Places Discussed

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*Andalusia

*Andalusia. Vast region of southern Spain that Lorca knew best and uses as the setting for many of his works. Inhabited by Moors from Northern Africa for nearly eight hundred years, it retains their cultural influences in many areas, especially in architecture, vocabulary, place names, poetry, and music. Some Moorish descendants also still remain, as do the Spanish gypsies, whose cultures combined to produce flamenco songs, music and dance.

Homes

Homes. Locations of many scenes, using minimal stage settings and direction, limited scenery. Rooms are painted yellow or pink or white and are decorated with flowers and simple furnishings.

Cave

Cave. Dwelling in which the bride lives. Caves were often used as dwellings in mountainous parts of southern Spain, notably by Gypsy families. The interior of the bride’s cave is comfortably and tastefully decorated. However, its exterior is “as hard as a landscape” on ceramic decorated with white, gray, blue and silver colors.

White house

White house. Building with arches and white stairs, walls, and floors that resemble those of a church. Neighbors meet here to discuss the ill-fated wedding and its deadly aftermath.

Historical Context

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A Nation Divided
Spain entered the twentieth century as a constitutional monarchy. The Spanish populace, however, had little faith in this regime as the country was hampered by persistent and grave economic instability. Clearly, a change in the political and economic order of things was necessary. Widely opposed forces vied for contention. In various parts of the country where industrialization had taken place, workers were determined to ensure their proper treatment and compensation and to enhance their social status. These groups were eager to see a left-wing, socialist government take the reins of Spain. These groups were forward-looking in cultural terms. A society still imbued with classist notions, for example, was not a society able to accommodate a new working and middle class made up of former peasants who would no longer tolerate the old class hierarchy. This old hierarchy heavily favored the aristocracy and educated classes. These new social groups were also staunchly antimonarchical, and they were also secular in view. To the opposing groups of Spaniards, these forces of change represented a drastic and fearful break from centuries of tradition, whether in social, cultural, or political terms. These other groups wished to maintain a traditional class structure, the succession of kings and queens, and the Catholic Church as a centrally shaping social and educational force. Lorca was on the side of change. His relations with the left-wing government voted into power in 1931 were cordial. Its Minister of Education, Fernando de los Ríos, funded the theater project of which Lorca was artistic director (the project was called La barraca).

The Democratic Republic versus The Dictatorship
The political scene in Spain was highly changeable during the late 1920s and early 1930s. A left-wing government, elected in 1931, was voted in again in 1936 after a brief return to a right-wing government in between. But Spain seemed determined to change, to try to negotiate the difficulties of modifying political and cultural institutions shaped for centuries by attitudes and beliefs no longer viable. This effort was effectively halted, however, as one of the leaders of Spain's traditionalist factions staged a coup d' état, or overthrow of the government, in 1936. This army general, Francisco Franco, was funded by fellow European nationalist and fascist leaders Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. A bloody three-year civil war ensued, with the forces of Franco finally winning. As Lorca was clearly aligned with the forces of change, he was an obvious political target at the time. He declared his solidarity with workers and the republic on a number of public occasions. His murder was an act of terror, designed to quell the spirit of those who contested Franco's right to claim power by force instead of by election. The Civil War attracted a number of foreigners, both men and women alike, sympathetic to the Republic. In democratic regimes around the world, the Republican effort would come to be known as “The Good Fight.”

Literary Style

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Setting
Lorca's stage directions indicate settings that are simple, stark, and highly symbolic. The play opens within the house of the Bridegroom in a room that is painted yellow. The Bridegroom will be associated with yellow throughout the play. This color symbolizes his wealth, since gold is yellow, and his vigor, since yellow is the color of wheat, from which bread, the food of life, comes. It also symbolizes his eventual death, since yellow is the color of his lips when he is dead at the play's end. Leonardo's and the Bride's homes, however, are characterized by the color pink, a variant on red, which is the color of passion and of vibrant life (or blood). They are, certainly, the characters who are the most passionate in the drama. The final scene takes place in a stark white dwelling, as if to suggest a place bleached of life and hope. The stage directions say that the room's white lineaments should resemble the architecture of a church. A church is the place where the rituals of birth and death are routinely commemorated; hence, it is an appropriate place for the Mother to learn of her last son's demise and to accept her future drained of happiness. In contrast to these dwellings is the forest to which the lovers flee. The forest has long been that setting in literature where society's rules mutate, change, break down, or no longer apply. It is a wild place, beyond human-made, communal order. These lovers, clearly, cannot be together within their community, and so their only recourse is to attempt to escape its bounds. Their true home, in some sense, therefore, is this forest.

Modernism
The movement in the arts known as Modernism was an international, metropolitan set of movements. Impressionism and Dadaism in the arts, stream-of-consciousness techniques in the novel, and atonality in music are some of its central artistic movements and forms. It was announced very vigorously by Picasso's strange Cubist paintings, for example, that instead of painting people how they seemed in real life, he painted them with three eyes, two heads (or one head seen from different perspectives), and so forth. Other modernist movements were Symbolism and Surrealism, to which Lorca was close. Lorca's play is a modernist play. Like Picasso's paintings, it departs from realism, or the highly naturalistic and realistic sets, plots, and action that dominate European and Spanish theater in the decades immediately preceding this set of movements. Lorca's modernism entails the attempt to return the “drama” to drama by making the theatrical event into a feast for the senses and the deepest emotions. The stark settings, the chanting, and the songs and music all contribute to an event which is designed to move an audience through all of the visual, aural, and dramatic means available to the dramatist.

