Monday, March 5, 2012

Federico García Lorca's Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding)

Federico García Lorca writes his play Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding) sometime between 1931 and 1932.  It premieres in Madrid, Spain, in 1933.  The play shows the events revolving around a wedding between the Bride and the Groom, a couple who live somewhere in the dry lands and riverbeds of Andalusia.  All the characters are not specifically named, except for Leonardo, a horse rider with a history with the Bride.  The Groom’s Mother laments and dwells upon her dead husband and eldest son, who were murdered by family associations of the Bride.  The play depicts a love triangle that includes the Groom, the Bride, and Leonardo.  Phantasmagoric characters lurk near the end, poetry livens or forebodes tragic consequences, and motifs pervade the ubiquitous presence of chauvinism and death.  An Internet service company by the name of of Córdoba, Argentina, offers a PDF file you can have for free.  You can download a public domain version of the play by clicking here.

The play is straightforward in its exposition.  Leonardo rides his horse almost to death as he visits the Bride.  When his mother-in-law or wife asks him where he has been, he simply lies or makes up a probable situation.  The Bride, who used to be Leonardo’s girlfriend, gets engaged with the Groom so she can forget Leonardo and live a stable life.  The Groom cheerfully looks forward to the day when he will marry the Bride, despite the suspicions and complaints of his Mother.  The Mother intuits a foreboding circumstance and fears she will lose her last son.  She ponders obsessively over the vulnerability of life and how quickly death takes it away.

The quotes I find quite interesting come from the Father of the Bride, the Mother of the Groom, the Maidservant, and the Bride.

The Father is a successful farmer who has worked hard to turn the land into something profitable and sustainable.  He feels proud for the accomplishments that he has done.  While conversing with the Mother, the Groom, and the Bride, he speaks about the land as if it were an obstinate female that needs to submit to a willful male.  He says, “En mi tiempo, ni esparto daba esta tierra.  Ha sido necesario castigarla y hasta llorarla, para que nos dé algo provechoso” (“In my time, the land didn’t even grow grass.  It was necessary to punish her and even make her cry, so that she would give us something worthwhile”) (13).  The Father carries on a strong sense of patrimony and lordship over the land and, although not misogynist, prefers the help of strong sons to carry out his legacy.

At another time, the Father converses with the Mother about the ideals of working families on the farmland.  He imagines their future grandchildren’s destinies.  He monopolizes on wishing for boys while the Mother stakes a claim for at least one granddaughter.

“PADRE. – Yo quiero que tengan muchos.  Esta tierra necesita brazos que no sean pagados.  Hay que sostener una batalla con las malas hierbas, con los cardos, con los pedruscos que salen no se sabe dónde.  Y estos brazos tienen que ser de los dueños, que castiguen y que dominen, que hagan brotar las simientes.  Se necesitan muchos hijos.
“MADRE. – ¡Y alguna hija!  ¡Los varones son del viento!  Tienen por fuerza que manejar armas.  Las niñas no salen jamás a la calle” (29).

“FATHER. – I hope they’ll have many.  This land needs arms that are not paid for.  We must endure a battle against weeds, thistles, rough stones that come out of nowhere.  These arms have to belong to the owners, that punish and dominate, that make seeds to bloom.  We need a lot of sons.
“MOTHER. – And a daughter!  Boys are of the wind!  By force they wield weapons.  Girls never sally out into the street.”

The conversation does not end there.  They continue to converse until they start a small argument about the length of time it takes to raise a family.  The Father gets a bit impatient with the natural cycle of life while the Mother never takes it for granted.  We see how jealous and idolatrous she gets when someone unjustifiably takes away a loved one in whom she has invested so much.  The first cannot see because of his surfeit, while the second suffers because of her lack.

“PADRE. – Lo que yo quisiera es que esto fuera cosa de un día.  Que en seguida tuvieran dos o tres hombres.
“MADRE. – Pero no es así.  Se tarda mucho.  Por eso es tan terrible ver la sangre de una derramada por el suelo.  Una fuente que corre un minuto y a nosotros nos ha costado años.  Cuando yo llegué a ver a mi hijo, estaba tumbado en mitad de la calle.  Me mojé las manos de sangre y me las lamí con la lengua.  Porque era mía.  Tú no sabes lo que es eso.  En una custodia de cristal y topacios pondría yo la tierra empapada por ella” (29-30).

