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Yerma Designer Guide


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  • 1. A GUIDE to Yerma directed by ROBERT QUINLAN Illinois State University SCHOOL OF THEATRE compiled by NEAL RYAN SHAW
  • 2. 2. CONTENTS 1 YERMA SYNOPSIS 1 from Federico García Lorca Study Guide 2 LORCA, HIS COUNTRY AND TIMES 3 from Understanding Federico García Lorca 3 ANDALUSIA 18 from the Britannica Online Encyclopedia 4 THE POET AND SEX 23 from Lorca: The Poet and His People 5 QUOTES FROM GARCÍA LORCA 35 from Federico García Lorca Study Guide 6 QUOTES ABOUT GARCÍA LORCA 37 from Federico García Lorca Study Guide 7 WORKS CITED 39
  • 3. 1. Yerma Synopsis Act 1, scene 1 Yerma has been married two years. She wants to strengthen her husband, Juan, so he can give her children. Telling Y erma to stay at home, Juan goes back to his work in the olive groves, and Yerma talks to the child she wishes she were carrying. María, married five months and already pregnant, asks Yerma to sew for the baby. Yerma fears that if she too doesn't conceive soon, her blood will turn to poison. The couple's friend, Victor, sees Yerma sewing and assumes she is pregnant. His advice, when he learns the truth: try harder! Act 1, scene 2 Yerma has just taken Juan his dinner in the fields. On the road home, she encounters a Pagan Old Woman who insists that passion is the key to conception. Yerma admits a secret longing for Victor, but none for Juan. She then meets two girls whose attitudes astonish her. One has left her baby untended. The other is childless and glad of it, although her mother, Delores, is giving her herbs for pregnancy. Next Victor comes along, and the conversation between Victor and Y erma becomes tense with unspoken thoughts and desires. Juan enters, worrying about what people will say if Yerma stays out chatting. He tells her he intends to work all night. Yerma will sleep alone. Act 2, scene 1 It is three years later. Five Washerwomen gossip about a woman who still has no children, who has been looking at another man, and whose husband has brought in his sisters to keep an eye her. We know they mean Yerma. The washerwomen sing about husbands and lovemaking and babies. Act 2, scene 2 Juan's two sisters guard Yerma. She refuses to stay at home, and people are talking. Without children in it, her house seems like a prison to her. Her marriage has turned bitter. María (from Act 1, scene 1) visits, but reluctantly, since the sight of her baby always makes Yerma weep. The childless girl (from Act 1, scene 2) says her mother, Delores, is expecting Yerma. Victor comes in to say goodbye. He is leaving the region while things are still unspoken between them. When Juan goes out with Victor, Yerma makes her escape to see Delores. Act 3, scene 1 Dawn finds Y erma at Delores's house. Dolores and the Pagan Old Woman (from Act 1, scene 2) have been praying over Yerma all night in the cemetery. Juan accuses Yerma of deceit, and she curses her “father that gave me blood. Cursed be the blood that can father sons. Cursed be my blood that wants a son.” Act 3, scene 2 Near a hermitage high in the mountains, a place to which many barren women, including Yerma, have made a pilgrimage. Young men are there, hoping to father a child or to win a woman away from her husband. The Pagan Old Woman tells Yerma to leave Juan, whose people are "soft as spit" and take up with her son, who has "living blood" in his veins, but Yerma's honor precludes such a thought. Juan overhears and tells Y erma to give up wanting a child, to be content with what she has. Realizing that Juan never did and never will want a child, Yerma strangles him, thus killing her only hope of ever bearing a child. "Don't come near me. I killed my son," she cries to the onlookers. "I kill my son."
