Federico garcia lorca
Born in Fuente Vaqueros, Granada, Spain, June 5,1898; died near Granada,
August 19,1936, Garca Lorca is Spain’s most deeply appreciated and highly
revered poet and dramatist. His murder by the Nationalists at the start of the
Spanish civil war brought sudden international fame, accompanied by an excess
of political rhetoric which led a later generation to question his merits; after the
inevitable slump, his reputation has recovered (largely with a shift in interest to
the less obvious works). He must now be bracketed with MACHADO as one of
the two greatest poets Spain has produced this century, and he is certainly
Spain’s greatest dramatist since the Golden Age.
As a poet, his early reputation rested on the Romancero gitano (Madrid, 1928; tr.
R. Humphries, The Gypsy Ballads of Garca Lorca, Bloomington, 1953), the
poems of Poema del Cante Jondo (Madrid, 1931), and Llanto por Ignacio
Sanchez Mejias (Madrid, 1935; tr. A. L. Lloyd, in Lament for the Death of a
Bullfighter, and Other Poems, London, 1937), all profoundly Andalusian, richly
sombre in their mood and imagery, and disquieting in their projection of a
part-primitive, part-private world of myth moved by dark and not precisely
identifiable forces; but, beneath the flamenco trappings, there is a deeper –
perhaps personal – anguish, as well as a superb rhythmical and linguistic sense
(the Llanto is one of the four best elegies in the Spanish language). Critical
interest has since shifted to the tortured, ambiguous and deliberately dissonant
surrealist poems of Poeta en Nueva York (Mexico City, 1940; tr. B. Belitt, Poet in
New York, London, 1955), and to the arabesque casidas and gacelas of Divein
de Tamarit (NY, 1940). An early major anthology in English is Poems (tr. S.
Spender & J. L. Gili, London, 1939).
As a dramatist, early romantic pieces with social implications such as Mariana
Pineda (Madrid, 1928; tr. J. GrahamLuidn & R. L. O’Connell in Collected Plays,
London, 1976) and the comic invention of La zapatera prodigiosa (first
performed 1930, amplified 1935, pub. Buenos Aires, 1938; The Shoemaker’s
Prodigious Wife in Collected Plays) established him in the public eye, while his
fostering of popular theatre gave him a left-wing reputation which contributed to
his death (although his homosexuality also made him a target).
His reputation as a playwright rests, however, mainly on the three ‘folk
tragedies’, Bodas de sangre (Madrid, 1935; Blood Wedding), Yerma (Buenos
Aires, 1937) and La casa de Bernarda Alba (Buenos Aires, 1940; The House of
Bernarda Alba: all three tr. J. Graham-Lujan & R. L. O’Connell, in III Tragedies,
NY, 1959, incorporated into Collected Plays), whose settings recall the
Romancero gitano, as do the unspecified dark forces (associated with earth,
blood, sex, water, fertility/infertility, death, and the moon) which appear to
manipulate the characters in Bodas de sangre and Yerma. Both these plays are
richly poetic, with an almost ritualized primitivism (Lorca was highly
superstitious, and his dark forces were not mere dramatic ploys).
La casa de Bernarda Alba is starker: deliberately prosaic, more readily
interpretable as social criticism (i.e. of the pressures of convention, the
imprisoning effect of mourning customs, the frustration of female sexuality by the
need to wait for an acceptable match), but it is so dominated by the title
character – who tyrannizes her five daughters – that it emerges as the study of a
unique individual rather than a typical woman. Each tragedy has one
outstanding female role, those of Yerma and Bernarda having been written for
the great tragic actress Margarita Xirgu.
Lorca’s technical experimentation (which has affinities with innovators as
dissimilar as PIRANDELLO and BRECHT) was immensely versatile, and he had
a superb sense for stage-effects to reinforce the web of his recurrent imagery.
Without silver light on their foliage
Federico Garca-Lorca was a creative child who delighted in his childhood and recalled it
with great affection. He spent much of his youth in “el campo” running about with the
other boys and girls of the small town. Nature and its mysteries held a constant facination
for Federico and he spent hours contemplating its variety and wonder. He gave every
object a personality and would speak with it and listen to it as if it were a living thing. As a
man, Federico Garca-Lorca was known for his wit and musical ability. He was good
friends with the major poets of his time and had a very close relationship with the
surrealist painter Salvador Dal. As far as his homosexuality was concerned, we do know
that he suffered under the strictures of a conservative Spanish society.
Federico moved to Granada in order to study for his “bachillerato” where he learned to
play the piano but poetry claimed his heart and, although a very good musician, he would
never be the great musician that his teacher, Manuel de Falla, had predicted. He published
a small book in 1918 called Impresiones y Paisajes as a result of his travels about Spain.
