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Blood Wedding Themes

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Joe Doerr

on 13 November 2013

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Transcript of Blood Wedding Themes

In Blood Wedding, García Lorca presents several opposing views of women's proper role in society. Mother and the Mother-in-Law both advocate for women being cloistered behind "thick walls" after marriage, for their personal safety as well as to preserve their fragile psyches. The Bride feels constrained by the obligation to marry at all, let alone to be sealed away from society for the rest of her days. Although she does not love the Bridegroom, she appreciates that he will be a good husband and provider, but marrying for either wealth or pure sexual passion seems unpleasant to her. The Bride's struggle to find a middle way ultimately proves fruitless, and her excruciating dilemma is representative of the situations of many rural women in similarly untenable situations.
The characters in the play frequently discuss the isolation of the Bride's farmhouse from the rest of the town. Similarly, the Neighbor mentions that Mother only rarely leaves her own house to visit friends or do errands. The physical isolation of the play's female characters reflects their emotional alienation--in Mother's case, due to the murders of her husband and son, and in the Bride's case, due to the pressure to marry.
"Blood Wedding" Themes
Although the most prominent conflict in Blood Wedding is between the Bridegroom and Leonardo Felix, generational conflict plays a subtler and more insidious role in the tragic events. The Bride rebels openly against the social mores of her parents' generation; her actions can be read as a response to feeling trapped by the limited prospects that a woman had at this place and time. Although he is a man, the Bridegroom is similarly constrained, constantly having to explain his life decisions to Mother, who cannot understand why he would take the risk of associating with Leonardo Felix's former love. Although he tries to incorporate Mother into his life, allowing her to live with himself and the Bride, she refuses, clinging adamantly to the past, as represented by her house near the cemetery.
Leonardo and Mother both tend to fixate on blame as a way to cope with their bitterness about how their lives have turned out. Neither, though, directs the blame in productive or even accurate directions; Mother believes that knives are responsible for her loss of her husband and son, and Leonardo rapidly shifts the blame for his bad marriage to various people around him. Similarly, the Bride frequently lashes out at her Servant due to her frustration about the impending marriage. The characters cannot correctly identify the sources of their problems, and thus forgiveness is out of the question.
The repressive social norms of the rural town are often contrasted with the raw, emotional state of nature in which the characters desire to live. However, this state of nature is perhaps no better than the town, as evidenced in the woods, when the Moon itself is spiteful of the characters and contributes to their demise. The shallow and restrictive town, then, can be seen as a response and overreaction to the chaotic, bleak fate that man faces in nature.
Even more important than the Bride and Bridegroom's virtue is the sensibility of their match from an economic standpoint. Both are reasonably well off, which goes a long way towards ensuring their parents' approval of the union. However, the constant talk of buying and selling land points to a deeper rift between the two families. Although the Bride's Father has done well for himself through hard work, he cannot compete with the old-money extravagance of the Bridegroom's family, and this perhaps prevents the Bride from truly bonding with her fiancé. Furthermore, Leonardo's frustration at being unable to marry the Bride might just as easily be due to his inability to advance himself materially in the world--in the scene in his kitchen, García Lorca frequently emphasizes the family's dire financial circumstances.
Much of the suspense in Blood Wedding is derived from the fact that the characters do not have the latest or most complete information about what is happening. The tragedy in the final act could arguably have been avoided if the elder generation had not chosen to keep the Bridegroom and Leonardo's Wife in the dark about the old relationship between the Bride and Leonardo. Furthermore, the delivery of information often comes from symbolic sources. For example, the town girls represent the stakes of the characters' conflicts about feminism, and the Beggar Woman is said in the character list to represent death.

“The duende...won’t appear if [one] can’t see the possibility of death, if [one] doesn’t know he can haunt death’s house, if he’s not certain to shake those branches we all carry, that do not bring, can never bring, consolation.” --Federico García Lorca (from "Theory and Play of the Duende") http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Spanish/LorcaDuende.htm
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 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 Rfos, funded the theater project of which Lorca was artistic director (the project was called La barraca).
The Democratic Republic v. 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'etat, 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."
Critical Overview
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 trilogy to be written, with Yerma following, and The House ofBemarda Alba completing the cycle. Candelas Newton, in Understanding Garcia 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 ofBemarda 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, Garcia 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 evelopments 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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