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  • 20. 18. Andalusia comunidad autónoma (autonomous community) and historical region of Spain, encompassing the provincias (provinces) of Huelva, Cádiz, Sevilla, Málaga, Córdoba, Jaén, Granada, and Almería. The southernmost region of Spain, Andalusia is bounded by the autonomous communities of Extremadura and Castile–La Mancha to the north and Murcia to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the southeast, the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest, and Portugal to the west. The autonomous community of Andalusia was established by the statute of autonomy of Dec. 30, 1981. Its government consists of an executive council, headed by a president, and a unicameral parliament. The capital is Sevilla. Area 33,819 square miles (87,590 square km). Pop. (2007 est.) 8,059,461. Geography Andalusia possesses the most-varied terrain and vegetation in all of Spain. Striking contrasts exist between alpine mountains and pine forests at high elevations, arid and barren deserts, and fertile irrigated plains that support plantations of subtropical fruits. The topography of Andalusia is divided by mountain ranges into several distinct zones, each running southwest to northeast. The Sierra Morena is the northernmost range, crossing the northern parts of the provinces of Huelva, Sevilla, Córdoba, and Jaén. These mountains present a relief of desolate ridges punctuated by narrow valleys. In southeastern Andalusia the land rises abruptly to the Baetic Cordillera, one range of which, the Sierra Nevada, contains the highest elevations in the Iberian Peninsula south of the Pyrenees. The Baetic Cordillera extends southward from the province of Jaén into Granada and Almería. Lying between the Sierra Morena and the Baetic Cordillera is the heart of Andalusia, the Guadalquivir River basin and its associated plains. The Guadalquivir River flows southwest across almost the whole of Andalusia, passing the cities of Córdoba and Sevilla before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean west of Cádiz. The river’s lower basin, a region known as La Campiña, is the most densely settled and agriculturally productive part of Andalusia. The Andalusian steppes, an arid region of badlands in the southeastern corner of Andalusia, cover much of Granada and Almería provinces. Extending east and west from the city of Málaga along the Mediterranean coast is the Costa del Sol, which has become one of Spain’s most popular tourist rivieras. A Mediterranean climate prevails in most of lowland Andalusia, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. Annual precipitation ranges from 80 inches (2,000 mm) in the Sierra Nevada and the Grazalema Mountains to as little as 8 inches (200 mm) in the desertic Andalusian steppes. Coastal and lowland Andalusia receive an average of about 3,000 hours of sunshine each year, which has helped draw tourists to the region. The lower portion of the Guadalquivir River basin has some of the most fertile soils in Spain, but the sparse rainfall makes irrigation necessary in some areas.
  • 21. 19. The population of western Andalusia has traditionally been concentrated in the large rural towns from which agricultural labourers commute daily to work on the surrounding estates, or cortijos, but in modern times the population has been concentrated more in the provincial capitals. From the Baetic Cordillera eastward, small villages predominate wherever water is available. Andalusia is underdeveloped and accounts for a disproportionately small percentage of Spain’s gross domestic product and a disproportionately high percentage of its agricultural output. Latifundios, or large estates, have dominated Andalusian agriculture since the Reconquest, producing the traditional Mediterranean crops of wheat, grapes, and olives by dry farming. The large farms have become increasingly mechanized, but the region continues to lag behind the national average in the use of tractors, irrigation, and fertilizers. Oranges are grown throughout the region, and cork trees are raised in mountainous areas. Andalusia is known for its wine and brandy, which are produced in Jerez (where sherry originated), Niebla, Montilla, and Málaga. The provinces of Sevilla, Córdoba, and Jaén process large quantities of olive oil and together account for about two-thirds of Spanish production. Andalusia’s landless farm labourers are among the poorest in Spain, and unemployment was a continuing problem in the region throughout the 20th century. In the second half of the century, emigration to more-industrialized regions of Spain and western Europe helped ease these economic pressures, but opportunities for emigration eventually shrank along with the demand for imported labour in the countries of the European Union. The region’s manufacturing sector is poorly developed and is dominated by the processing of agricultural products and by fishing and mining. Manufacturing is of relatively little importance. Andalusia’s mining industry is in decline, having reached its peak in the late 19th century, but mines in the Sierra Morena still produce large quantities of coal, iron, copper, and lead. Andalusia suffers from an energy deficit despite extensive deposits of coal in the Sierra Morena and the exploitation of hydroelectric resources along the upper reaches of the Guadalquivir River and in the lower regions of the Baetic Cordillera. In the early 21st century, solar power plants were used in the region as an alternative energy source. Andalusia’s service sector has benefited from the spread of tourism, with visitors attracted to the hotels along the Mediterranean coast as well as the architecturally rich cities of Granada, Córdoba, and Sevilla. The growth of tourism has not been matched by growth in other economic sectors, however. Andalusian culture still bears distinct traces of the eight centuries of Moorish rule. The Andalusian dialect, for example, contains many Arabic loanwords, and the names of geographic features often begin with al (“the” in Arabic) or guad (from wadi, the Arabic word for “river”). The region’s Moorish architecture, flamenco dancing, and bullfighting have helped form the popular image of Spain overseas. The observance of Roman Catholicism is heavily ceremonial, with towns hosting elaborate processions during Holy Week and town guilds staging ostentatious pilgrimages, or romerías.
