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The House of

Bernarda Alba
By Federico Garcia Lorca
Translation by David Hare

Directed by Lisa Ann Goldsmith
Scenic Design by Karen Glass
Costume Design by Susan O’Neill
Lighting Design by Regina Tvaruzek
Sound Design by

Official Study Guide
Compiled by Mari Boyle, Intern
Edited Denise Pullen, Associate Professor of Theatre and
Kellee Van Aken, Program Director
Prepared for the Seton Hill University Theatre and Dance
in conjunction with this production:
November 9 – 14, 2012

This study guide has been prepared for
teachers and other patrons who attend the
Seton Hill University Theatre and Dance
Program production of The House of Bernarda
Alba, presented November 9 through 14,
2012 at the William Granger Ryan Theatre,
100 Harrison Avenue, Greensburg, PA.

Tickets are available from the Seton Hill
University Theatre and Dance Box Office at
724-552-2929 or
For information concerning this production and
future Seton Hill University Theatre and Dance
Program events and productions, please
contact Box Office or Dr. Kellee Van Aken,
Director of the Seton Hill University Theatre
and Dance Program at 724/552- 2934 or



Table of Contents The House of Bernarda Alba 3 Frederico Garcia Lorca 6 Ideas and Themes 8 Lorca’s Vision 12 Spanish Civil War 13 Symbols 14 Production History 16 Adaptations 17 Enrichment Activities 18 Works Cited 19   3   .

Poncia warns Bernarda that the volatile emotions in the house will surely explode. Later. Act III opens in the evening. Magdalena remarks sadly that Romano is interested in Angustias only for her money. The young women are devastated. Bernarda Alba announces to her five daughters that they will observe an eight-year period of mourning in which they may not leave the house. defiant. Adela. and frustration among the sisters have been mounting.The House of Bernarda Alba   Immediately following the funeral for her husband. begin discussing the rumor that a handsome young man. and Martirio. the eldest and wealthiest sister. she is dismayed. When Adela (the youngest) hears of Romano’s intentions. will propose marriage to Angustias. when Adela and Poncia are alone. Angustias swears that he left her window at 1:30 in the morning. Although the other sisters insist that Romano remained outside the house until just before dawn. At the beginning of Act II. The three middle sisters. but Bernarda refuses to believe that her control over both her house and her   4   . Magdalena. Poncia and the sisters (except for Adela) discuss Angustias’ impending marriage to Romano and his courtship at her bedroom window the night before. Poncia questions her relationship with Romano. Suspicion. Amelia. Pepe el Romano. vows to continue her clandestine affair. jealousy.

above all. Upon discovering Adela’s lifeless body. and she goes to bed. unaware that Martirio has followed her. Insisting loudly that Adela died a virgin. and she and Martirio rush out into the yard. Bernarda calls for silence and for crying to cease as she regains control of her house. Meanwhile. Martirio wakes the household and exposes Adela’s transgression. to avoid the public shame she would face if the village discovered the truth. As the drama closes. Bernarda descends upon Adela. Adela hangs herself. Bernarda orders that it be dressed in white. A shot is heard. Believing her lover dead.   5   . Bernarda calls for a gun.daughters is not absolute. After a heated argument. Bernarda attempts. seizing her mother’s cane and breaking it in two. Adela sneaks outside for a liaison with Romano. but Adela. declares that she will henceforth take orders only from her lover.

Much of García Lorca's work was infused with popular themes such as Flamenco and Gypsy culture. His first book. he devoted himself entirely to his art. 1898. Impresiones y Viajes (1919) was inspired by a trip to Castile with his art class in 1917. was a gifted pianist. a compilation of poems based on Spanish folklore. His mother. and collected old folksongs. He also wrote Libro de poemas (1921). His father owned a farm in the fertile Vega surrounding Granada and a comfortable mansion in the heart of the city. read his poems in public. whom Lorca idolized. The deep song form permeated his poems of   6   . a play which caused a great scandal when it was produced. in Fuente Vaqueros. García Lorca traveled to Madrid. Giving up university. He organized theatrical performances. García Lorca was born June 5. In 1919. where he remained for the next fifteen years. After graduating from secondary school García Lorca attended Sacred Heart University where he took up law along with regular coursework. a small town a few miles from Granada. In 1922.Federico García Lorca Federico García Lorca is possibly the most important Spanish poet and dramatist of the twentieth century. García Lorca organized the first "Cante Jondo" festival in which Spain's most famous "deep song" singers and guitarists participated. During this period García Lorca wrote El Maleficio de la mariposa (1920).

