Out of the Wings

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La malquerida (1913), Jacinto Benavente y Martínez

English title: The Misbeloved
Notable variations on Spanish title: The Passion Flower
Date written: 1913
First publication date: 1927
First production date: 12 December 1913
Keywords: family, family > mothers and daughters, family > parents and children, society, love > relationships, love > desire, morality > justice-revenge, violence > murder, violence > revenge
Genre and type: tragedy, melodrama

Acacia is about to get married. But someone is unhappy about the engagement, and has murder on his mind.


Acacia lives with her mother Raimunda and her stepfather Esteban. Acacia’s father died when she was little, and she has always hated Esteban, despite his kindness towards her. Acacia is engaged to Faustino. Before she met him, however, she was in love with her cousin Norberto. That relationship fell apart when Norberto decided he was no longer interested in her, offering no explanation for his change of heart.

As the play begins, Faustino and his father Eusebio have spent the day in Acacia’s village with her friends and family. It is late, and they are about to return to their own village. Esteban accompanies his guests for part of their journey. As the men travel down the deserted country roads, tragedy strikes. They are set upon by a gunman, and Faustino is killed. It is dark, and so no one can identify the murderer. But the finger of suspicion immediately falls on Norberto, presumably jealous that his former sweetheart is about to marry someone else.

Norberto is initially arrested, but is then released because he has a watertight alibi for the night of the murder. Nevertheless, Eusebio and his other sons still suspect him of killing Faustino. Meanwhile, Acacia and her family have retreated to their other house in the rural countryside, eager to escape the gossip in the village. Here, they are visited by Eusebio. He accuses Raimunda and Esteban of protecting Norberto because he is family. In Eusebio’s mind, Norberto is obviously guilty, since only a jealous love rival would attack his innocent son.

After Eusebio leaves Norberto arrives, summoned by his aunt Raimunda. It is clear to her that Norberto had nothing to do with Faustino’s murder. He is, however, evidently agitated and reluctant to talk. Eventually, Norberto reveals that he thinks that Esteban – with the help of his servant Rubio – killed Faustino. Norberto tells Raimunda how Esteban manipulated and threatened him into ending his relationship with Acacia. When Faustino was murdered, Norberto immediately suspected Esteban. Raimunda cannot understand why her loving husband would not want his stepdaughter to marry. But it soon becomes clear. Villagers have mockingly made up a song about ‘the misbeloved’. Raimunda realises Acacia is ‘the misbeloved’ in question, and that her husband is so obsessed with his stepdaughter that he has killed her fiancé.

When confronted with the situation, Acacia admits that Esteban’s secret feelings towards her are precisely the reason why she despises him and refuses to call him father. She has always resisted his advances, and never told Raimunda for fear of not being believed. The confrontation between mother and daughter is interrupted by the news that Faustino’s brothers have come to kill Norberto, still believing that he is guilty. Norberto is badly wounded, but survives. Meanwhile, realising Raimunda now knows all about his crime and his secret love for Acacia, Esteban flees for the hills. Eventually, worn out and miserable, he returns. His devoted servant Rubio promises to take the blame for everything, but Esteban decides that he must take responsibility for the murder. He confronts an enraged Raimunda and confesses his shameful desire for Acacia. Esteban is so full of self-loathing and contrition that Raimunda forgives him, and decides that they will conceal his crime and send Acacia away. Acacia, however, refuses to be forced out of her own home. She says that she will go to the police and tell them everything. Faced with his stepdaughter’s righteous anger, Esteban gives in and agrees to confess to the murder. But before he leaves the house for good, he begs Acacia to call him father, just once. She cannot do so. Instead, she calls him by his first name. Passionately, she admits that she has always loved him – that her hatred was simply a jealous reaction to his relationship with her mother. Esteban is overjoyed. He forgets all about confessing, and instead promises Acacia that they will run away together. Horrified, Raimunda tries to stop them from leaving. But Esteban is no longer the contrite and loving husband he once was. Determined to flee with Acacia, he kills Raimunda. Suddenly, the sight of her mother lying dead on the floor shocks Acacia out of wanting to be with Esteban. For the first time in many years, Acacia tells her dead mother that she loves her, and she promises that Esteban will be brought to justice for all his crimes.

Critical response

La malquerida is considered to be one of Benavente’s best plays. Its psychological impact has impressed a range of critics, many of whom enjoyed the complexity of the plot and characterisation. For example, in his introduction to the 1941 edition of the play, Paul Manchester notes: ‘No character is completely bad. Human frailties and weaknesses are balanced with virtues, and each character becomes an individual demanding the sympathy and pity of the audience’ (Benavente 1941: xxii). The play has been adapted for film and television many times, most recently in 2006.

  • Benavente, Jacinto. 1941. La malquerida, ed. Paul T. Manchester. New York, Appleton-Century-Crofts (in Spanish)

  • Benavente, Jacinto. 1927. La malquerida: drama en tres actos y en prosa. Madrid, Librería y Casa Editorial Hernando. Available online at http://www.archive.org/details/lamalqueridadram00bena [accessed November 2011] (Online Publication)

  • Benavente, Jacinto. 1941. La malquerida, ed. Paul T. Manchester. New York, Appleton-Century-Crofts

Useful readings and websites
  • De Onis, Federico. 1923. ‘Jacinto Benavente’, The North American Review, 217.808, 357-64

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

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