Garcia Lorca: Poet Of The Anda Essay, Research Paper
Poet of the Andalusians
Federico Garcia Lorca is one of Spain s most famous artists. He played a large
role in transforming the Spanish theatre of the twentieth century. In addition to his
original works for the theatres in Barcelona and Madrid, the traveling university theatre he
directed, La Baracca, brought classic Spanish dramas to audiences throughout rural Spain.
Before his execution by the Fascists in 1936, he had amassed a large body of work. His
last three plays established Lorca s international reputation as a playwright.
Born in a small town near the city of Granada in Southern Spain in the Andalusian
Mountains, he was deeply influenced by the Gypsy and Arabic culture there. His father
was a well-to-do farmer, his mother a highly educated school teacher. From the beginning
it was she who nurtured his musical and poetic talents.(Honig 2) He left home for the
University of Granada at the age of sixteen to earn a degree in law. A mediocre student,
he was frustrated by subjects he did not immediately grasp. He cut many classes,
preferring instead to seek the company of literary men, write verse into the wee hours of
the morning, and play piano in night clubs for hours on end.(Stainton)
While in Granada he met Fernando de los Rios, a professor at the university and an
important political figure, who became his mentor. Following Rios advice, Lorca left
Granada for Madrid in 1919. He lived at the Residencia de Estudantes, a Spanish version
of Oxford, where the atmosphere was serious and scholarly.(Duran 3) It was here he
became close friends with the famous Salvador Dali, Gerardo Diego, a poet, and Luis
Bunuel, who would later become a great film director.
In 1929 he traveled to New York, where Fernando de los Rios arranged for him to
attend Columbia University for a short while. He was in the throes of a mysterious
emotional crisis, the details of which have never been disclosed. He returned to Spain in
1931 much changed by his experiences in America. He had a passionate interest in
American film and jazz, and a fascination with the women in New York, who were so
different from those in Spain.(Duran 9) His stay in America seems to be an important
turning point in his metamorphosis from poet to playwright. Upon his return, he turned
his attention to the stage, founding the theatre troupe La Barraca. He traveled overseas
again to produce classic Spanish plays in Montevideo and Buenos Aires. In 1934 he
returned to Madrid, where he concentrated on playwrighting. These next few years before
his death are considered his mature period, when he wrote his rural dramas, Bodas de
Sangre, Yerma, and La Casa de Bernarda Alba. These are concentrated on a single
theme; the suffering and the frustration of the Spanish woman.
The crisis of this play is the contrast between the two contradictory principle lines
of action. One is towards the wedding of the bride and bridegroom; a socially sanctioned
union between a man and a woman necessary for the accumulation of land and property,
and for carrying on the family blood line. The second line of action is toward the
consummation of an illicit love affair between the bride and Leonardo, which pays no heed
to material restrictions or social conditions. (Anderson 91) The bride s struggle between
duty to her family and her responsibility to marry, and her desire for Leonardo become the
focal point of dramatic interest as the movement of the lines of action come to a climax in
the second act.
The mother the second focal point of dramatic interest. She has lost both her
husband and her son in a knife fight with the Felix clan. She has a horror of weapons, and
feels that the murderers have not been punished enough for their crimes. The mother
consents to her son s wedding the sake of his happiness, despite a feeling of apprehension
towards the bride. Her hatred towards the rival clan and her suspicion of the bride
establish a sense of impending tragedy in the first moments of the play.(Anderson 92)
Each of the three scenes in act one reveals the play s tragic potential. The first
scene is concerned with the mother s reservation towards her son s wedding, in contrast
to his optimism and eagerness to be wed. The second scene takes place in Leonardo s
house. He grows sullen when he learns of the bride s engagement, and becomes hostile
towards his mother-in-law when she asks him where he s just come from. He finally
erupts in anger and storms out of the house, waking the baby. In the third scene the
mother and bridegroom and the father and bride all come together and the marriage is
arranged. In the last half of the scene only the bride and the servant are onstage. The
bride becomes violent when the servant asks her about her wedding gift, she bites and
shoves and yells, and the servant forces her to admit that Leonardo has been visiting her
secretly at night.
With these conflicts set into place, the second act brings us to the wedding day.
Lorca s primary emphasis is on the line of action towards the completion of the wedding.
