70 pages 2 hours read

Federico García Lorca

La Casa De Bernarda Alba

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1945

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Summary and Study Guide


The House of Bernarda Alba: a drama about women in the villages of Spain, or La casa de Bernarda Alba, is a play by Spanish poet, dramatist, and director, Federico García Lorca, that explores themes of sexual repression, inheritance, and violence among three generations of women  in rural Spain. The play was Lorca’s last, completed in 1936 only months before his murder at the hands of right-wing nationalist forces at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. No one produced it until 1945. Lorca did not intend for this play to be included in his unfinished “trilogy for the Spanish land,” but today it is commonly grouped with his plays Blood Wedding and Yerma in a supposed “rural trilogy,” as it shares many themes and subjects and a rural setting with these two plays.  This study guide refers to the New Directions edition of Three Tragedies: Blood Wedding, Yerma, and Bernarda Alba, translated by James Graham-Luján and Richard L. O’Connell.

Plot Summary

The narrative of the play centers on the overbearing Bernarda, a well-bred gentlewoman who keeps her five grown, unmarried daughters—Angustias, Magdalena, Amelia, Martirio, and Adela—in an ever-tightening grip of control by forcing them to remain in protracted mourning following the death of her late husband (their father). A young suitor named Pepe el Romano enters into this tense atmosphere with the aim of proposing marriage to the eldest daughter, Angustias; the only daughter to inherit a sizable dowry. 

Pepe embarks on an illicit and secret affair with Adela, the youngest and most passionately hot-headed daughter. Martirio, made forever bitter from her own sabotaged romance years before, exposes Adela’s transgressions to the house, bringing down Bernarda’s full wrath upon them all. Pepe flees the house at gunpoint. Though he escapes unscathed, Adela believes him dead, and in sheer desperation, she locks herself in her room and hangs herself. The play ends with Bernarda raving to the horror-stricken house that her daughter died virtuous and a virgin, even as she repeatedly forbids any of the others to weep.