Historical Context

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 618

Spain, at the time of Lorca's youth, was experiencing a lengthy crisis of confidence, spurred by the country's defeat by the United States in the War of 1898, during which Spain lost its remaining colonies. Political life was torn between a desire, on one hand, to strengthen traditional values and revive past glory, and the need, on the other, to move progressively forward, to foster intellectual inquiry and learn from the example of modernized nations. The split between these positions grew more acute in the 1930s. Lorca resisted efforts to recruit him for the communist party, but at the same time his social conscience caused him to be outspoken in his criticism of Spanish conservatives.

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In 1936, civil war broke out as conservative army officers under General Francisco Franco revolted against the liberal Spanish government. Lorca was living in Madrid at the time and decided to wait out the conflict at his parents' home in Granada. His decision turned out to be disastrous, as Granada was filled with coup sympathizers, and quickly fell to rebel forces. Many liberal politicians and intellectuals in the area were executed, including Lorca. In the years of civil conflict which followed (in many ways a prelude to the war that was soon to rock all of Europe), the attention of the world was focused on Spain. Men and women of many nations traveled there to fight against fascism in international brigades. Franco's forces were victorious, however, and by 1939 he controlled all of Spain. Franco's regime never accepted responsibility for Lorca's death, but Lorca remained a forbidden subject for years.

Franco's victory stalled the flowering of the arts in Spain, which had been ongoing for several decades. Previously, Spain's Golden Age in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was the highpoint of its creativity in the theatre and the other arts. Pedro Calderon de la Barca, Felix Lope de Vega, and others created a dramatic canon that has stood as a standard for centuries. Lorca was born in the year of, but too young to be a part of, the literary Generation of 1898, which examined Spain's past and the problems that caused the country to fall from international power. Lorca was part of the second Spanish literary movement of the twentieth century, the Generation of 1927, an erudite group using cerebral imagery and believing in a code of "Art for Art's sake."

Lorca's generation challenged audiences with its daring techniques and often controversial subject matter. This was a period of artistic liberation and the development of new artistic forms. Surrealism and Dadaism exerted influence over a number of arts, inspiring works that sought through imagery to pierce the human subconscious. Spain, at the time, was moved by the films of Luis Bunuel and the painting of Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. Lorca's work is similarly sophisticated and shares a complex awareness of human psychology. While other artistic innovators appealed primarily to the intellect, however, Lorca was concerned with addressing basic human emotions and needs. Lorca championed the plight of the Andalusian gypsies, who were accorded the worst possible social position in the region. He was also passionate about the injustices done to Spanish women: the personal stigma associated with not being married, and a woman's inability to marry the man she loves.

The House of Bernarda Alba finally had its stage premiere nearly a decade after Lorca's death. It was produced in Buenos Aries in 1945, near the end of World War II, during which Argentina had maintained an uneasy neutrality. The play was published the same year, also in Argentina. Given the repression of artistic expression during Franco's regime, it was not until 1964 that Lorca's last play was finally produced in his native Spain, at Madrid's Goya...

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