" In 1930. his country home." the traveling theater company that resulted. which reminded him of Spain's "deep songs. Romancero Gitano ("The Gypsy Ballads"). In 1936. He was arrested by Franquist soldiers. When they arrived at the cemetery. In 1928. he loved African-American spirituals. after a few days in jail.the early 1920s.   7   . "La Barraca. and cities performing Spanish classics on public squares. no one knows where the body of Federico García Lorca rests. Manuel Fernandez Montesinos. the soldiers forced García Lorca from the car. including his three great tragedies Bodas de sangre (1933). His books were burned in Granada's Plaza del Carmen and were soon banned from Franco's Spain. soldiers took García Lorca to "visit" his brother-in-law. Some of García Lorca's own plays. and on the 17th or 18th of August. To this day. They struck him with the butts of their rifles and riddled his body with bullets. brought García Lorca far-reaching fame. García Lorca returned to Spain after the proclamation of the Spanish republic and participated in the Second Ordinary Congress of the Federal Union of Hispanic Students in November of 1931. his book of verse. García Lorca came to New York. the Socialist ex-mayor of Granada whom the soldiers had murdered and dragged through the streets. which included Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel. toured many Spanish towns. García Lorca was staying at Callejones de García. and La Casa de Bernarda Alba (1936). Yerma (1934). it was reprinted seven times during his lifetime. who exposed the young poet to surrealism. García Lorca became part of a group of artists known as Generación del 27. The poet's favorite neighborhood was Harlem. In 1929. The congress decided to build a "Barraca" in central Madrid in which to produce important plays for the public. During this period. at the outbreak of the Civil War. were also produced by the company. villages.

suggesting that they are not as wealthy as they believe. On the contrary.Class Ideas and Themes Bernarda's family is a landowning family and as such is wealthier than other families in the village. is a subject worth discussion. Sex/Love Lorca's play. But it deserves its own consideration since Lorca's insights on sexuality are many. Lorca's sympathy lies with the servants. women included. morality. face in severe ways. guilt. To some extent. La Poncia makes clear that the Alba family is only rich in the terms of a poor village. and some of the stories told highlight how lust and desire have led to terrible ends in the past. in a tragic rather than political way: they are the underdogs. He seems to suggest that sexuality is an entirely natural facet of humanity . this theme is inseparable from that of repression. since it is the sexuality of the daughters that is most strictly repressed. sexuality seems to be the driving force that brings tragedy to the play. Repression   8   . Overall. but that does not mean it lacks danger. The poor characters (the servants and La Poncia) are corrupted by these class distinctions and are made bitter in no small part because of their envy and their belief that the world has treated them unfairly by forcing poverty on them. to find a way in which we can consider ourselves superior. the play stresses the importance of acknowledging our sexual desires and not hiding them behind veils. Lorca then is making a critical observation about the human need to keep others below. set in the deep heat of a remarkably hot summer. the ones whom fate has left with less freedom. Whether that is a symptom of the repression that has corrupted love. For certain. or fear. drips with sexuality. or the natural state for all humans. whether of religion. This explains much of both Bernarda's disdain for lower class people and her daughters' aloofness.something all of us. Love deserves a bit of its own consideration if only because it is almost never discussed outside of its sexual component.

Death The play begins and ends with death. which ultimately makes us into worse. and she is terrified they might give in to the demands of a man like Pepe if they are not kept from exploring their desires. understanding repression is the key to understanding both the characters and the story. arguably a decision more about freedom from Bernarda than about love for the selfish Pepe. a suffering   9   . Even when La Poncia tells her that the children will break free the second they are given an inch of freedom. They are forced into an eight-year mourning period at the beginning of the play. like Adela's. but she makes it her explicit purpose to tyrannically keep them from expressing those desires. Lorca clearly sympathizes with this woman who is unable to realize her true personality and who dies for having tried to realize it.Because it is perhaps the most intense theme of the play. we see her attempt to flaunt her individuality. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the play is a reflection of the steady bitterness and hatred that exists between these sisters because they are so repressed. Their animosity towards one another is easiest to understand when one considers how desperately they all need Pepe as an object of admiration in their repressive world. Throughout the play. Lorca might be ambivalent about the powers of human sexuality. leading her to eventual suicide. Perhaps the most severe cost of repression is that it keeps a truly poetic soul. uglier people. but he is clear about the cost of repression: it causes people to shrivel up into suffering. from flourishing. While the characters do not discuss the topic at length. She ends the play willing to give up any security and safety just to be Pepe's mistress. As a poet in a conservative country. Martirio's depression can easily be attributed to an attitude of just filling the time. Individuality On the flip side of repression is the idea of individual freedom. she believes she is doing the right thing. their awareness of impending doom hangs like a shroud over the whole play. Bernarda seems to understand that her children are capable of sexual desire. She shows time and time again that she is an eccentric with her own ideas of love and life.

