Critical Overview

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 961

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When Blood Wedding premiered in Madrid in 1933, Lorca was a celebrated poet. He had not yet had a major theatrical success. Blood Wedding changed this. On opening night, the Teatro Beatriz in Madrid was filled to capacity, and in the audience were Spain's leading intellectuals, artists, and critics. The play was an outstanding success. It was interrupted numerous times by extended applause, and the playwright was compelled to emerge twice during its course to take a bow for the wildly appreciative audience. The play was translated into English and staged in New York in 1935 as Bitter Oleander. It made its way fairly quickly to France and Russia, as well. It found its greatest foreign audiences, however, in the Latin American countries, in Argentina in particular. Lorca traveled to the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, in 1933, where he, his lectures, and his plays were most favorably received.

Blood Wedding is certainly the most enduringly popular of Lorca's plays. It has long been considered to represent the maturing of Lorca's dramatic talent, along with the other plays of what is known as the ‘‘rural trilogy.’’ Blood Wedding was the first of the trilogy to be written, with Yerma following, and The House of Bernarda Alba completing the cycle. Candelas Newton, in Understanding García Lorca, sums up this long-standing critical opinion: ‘‘The so-called rural trilogy … has been traditionally appraised as the culmination of Lorca's dramatic production. Of the three rural tragedies, the last one written, The House of Bernarda Alba, is considered to represent the culmination of his talents, in that he relies less on poetry and poetic interludes to create his effects.’’ These plays are seen to represent the maturing of Lorca's talents in the sense that before these three plays, he had written a number of more experimental pieces of drama. These shorter, experimental pieces do not make up all of his dramatic work before Blood Wedding, but they do characterize it. However, as Newton also points out, recent scholarly work is revising this traditional view of Lorca's work and career. The experimental pieces are now being reconsidered: ‘‘Regarding the more experimental plays, Lorca himself claimed them as his true voice. Although theater at the time may have been unprepared for such a different dramatic orientation as those plays represent, they are presently achieving increasing recognition in critical studies and stage performance.’’

The critical literature on Lorca's work is vast, and approaches to Blood Wedding are various. However, all of these studies, in some way, examine and analyze the formal and thematic elements of the work. Formal approaches explore Lorca's dramatic techniques, such as his incorporation of chant, song, and poetry. According to Gwynne Edwards in Dramatists in Perspective: Spanish Theater in the Twentieth Century, Lorca's ‘‘fondness for [the] integration of different art forms’’ stems from his reverence for Symbolist theater. This Symbolist movement, along with Surrealism, Edwards states, are the contemporaneous modernist movements to which Lorca was closest (many of his experimental works are surrealistic). Other critics, such as Herbert Ramsden in his book Bodas de Sangre, mine the rich field of imagery and symbolism in Lorca's play. Ramsden, as do many other critics, points out that Lorca is, above all, a poet ‘‘of the concrete.’’ ‘‘Thus,’’ says Ramsden, ‘‘instead of referring to death as an abstraction, García Lorca evokes a death scene.’’ Lorca's characters do not talk about death; rather, their words conjure up the very vision of one dead. Or, death appears in the play as an actual character. This avoidance of abstraction and this reliance on the concrete, highly visual image, is part of what Lorca derives from the Symbolist poets and dramatists he so avidly read. Other studies of Blood Wedding focus on the play's various themes, such as passion, fate, or death. Gwynne Edward's book, Lorca: The Theater Beneath the Sand, contains a lengthy chapter on the drama's major themes.

Other approaches to Blood Wedding focus on its literary antecedents and influences, whether in Greek tragedy, classical Spanish theater, or contemporaneous developments in theater. These studies often remark on Lorca's reputation as a thoroughly Spanish poet and dramatist, in the sense that his style and subject matter seem to draw heavily from indigenous traditions and mores. These studies, however, must reconcile Lorca's closeness to broad European trends in the arts. In the introduction to Lorca: A Collection of Critical Essays, Manuel Duran captures this doubleness: ‘‘Symbol of Spain and of all thing Spanish, compared to Lope de Vega by Damson Alonso because of his direct and profound understanding of the popular idiom, acclaimed outside Spain and in his own country as the embodiment of the Spanish spirit, he nevertheless could state a few days before his death he was ‘a brother of all men’ and that he detested the Spaniard who was only a Spaniard.’’ Lorca's art, thus, is seen to fuse the ‘‘popular idiom’’ and contemporaneous developments in the arts. According to Duran, Lorca's ‘‘task was to assimilate [the new] movements without destroying the Spanish tradition, or rather to assimilate them in a way that would allow this tradition to make itself felt again, to acquire a new vitality.’’

Most critics also draw links between Lorca's political sympathies and the play's subject matter. Spain was not, during the 1920s and 1930s, a country in which a citizen did not know his or her political mind. Lorca, in this respect, was staunchly on the side of Republicanism and deeply committed to policies which would improve the lot of the country's poorest citizens. Lorca's adoption of the ‘‘popular idiom’’ and of folklore and legend, takes on a political significance in this light. It announces his belief that the culture which arises from a country's people is as rich as any culture produced by an educated elite.

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