Carlos Arniches was one of the most prolific playwrights of his generation. He was born in Alicante in 1866, but economic and civil unrest forced the family to relocate to Barcelona to secure work. In his late teens, Arniches moved on his own to Madrid to pursue his writing career. Initially, Arniches was more interested in writing novels and articles than plays. He started to contribute short pieces to newspapers and journals, but found it difficult to make a living. Arniches’ first real success came in 1877 when he published a short biography of King Alfonso XII of Spain. The book was extremely popular as an educational text, and gave Arniches a large degree of financial security. Arniches continued writing gossip columns and newspaper articles, until in 1888 he became more attracted to dramatic writing. This change of interest came about after Arniches helped a young aspiring playwright to successfully revise a play that had previously been badly received by the public. Arniches would continue to collaborate with other writers and artists throughout his career. From 1888 to 1943, Arniches wrote dozens of plays, many of which were hugely successful during his lifetime. La señorita de Trevélez is generally considered to be one of Arniches’ most successful plays in terms of its enduring popularity with audiences and critics.
Much of Arniches’ work is set in Madrid and in lower class areas in particular. Here, he dramatised everyday life, often depicting society in a slightly grotesque way. Arniches claimed that he used his theatre to hold up a mirror to his audiences, showing them negative aspects of behaviour in the hope of encouraging them to behave in better ways towards their fellow human beings. Love, the relationships between men and women and the problems of friendship and of marriage are all recurring themes
Arniches wrote in a wide variety of styles. Many of his plays contain songs and musical interludes. He wrote many género chico plays – brief comic pieces featuring dance, parody and a lot of local colour. Because many plays are set in lower class areas in Madrid, the language the characters use is highly colloquial. In fact, Arniches was sometimes accused of mangling the Spanish language in his drama.
Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 29 October 2011.