BENAVENTE Y MARTINEZ, JACINTO (1866— ), Spanish playwright and critic, was born in Madrid, the son of a physician. He entered the law faculty of the university there, but, preferring literature, left without taking a degree. His first critical work was Letters of Women (1893) which he followed up with the comedy El Nido Ajeno (1894) . He came under the influence of the French theatre for a brief time, but soon distin guished himself by originality, imagination and purity of style. His light and elegant comedies were at first criticized as deficient in action, merely satirical dialogues aimed against society. When his first comedy was produced the Spanish stage was monopolized by the Basque, Jose Echegaray (q.v.), but Benavente soon proved his superiority and took his place. His dialogue is brilliant, his characters true to life and the action never flags.
Several of Benavente's plays have been translated into various foreign languages and produced in remote parts of the world. He himself travelled through the United States and Spanish America superintending the execution of his plays by a company formed under his own eye. In 1922 he received the Nobel prize for literature.