House of Bernarda Alba

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A: Federico García Lorca W: 1936 Pf: 1945, Buenos Aires Pb: 1945 Tr: 1947 G: Trag. in 3 acts; Spanish prose S: Spanish farm, early 20th c. C: 10f, extrasBernarda Alba's second husband has just died, and she orders her five daughters to lock up the house and observe eight years of mourning. During this time, they are to see no men, and ‘not a breath of air will get in this house from the street’. The youngest daughter, 20-year-old Adela, rebels unsuccessfully against her tyrannical mother. But despite the old servant's warnings, Bernarda insists that none of her daughters need husbands. Only the oldest daughter of 39, from Bernarda's first marriage, who has inherited her father's money, is allowed to be wooed by a handsome young man, who is never seen. The previous night, having spoken to his intended through a grille, the fiancé then went to Adela's window and talked to her passionately until dawn. A hunchback daughter, jealous of her older sister's impending marriage and of Adela's success with the fiancé, steals his picture. The frustrations of these three daughters surface in the ensuing fight. The other two daughters, one stupid, the other cynically resigned to her fate, seem unaffected by Bernarda's tyranny. When a village woman is discovered to have murdered her illegitimate baby, Bernarda urges that hot coals should be put ‘in the place where she has sinned’. A stallion, kicking at the stable from sexual frustration, is released by Bernarda. Adela creeps back in after meeting her lover and is denounced by her hunchback sister. Far from wilting under Bernarda's angry reproaches, Adela breaks Bernarda's cane and declares that she belongs to her lover. Furious, Bernarda rushes out with a gun. A shot is fired, and the hunchback triumphantly tells Adela that her lover is dead. Adela goes out and hangs herself, although in fact her lover has escaped. Bernarda suppresses her grief and orders that Adela be buried as a virgin.

A: Federico García Lorca W: 1936 Pf: 1945, Buenos Aires Pb: 1945 Tr: 1947 G: Trag. in 3 acts; Spanish prose S: Spanish farm, early 20th c. C: 10f, extras

The last of his ‘rural trilogy’, this play was completed shortly before Lorca's death. It is arguably his finest, and a reminder of the terrible loss to theatre caused by his execution by Fascists at the age of 38. Although Lorca intended the piece to be ‘a photographic document’, his writing, though not as surreal as in Blood Wedding, is nevertheless full of symbolic undertones. The restless stallion and the image of the enclosed house in the summer heat powerfully suggest suppressed passion that boils over to bring about tragedy. It may well be that Lorca, as a homosexual, experienced similar desperation as he tried to hide and suppress his emotions in a society which condemned such yearnings.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

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