“FATHER. – What I would like is if this were a thing done in one day.  That right away they would have two or three men.
“MOTHER. – But it isn’t like that.  It takes so much time.  That’s why it’s so terrible to see blood from a fallen victim on the ground.  A fountain that runs in a minute which to us has cost us years.  When I arrived to see my son, he was lying in the middle of the street.  I wet my hands with his blood and I licked them with my tongue.  Because it was mine.  You don’t know what it’s like.  In a monstrance of crystal and topazes I would bottle the soaking earth in it.”

The Mother fears come true.  She would have given even her very tongue if it would have prevented the Bride from running off with Leonardo (36).  At the very end, she loses everything and everyone dear to her.  In a room surrounded by her neighbors, she tells them in poetic verse the pain she suffers.

Vecinas, con un cuchillo,
Con un cuchillito,
en un día señalado, entre las dos y las tres,
se mataron los dos hombres del amor.
Con un cuchillo,
con un cuchillito
que apenas cabe en la mano,
pero que penetra fino
por las carnes asombradas,
y que se para en el sitio
donde tiembla enmarañada
la oscura raíz del grito.

Neighbors, with a knife,
with a little knife,
on a red-letter day, between the hours of two and three,
two men in love killed themselves.
With a knife,
with a little knife
that hardly fits in a hand,
but penetrates sharply
through the fleshes so astonished,
and that stops in the place
where it trembles entangled
the dark root of the scream.

The Bride and the Maidservant exchange a noteworthy conversation as well.  The Maidservant, ignorant of her mistress’s predicament, joyfully brushes her hair and feels the excitement she is about to undergo.  However, the Bride anguishes in the fact that she cannot have both stability and freedom.  The choice between filling the role that expects her to stay in one place and fulfilling her own wishes that give her passionate reasons to live, tears her emotions apart.  The exchange goes as follows:

“CRIADA. – ¡Pero niña!  ¿Una boda, qué es?  Una boda es esto y nada más.  ¿Son los dulces?  ¿Son los ramos de flores?  No.  Es una cama relumbrante y un hombre y una mujer.
“NOVIA. – No se debe decir.
“CRIADA. – Eso es otra cosa.  ¡Pero es bien alegre!
“NOVIA. – O bien amargo” (18).

“MAIDSERVANT. – But child!  A wedding, what is it?  A wedding is this and nothing more.  Are candies this?  Are bouquets of flowers this?  No.  It’s a shining bed and a man and a woman.
“BRIDE. – It shouldn’t be said.
“MAIDSERVANT. – That is another matter.  But it’s very sweet!
“BRIDE. – Or very bitter.”

The tragic thing about the Bride is that she runs away with Leonardo after marrying the Groom, not before.  It is one thing to go back to her old flame, but she yields to seduction despite officially promising another that she will be his.  It is dumbfounding how the Bride, now a wife, goes and commits adultery when she could have backed out before.  (But then we would have no story.)  The Bride, in a sense, has not awakened up to the realization about the seriousness of her actions until too late.  The meaning of the wedding chant takes on a more somber interpretation.

Despierte la novia
la mañana de la boda.
¡Qué los ríos del mundo
lleven tu corona!
Que despierte
con el ramo verde
del laurel florido.
¡Que despierte
por el tronco y la rama
de los laureles! (19-20).

Wake up the bride
on the morning of the wedding.
May the rivers of the world
carry your crown!
May she wake up
with a green bouquet
of the flowering laurel.
May she wake up
by the trunk and the branch
of the laurels.

Parents that want to guide children and teenagers may want to discuss the ramifications of dishonesty, breaking one’s word, adultery, violence, and murder while reading this play.  However, the themes discussed happen offstage and under metaphoric description, so it should not be a major concern if a minor chooses to read this or watch this acted out.  Instead, it might be a culturally enriching experience for the minor to discuss these topics under the shadow of the play.  If the play does not entertain, at least the poetry should.


1 comment:

  1. That small section you quoted with the conversation of the Father and Mother was very interesting - a boiled down view of one of the fundamental differences between men and women that complement each other - the struggle of a man to wrest a living from a harsh environment and the struggle of a woman to nurture life in that environment. They seem opposed to each other, but they are both necessary to raising their posterity.


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