|Written by Federico García Lorca|
Originally published 1934
|Date premiered 1934|
Playwright Federico García Lorca
|Characters Juan, Victor, Yerma, Maria, Dolores|
Similar Federico García Lorca plays, Tragedies, Other plays
Yerma de federico garci a lorca teatro el almazen
Yerma (English: Barren) is a play by the Spanish dramatist Federico García Lorca. It was written in 1934 and first performed that same year. García Lorca describes the play as "a tragic poem." The play tells the story of a childless woman living in rural Spain. Her desperate desire for motherhood becomes an obsession that eventually drives her to commit a horrific crime. Because of the time she is living in, she is expected to bear children. When she cannot, she is forced to measures that those in her society would view as extreme.
- Yerma de federico garci a lorca teatro el almazen
- International theatre program presents yerma federico garc a lorca
- Pagan influence in Yerma
Although critics speculate that Yerma kills her husband in the end because he is a frugal, economically driven man who has no desire to have children, the play is indeterminate on this issue. She kills him at a hermitage, a religious place with the possibility of fertility. However he has already shown no desire to have children, so there is no evidence that he would have changed his mind at the festival.
International theatre program presents yerma federico garc a lorca
Yerma has been married two years. She wants to strengthen her husband, Juan, so he can give her children. Telling Yerma to stay at home, Juan goes back to his work in the olive groves, and Yerma talks and sings 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, Víctor, sees Yerma sewing and assumes she is pregnant. His advice when he learns the truth: Try harder.
Yerma has just taken Juan his dinner in the fields. On the road home, she encounters an old woman who insists that passion is the key to conception. Yerma admits a secret longing for Víctor 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, Dolores, is giving her herbs for pregnancy. Next Víctor comes along, and the conversation between Víctor and Yerma 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.
It is three years later. Five laundresses 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 on her. We know they mean Yerma. The laundresses sing about husbands, lovemaking, and babies.
Juan's two sisters watch over 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 visits, but reluctantly since the sight of her baby always makes Yerma weep. The childless girl says her mother, Dolores, is expecting Yerma. Víctor comes in to say goodbye. Yerma is surprised and a little saddened by Víctor’s announcement to go. When she asks him why he must go he answers along the lines of “things change.” Juan enters and it is later found out that Juan has bought Víctor’s sheep. It would seem that Juan is one of the reasons why Víctor is leaving. Yerma is angered, and when Juan goes out with Víctor, Yerma makes her escape to see Dolores.
Yerma is found at Dolores's house. Dolores and the old woman have been praying over Yerma all night in the cemetery. Juan accuses Yerma of deceit, and she curses her blood, her body, and her father "who left me the blood of the father of a hundred sons."
The scene begins 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 old woman tells Yerma to leave Juan and take up with her son, who is "made of blood," but Yerma holds to her sense of honor and dismisses that thought. Juan overhears and tells Yerma 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. The play ends with Yerma saying, "Don't come near me because I've killed my son. I myself have killed my son!"
Yerma deals with the themes of isolation, passion, and frustration but also the underlying themes of nature, marriage, jealousy, and friendship. Social conventions of the period also play a large part in the play's plot. The character Yerma, the name meaning barren, is a younger woman with no children. She marries Juan out of honor and duty to her father. She is surrounded by a society that feels that women have a duty to their husband to provide them with heirs. Most of the town’s people blame Yerma for her inability to conceive. There also seems to be no love within this marriage, and at times she considers that the reason why she cannot have children. It is hinted in the play that she may have feelings for another, but she refuses to express these feelings because of a strong sense of duty to her husband. Even when the old woman tells her that she has a very fertile son that she can go off with, Yerma refuses by replying, “Do you imagine that I could know another man? And what an idea you have of my honor! ... Did you seriously think I could give myself to another man? ... I don’t go looking for anything.” Her feeling of honor is so overwhelming that even after she has killed her husband, she knows she has lost any hope of a child. Her reasoning: Even after death she cannot marry another. Her honor was to Juan and no one else. There are also overflowing themes of power and struggle. Throughout the play it would seem that Yerma had little or no power in her situation. She had no baby but without the consent of her husband, she has not other options. Her struggle is between her duty to her husband and her inner want of a child. She wants for a child not only because she longs for one but also because during the time that she lives that's all a woman could hope for. Unlike a man, who has the land and his work, a woman has nothing but the care of a child to get her through the day, and she lives day by day without that. Her inner struggle is too great toward the end, and she commands power as she strangles Juan to his death. She has finally stood up for what she wanted and at the same time killed her only chances.
Pagan influence in Yerma
“Yerma” has many Christian morals such as marrying for the main reason to procreate and not going outside of the marriage to fix any problems. García Lorca uses the strict rules of the Christian religion to depict Yerma as one not able to act upon natural human drives. As Robert Lima details in his article "Toward the Dionysiac: Pagan Elements and Rites in Yerma," García Lorca writes of the naturalness of the pagan ways throughout the play, using as vehicles characters such as the old woman, events such as the pilgrimage, and the four Empedoclean or "classical" elements, all providing contrast against Christian morals and their operation and effects. The four elements (earth, water, fire, and wind) are noted in the play both directly and indirectly. The elements have been known to represent the four seasons of the year, the four “humors” that represent human temperament, and the four points of the compass. Usually when the elements appear they constitute the foundation of all that exists. García Lorca uses the elements to create a symbolic pattern ironic in that it is Yerma who often refers to the pagan elements yet cannot assimilate them.
Ian Gibson suggests that Yerma is the work of García Lorca's most directly associated with his assassination in the early days of the Spanish Civil War. It most openly challenges the institution of Catholicism and the strict sexual morality of Spanish society.