Out of the Wings

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Los intereses creados (1907), Jacinto Benavente y Martínez

English title: The Bonds of Interest
Date written: 1907
First publication date: 1908
First production date: 9 December 1907
Keywords: morality > honour, morality > vice-virtue, identity > class/social standing, identity > hierarchy, family > patriarchy, family > marriage, love > friendship, love > relationships
Genre and type: comedy, farce

Roll up! Roll up! Crispin, the master puppeteer is in town! Watch, as he pulls the strings of the greedy and the gullible, and works his mischief on all those around him.


In seventeenth-century Italy, two loveable rogues, Crispin and Leandro, are on the run. They turn up in a new town with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Leandro is shy and retiring, whereas Crispin is manipulative and resourceful. And so, while Leandro worries about how they will feed themselves, Crispin is already plotting to make a little money. Almost immediately, he formulates a simple but ingenious plan. Using the gift of the gab, Crispin will spread the news around town that Leandro is a great nobleman and that he, Crispin, is his servant. Leandro himself will say very little in public, giving him an air of mystique. Once his reputation as a wealthy man is secured, Leandro – with Crispin’s help – will set his sights on marrying Silvia. She is the daughter of Punchinello, the wealthiest man in town, and a match with her would be profitable for both crooks.

It does not take Crispin long to establish Leandro’s false reputation. Playing the part of the pushy servant, he dupes the local Innkeeper into giving them free board and lodging, with the promise of payment later. Subsequently, the Innkeeper is so deceived by Crispin’s lies that he has his friend Pantaloon offer the tricksters a house on credit. By offering them his ‘master’s’ protection and charity, Crispin also secures two useful allies – the world-weary Captain and the unsuccessful poet Harlequin – who quickly help spread the news of Leandro’s generosity around town. Meanwhile, the secretly-impoverished widow Doña Sirena is planning to host a grand party and invite the most respectable members of society. Punchinello and his daughter Silvia will be there, and so Crispin sets about arranging an invite for Leandro. Luckily, Doña Sirena’s servants have just gone on strike, as nobody wants to work for a woman rumoured to be knee-deep in debt. Crispin is immediately on hand to offer assistance. He promises that, so long as Leandro is invited, the party will be well supplied with servants and musicians. Crispin then hands Doña Sirena an extra message from his ‘master’. It is a signed contract promising her a large sum of money should Leandro marry Punchinello’s daughter Silvia. If Sirena helps to secure this outcome, the document promises that she will be richly rewarded on the wedding day.

Doña Sirena’s party guests start to arrive. Among them are many young women interested in Leandro, the enigmatic nobleman. But Leandro only has eyes for Silvia. Doña Sirena introduces the two young people to each other, leaving Crispin alone with Punchinello. We learn that he knows Punchinello of old, and that the wealthy patriarch is in fact more of a rogue than Leandro and Crispin put together. Punchinello’s path from rags to riches is littered with a trail of unexplained and sudden deaths. Despite this, and in what seems like an uncharacteristically disloyal gesture, Crispin reveals that Leandro is a trickster. Protective of his daughter – and more importantly of his money – Punchinello immediately prohibits Leandro from talking to Silvia at the party. It seems the game is up for the conmen, and indeed Leandro wants to flee the city. He has really fallen in love with Silvia and no longer wants to deceive her. He is also horrified when Crispin admits that he has told Punchinello of their scam. But Crispin has not betrayed his friend. Rather, he rightly wagers that Punchinello’s censure will only serve to bolster his daughter’s desire for Leandro. And indeed, as the party nears its end, Silvia and Leandro secretly declare their love for one another.

In act 2 news has spread that, just after the party, a group of men attacked Leandro. Most of the townsfolk believe him to be terribly injured and are blaming Punchinello for the crime. In reality, Leandro is unharmed. Once again, Crispin has been weaving his web of deception. Now that he is really in love, Leandro regrets their plan and insists that they make their escape. Crispin dissuades his friend, however, by telling him that those people to whom they owe money have begun to get impatient for their debts to be paid. In addition, Doña Sirena – who has become wise to the tricksters – pretends to Silvia that Leandro is on his deathbed. She thus deceives the young woman into bringing shame on her father by rushing to the house of an unmarried rogue. But the newly-respectable Leandro refuses a quick and dishonourable marriage to Silvia, even if it would earn Sirena her promised cash. And so, as Punchinello, the police and an angry crowd of creditors approach the house, Leandro hides Silvia and flees on a secret mission – leaving Crispin to placate the mob.

