The theater of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda has been categorized as eclectic Romanticism since it combines elements from Romanticism (such as a plot based on the nation’s history) as well as classic greek theater. The play is made up of four acts with a “romantic soul, in the classic style” and it was first released in Madrid in 1844 reaching great popularity. It is based on the 12th-century mayor of Toledo; the character of Alfonso Munio is a tragic hero–a man of high status in society whose fatal error leads to his demise.
This protagonist has a close relationship with his daughter Fronilde. Their closeness is evident from the father’s enjoyment of their time together: “I confess,…, that embellished/ With the affection of my daughter,/hurriedly from the morning/Flew the hours…so that, suddenly/I was surprised to see, the sun touch its setting.” (Gómez qtd. in 828)
The tenderness with which Gertrudis can develop this relationship intensifies the emotional impact when, by an error of fate, the love of father and daughter is eventually destroyed. Fronilde falls in love with prince Don Sancho de Castilla, who for political reasons is engaged to Dona Blanca de Navarra, and this makes a series of plot events unfold leading to the tragic dissolution of this special familial bond.
A scene that mixes the impassioned language of Romanticism and the motif of Destiny as omnipresent force from that the characters cannot evade, Fronide predicts the misery that awaits: “…the troubled mind that imagines/Everywhere fatal omens!/That sky so dismal, so sad.” (Gómez qtd. in 825)
When the prince finally is able to annul his engagement with Blanca, he runs excitedly to tell his beloved the good news. But upon seeing him leaving Fronide’s bedroom window, the father (who is unaware of the new situation) commits the most fatal of errors. He slays his own daughter.
Heartbroken, Alfonso Munio asks a bishop to dictate the punishment he is due. Consequently, he is sentenced to fight the moors until, he too, meets his death. It’s been argued that his decision was not an impulsive one. Rather, it was a rational calculation of the consequences of his daughter having an affair with an engaged man, and a prince at that–an act that could lead to civil war between Castilla and Navarra. (829) The daughter is sacrificed for the greater good of the state, but her death is not restorative, it leads to more pain and death.
Considering Gertrudis’ other works like Sab, in which the marriage customs of the society also lead to tragedy for the men and women involved, it would be possible to say that beyond entertainment, her work critiques the class, racial, and gender based prejudice of social institutions. She often portrayed how marriage has been used to maneuver women’s (and other powerless agents in society) lives in the interest of the governing powers.