Jacinto Benavante at his home. / FLICKR

Playwright Jacinto Benavente is born 12 August 1866

After abandoning his law studies he went travelling and then began a new career as a writer, publishing 174 works and becoming Spain's foremost playwright

Debbie Bartlett
DEBBIE BARTLETT

His name appears on many streets and public squares in Spain and a statue of him stands in the Retiro Park in Madrid, a reflection of his glittering career as a playwright and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1922, which was awarded to him "for the happy manner in which he has continued the illustrious traditions of the Spanish drama".

On 12 August 1886, Jacinto Benavente y Martínez was born in Madrid, the son of a well-known pediatrician. The family were wealthy and Jacinto, who was quite academic, began to study law at universiy, but when his father died and he received a large inheritance he gave up his studies and went travelling before returning to Spain and settling down in a job as an editor and writer.

He became a prolific author, publishing 174 works which included poetry, short stories and articles, but plays accounted for the vast majority of his work.

The first of his plays, Another's Nest (sometimes translated as The Strange Nest), was performed in 1894. It was a satire about middle and upper-class Madrid society and completely different to the popular plays of the time. It was considered controversial and was not well-received, but his later attempts in which he criticised immorality and bad behaviour, often humorously, and raised the profile of women and their contribution to society, became much sought-after.

In 1909 Benavente, who never married and had no children of his own, founded the Children's Theatre in Madrid, with Fernando Porredón, to promote the idea of quality plays for children.

Jacinto Benavente described himself as a liberal conservative. As a monarchist he did not support the Second Republic and, much to the disgust of his liberal colleagues and friends, he endorsed Franco during the Civil War, albeit somewhat reluctantly.

Jacinto Benavente, one of Spain's foremost 20th century writers and playwrights, died in Madrid on 14 July 1954, at the age of 87.