History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Spanish Pre-WWII
Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) is the dominant figure of early to middle 20th century Spanish theatre for such intensely poetic dramas as "Bodas de sangre" (Blood wedding, 1933), "Yerma" (1934), and "La casa de Bernarda Alba" (The house of Bernarda Alba, 1936). Also as intense is "La malquerida" (The passion flower, 1913) by Jacinto Benavente (1866-1954), more in the realistic style of Gerhart Hauptmann, marked by strong social commentary amid the lower social classes and peasantry. A more quiet drama, "Cancion de cuna" (The cradle song, 1911) by Gregorio Martinez Sierra (1881-1948), is also worthy of note.
More modern in approach are Ramón del Valle-Inclán (1866-1936) with "Divinas palabras" (Divine words, 1933) and Alejandro Casona (1903-1965) with "La barca sin perscador" (The boat without a fisherman, 1945).
"Blood wedding". Time: 1930s. Place: Spain.
"Blood wedding" text at http://self.gutenberg.org/eBooks/WPLBN0002171713-Blood-Wedding-by-Lorca--Federico--Garc-a.aspx?
A bridegroom's mother asks her neighbor about a rumor concerning the bride, how once she was courted by another man. The neighbor confirms it, specifying that the man's name is Leonardo Felix. The mother is abashed at this news, as the Felix family has been feuding with hers for a long time, because of whose enmity she lost a husband and a son. The bridegroom's mother and the bride's father agree on the financial aspects of the wedding match. A woman servant asks the bride about a man heard talking to her at her window the previous night, knowing it was Leonardo, but the bride denies it. During the wedding preparation at the bride's house, the bride throws her wreath down in frustration. The first invited guest to arrive at the wedding is Leonardo. The servant sternly reproaches the bride for appearing in front of him in her petticoat. "Today is a day of forgiveness," the bride's father points out, to which the bridegroom's mother responds: "I'll put up with it, but I don't forgive." The bride looks sullen. When the bridegroom hugs her, she asks him to let go. The mother takes her her son apart to advise him during the course of his married life. "If she's acting foolish or touchy, caress her in a way that will hurt her a little," she counsels. As more guests arrive, the bride's father discovers he cannot find her, nor can anyone. Leonardo's wife rushes in with awful news. "They've run away," she announces. In the bridgroom mother's view, the "hour of blood" has struck. Surrounded by his friends, the bridegroom swears this oath: "Do you see this arm? Well, it's not my arm. It's my brother's arm, and my father's arm, and that of all the dead in my family." Soon afterwards, the bridegroom catches up to Leonardo to fight. They kill each other. When Leonardo's wife wants to learn more about the event, her mother becomes angry. "You, back to your house," she commands. "Brave and alone to your house, to grow old and to weep, but behind closed doors." On seeing the bride return alone, the bridegroom's mother wishes never to recognize her again, "so that I won't sink my teeth in her throat," she adds.
"Yerma". Time: 1930s. Place: Spain.
Yerma has been married for two years to Juan and is yearning for child. A neighbor arrives announcing her pregnancy. "In just five months!" Yerma exclaims. One year later, Yerma seeks the advice of an old woman, who asks her whether she trembles with desire when her husband's near. "No," answers Yerma, "I have never noticed it." Once she did, but that was with Victor, a neighbor. After five years of marriage, still nothing! Juan complains she goes out too much. "The sheep in the fold and women in the house!" he exclaims. After receiving a good price from Juan for his possessions, Victor goes away to another village. Yerma is all the more inclined to stay out of the house longer than Juan wishes. In answer to her husband's continued complaints, she says: "You and your people imagine you're the only ones who look out for honor, and you don't realize my people have nothing to conceal. Come on now. Come near and smell my clothes. Come close. See if you can find an odor that's not yours, not from your body." Things do not improve with the passing of time. Juan is pushed to the extreme. "This is the last time I'll put up with your continual lament for dark things, outside of life, for things in the air, for things that haven't happened and that neither you nor I can control, for things that don't matter to me," he warns. Yerma is outraged. She surprises Juan by grabbing him by the throat and not releasing him until he dies.
"The house of Bernarda Alba"
"The house of Bernarda Alba". Time: 1930s. Place: Spain.
