Out of the Wings

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La señorita de Trevélez (1916), Carlos Arniches Barreda

English title: Miss Trevélez
Date written: 1916
First production date: 14 December 1916
Keywords: family, family > brothers/sisters, family > marriage, honour > chivalry, identity > class/social standing, love, love > relationships, power > use and abuse, love > friendship, Social > Hierarchy
Genre and type: farce, tragicomedy

The Joke Club have planned their best joke yet, and Don Gallant is the target. But things get complicated when old Miss Trevélez becomes the unwitting victim of scorn and ridicule.


In a provincial gentleman’s club, several members have set up a Joke Club. Inspired by secret societies, the Joke Club comes up with hilarious ways to trick those they consider foolish. As the play begins, the Joke Club is planning yet another trick that will, it is hoped, cause the victim much suffering and the members of the Club much hilarity. Pablito Picavea belongs to the Joke Club. He is in lust with the maid Soledad, who is often seen cleaning the windows of the Trevélez house facing the gentleman’s club. Picavea has a rival for Soledad’s affections, namely Don Gallant, who is not a member of the Joke Club. Picavea enlists the help of Tito Guiloya, head of the Joke Club, to play a cruel joke on Gallant. They will orchestrate a situation in which the aged spinster Florita Trevélez will be led to believe that Gallant is in love with her. While Gallant squirms to extricate himself from that situation, Picavea will be able to get on with the business of seducing Soledad.

The members of the Joke Club are all excited about the forthcoming ruse. To them, Florita Trevélez is nothing but a ridiculous old woman who still dreams of marriage despite her advanced years. Her brother, Don Gonzalo, is an equally ridiculous figure. The Joke Club pretend to appreciate his verse recitals, while laughing at him behind his back. They also encourage his adulation of his sister, highly amused by how blind he is to her faults, such as her terrible singing voice.

Members of the Joke Club forge a letter to Florita Trevélez, supposedly from Gallant, confessing his love for her. She falls for it immediately. Florita already mistakenly believes that it was she who excited the interest of both Gallant and Picavea, as they gazed across longingly – to Soledad – from the windows of the gentlemen’s club. When Gallant realises that Florita thinks he is in love with her, he immediately wants to disabuse her of that notion. But Don Marcelino, a wise gentleman who is not a member of the Joke Club, advises against that idea. He warns Gallant that Don Gonzalo is a great shot and an excellent sportsman, and might very well be dangerous if he thinks his sister has been made a fool of. And so Gallant, fearing for his life, sees no option but to become Florita’s unwilling suitor.

For a while, the members of the Joke Club take great delight in watching poor Gallant being smothered by Florita’s love. After two weeks, however, the stress has got to Gallant. He is even contemplating suicide. Tito Guiloya and Picavea realise that the joke might have gone too far and they come up with a plan to rescue Gallant. Both Gallant and Picavea will pretend to be madly in love with Florita. After duelling, they will both decide to give up their claim to her, pretending that this is the only way to avoid tragedy and heartbreak for all concerned. Picavea goes to declare his love for Florita, waiting for Gallant to come along and catch him in the act so that they can fight a pretend duel. But Gallant has fainted due to exhaustion, and it is Don Gonzalo who catches Picavea trying to seduce his sister.

As Don Marcelino predicted, Don Gonzalo is a dangerous man when angry. He challenges Picavea to a duel, still believing that Gallant loves Florita. Frightened at the prospect of an actual duel to the death, Picavea decides it is time to save his skin. He lies, and tells Don Gonzalo that both he and Gallant have been victims of a cruel trick by the Joke Club. When Don Gonzalo realises that Florita has been deceived, he is devastated. He confesses that he knows that he looks like a joke to the outside world, with his obviously-dyed hair and his insistence on spending time with younger men. Don Gonzalo has done all this for his sister, reasoning that if he still looks young, she might not realise that she too is getting old. Picavea blames Tito Guiloya for everything. More used to being the orchestrator of jokes than the victim of one, Guiloya is terrified when Don Gonzalo goes to kill him. Thankfully, Don Marcelino intervenes, and Don Gonzalo turns his thoughts back to his sister. Gallant has been touched by Don Gonzalo’s love for Florita, and offers to marry her to avoid any more pain. But Don Gonzalo refuses and decides to tell Florita that the terms of the pretend duel have to be honoured – that neither Gallant and Picavea can marry her. That way, she will never know that she was never loved.

Critical response

When the play was first performed in 1916, it was not particularly successful. Even the playwright did not consider it as one of his better works. Nevertheless, Miss Trevélez is now seen by critics as one of Arniches’ best plays (Carratalá 2006). Vicente Ramos notes the effective way in which the play dramatises the damage done by careless cruelty. He is one of several scholars who consider the play to be a reflection of Arniches’ regenerationalist attitude towards Spain, after the devastating loss of colonies in 1898. Just as many of Spain’s thinkers at that time were calling for the regeneration of the country through looking outwards to other European cultures, so too Don Marcelino persuades Don Gonzalo not to actually kill Tito Guiloya, but rather to kill his small-minded attitudes by promoting cosmopolitan art and culture (Ramos 2006).

  • Arniches, Carlos. 1996. La señorita de Trevélez; ¡Que viene mi marido!, ed. Andrés Amorós. Madrid, Cátedra

  • Arniches, Carlos. 1998. El amigo Melquiades; La señorita de Trévelez. Madrid, Espasa Calpe

  • Arniches, Carlos. n.d. La señorita de Trevélez, Artes Universales website at http://www.teatro.ebooks.artesuniversales.com/?p=385 [accessed October 2011] (Online Publication)

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Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 29 October 2011.

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