Underneath this he builds the potential contradictory movement of action until it
overwhelms the main momentum and replaces it with a new and doomed movement
towards the union of the two lovers. (Anderson 95) During the wedding reception the
bride and Leonardo escape together, his wife sees them, on his horse, with their arms
around each other, they rode off like a shooting star! (Three Tragedies 77)
After discovering that her fears have about the wedding have come true, the
mother finds herself torn between the fear of losing her son to the same Felix clan, and the
importance of maintaining her family s honor by revenge. Go! After them! No! she
cries, Don t go. These people kill quickly and well…but yes, run, and I ll follow. The
hour of blood has come again. (Three Tragedies 77-8)
In the final act, there is a shift from prose to verse. Three woodcutters enter, a
traditional tragic chorus. A beggar woman appears, Death in disguise, calling for the
moon to illuminate the woods so that she might seek her victims. For a moment the scene
focuses on the lovers. Accepting the tragedy and inevitability of their situation, they
blame not themselves but the blind lusts which the earth has created in them.(Honig 158)
Suddenly there are two shrieks, the rivals have killed each other, and the predestined
tragedy has finally been played out.
The three women brought together in the final scene symbolically become one.
The scene depicts a symbolic resolution; they mourn together, united in their grief, but are
isolated by their own individual experiences. These three women; a small representational
group of the female roles of mother, daughter, lover, bride, wife, embody the invariable
destinies of all women. Without their husband, fathers, and sons, they are
Yerma is the second play in Lorca s trilogy. His statements about Yerma indicate
that he was seeking a purity of form about his conception of tragedy.
Yerma is a tragedy. From the beginning the audience will recognize that
something formidable is going to happen. . . .What does happen? Yerma has no
plot. Yerma is a character who develops over the course of the six scenes that
compromise the drama. As befits a tragedy, I have included in Yerma a chorus
that comments on the theme of the tragedy, which is its real substance. Notice that
I have said theme, I repeat that Yerma has no plot. At several points the audience
will think that there is one, but it will be a slight illusion. . . .
Unlike the heroines in the other two plays, Yerma s tragedy is not in discord with
her society. She has accepted her arranged marriage with a sense of duty which is just as
strong as her desire to have children. (Anderson 106) Her happiness, therefore, lies solely
in the hands of her husband Juan; a pale barren man who is blind to his wife s anguish.
The tragic contradiction of this play is exemplified in one single character and her heroic
struggle against the loss of her sense of self.
The first act is comprised of her encounters with three characters, each suggesting
a new way of seeing the tragedy of Yerma s childless marriage. The first, Maria, is a
young pregnant woman who s innocence contrasts Yerma s knowledge. The second,
Victor, is the handsome shepherd who is clearly Yerma s natural mate. There are
allusions to a potential harmony between them, the illusory plot Lorca mentioned. The
third character is the old woman who has borne fourteen children. Her natural fertility, in
opposition to Yerma s barren state gives her a natural ease with life in general.
The choral scene in the second act is full of music and color as six washerwomen
sing and gossip by a mountain stream. Unlike the fantastic forest scene in Blood Wedding,
this choral scene is entirely plausible. They speculate about Yerma s unhappiness, and her
attraction to Victor. They also introduce the allegations of blame, which remain
unresolved, for Yerma and Juan s continue sterility.(Honig 174)
Five years pass between acts one and two. Yerma has now been married for seven
years. She has grown increasingly frustrated and desperate in her childless marriage, and
feels humbled by the fertility all around her. Her character evolves to its darkest phase in
act three when Yerma visits the sorceress. She spends the night in fertility rituals, and
when the sorceress prays over her and tells her to seek refuge in her husband s arms,
Yerma reveals that there is no intimacy in their marriage; she is repelled by sex yet wishes
that she might feel sexual passion if it will give her children. Juan, however, does not
suffer from their failure to conceive, and Yerma resents his peace: The trouble is he
doesn t want children!…I can tell that in a glance, and, since he doesn t want them, he
doesn t give them to me, and yet he s my only salvation. By honor and by blood. My
only salvation. (Three Tragedies 140)
There is no solution to Yerma s childlessness. When the old woman offers her son
to Yerma, she is outraged at the depravity of such a suggestion. Do you imagine I could
know another man? Where would that leave my honor?…On the road I ve started I ll
stay…Mine is a sorrow already beyond the flesh. (Three Tragedies 151) Yerma s
culminating act of strangling Juan with her bare hands represents her own suicide, and the
death of the child she will never have. But this act also releases her from her suffering.
Barren, barren, but certain: now I really know for sure… Now I ll sleep without startling
myself awake, anxious to see if I feel in my blood another new blood. My body, dry
forever! (Three Tragedies 153)
The House of Bernarda Alba
The House of Bernarda Alba is Lorca s most profound contribution to the stage.
Lorca departs from his usual lyricism and choruses found in his first two tragedies and
concentrates on realism, referring to the play as a photographic document .(Three
Tragedies 156) He is said to have exclaimed after a reading of the manuscript to a group
of friends, Not a single drop of poetry! Reality! Realism!