Bernarda Alba's husband has just died and she is about to tighten the reins over her five daughters. She asks daughter #3, Adela, to give her a fan, then throws it down, too bright for the occasion. She keeps her demented mother locked in her room. She strikes her eldest, Angustias, on learning she peeped about looking at men on the day of the funeral. She permits none of her daughters to have suitors. Magdalena and hump-backed Martirio, daughters #2 and 4, respectively, speak of Pepe's courting of Angustias. Although Martirio pretends to be glad, Magdalena knows that neither she nor Adela, the youngest, are and that Pepe's real objective is money. The four eldest seem resigned, but Adela, enraged, is not content. "I don't want my skin to be like yours," she says to Magdalena. When Bernarda sees Angustias wearing powder, she roughly wipes it off her face. While Angustias speaks to Pepe late at night at her bedroom window, Adela reports to the servant that Martirio mocks her. "Too bad that body of yours will go to waste!" she says. Bernarda learns that someone has stolen Pepe's picture from Angustias and she intends to find out who. It is Martirio, pretending it was just a joke. Alone with Adela, Martirio accuses her of being with Pepe even later than he is with Angustias. Bernarda eventually is willing to entertain the possibility of marrying her eldest, expecting negotiations to begin in a few days. Late at night, Martirio warns Adela to keep away from Pepe, more for herself than for Angustias. Adela defies her. "I can't stand this horrible house after tasting his mouth," she says. One night, Pepe's whistling is heard. Martirio cries out at the sound. Bernarda enters in a rage. She takes out a shotgun and leaves the room in quest of Pepe. A shot is heard. She comes back to say he is dead, at which Adela rushes out, but in fact Bernarda knows she missed him. Hearing a strange noise, the family enter Adela's room and discover her hanged.
"The passion flower"
"The passion flower". Time: 1910s. Place: Rural Spain.
"The passion flower" text at http://archive.org/details/playsbenavente00benaiala
Acacia has turned away her intended, Norbert, a cousin of hers, and no one understands why. She is now engaged to be married with Faustino, son to Tio Eusebio, a friend of Esteban, her stepfather. Acacia's mother, Raimunda, observes a strangeness in the relation between her daughter of a previous marriage and her husband. "He never comes nor goes without bringing her a present," observes Raimunda, but yet "she would never let him kiss her even as a child, much less now." After the two had spent all day together, Raimunda informs Acacia that Faustino has been shot to death. Although no one saw the murder, many in the village suspect Norbert is the culprit, from spite at losing Acacia. He is accused of murder and put on trial but he is judged to be innocent. Nevertheless, Tio Eusebio has a hard time preventing his four sons from avenging Faustino's death on Norbert's head. He tells Raimunda and Esteban that he believes Norbert hired someone to kill his son, based on comments of a servant in Esteban's house, Rubio, who has been blurting out suspicious matters while in a drunken condition at a tavern. Wishing to settle the matter in her own mind, Raimunda sends for Norbert, who tells her he knows who is the culprit but refuses to say anything out of fear of retaliation from the murderer. She presses him by mentioning that Rubio has been heard saying someone was paid to do it. He admits that Rubio bragged he was now "master of the house" after murdering on his master's behalf. Raimunda is stunned. She had heard her daughter called the passion flower; now she wants to know why he left her. "They told me to leave her because she was promised to Faustino," he answers. They threatened to kill him if he refused, then killed Faustino so that Norbert could be blamed. "The passion flower!" exclaims Raimunda to Acacia. "Your honor is a scorn and a byword, bandied about in men's mouths." Her daughter denies having done anything wrong. "Why was it you never called him father?" she asks concerning her stepfather. "Because a child has only one father," answers Acacia, swearing that she hated him as soon as he entered the house for following her around "like a cat", though always successfully defending herself. Tio Eusebio's boys arrive with guns to kill Norbert. Raimunda calls Esteban and accuses him of murder, which he denies, then takes a gun to defend Norbert. The boys succeed in wounding him, but, because of Esteban's interference, are unable to kill him. Esteban is willing to give up, but his wife reminds him that such a decision will ruin the honor of the house. Instead, she wants to send Acacia away to her sister-in-law. Acacia overhears this and refuses to go, threatening to denounce him, but when he offers to surrender, she calls him back and kisses him. "He is the only man I ever loved," she finally admits. Hearing Raimunda call aloud "murderer", he takes Acacia by the hand. When his wife gets in his way, he shoots her. As she lays dying, she confidently says to her daughter: "This man cannot harm you now."
"The cradle song"
"The cradle song". Time: 1910s. Place: Madrid, Spain.