Because of the harshness of gossip . Fear of being seen as wicked by neighbors seems to motivate Bernarda's tyranny more than any particular moral code. La Poncia suggests that giving in to one's sexuality leads to death. suggesting that sexuality can only be hinted at in the confines of extreme respectability. In a way. The play opens immediately after a visit to the church for the funeral. Religion Though not an explicit part of the story. It can be understood in several ways. like with the young girl who murders her baby to avoid censure and then is herself killed . an idea which indeed falls in line with Lorca's common use of the theme. it is the primary cause of the strictures that lead to repression. Prudencia's visit in Act III poses the influence of religion as a larger duplicity that society uses to hide itself.hunchback. her biggest concern when dealing with Adela's body at the end of the play is that the neighbors have woken up. and Bernarda expresses her belief that the church is the only place where women can look at men.and the physical danger that the group dynamic can cause. Indeed. how is it we should live our lives? By subscribing to a set of moral codes that limit us. unconcerned with the ironic darkness that bubbles up due to her demands. Adela's tragic end confirms La Poncia's perspective. It is as though you cannot escape the force. Though she is criticized by the mourners in the funeral scene for gossiping too freely. the church-related sacrament of marriage is understood to be the only outlet for a woman to show love for a man. Prudencia goes to church to deal with her sadness and shame   10   . Further. until she dies. it is clear that other neighbors are also interested in learning each other's dirty secrets. First. religion permeates the world of the play. one can read the play as a question: considering we are all to die at some point. in fact.Bernarda seeks to have a squeaky clean house. Where Adela equates repression with death. or by courting danger through unfettered individuality? Gossip Bernarda herself exemplifies the provincial attitudes of the village where the play is set.

as Prudencia is soon to leave her church ritual because she is being mocked there. Of course. opposing her husband's wishes to banish their daughter).   11   . Lorca again reminds us that as an institution of man. suggesting that it can be used as a salve for us to avoid action (in her case. religion is subject to the pettiness of man.over having banished her daughter.

 explain  reality.  In  his  stylized  approach  to   realism.  Lorca  gives  us  snapshots  of  passion  —  pictures  of   oppression  —  in  the  same  way  that  a  photograph  documents   reality  but  does  not.”   highlighting  the  importance  of  the  visual  impact  and  staging  of   the  scenes.  by  itself.  white  and  gray  color  palette  to  strengthen  the   association  with  photography.  uses  a   black.  The  House  of   Bernarda  Alba  layers  impressions  one  over  another  in  order  to   conjure  the  mysterious  nature  of  human  longing.  The  Rep’s  production.         12   .  Lorca   characterizes  the  play  as  a  “photographic  documentary.  he  told  a   friend  that  it  had  “not  a  single  drop  of  poetry.Lorca’s Vision   The  Play  as  a  Photograph     As  Lorca  worked  on  The  House  of  Bernarda  Alba.”  Rather.  like  most  others.

human suffering. and the fascist Falange party against the Loyalists. socialists. The Nationalist army overran conservative areas in Northern Spain. anarchists. Volunteers abroad formed International Brigades to fight for the Loyalists. It pitted the Nationalists. led by the landed aristocracy. But the civil war’s huge death toll. Roman Catholic Church. unified under Franco.Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) Although he claimed to be apolitical. saving the Spanish Republic was the idealistic cause of the era.000 troops. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany aided the Nationalists with modern arms and some 60. consisting of liberals. gradually wore down Republican strength. The war also ushered in a long era of right-wing dictatorship that ended only with Franco’s death in 1975.       13   . General Francisco Franco led an army revolt in Morocco and invaded Spain to support right-wing rebels. military leaders. conquering Barcelona and Madrid in early 1939. For Italy and Germany. the war was a testing ground for modern armaments and techniques to be used in World War II. and Communists. Lorca’s liberal ideals marked him as an enemy of the fascists and made him an early casualty of the Spanish Civil War. In July 1936. and material devastation were unparalleled in Spanish history. The war was a conflict in which conservative forces in Spain overthrew the Second Spanish Republic. while the Loyalists remained strong in Catalonia and the Basque Provinces. The Loyalist side was divided by factional strife that was exacerbated by the Communists’ suppression of anarchists and Trotskyites. who received supplies from the Soviet Union. Nationalist forces. For the youth of the 1930s.

