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A Dreamer for the People


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A: Antonio Buero-Vallejo Pf: 1958, Madrid Pb: 1959; rev. 1989 Tr: 1994 G: Hist. drama in 2 acts; Spanish prose S: Street, Esquilache's home, and royal palace, Madrid, 1766 C: 22m, 5fCarlos III has given the Italian-born Don Leopoldo de Gregorio, Marquis of Esquilache, two ministries to oversee reforms, especially those concerned with improving life in 18th-century Spain: public hygiene and street lighting in Madrid. Against a background of general discontent, Carlos and Esquilache, decide to ban the wearing of long capes and wide-brimmed hats. This is a measure not just to reject traditional attire, but because these garments were worn by those committing criminal acts, hiding their faces and concealing weapons. Attempts to enforce the new ruling are unsuccessful: there are calls for an uprising against Esquilache, and when soldiers attempt to arrest two men provocatively parading in the forbidden dress, the soldiers are attacked by the mob. While Esquilache, who has fallen in love with the beautiful Fernandita, asks the King to allow him to separate from his wife, the crowd march on the palace, demanding Esquilache's head. Because there are uprisings all over Spain and the King fears all-out civil war, Esquilache advises that he should give way to the rebels, ‘allowing the people to dress according to custom’, and banish Esquilache. Esquilache takes leave of Fernandita: he has now lost everything, but the dreams of this idealist will live on to benefit the people.

A: Antonio Buero-Vallejo Pf: 1958, Madrid Pb: 1959; rev. 1989 Tr: 1994 G: Hist. drama in 2 acts; Spanish prose S: Street, Esquilache's home, and royal palace, Madrid, 1766 C: 22m, 5f

Buero-Vallejo, considered Spain's greatest playwright of the second half of the 20th century, here, in the guise of recreating an episode in Spanish history, debates concerns affecting Spain under Franco: the relationship between tradition and reform, and the alternative of violently suppressing discontent or making concessions to restore harmony. For Esquilache there is also the hard choice between personal power and the nation's welfare.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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