Out of the Wings

You are here:

Armando Discépolo

Personal information
Surname: Discépolo
First name: Armando
Born: 18 August 1887, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Died: 8 January 1971

Armando Discépolo was the eldest son of the conductor, Enrique Santos, who came to Buenos Aires from Naples and led the first municipal band which composed tangos, including ‘No me arrempujés, caramba’.  Discépolo’s brother, similarly called Enrique Santos, was also a composer of tangos.

Armando Discépolo was first an actor before writing for the stage.  His first play Entre el hierro (Between the Iron) was performed in 1910 and he also directed.  He went on to write many plays through which he created his own stage language which came to be known as the grotesco criollo, a distinctive Argentine form of the grotesque.  Discépolo also adapted for the stage and translated many foreign works into Spanish, including plays by Shakespeare (Julius Caesar and The Taming of the Shrew), Chekhov (The Three Sisters) and Pirandello (Tonight We Improvise; Right You Are, If you Think You Are; Henry IV; and The New Colony).  Discépolo continued to work as a director throughout his career.  He directed the Comedia Nacional Argentina between 1948 and 1952 during which he staged works which he had translated, as well as Babilonia which he wrote.  Discépolo is considered to be a pillar of Argentine theatre.


Discépolo’s plays deal with the experience of the immigrant to the region, characterised by the experience of the Italian immigrant. Italians were by far the most numerous of the vertiginous waves of immigration to Argentina, encouraged by the policies of the liberal governments of the mid-nineteenth century.

Discépolo dramatises the struggle to communicate with those outside the immigrant community, as well as between the different generations within immigrant communities.  He portrays the way in which parents are infantilised in relation to their children by their inability to command the language of their new home, which their children come to master with ease.

The desire to make money, and then the lack of money is also a significant in Discépolo’s writings.  Deception, humiliation, the corruption of loving relationships and sorrow are prevalent themes.


Discépolo’s drama fuses the observational comedy of theatre traditions like the sainete and the género chico with elements of the Italian grotesque characteristic of playwrights such as Pirandello and Chiarelli.  The result is a theatre of tragicomedy: the grotesco criollo.

The dramatic situation may be ridiculous or pathetic, the characters are parodies of themselves and their physicality might be clownish, slapstick or puppet-like. The plays are written in a form of bastardised Spanish that is heavily inflected with Italian, more specifically, with Neapolitan dialects. In some plays the language is further inflected by French, German and Galician and is countered with creole Argentine Spanish.

Plays in the database
Other works
  • Discépolo, Armando. 1910. Entre el hierro (Among the Iron) (in Spanish)

  • Discépolo, Armando. 1911. La torcaz (The Wood Pigeon) (in Spanish)

  • Discépolo, Armando. 1911. El rincón de los besos (The Corner of Kisses) (in Spanish)

  • Discépolo, Armando. 1912. El patio de las flores (The Patio of Flowers) (in Spanish)

  • Discépolo, Armando. 1921. Mustafá (Mustafa) (in Spanish)

  • Discépolo, Armando. 1922. Mateo (Mateo) (in Spanish)

  • Discépolo, Armando. 1932. Cremona (Cremona) (in Spanish)

  • Discépolo, Armando. 1925. Babilonia (Babylon) (in Spanish)

Useful reading and websites
  • Pellettieri, Osvaldo. 1990. Cien años de teatro argentine (1886 – 1990). Buenos Aires, Galerna (in Spanish)

  • Viñas, David. 1973. Grotesco, inmigración y fracaso. Buenos Aires, Corregidor (in Spanish)

Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 28 March 2012.

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment. Please log in or sign up for a free account.

  • King's College London Logo
  • Queen's University Belfast Logo
  • University of Oxford Logo
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council Logo