Critical Evaluation

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 719

In the three plays—Blood Wedding, Yerma (1934), and The House of Bernarda Alba (1936)—that culminated his poetic and dramatic career, Federico García Lorca succeeded brilliantly where a host of modern poet-dramatists had failed; he created a true poetry of the theater. The twentieth century is dotted with half-successful attempts at poetic drama by playwrights who lacked the requisite verbal facility for writing poetry or by versifiers whose theatrical efforts are difficult to accomplish onstage. Even successful verse dramatists such as T. S. Eliot, Christopher Fry, and Archibald MacLeish offer self-consciously “poetic” and “literary” efforts that lack the impact or even the “poetry” of the best prose dramas of the period. García Lorca, who was both a great lyric poet and a practical man of the theater, fused all of the elements of the stage—language, movement, ritual, color, lighting, spectacle, and music—into a single dramatic presentation.

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Much of the power of these plays comes from the way García Lorca combines a complex, sophisticated theatrical style with extremely simple dramatic situations. Although the original impulse for Blood Wedding came from a real incident, the basic plot—a bride stolen from her wedding by a lover—is a perennial one. Leonardo Felíx and the Bride are victims of their own uncontrollable emotions. He has a wife and child; she fervently desires the social and financial stability that marriage to the Bridegroom will bring. Since the entire society favors that match, they know that their passionate act will have fatal consequences. These logical and moral considerations, however, are irrelevant to them in the face of their powerful, passionate feelings.

García Lorca develops and expands the meanings of this tragedy with a dynamic synthesis of realistic, poetic, and symbolic theatrical devices. On the realistic level, he presents vivid, intense characterizations. The Bridegroom’s Mother is an impressive, anguished woman who, having lost both husband and son, expects tragedy, but resolutely pursues the family destiny all the same. The Bridegroom is likable, sensitive, but hesitant, perhaps frightened by his pending marriage to a woman who is more strong-willed and passionate than he. The Bride’s passion for Leonardo and clear disappointment at having lost him are evident from her first scene; her fervent desire for security and social respectability are doomed from the start and her troubled attempt to keep her emotions under control excites fear and pity in the audience. Leonardo—the only character in the play individualized by a name—is vital, volatile, frustrated, and overtly sexual; the intensity of his passion and the power of his attraction suggest energies and drives that are more than human. The Bride refers to him as “a dark river, choked with brush, that brought near me the undertone of its rushes and its whispered...

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