Among the angry crowd is a lawyer of court who has caught up with Crispin and Leandro after they fled their last con trick. The Captain, Innkeeper and Harlequin are shocked to discover that they have been duped, and fear not only financial ruin but also the ridicule of their fellow townsfolk. But, as usual, the ever-resourceful Crispin has a solution for everyone. He convinces his creditors that the only way they will save face and recover their money is if Silvia does indeed marry Leandro and if it is not made widely known that he is not, in fact, a nobleman. The crowd are convinced, although Punchinello objects to this plan. Meanwhile, Leandro himself, whose secret mission was to fetch Punchinello’s wife to try and calm her husband down, is still unwilling to marry Silvia without her father’s permission. Punchinello eventually relents to let the two wed, so long as there is no inheritance. But Leandro and Silvia appear to be the only ones really happy with this arrangement – it seems this marriage is to be just as much a business deal between creditors as it is to be a romantic union. Eventually, bowing to the pressure from those owed money, Punchinello agrees to fully support the wedding. His only proviso is that Crispin, the master puppeteer of everything that has happened, leave his post as Leandro’s servant. This satisfies everyone, including Crispin, who happily departs to plan his next puppet show.


Many of the characters of the play have their roots Italian commedia dell’arte, such as the greedy patriarch Punchinello (essentially the Punch figure from Punch and Judy) and the poet Harlequin. As is characteristic of commedia dell’arte, these characters are relatively two-dimensional, and this lack of nuance serves to emphasise Crispin’s vitality and wit (Benavente 1972: 33). Crispin himself is reminiscent of the wise and comic maids and servants that populated plays in the sixteenth and seventeenth century (Benavente 1996: 54). José Montero Padilla even sees in him traces of the barber Figaro – the scheming former servant from Pierre Beaumarchais’s The Barber of Seville (Benavente 1996: 54). The poet and writer Dámaso Alonso also argues that the play bears a clear resemblance to El caballero de Illescas (The Gentleman of Illescas) by Lope de Vega (see Alonso 1967). In fact, while it was very successful, Los intereses creados (The Bonds of Interest) was accused of being overly influenced by other works, such as Volpone by the English playwright Ben Johnson. For more information see, for example, the following editions: Benavente 1996: 53-8 and Benavente 1972.

  • Alonso, Dámaso. 1967. ‘De El caballero de Illescas a Los intereses creados’, Revista de Filología Española 50.1, 1-24 (in Spanish)

  • Benavente, Jacinto. 1972. Los intereses creados, ed. F. Lázaro Carreter. Salamanca, Anaya (in Spanish)

  • Benavente, Jacinto. 1996. Los intereses creados. La malquerida, ed. José Montero Padilla. Madrid, Castalia (in Spanish)

Critical response

Los intereses creados (The Bonds of Interest) is generally considered to be Benavente’s most popular and best-written play. It has been performed to audiences in Spain and abroad with great success. One of the reasons for this, as Angel Flores points out, is the fact that Benavente’s ‘critique of the philistine mentality and the picaresque connivings of his famous hero-ruffian seem as logical to the theatergoers of Copenhagen as to those of Montevideo’ (Flores 1991: 11).

  • Flores, Angel (ed.). 1991. Great Spanish Plays in English Translation. New York, Dover. Unabridged and corrected re-publication of the Bantam World Drama edition (1968) of Spanish Drama, originally published by Bantam Books, Inc., New York, 1962

  • Benavente, Jacinto. 1972. Los intereses creados, ed. F. Lázaro Carreter. Salamanca, Anaya

  • Benavente, Jacinto. 1996. Los intereses creados. La malquerida, ed. José Montero Padilla. Madrid, Castalia

Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 12 January 2011.

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