Sainete: what it is, meaning, characteristics of the sainete, origin, authors and more


What is the sainete?

It is one of the most important subgenres of the dramatic genre and one of the most representative of literature. The sainete consists of a humorous piece that is performed in one act, it is characterized by having a popular and costumbrista content, which is why it was seen as a type of comic piece.

The sainete was born in Spain and began to be performed during the intermission of a major play, although it was also presented at the end of the performances. On the other hand, it is considered that the sainete manages to replace the entremés, another of the subgenres of drama that you can know in depth in our Literature section.

Meaning of the subgenre Sainete

The term -sainete- was originally used in order to identify a set of pieces of jocular content to be represented in a single act, although sainete is also used to name a play containing a comic character, in addition to including popular characters in one act.

Definition of the subgenre Sainete

The sainete can be defined as a jocular one-act play with a costumbrista character, however, the term has also been used to refer to a play of comic characteristics with popular characters and setting that has an independent staging. Its essence is based on the expression of a popular and realistic atmosphere built on the stage.

What is the objective of the sainete?

In the beginning, the sainete sought to achieve the expressiveness of the popular environment marked in a specific context, however, with the passage of time, these previous elements allowed it to create a focus, seeking to promote identification with the homeland, as well as contribute to the union of nationalist fervor.

History and origin of the sainete

The birth of the sainete dates back to the 18th century in Spain, a crucial moment for the constitution of this subgenre that replaces the entremés in theatrical representations. Its popularity increases towards this century in the hands of Ramón de la Cruz, one of the most important authors of sainetes and main exponent of the subgenre, who prints the costumbrista essence to his works inspired by the popular neighborhoods of Madrid, so many other artists begin to follow him, among them Juan Ignacio González del Castillo, who will develop sainetes with colorful pictures.

Towards the beginning of the 20th century, the sainete reached a new moment of recognition where it began to incorporate zarzuelas, a kind of musical form for the theater that included the participation of musical instruments, but at the same time spoken and sung parts. Both modalities merged and thus began a large production of works of this type that reached a new flowering in Spain. This allowed that it could also begin to move from its place of origin, so that it reached the Rio de la Plata in Argentina, where the sainete criollo was born, characterized by including the folkloric and ironic as base elements to increase the drama and also to represent in a more realistic way the customs of the populations near the coasts.

Characteristics of the sainete

In order to know in depth this type of dramatic subgenre, we present some key characteristics:


The sainete, in essence, has a popular character, which is why it can include a wide variety of issues and elements within the subject of composition, so that we can find aspects such as humor, which prevails in the composition of the works, as well as dance, singing, music and everything that unites the community and allows it to express itself.

Space of representation

One of the most important aspects of the sainete, has to do with the space in which it is represented, since it generally seeks to acquire a popular atmosphere and very close to reality, since it becomes a living sample of the lifestyle of a specific society, as well as the ways of thinking and the context as close as possible.

Moment of representation

In principle, the sainetes were presented during the intermediate cuts of a major play, or at the end of a play due to the brevity of its composition.

Scene elements

Another point that should be highlighted about this type of representation is that they lacked ostentatious scenic elements, given that the sainete was qualified as a type of play of lesser status than a major play. However, this simplicity on the stage visually, attributed a simpler value as people of the people to those who represented and increased the importance of the word.

What is the sainete

Types of the sainete subgenre

In ancient times it was possible to identify two types of sainete. These are:

Valencian sainete

This type of sainete specialized in representing in an almost exact way, the Valencian society of Spain with a look at the lower classes of the communities of this society, becoming a mirror of these people.

In this type of sainete something special happens and that is that in addition to the characters are part of the lower classes, they also speak in Valencian, while those characters who represent figures that are part of the upper classes or appear to be, remain with a speech in Castilian that includes errors and Valencian terms. This is a form of social and linguistic criticism.

Sainete criollo

It was a type of sainete that was worked in Argentina, especially, where a series of combinations begin to emerge that include aspects such as circus activities, the representation of the customs within the conventillos, love conflicts, urban housing types with tragedies, arguments, love, and more.

Particularly in Argentina, the traditional forms of the sainete will suffer a series of modifications, where the characters will be especially immigrants who are in search of the Argentine identity, the places of representation will be the external spaces such as the courtyards or streets of a tenement, characterized at a general level by a great simplicity.

Authors and most important works

Among the main authors of this type of drama we find the Álvarez Quintero Brothers and also Carlos Arniches, who manage to compose a series of works that include colloquial and popular language, which even comes close to a kind of living representation of the context of Madrid on stage. Other cultivators of the sainete were Juan Ignacio González del Castillo, Luis Moncín, Ramón de la Cruz, Sebastián Vásquez, José López de Sedano, Antonio Pablo Fernández, Diego Ventura Rejón de Silva, Gaspar Zavala y Zamora, among others.

Other important authors and plays are Ricardo de la Vega with his play “Verbena de la Paloma”, Carlos Arniches with “El amigo Melquiades”, as well as plays such as “El ojito derecho”, “Las de Caín” and “La buena sombra”, among others. In Argentina, one of the most outstanding authors in this subgenre was Armando Discépolo.

Example of sainete

The following is an excerpt from the play “Verbena de la Paloma”, written by Ricardo de la Vega:

Don Hilarión (DH)

Castor oil

is no longer bad to drink.

Don Sebastián (DS) (Spoken)

Well, how?


It is administered in small pills

and the effect is always the same.



Today the sciences are advancing

that is barbaric!


It’s a brutality!


It’s a bestiality!


The purgative lemonade

no one asks for it anymore.


Like that lemonade

is no longer good for ‘na’.

It’s the same as a soft drink

orange or ‘cebá’ soda.


Well, that’s exactly why

it is neither chicha

nor ‘limoná’.

DS (Spoken.)

That’s what I say.


But the water of Loeches

is an effective balsam.


Today science registers it

as very harmful.

DS (Spoken.)

Loeches water!


Very bad!


But man…


Very harmful!