In 1921 he published his first book of poems called, appropriately, Libro de Poemas. He
also began to write his famous Poema del Cante Jondo which was not published until ten
years later. In 1928 he also published Romancero Gitano. These two works are what most
define the nature of Federico Garca-Lorca’s genius for most of us. It should be noted that
Garca-Lorca disliked being known as the “gypsy poet” and it would be a mistake to
completely define the man by these works, however great they be. Some biographers
assert that it was a need to separate himself from the “gypsy poet” renown that led him to
New York and the subsequent work: Poeta en Nueva York.
Although sympathetic to the Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War, Federico
Garca-Lorca was apolitical. It was the madness of the times and the ruthlessness of the
“Derechistas” that forced him back to Granada and his death in the early morning of
August 19, 1936. He was arrested, held for a time, and then executed by firing squad.
What did Garca-Lorca do that was so different than other Spanish poets?
Federico Garca-Lorca used the gypsy motif, the Spanish ballad, and the cante jondo to
express his poetry in a new and refreshing manner that utilized old forms with new words
and images. Such was his genius, Garca-Lorca brilliantly avoided the awkward pretense
that he was an uneducated gypsy and was able to convey the emotion of the folk song
No. He was the son of a liberal landowner.
Why does Garca-Lorca use gypsies so much in his works?
Federico Garca-Lorca used gypsies to represent the essential human being. Gypsies were
sensual, supersticious, emotional, and ever-suffering. In his works, they were humans
stripped of civilization’s niceties.
It is an Andalusian folk song that means deep song and it is always an expression of life’s
How do I interpret Garca-Lorca’s use of colors?
Don’t, at first… Just read his works and let his words produce the visions that you see in
Aren’t there any regularly used symbols that can help me unlock Garca-Lorca?
Of course, but he enjoys using them differently at times. Silver, metalic and cold objects
represent death as did the color black. The moon is almost always malevolent; not a
romantic moon, but a cold, bloodless, evil gypsy moon.
What’s with the color green in ?
Garca-Lorca seems to use it to represent a magical and other-worldly place. Don’t
interpret it too closely, just accept it.
Why are Garca-Lorca’s works so difficult to interpret?
You’re trying too hard. Let his words wash over you and start from there.
I’m still confused by lines such as: un horizonte de perros or sus muslos se me
escapaban como peces sorprendidos in La Casada Infiel.
Garca-Lorca was from Andaluca and the people there have an intensely poetic way of
describing the world about them. If you read La Casada Infiel, the description of a
horizon of barking dogs should describe quite accurately for you a dark night with an
invisible horizon and dogs barking in the distance. Her thighs escaping from me like
surprised fish should give you a sense of the rapid movement of silvery (by the
What would help me in understanding Federico Garca-Lorca?
Be able to read the poems in Spanish. Be born in Andaluca. No kidding… barring the
second suggestion, read them and enjoy them.
Was Federico Garca-Lorca homosexual?
Yes. He suffered greatly because of the strict, conservative nature of Spain at that time.
Did his homosexuality reveal itself in any of his poetry?
Interpretations of his poetry and drama vary with the opinions and personalities of those
who study him. It can only be safely said that eroticism is rampant through much of his
work. Whether it represents strictly homosexual or heterosexual eroticism is open to
Bodas de Sangre seems to be a pretty straight-forward story: a woman runs off with
her lover on her wedding day and the novio and lover kill each other. Is that all
Yes and no. Garca-Lorca includes many important themes in this, his most famous work:
Society’s pressures, passion’s ultimate victory and subsequent tragedy, family and
blood-ties, bitter hatred, revenge, etc.
Where did Garca-Lorca get the idea for Bodas de Sangre?
He read a small, almost forgettable, news story in the paper about a woman who ran away
What is the lullaby in Acto Segundo of Bodas de Sangre all about?
It is a foretelling of the upcoming tragedy.
The lullaby speaks about the horse that will not drink the water (is water representing
Leonardo’s wife, or just death itself?). The poem demands that the horse return to the
valley where the “mare”is (donde est la jaca). Is the mare La Novia? In the horse’s eye is
a “pual de plata” (a fist of silver). Keep looking.
Why did Garca-Lorca go to New York?
Lorca left to study English at Columbia University. He did not attend many of his classes
and, despite being very popular among the Spanish-speaking intellectual community, he
seemed unhappy. He was cut off from the people by his lack of English and found most
New Yorkers to be cold and unfriendly (Gee…really?)
What did the trip to New York accomplish?
Garca-Lorca wrote and later published Poeta en Nueva York. The work is more difficult
than Romancero Gitano and seems to reflect Lorca’s personal suffering.
No. Although he sympathized with the Liberals and was mildly active, he was a writer, not
It was a time of great upheaval in Spain. Franco’s forces seem to feel that intellectuals and
writers were a threat and forced many to flee. Garca-Lorca was unfortunate to be in
Granada at that time and was executed as an enemy. There has been some contention that
it could have also been motivated by the fact that he was homosexual.
