restricted access The Mythic Pattern in Lorca's Blood Wedding
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THE MYTHIC PATTERN IN LORCA'S BLOOD WEDDING LORCA'S Blood Wedding ENJOYS A CURIOUSLY PARADOXICAL FAME. ,Critics are unanimous in praising it, both as an expression of Lorca's best mode, his "Andalusian vision"! and as one of the finest products of that twentieth century movement in drama which tries to find new roots in the elemental soil. Yet the praise itself is damning, for we have been led to think of Lorca's plays as "peasant drama,"2 so Spanish in their symbolism as to be incomprehensible beyond the locale which inspired them. For example, in the judgment of Angel del Rio, Blood Wedding "may very well miss becoming a world classic because of its local color and the fact that its action seems limited and appears to lack real spiritual content ... a great deal of its atmosphere can be communicated only to a Spanish-speaking public steeped in Spanish artistic traditions."s This perception of the play not only confines it to the Spanish speaking world, but suggests that its atmosphere is its crucial ingredient. Elemental emotion , or atmosphere, is thought to constitute the very meaning of Blood Wedding. "Sensuality, hatred, love and tragic destiny bringing with it a bloody and violent death are the central themes of this play."4 Moreover, the confusion of the atmosphere with theme, unfortunately suggesting melodrama, extends even to close critical interpretation. Campbell, for example, in discussing the lullaby of Act I asserts in one breath that it is evocative and meaningless: "though it means little enough, yet [it] suggests ... terror and tragedy ,"5 or again, "In spite of its lack of meaning, this 'nonsense rhyme' creates the same ominous atmosphere as the nonsense of Edgar in Lear."6 OlUr response to Blood Wedding is generally to praise its elemental power and then refuse to take it seriously. Lorca's drama is not "peasant drama" if we mean to imply by that. description either parochiality or mindless simplicity. It is elemental in the way ancient drama is elemental; its symbolism operates in much the same way as that of Aeschylus. Although Lorca 1 Angel del Rio, "Lorca's Theatre," Lorca: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Manuel Duran (Englewood Cliffs, 1962), 140-154. 21bid, p. 149. 3 del Rio. p. 151. 4 del Rio, p. 150. 6 Roy Campbell, Lorca (New Haven. 1952). p. 14. 6 Campbell, p. 20. 364 1%8 MYTHIC PATIERN IN Blood Wedding 365 reaches for his imagery into the depths of Spanish consciousness, the images emerge beyond Spanishness as symbols universal in the Western tradition. The bull as a symbol of fertility, or the moon as a symbol of the changing aspects of the life-force (now a wedding moon, now a moon of death) are, after all Greek and, beyond Greek, universal. Moreover, powerful as Lorca's imagery is, it does not exist for its own sake. Its function is not sensational; it is not "delightful gibberish."7 Rather it operates within the most formal of dramatic structures to figure the archetypal pattern of tragedy, or, to be more precise of ur-tragedy, for Lorca is in this play shaping the elemental conflict in human nature out of which the vision of tragedy arises. Blood Wedding is not merely about a wedding but about the wedding in the blood of the antagonistic forces that together compromise the paradoxical human condition. The play envisions this war in the blood on many levels. It is the conflict between physical nature, in whose hands man is merely an instrument for creating new life, and individual will, which asserts the value of itself. It is the antagonism between the tribal self and the individual self. And ultimately it is the cosmic struggle between community of the species, which insures endless life, and individuation, which insures endless death. The theme of this play is not its atmosphere, but its ritual enactment of the wedding in man's blood of his divided human nature. It structures a vision of the fractured whole that Lorca once suggested in the image of a pomegranate: The pomegranate is the pre-history Of our own blood. So gashed apart Its bitter globe reveals the mystery...


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