In the Adjunta al Parnaso Miguel de Cervantes tells us something of his intentions in allowing the publication, in 1615, of Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses nuevos, nunca representados (Eight New Plays and Interludes, Never Performed):

'Pero yo pienso darlas a la estampa, para que se vea de espacio lo que pasa apriesa, y se disimula, o no se entiende, cuando las representan. Y las comedias tienen sus sazones y tiempos, como los cantares'

('I am considering handing the plays over to be printed, so that one might see at one’s leisure what happens quickly, or is disguised or not understood when they are performed. Moreover, plays, like songs, have their seasons and their times.')

He elaborates on the circumstances surrounding publication in the prologue to Ocho comedias, in which he describes his failure to find a theatre company willing to perform the plays, despite having had success as a dramatist many years previously. Cervantes the playwright had been marginalised by the comedia nueva of Lope de Vega and others, and had thrown the plays in a chest, 'condemned to perpetual silence'. Through the new technology of print Cervantes was transferring the plays to another kind of storage container, the book, with the hope perhaps of restoring in the eyes of posterity his somewhat tarnished reputation as a dramatist.

La entretenida, a comedy of deception and confusion of identity set in Madrid, is the last but one of the eight full-length plays in the volume. Critical reception of the play has generally defined it as a parody of the comedia nueva. However, while it is true that Cervantes subverts the genre of the cape and sword play, for example by giving the majority of the lines to the servants rather than their masters, the comedia nueva is in fact just one of the many strands of literary and dramatic discourse that Cervantes weaves into the play, since it also contains references to the Roman comedy of Plautus, Celestina, Bocaccio, the burlesque sonnet and the commedia dell’arte. Moreover, the fact that the play self-consciously does not end in marriage can be seen as a comment on society as well as on prevailing dramatic conventions.

The link with Plautus is particularly strong, and can be felt not just in the labyrinthine plot, which is influenced by the same two plays, The Brothers Menaechmus and Amphitryo, that inspired Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, but also in the metatheatrical and quasi-improvisatory qualities of La entretenida, a play which reveals Cervantes’s skills both in characterization and as a writer of comic dialogue.