New Characters Young Men and Young Girls: Minor characters whose poetic lines report on wedding events.
Summary It is the day of the wedding. Many of the guests, including the Bridegroom and Mother, must travel for hours in order to attend. The Maid helps the Bride prepare for the wedding. However, the Bride does not act like a typical happy bride. Rather, she is irked when the Maid alludes to the sexual encounter between the bride and bridegroom that should naturally follow on the evening of the wedding. She even refers to the impeding encounter as a “misery.” In a fit of anger, she throws down a crown of orange blossoms that the bride traditionally wears. Clearly, she has some reservations about the marriage ceremony.
They are interrupted as the first guest arrives: Leonardo, her old flame. As usual, Leonardo has abused his horse in order to make expedient time. As in Act I, he reiterates that he doesn’t care if the horse dies. Leonardo is not one to dwell on unfortunate consequences. Forgetting about his family, Leonardo confronts the Bride about the wedding, claiming that she left him because of his poverty: “Tell me, what have I ever been to you? Look back and refresh your memory! Two oxen and a tumbledown hut are almost nothing. That’s what hurts.” The confrontation escalates until the bride exits and the maid intervenes. She grabs Leonardo and asks him to leave. He does, but the confrontation remains unresolved.
A brief interlude follows where the minor characters chant romantic reports of an impending marriage in idyllic verse. These images contrast with the heated exchange that just took place.
The Bride then appears in traditional attire. The Mother sees Leonardo and is upset at his presence. In a premonition of doom, she utters, “Let’s not have anything go wrong.” As the entourage leaves for the church, the voices of minor characters again chant in verse of images of an idyllic marriage.
Leonardo and his family are left alone on stage. Another heated confrontation occurs. Leonardo is neglecting his family. Although his wife is pregnant, he is looking at her with hatred, when not ignoring her outright. The Wife comments that she is sharing the fate of her mother: Married to a man who does not love her. Again voices intervene, contrasting the animosity and impending doom with images of a star.
Scene 2 opens in a clearing or yard outside the cave where the Father and Bride have lived. The guests are soon to return for a banquet. The Maid is chanting in verse, again, happy images of the wedding party contrasted with nature in all her glory.
The Mother and Father arrive and learn that Leonardo has beaten them back to the cave. According to the Maid, he drove callously, like a demon, scaring the wits out of his pregnant wife. This is inappropriate behavior, particularly by someone who was interested in the Bride; the “ex-boyfriend” is not bowing out gracefully. The Mother is very upset with the news of Leonardo, whose family is responsible for the deaths of her own husband and son. In answer to a comment about Leonardo having “bad blood”—an allusion to the title of the drama—the Mother exclaims, “What blood could he have?—That of his whole family, beginning with his great-grandfather who started the killing, and on through the whole evil clan! Men who use knives! People with false smiles!” These images of doom are soon contrasted with the wish by the Mother and Father for many grandchildren; death and birth are contrasted.
Other guests begin to arrive,...
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though they never are seen on stage. Many are remote relatives of the Bridegroom who have traveled great distances to see the wedding. Meanwhile, Leonardo continues to hover around the Bride while his suspicious wife tails him. The Wife and Bridegroom speak briefly. Again, García Lorca emphasizes that Leonardo does not have material wealth. As the two speak, they fail to notice Leonardo slip away, followed by the Bride.
Common wedding dialogue occurs. The Maid tells the Bridegroom of preparations for the consummation of marriage. Girls bicker over who received a pin and, according to tradition, will then marry. In an ominous moment, the Bridegroom grabs the Bride from behind. She, utterly surprised, tells him to get away, thinking that it is Leonardo who has grabbed her. The Bride is all out of sorts. She seems frightened and confused; she is not happy at all to see the Bridegroom. Feigning illness, she tells him she needs to lie down. Left alone, the Bridegroom receives more advice on the consummation of marriage from his mother.
The scene ends when the Bride and Leonardo are both, suddenly, noticeably absent. The Wife, who has been suspicious, exclaims that they have left together on a horse. The Father and Mother are horrified. Although the Mother vows revenge, the memory of her dead kin makes her calls for revenge ominous and confused: “Go! After them! No! Don’t go! Those people kill quickly and well! But—yes—run! And I’ll follow.” The blood feud is re-ignited as the Bridegroom’s relatives prepare for the hunt.