in her craziness she says what all the girls won't dare to say. Black is mainly associated with Bernarda and all the daughters who wear black throughout the play. Therefore. The cane – Symbolizes the power and sovereignty of Bernarda over her daughters.e.   14   . in Hispanic culture.Symbols Heat – in this case. for Lorca. mourn. i. Hebrew: "labor of God" Martirio – "martyrdom" Angustias – "anguishes" or "torments" Adela – from the Spanish verb "adelantar" meaning "to go forward" or "to overtake". green represents erotic passion. Can also represent jealousy. and over Angustias' engagement with Pepe.) while white represents all things good (the truth. and black represents oppression. being closed in. Green – The symbol of future death and. The fan – Adela gives Bernarda a round fan decorated with red and green flowers – a symbol of Adela's uniqueness. hope: it is worn by Adela when she confesses her love for Pepe el Romano. Black and white – The common Western connotations. except Adela. life. Adela finally breaks it near the end of the play. freedom). . a symbol for Bernarda's dominating nature. as in the "pure" and "immaculate" appearance of Bernarda's home. oppression. Another possible interpretation is that white represents sterility or purity. Black represents everything bad (death. As is already said above. The passionate personality of Adela as well. as between the sisters as they find Adela is the lover of Pepe. In addition... Heat is also another reference to sexual desire represented by the fans and lemonade. often mentioned and referred to at the height of Bernarda's oppression and fury. Some of the characters' names: Amelia – From Latin and Old German for "industrious".

the Spanish idiom: "llorar como una Magdalena" ("to weep like Magdalene").e.Magdalena – another name of anguish. i. Mary and Joseph Prudencia – Suggesting the virtue of prudence     15   .. María Josefa – From the names of Jesus' parents.

age 60 • Prudencia (Bernarda’s friend). age 50 First performed in Buenos Aires by Margarita Xirgu's theatre company in 1945       16   . age 24 • Adela (Bernarda’s daughter). age 27 • Martirio (Bernarda’s daughter). age 30 • Amelia (Bernarda’s daughter). age 39 • Magdalena (Bernarda’s daughter). age 80 • Angustias (Bernarda’s daughter). age 50 • Poncia (maid). age 60 • Maria Josefa (Bernarda’s mother). age 20 • Maid.House of Bernarda Alba – Production History The play takes place in the house of Bernarda Alba in a small Andalusian village during a sweltering hot spell in the summer of 1936. Characters • Bernarda.

In 2006. Under the title Bernarda Alba.Adaptations Film adaptations include: La casa de Bernarda Alba (1987) and its English made-for-TV movie The House of Bernarda Alba (1991) 1991 Indian film directed by Govind Nihlani. the play was adapted into musical form by Michael John LaChiusa. it opened at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse theatre on March 6. 2006. featuring music by John Coltrane. choreographer Eleo Pomare adapted the play into his ballet.   17   . starring Phylicia Rashad in the title role. with a cast that also included Daphne Rubin-Vega. Rukmavati ki Haveli In 1967. Las Desenamoradas.

Should  parents  impose  cultural  practices  that  inhibit  their  childrens’   individual  choices  in  love  and  marriage?         Research  and  discuss  the  Spanish  Civil  War  and  how  it  is  expressed  through  the   story  and  characters  in  THE  HOUSE  OF  BERNARDA         http://shu12alba.      Links:           http://bernardashouse.  and  research  provided  by  the  Seton  Hill  Theatre   design  team.  relative  to  the  age  of  the  characters  in  the  play?   4.       View  the  wonderful  blogs. How  much  freedom  should  parents  give  to  children  in  choosing  their  friends   and  significant       Discuss  instances  where  you  see  the  themes  expressed  in  the  drawings  and   renderings.Enrichment Activities:     Students  create  interview  questions  and  ask  their  friends’  opinions  regarding:       1.  discuss  how  and  why  you  think  the  final  decisions   were  made  for  the  visual  and  sonic  designs  that  appeared  in  the  production. If  parents  are  too  strict  is  that  better  or  in  the  end  worse?   2.blogspot.  websites.           18   . Should  parents  raise  their  children  to  hide  or  flaunt  their  individuality?   3.    After  seeing  the  play.

jpg/300px-­‐­‐content/uploads/2011/10/House-­‐of-­‐Bernarda-­‐ c/0/7/78/the-house-of-bernarda-alba-poster/1   Playwright  and  his  work-­‐     19   .poets.univmiami.jpg     Production  History  –     Lorca’s  Vision  picture  –     http://ridgewine.wikimedia._1937.guidetomusicaltheatre.jpg     Spanish  Civil  War  –     http://upload.jpg     Adaptations  – rigada_in_the_battle_of_Belchev.Works  Cited  -­‐  Pictures   The  House  of  Bernarda  Alba  –     http://designarchives.

edu/granada2008/Span_301/html/unit5/     Frederico  Garcia  Lorca  –     http://www.htm     Ideas  and  Themes  –  Cited  -­‐  Info   Adaptations  –    http://en.htm     Symbols  –­‐house-­‐of-­‐bernarda-­‐alba/study-­‐guide/major-­‐ themes/     Lorca’s  Vision  -­‐     Glossary  of  Terms  –     Spanish  Civil  War  -­‐   http://projects.htm     20   .com/the-­‐house-­‐of-­‐bernarda-­‐alba/study-­‐guide/glossary-­‐of-­‐ terms/     Production  History  -­‐     House  of  Bernarda  Alba  -­‐

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