  • 22. 20. History Andalusia has a long history. Agriculture and complex society had developed in the region by 4000 bc. During the 9th century bc the Phoenicians founded the coastal colony of Gadir (now Cádiz), and by the 5th century bc Carthaginians and Greeks had colonized the coast, while the indigenous Iberian peoples of the interior developed a rich urban culture. The Romans, led by Scipio Africanus, conquered Andalusia between 210 and 206 bc, and the region eventually became the Roman province of Baetica. Flourishing under Roman rule, it was the birthplace of the emperors Trajan and Hadrian and the writers Lucan and Seneca. Roman rule lasted until the Vandals and then the Visigoths overran the region in the 5th century ad. In 711 ad Muslims under the leadership of Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād crossed the Strait of Gibraltar from Tangier (now in Morocco) and invaded southern Spain, ending Visigothic rule. Henceforth, Andalusia’s history was closely linked with that of the North African coast until the end of the 15th century. The Arabic name Al-Andalus was originally applied by the Muslims (Moors) to the entire Iberian Peninsula. It probably means “Country of the Vandals.” In the 11th century, when the Christians began to reconquer the peninsula, Al-Andalus, or Andalusia, came to mean only the area still under Muslim control and thus became permanently attached to the modern-day region. After the Muslim conquest, Andalusia became part of the independent Umayyad caliphate of Córdoba, which was founded by ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III in 929. After the breakup of this unified Spanish Muslim state in the early 11th century, Andalusia was divided into a number of small kingdoms, or taifas, the largest of which were Málaga, Sevilla, and Córdoba. These principalities, which warred incessantly among themselves, had begun falling to Christian forces based in León and Castile in the 11th century when they were reinvigorated by a new Muslim invasion from North Africa, that of the Berber Almoravids, who were able to establish centralized rule over Muslim Spain from about 1086 to 1147. The Almoravids were in turn succeeded by another force of Muslim invaders from North Africa, the Almohads, who ruled over Andalusia from about 1147 to 1212. Despite its political instability, scholars have seen the Moorish period as the golden age of Andalusia because of its economic prosperity and its brilliant cultural flowering. Agriculture, mining, and industry flourished as never before, and the region carried on a rich commerce with North Africa and the Levant. Some of the crops grown in Andalusia today, such as sugarcane, almonds, and apricots, were introduced by the Arabs, and much of the region’s elaborate irrigation system dates from the Muslim period. In the realm of culture, a vibrant civilization arose out of the intermingling of Spanish Christians, Berber and Arab Muslims, and Jews under the relatively tolerant rule of the Muslim emirs. The cities of Córdoba, Sevilla, and Granada became celebrated centres of Muslim architecture, science, and learning at a time when the rest of Europe was still emerging from the Dark Ages. The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba and the fortress-palace of the Alhambra in Granada were built during this period, and the great Spanish Muslim philosopher Averroës was perhaps its leading intellectual figure.
  • 23. 21. The Almohads’ power in southern Spain disintegrated after their defeat by Christian armies led by King Alfonso VIII of Castile at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. The petty Muslim states that reemerged in this power vacuum were unable to mount a unified resistance to Christian reconquest, and by 1251 Ferdinand III of Castile had reconquered all of Andalusia except the Muslim kingdom of Granada, which survived until its capture by the forces of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. All of Andalusia was incorporated into the Christian kingdom of Castile. Andalusia continued to prosper after the Reconquest, in part because the ports of Cádiz and Sevilla were the gateways through which the wealth of the New World flowed into Spain. The expulsion of the Moriscos (Christianized Muslims) from Spain in 1609, however, helped trigger an economic decline that accelerated when Sevilla and Cádiz lost their trading monopolies with the New World in the 18th century. Gibraltar was formally ceded to the British in 1713, and Andalusia was divided into its eight present-day provinces in 1833. Vicente Rodriguez
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  • 37. 