AnalysisBlood Wedding is often interpreted as a play that questions the validity of tradition and conformity. Tradition is represented by the ceremony of marriage or a wedding. Although the audience never sees the actual wedding, all the action in the play revolves around it. The preparations—the dressing of the Bride, the meeting between the Mother and Father and the discussion of property—are presented in detail. However, love is conspicuously absent from all these preparations and accounts. As Act II unfolds, the economic reasons behind the tradition of marriage become even more apparent: the Bridegroom has an estate and Leonardo does not. Passion, alluded to as “blood” (yet another meaning behind the title), is thwarted in that society does not recognize the natural attraction of the Bride and Leonardo. The Bride’s misgivings about the impending event and her ambivalence lend an ominous portent to the action.
García Lorca contrasts these dark portents with happy reports of the wedding given by minor characters. These reports, resplendent with imagery of nature in all her glory—grapefruit trees, white dawn, morning dew, trays of dahlias—and regal symbols—a crown—are not at all in tune with the indifference and lack of passion that the Bride manifests towards the Bridegroom. Seen in this light, the imagery of nature and fecundity is rather ironic.
García Lorca is also a renowned poet. His symbolic verses are among the greatest that have been produced in twentieth-century Spain. The verses of minor characters who report on the wedding can be interpreted as poems in their own right. However, these verses are imbued with irony when they are read or spoken outside the context of a marriage that is bereft of passion and all but a charade to consolidate wealth and social standing. As the Mother says of a wedding day from a woman’s perspective: “It’s the only good [day]! For me it was like coming into an inheritance!”
García Lorca’s social commentary is magnified by his use of generic names in the cast listing. As mentioned in the analysis for Act I, Leonardo Felix is the only character mentioned by name. All the others have only the generic name for their specific part in a wedding (i.e., the Bride and Bridegroom) or the social hierarchy imposed by society (i.e., Wife and Mother-in-Law). Furthermore, by creating a play in which the Father and Mother characters are not married to each other, García Lorca is making subtle allusions about Spanish or Andalusian society as an organic whole: the region is a family unto itself with one father and one mother. All the families play a part in this intricate whole.
As the play reveals, many of these characters are unhappy in their roles. For example, the Father was unloved. The Wife is unloved and neglected. The Bride is pushed by a sense of conformity and social hierarchy to marry a man she doesn’t love. The Mother mourns loss instead of celebrating birth; her constant allusions to procreation and a renewal of the “blood” are more than overshadowed by her references to the spilling of “blood” which prematurely halted the extension of her family line, “blood” yet again. The only character who escapes a constraining role indicative of an unhappy fate is Leonardo Felix. His presence at the wedding, though condoned because of his relationship to the Bride’s family through marriage, is irksome and particularly ominous. Since he does not conform to society, he is sure to upset the traditional balance; as he says himself, he is “hot-blooded.” His blood is boiling.
Blood Wedding contains multiple symbols. As mentioned in the analysis of Act I, many of these symbols are straightforward, like the knife. Others have an ominous portent, like the horse of the lullaby. García Lorca’s use of “blood” (sangre) to imply various concepts shows how the symbols can be interpreted differently. The Mother sees blood as the blood of a continuing family line, an indication of a bad family (bad blood) and as death (spilled blood). To Leonardo, blood is passion. Though multifaceted, the allusions to blood are all clear. The image of the star that ends Act II, Scene 1 is a bit more complex: “On leaving your house / to go to the church, / Remember: you leave / like a star.” Both the Bride and Leonardo are described with this verse. The Bridegroom most emphatically is not: Leonardo and the Bride are destined to be together. However, why are they described as a star? The ambiguousness of this simile continues as the symbols in Act III become more intangible and mysterious. In this sense, the play gathers poetic momentum.
In order for the events in a tragedy to unfold, the action must continue on its predicted course. Such is the case in Act II. There are no real surprises. Given the motivations of the Bride and Leonardo’s behavior, it is hardly surprising that the two disappear together. Given the combination of the Mother’s constant dwelling on death, her thinly-veiled desire for revenge, and her concurrent fear that history will repeat itself, the audience or reader should have a fair notion of what to expect in Act III. This is especially true in light of the fact that the drama is in the tradition of classical tragedy, where characters cannot escape a predestined fate.