"The cradle song" text at https://archive.org/details/cradlesongotherp00martiala
On the birthday of the prioress of a convent of enclosed Dominican nuns, a cradle is left at the door bearing a baby girl. An attached letter from the mother begs the prioress to keep her baby instead of sending her to an orphanage. Their attending physician proposes to adopt her and the prioress consents to have the wife of the convent gardener care for her infant wants. Although happy in their midst for eighteen years, the orphan named Teresa decides to leave the nuns and marry Antonio, an architect. To Sister Joanna of the Cross, her favorite surrogate mother, she says she was first seduced by his voice, "a voice that seems as if it had been talking to one ever since one's birth". Sister Joanna is frightened for her, having always thought of earthy love "as a flower that one finds at the side of the road" sure to pass away. Antonio arrives to speak behind a grille and curtain. "It is impossible to know Teresa and not love you," he says to Sister Joanna. Alone with Teresa, he discloses that she has changed his entire outlook. "In the innermost chamber of my soul was stored the love I have for you, and, if you had not come and opened the door yourself and helped me find it, I would have passed all my life in ignorance without knowing anything was there," he says. "One day I heard your voice, and, summoned by you, I searched through the castle and in the other courts began to find- ah! under how many cobwebs all covered up with dust- humility and devotion, warmth of heart, pity and faith in so many holy things." When the sisters arrive, he is ready to take her away. "See, we give her to you with a great love and may you make her happy," says the prioress. "I answer her happiness with my life," he answers. Before going, Teresa embraces Sister Joanna with passion. Left alone, Sister Joanna collapses beside an empty chair on her knees.
"Divine words". Time: 1920s. Place: Spain.
Juana La Reina is a beggar at fairs, sometimes drawing good money out of pity thanks to the presence of her hydrocephalic dwarf, Laureano. After her death, a family quarrel breaks out between Mari-Gaila, wife to Juana's brother, Pedro, a sexton, and Marica, Juana's sister, as both consider Laureano worth a goodly amount of money in their begging activities. The dispute is settled by the mayor, who proposes that each woman takes her turn every week. One week, Mari-Gaila takes off with the dwarf. Marica is incensed. Laureano likes to drink brandy, and is served only too well by Miguelin, a pot mender, who out of carelessness gives him a too heavy dose of it. After convulsing, the dwarf dies. This does not prevent Mari-Gaila from continuing her trek across villages, often accompanied by unsavory characters. Pedro is jealous of her suspicious relations with men and threatens in his daughter's presence to kill her. In a drunken stupor, he attempts to seduce his own daughter, who succeeds in defending herself. Mari-Gaila returns for the dwarf's funeral. But she is soon in trouble with the villagers, who find her in a field with Septimo Miau, one of the suspicious characters in her entourage. She is harassed by them back to her house, to Pedro's shame, who throws himself from the roof, but without harming himself. To the threatening villagers, he cites in Spanish Christ's words to the men accusing a whore: "He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone," but without effect. Next he tries the same sentence in Latin and the people, though understanding little nevertheless sensitive to the divine words, decide to move away and leave them in peace.
"The boat without a fisherman"
"The boat without a fisherman". Time: 1940s. Place: USA and Sweden.
Richard Jordan, a financier, is assailed by plummeting stocks, nervous investors, and friends who betray him. To help him out, a gentleman in black enters while time stands still. Since murder is the only commandment Richard has not yet broken, the gentleman proposes one to complete his damnation. He refuses. The gentleman counters by saying his business dealings already have indirectly killed many people, which he acknowledges. "I can't be ruled by sentimentality." Richard says. "The heart is a business adviser." At random, the gentleman proposes a fisherman in a far-off village who has just bought a boat. Should Richard be willing to accept his offer, the tipsy fisherman will be blown off by the wind off a cliff. "Why do you hesitate? A simple effort of the will, and all your fortune and power will return to you immediately," the gentleman insinuates. He offers him in addition the ruin of his worst enemy. Richard signs a paper and it is already over. To his surprise, he hears a woman cry out the dead man's name. "If only I hadn't heard that scream!" exclaims Richard. His shares rise dramatically. Two years later in the humble fisherman's cottage, to help her keep the boat, Frida pays for her widowed sister's land-rent. Estela suspects her sister's husband, Christian, killed him, appearing in her dream, "like a black bolt of lightning against red blood on a cliff". "You haven't regained your own peace of mind while destroying mine," says Frida, sobbing on her way out. Their grandmother bemoans the loss of a man in the house. "When you have him near, even the walls seem more secure. If they don't look at you, you don't even realize you're not a woman," she says. Richard appears. "What did you come seeking? A friend? Well, here you have two. Do you believe you owe us something? Well, you've more than paid us just by having come," says the grandmother. At table, Estela interrupts her reciting of the Lord's prayer. "It's a lie. I have not forgiven. I cannot forgive," she says. Two weeks later, as Richard is about to head back home, Frida bursts in, crying out that Christian has had an accident. "When passing near the cliffs, he was caught in a squall and a great wave threw him against a jagged rock that tore into his chest," she announces. In his final hour, he asks for Estela's forgiveness. Richard is stunned, at which time the black gentleman returns to remind him of their contract. "I have promised to kill and I shall kill," Richard tells him. "Who?" he asks, surprised. "The very one who signed that paper," he answers, no longer the man he was. When Estela returns to her house, Richard, having lost his entire fortune, decides to stay with her. Unknown to her, she starts the fire with the paper of the contract.