Federico Garca Lorca was born in Fuente Vaqueros, Granada on the 5th of June, 1898
and died the 19th of August, 1936. His life spanned the years between the Year of
Disaster and the Spanish Civil War which ultimately victimized him. He travelled
throughout Spain and America, principally Argentina, living and writing some of the most
beautiful poetry ever written. His poetry has been translated into a dozen languages and
his name is known worldwide. His personal life is the subject of much debate now, relating
to his tendencies and friends. This page is dedicated to his poetry, written by him for us to
enjoy instead of dissecting his personality.
Lorca’s poetry and plays combine elements of Andalusion folklore with sophisticated and
often surrealistic poetic techniques, cut across all social and educational barriers. Works
include: Thus Five Years Pass, The Public, Dona Rosita. He is toted to have succeeded in
the creation of a viable poetic idiom for the stage, superior to the works of his
contemporaries, Yeats, Eliot and Claudel.
August 9, 1936, Falangist soldiers dragged the Spanish poet and playwright Federico
Garcia Lorca into a field, shot him and tossed his body into an unmarked grave… Franco’s
government tried to obliterate Lorca’s memory. His books were prohibited, his name
Lorca and his good friend, film director Luis Buuel
One of the first and most famous casualties of the Spanish Civil War, Lorca quickly
became an almost mythical figure, a symbol of all the victims of political oppression and
fascist tyranny. People began speaking publicly about Lorca again in the late 1940’s, and
The House of Barnardo Alba was the first of his plays to be produced in Spain (1950),
since his death and since the end of the war. Though foreign influence helped to loosen the
Franco regimes control over Lorca’s work, bans were still placed as late as 1971. Due to
public outcry however, Lorca’s work was produced.
Lorca’s reconquest of the Spanish public, and his growing prestige among scholars is a
relatively recent phenomenon. When his works began to recirculate freely, many people
who knew only the Gypsy Ballads and two or three of the more popular plays considered
Lorca a poet of limited interest and local color. When his later poetry -Poet in New York-
and experimental plays such as The Public came to be better known and understood,
It was exactly five in the afternoon.
The wind carried away the cottonwool
And the oxide scattered crystal and nickel
Now the dove and the leopard wrestle
And the bull alone with a high heart!
when the bull ring was covered in iodine
Exactly at five o’clock in the afternoon.
Bones and flutes resound in his ears
Now the bull was bellowing through his forehead
In the distance the gangrene now comes
Horn of the lily through green groins
and the crowd was breaking the windows
Ah, that fatal five in the afternoon!
It was five in the shade of the afternoon!
with all his death on his shoulders.
And now his blood comes out singing;
nor song nor deluge of white lilies,
Federico Garcia Lorca, Spain’s greatest modern poet and playwright, was born June 5,
1898 at Fuentevaqueros in the Spanish province of Granada. He began writing poems in
his late teens, reciting many of them in the local cafes. In 1919 he left to study law at the
Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid. There he met and became friends with film director
Luis Bunuel and painter Salvador Dali, among other Spanish notables of his generation.
Lorca came to national prominence in 1927 when his play Mariana Pineda was first
staged. His initial book of poems Gypsy Ballads was published the following year. During
a trip abroad, which also took him to England and Cuba, Lorca spent nine months in New
York City beginning in June of 1929. His poems of that period were later collected in the
In 1931 Spain became a Republic which gave hope to many, Lorca included, that Spain’s
standard of living would be improved, its lliteracy reduced and its culture more widely
disseminated. Lorca became director of a student theater company which toured small
villages and in the face of harassment by Fascist partisans presented the Spanish classics to
His first great play, the rural tragedy Blood Wedding, was staged in 1933. It was
immensely popular in Spain and in Argentina which he visited late that year. In 1935 he
presented his second village tragedy, Yerma, and completed his third, La Casa de
Lorca spent much of early 1936 preparing Divan Del Tamarit, a cycle of poems written in
tribute to Granada’s old Arab poets whom he had read in translation. In July, shortly after
the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, he went to vacation in Granada which had fallen to
the fascists on the first day of the conflict.
Although he had no political affiliations Lorca was known to be a friend of left-wing
intellectuals and an advocate of liberty. Apparently this was enough of an indictment for
those Falangists who arrested him on August 16th. On or about August 18, 1936 Federico
Garcia Lorca, along with a white-haired schoolmaster and two anarchist bullfighters, was
driven to the village of Viznar at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There at dawn
they were executed by a right-wing firing squad. Although his remains are presumed to lie
with those of hundreds of fellow victims in a shallow trench among the grove of olive
trees adjacent to the Fuente Grande spring, the actual whereabouts of Lorca’s grave are
Well, not exactly…only partially’.
More like infinitesimally, or not at all–
For the substance of that experience
It came raining from the bruised skies;
Traveling the city streets on wheels, in packs;
In innocent savance and calculated ignorance;
Wrapping all life in its eternal curse.