The title refers to Bernarda Alba s house, which is the embodiment of confinement
that affects the characters throughout the action of the play. Bernarda s dominance over
her five daughters, mother and servants reaches an extreme after the death of her husband,
and builds steadily over the course of three acts. As a matriarch, she guards the honor of
her family like a hawk, always aware that her neighbors eyes are on them. She declares,
For the eight years of mourning, not a breath of air will get in this house from the
street…That s what happened in my father s house–and in my grandfather s house.
The girls all yearn for one man, Pepe el Romano, the eldest daughter s fianc and
the youngest daughter s secret lover. Like in Blood Wedding and Yerma an arranged
marriage and its distortion of values and relationships is the plot device Lorca uses to
propel the action towards catastrophe.(Anderson 122) As the youngest and most
attractive daughter, Adela suffers the most from her confinement; she is driven by an
erotic energy that is focused solely on one man, who will marry her sister for her wealth.
She clashes with the household servant La Poncia and with her sister Martirio who both
try to keep her from continuing her affair. Unlike the lover s rapturous flight in Blood
Wedding, Adela s rebellion is far bleaker. Everybody in the village against me, burning
me with their fiery fingers, pursued by those who claim they re decent, and I ll wear,
before them all, the crown of thorns that belong to the mistress of a married man. (Three
Tragedies 208) The suffering Adela says she would endure in exchange for her freedom
is the measure of the unendurable harshness of her mother s authority.
When the grandmother, Maria Josefa, first appears, her presence and words evoke
a distorted image of the future of her five granddaughters. She has dressed herself as a
bride, I don t want to see these single women longing for marriage, turning their hearts to
dust; and I want to go to my hometown. Bernarda, I want a man to get married to and be
happy with! (Three Tragedies 175-6) Her message is too much for the daughters to bear,
they work together to return her to her locked room. Maria Josefa appears again in the
last moments of the final act. No longer the bride, she carries a lamb whom she speaks to
as if it were a child, a grotesque parody of motherhood. She sings a strange song, evoking
the simple values of family, community, and freedom. Maria Josefa is the chorus in this
play, her visions of sterility and death are the most accurate images in the play, she is the
voice of truth.
The development of act three follows the pattern established in acts one and two:
each scene begins serenely as the surface calm is undermined at a relentless pace(Anderson
126), each act ends with a high level of dramatic tension, the daughters forcing their
grandmother into her room in act one, and in the second all the household women–with
the exception of Adela- joining in the violent persecution of a woman who has killed her
illegitimate child. At the end of act three Adela and Martirio have a violent confrontation.
They wake the household, and Bernarda rushes outside with a gun after El Romano.
Fueled by jealousy, Martirio tells Adela that he has been killed, in despair she hangs
herself. Bernarda reasserts her dominance which she hopes with restore a superficial calm
in the house. Tears when you re alone! Bernarda commands, We ll drown ourselves in
a sea of mourning. She, the youngest daughter of Bernarda Alba, died a virgin…Silence,
silence, I said. Silence! (Three Tragedies 211)
The facts concerning Lorca s death are scant. Shortly after completing his
manuscript of The House of Bernarda Alba, Lorca returned to Granada to be with his
family. Lorca s brother-in-law, Manuel Montesinos, was the socialist mayor of
Granada.(Anderson 21) When the city fell to the hands of the fascists, he was executed.
Lorca s family urged him to seek refuge after he had been threatened by two armed men
looking for reds . Nevertheless, the fascist police arrested him at his hiding place, and
held him in a makeshift prison. On the morning of August 18 or 19, 1936, Lorca was
executed on a roadside ravine, and buried in an anonymous mass gravesite.(Stainton 455)
Chances are that fewer people would have heard Lorca s voice outside of Spain as early as
they did, had it not been for his politically motivated death.
Lorca s roots are planted firmly in the Spanish past, his sensitivity allowed him to
bring the past alive. For the Spaniards of his generation he was the best introduction to
the twentieth century, for us he is the introduction to the eternal Spain.(Duran 15) As his
posthumous fame increases, his political martyrdom is no longer dominates his reputation
as a writer. His plays are now performed almost worldwide, he is required reading in
hundreds of college courses. Perhaps the best sign of his talent and influence is inclusion
as one of the top five Spanish writers of his time.(Honig 215)
Anderson, Reed. Federico Garcia Lorca. New York: Grove Press, 1984.
Brockett, Oscar G. and Hildy, Franklin J. History of the Theatre. 8th ed. Massachusetts:
Allyn and Bacon. 1968.
Duran, Manuel, ed. Lorca, A Collection of Critical Essays. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall,
Field, Bradford S. Jr., Gilbert, Miriam, and Klaus, Carl H., eds. Stages of Drama. New
York: Bedford St. Martin s, 1999. 739-741.
Honig, Edwin. Garcia Lorca. New York: New Directions, 1944.
Lorca, Garcia. Three Tragedies. New York: New Directions, 1955.
Stainton, Leslie. Lorca, A Dream of Life. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999.