The House of Bernarda Alba

Lorca, Federico Garcia

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice
  • Date of entry: Nov-22-1996
  • Last revised: Aug-29-2006


This short play is set in rural Spain at the turn of this century. The characters, all women, exist in a cloistered household managed by a newly widowed mother of five daughters. Under the shadow of the church and the tyranny bred from a need to protect the reputation of the family, the matron (Bernarda Alba) represses her daughters by enforcing an eight year mourning period. The tensions build rapidly among the imprisoned women, with a demented grandmother playing a role resembling that of a Greek chorus. Eventually, the natural spirits of the daughters circumvent Bernarda, but the result is violence and a suicide.


The powerful features of this work include its terse dialogue, rapidly built tensions which are relentlessly sustained until the dramatic climax, and the hint of madness and impending chaos which informs the behavior of the characters in conflict. This is a study in family relationships under the strain of culturally and socially imposed taboos regarding sexuality and the self-determination of women.


First published: 1941. Translated by James Graham-Lujan and Richard L. O’ Connell.

Primary Source

Three Tragedies of Garcia Lorca


New Directions

Place Published

New York