Chorus
A chorus in a play is made up of a group of commentators, chanters, or singers not directly involved in the play's action. The chorus's role is either to comment on the action, to present the views of the community regarding the events, or, simply, to lyrically accompany action. Choruses of all of these types were common in Classical-age Greek plays. Lorca's play adapts from this tradition. A single girl, or a pair or groups of young girls, for example, will enter and circulate at various points, singing or chanting songs and commentary. In the final scene of the play, two young girls sing about how brief mortal life is and what might have happened at the wedding. Their contribution is primarily a lyrical accompaniment to the action, as the Mother waits in fear to hear about the fate of her son.

Compare and Contrast

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  • 1930s: The socialist government funds art projects aimed at including the rural peasantry and provincial audiences. Lorca founds a touring theatrical group, La barraca, which presents classic Spanish theater to rural audiences. It is run mostly by university students during their summers and breaks.

    Today: While the Spanish dictator's regime was characterized by the strict policing and censorship of art, post-Franco Spanish governments demonstrate generous governmental support and funding for the arts.

  • 1930s: Despite pockets of industrialization and modernization, Spain is still a country steeped in classism and gender bifurcation. It is also still attempting to hold on to the last of its imperial and colonial holdings. Its poorest classes, moreover, are still a landless, rural peasantry.

    Today: A middle-class predominates and Spain has earned the curious distinction of having the lowest birth rate in Europe. Spanish economists predict that the nation will need large numbers of foreign workers in the coming decades to sustain its economy.

  • 1940s: Francisco Franco's allies Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, are defeated in WW II. Spain is isolated as a nation.

    Today: Spain, along with most European countries, makes up the European Economic Community (EEC). A common European currency completely replaced the national currencies in 2001.

Media Adaptations

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  • Blood Wedding was adapted into a film in 1981. The film, directed by Carlos Saura, tells the story through a stylized form of flamenco dance (a flamenco troupe was used in the film). The film is in Spanish, but subtitled versions are available in the United States.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Sources
Barnstone, Willis. Six Masters of the Spanish Sonnet. Southern Illinois University, 1993.

Duran, Manuel. Introduction to Lorca: A Collection of Critical Essays. Prentice Hall, Inc., 1962.

Edwards, Gwynne. Dramatists in Perspective: Spanish Theater in the Twentieth Century. St. Martin's Press, 1985.

———. Lorca: The Theater Beneath the Sand. Marion Books, 1980.

García Lorca, Federico. Bodas de sangre. ‘‘Introducción’’ de Fernando Lázaro Carreter. Edición Colección Austral, 1971.

———. Blood Wedding, translated by Langston Hughes and W. S. Merwin. Theatre Communications Group, 1994.

García Lorca, Francisco. In the Green Morning: Memories of Federico, translated by Christopher Maurer. New Directions, 1986.

Morris, Cyril Brian, ed. Cuando yo me muera: Essays in Memory of Federico García Lorca. University Press of America, 1988.

Newton, Candelas. Understanding Federico García Lorca. University of South Carolina Press, 1995.

Ramsden, Herbert. Bodas de Sangre. Manchester University Press, 1980.

Senz de la Calzada. Luis, La Barraca. Revista de Occidente, 1976.

Smith, Paul Julian. The Theatre of García Lorca: Text, Performance, Psychoanalysis. Revista de Occidente, 1976.

Further Reading
Eisenberg, Daniel. ‘‘A Chronology of Lorca's Visit to New York and Cuba.’’ In The Kentucky Romance Quarterly, 24 (1975): 233-50. An excellent accompaniment for the student studying Lorca's Poet in New York poetry collection.

Gerould, Daniel. Doubles, Dreamers, and Demons: An International Collection of Symbolist Drama. Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1985. A collection of symbolist plays for the student wishing to examine the forms and types of symbolist drama. This collection includes an introduction by Gerould.

Gibson, Ian. The Assassination of Federico García Lorca. Penguin Books, 1983. An exploration of the circumstances leading up to and surrounding Lorca's political murder, by a writer who has published extensively on the author (Gibson has written a well-known biography on Lorca).

Jackson, Gabriel. The Spanish Republic and the Civil War 1931-1939. Princeton University Press, 1966. A history of the turbulent 1930s in Spain.

Stainton, Leslie. Lorca: A Dream of Life. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999. The most recent biography of Lorca to be published in English.

Bibliography

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Crow, John A. Federico García Lorca. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1945. Examines the biographical, thematic, formalistic, and historical elements of García Lorca’s poetry and drama. An excellent source for serious study.

Duran, Manuel, ed. Lorca: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1962. Extensive examination of the aspects of poetry and drama and how they complement each other in García Lorca’s writings. Reveals how Blood Wedding is deeply rooted in Spanish folk and literary traditions. Principal plays are analyzed in great detail.

Edwards, Gwynne. Lorca: The Theater Beneath the Sand. Boston: Marion Boyars, 1980. Discussion of García Lorca’s dramatic technique and innovation in the theater. Includes a thorough treatment of themes and characteristics and an intensive discussion of Blood Wedding. Excellent source for an understanding of García Lorca’s scope, technique, and talent for dramatic expression.

Gibson, Ian. “Blood Wedding.” In Federico García Lorca: A Life. New York: Pantheon Books, 1989. The chapter gives a historical and psychological discussion of the people of the Andalusia region of Spain. Analysis includes examination of the Spanish Fascist political response to the play and a discussion of the play as a timeless tragedy.

Honig, Edwin. García Lorca. Rev. ed. New York: New Directions, 1980. An excellent source for discussion of García Lorca’s works. A critical guidebook of his life and work; treats in detail all the available writings of García Lorca. Provides insight into how his poetry matured into full-scale drama.

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