a crook nonetheless. They play a sort of bad cop / good cop routine. Crispin is making claims about Leador which ANYONE in the audience knows are the sheerest nonsense. But the audience giggles but says nothing. It’s transparent nonsense of a different era, but just as much fun as modern day farces. However, the chuckles the modern reader has, and likewise I was constantly giggling as I read, carrying some sense of superiority to such blatant and nonsensical situations. I find that phenomenon fascinating.

Crispin is trying to pass Leador off as a very rich and important man on a mission so private that his name cannot be mentioned, but they are giving this particular landlord the great privilege of housing them and serving them, all, of course, on credit. Then they meet up with two other con men that had been staying at the same place, but have been found out. They end up working with these other two.

A fifth con worker comes into play, a woman who is successfully placed herself as a respected wealthy woman in town, but, like the others, is doing it all with credit she cannot replay. These latter three are in serious difficulties since they are being found out or suspected by the various creditors.

The woman con artist who is going to give a party so that the newly famous Leador can be introduced as an important the rich man visiting the village and perhaps he can land the richest and most beautiful young woman in town, whose father, as luck would have it for the conspirators, was in the past himself a con man and his whole REAL fortune has come to him by crook.

Like all such farces all’s well that ends well and the fairly decent Leador gets the rich woman, and none of the other crooks gets into any serious troubles, but the reader leaves the play suspecting that Leador will never be rid of these deadbeats but at least he gets the fortune and the beautiful woman whom he truly loves who came with this fortune.

Lots of fun and very well written.

Bob Corbett


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Bob Corbett