35. Quotations from Federico García Lorca My earliest memories of childhood have a flavor of earth . . . shepherds, meadows, sky, solitude. Being from Granada gives me a sympathetic understanding of those who are persecuted—of the gypsy, the negro, the Jew, of the Moor which all granadinos carry inside them. I want and must have my privacy. If I fear stupid fame it is precisely for that reason. The famous man knows the bitterness of having his heart coldly exposed by the dark lanterns that others shine at it. The new theatre, avant-garde in form and theory, is my major preoccupation. New York is the only place for taking the pulse of a new art of the theatre. Outside of Madrid today the theatre, which is in its very essence a part of the life of the people, is almost dead, and the people suffer accordingly, as they would if they had lost two eyes or ears or a sense of taste. We [La Barraca] are going to give it back to them in the terms in which they used to know it, with the very plays they used to love. We are also going to give them new plays, plays of today, done in the modern manner, explained ahead of time very simply, and presented with that extreme simplification which will be necessary for the success of our plan and which makes the experimental theatre so interesting. We believe we can do our part toward the great ideal of educating the people of our beloved Republic by means of restoring to them their own theatre. The theatre is one of the most expressive and useful instruments for the edification of a country; it is also the barometer which marks its greatness or its descent. A theatre which is sensitive and well oriented in all its branches, from tragedy to vaudeville, can in a few years change the sensibility of the people; and a theatre which has been destroyed, in which cloven hooves take the place of wings, can put to sleep an entire nation. A people that does not aid and encourage its theatre is moribund if not dead; the theatre which does not gather to itself the best of society and of history, the drama of its people and the genuine color of its landscape and its spirit, with laughter or with tears, does not deserve to call itself theatre, but is rather a place for that horrible thing which is called killing time. The idea of art for art's sake is something that would be cruel if it weren't, fortunately, so ridiculous. No decent person believes any longer in all that nonsense about pure art, art for art's sake. I am totally Spanish and it would be impossible for me to live outside my geographical boundaries; but I hate whatever is Spanish just for the sake of being Spanish and nothing else. I am a brother to all men and I detest anyone who sacrifices himself for an abstract nationalist idea only because he loves his country with a blindfold on his eyes. A good Chinese is closer to me than a bad Spaniard. I sing of Spain and feel Spain in the marrow of my bones, but above all I am a citizen of the world and brother to all.
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  • 39. 37. Quotations about Federico García Lorca Many times he himself . . . was a dramatic personage in his own life. -Francisco García Lorca, the poet's brother He was a stimulus. A privileged being. It's hard to understand how he captured, how he was in tune with all the artistic currents of his time, without having traveled widely. He was an integral artist, attracted to everything. He could have been a genius as a musician, as a painter; he saw everything as a kind of poetry. . . . His humanity was extraordinary, capable of bringing out whatever was good in a person, things that a person might never have thought possible except in his presence. -Regino Sainz de la Maza, guitarist and friend [Lorca had] a liquid, dark, and warm voice, sometimes roughened by gaiety and sorrow. And his voice often had the musical accompaniment of his equally unforgettable laughter, that tremendous deep-toned laughter . . . generously lavished with the natural energy of his radiant youth, his irresistible congeniality, his superhuman charm that won over all listeners. -José Luis Cano The personality of Federico García Lorca produced an immense impression upon me. The poetic phenomenon in its entirety and "in the raw" presented itself before me suddenly in flesh and bone, confused, blood-red, viscous and sublime, quivering with a thousand fires of darkness and of subterranean biology, like all matter endowed with the originality of its own form. -Salvador Dalí At the recent premiere [of Yerma], mixing with those members of the audience who, in good faith but utterly mistakenly, were present in the theatre, there was gathered together an odd confraternity whose leader is the author of Yerma. In the passages, in the foyer, in the bar, during the intervals, our ears were offended by effeminate voices. . . . It was a repellent spectacle. As repellent as the repulsive, filthy phrases and scenes of the play, incompatible with human dignity and, naturally, with art. No decent woman could sit and watch the play, which ought to be brought to the attention of the Law, because it constitutes an offence against public decency. -Review of the Madrid premiere of Yerma This is the play I wish I had written. -Miguel de Unamuno to Lorca, about Yerma At least five times a day Lorca alluded to his own death. At night he could not get to sleep unless several of us went to "tuck him in." Once in bed, he still found ways to prolong indefinitely the most transcendental poetic conversations of the century. Almost always he came around to discussing death and especially his own death. -Salvador Dalí
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  • 41. 39. Works Cited Barea, Arturo. “The Poet and Sex.” Lorca: The Poet and His People. Trans. Ilsa Barea. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1949. Jones, David Richard and Susan Jones. “Federico García Lorca Study Guide.” Repertorio Español. <>. Newton, Candelas. “Lorca, His Country and Times.” Understanding Federico García Lorca. Columbia: U South Carolina Press, 1995. Rodriguez, Vicente. “Andalusia.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 07 Aug. 2008 <>.