The two-word title of the play “Blood Wedding” by Frederico Garcia Lorca presents both a contradiction and a concurrence. These themes continue throughout the play, and the title’s two words are used to capture the essence of the contrasting movements of its action. The wedding symbolizes the harmony of man and woman and the continuation of life. Blood, too, symbolizes these things. However, it also evokes contrasting feelings of violence, death and destruction. Blood represents the strength of the blood ties in families and promotes the sense of repeating history, which is evident throughout the play and fertility and the cyclical nature of life. Used in another way, the literary references to blood create a sense of destiny, the blood choosing the characters’ path.
Blood also represents and is used to express extreme passion in the characters. It also reinforces the violence in which the characters in the play are exposed and take part. The strongest symbolic use of blood, carried throughout the play, is the link it creates between the characters and their ancestors and the sense of history being repeated. This is evident from the very beginning of the play when the mother speaks about the death of her husband and her son. She asks herself why a man would be killed just because he “goes out to his vines or his olives … because they are his passed down to him from his fathers”1. The mother is talking to her son, the bridegroom, and so from the beginning, we know that his father and brother were both murdered, and thus he is immediately linked by his blood to violence and killing.
Lorca carries this idea further through the next few pages of the play when the mother talks about her son’s fiancï¿½. She is very interested to know what the girl’s mother is like, and we learn from the neighbour that “she was very proud”2, and that “she never loved her husband”3. This knowledge gives the audience a sense of foreboding for the repetition of past events. We know that the mother’s interest in the bride’s mother stems from her belief that this blood relationship will show her the girl. If we accept this point of view, we believe that history may repeat itself, and with the bridegroom already linked by his blood to murder and killing, doom seems inevitable.
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Even the wife of Leonardo is a victim of the repetition of family history. Before Leonardo runs away with the bride, the wife suspects that he will not remain faithful, and referring to his lack of loyalty to her, she says, “it happened to my mother, now it is happening to me”4. So there are four characters in the play who are afflicted by the history of their ancestors. The bride’s mother never loved her husband. The bridegroom’s father and older brother were both murdered by members of the Felix family, Leonardo’s ancestors murdered members of the bridegroom’s family, and her husband also deserted the mother of Leonardo’s wife. These links clearly show the importance of the bloodline and the blood relationship in families, which is a constant theme throughout the play while also creating a strong sense of the inevitability of impending fate.
The second symbolic use of blood is its representation of extreme passion. The characters use references to blood to express their anger, pain loss and desire. Throughout, blood is used to emphasize the feelings of Leonardo and the bride. The bride says to Leonardo, “my blood boils to see how you’ve come here today”5. In the play’s final act, she also says to him that she wants to “tear the blue branches of your veins”6. Leonardo uses this same imagery of blood to express his passion for the bride. In the final act, he says to her: “those two silver wedding pins, they turned my blood black”7. The blackness of Leonardo’s blood suggests that it has ‘turned bad’; the thought that she should belong to another man poisons him.
The mother also uses this imagery of blood to express her extreme emotions. About the death of her husband and sons in act two, scene two, she says: “every vein in my body aches with it”8. The bride does not use the sort of passionate language when speaking to the bridegroom as she does when speaking to Leonardo, and neither does Leonardo use it when he is speaking to his wife. This difference emphasizes the passion that the two feel towards each other. It is a passion that is deep and inescapable and is in their blood. The above quote by the mother and the bride both refer to the veins as a centre of passion and feeling. Veins carry the blood around the body, and it is as though they are carrying the passion and the pain around in the blood.
This continues the symbolic linkage of the family by blood. The mother’s son was part of her, as she states soon after: “when I got to my son, he was lying in the middle of the street. I put my hands in his blood and licked them because it was me, mine”9. When her son died, the pain stayed in her veins because he was part of her. The significance and importance that the blood of her son has for her are further shown when she says: “I would have kept that blood-soaked in the dirt in a chalice of glass and topaz”10. This also shows how precious her son’s blood, and indeed her own blood, is to her. Her son is the one who is supposed to pass on her blood to the next generation and to continue the bloodline.
The mother again uses the imagery of blood to express the depth of her feelings towards the end of Act Three, Scene Two, when she says that her tears will “burn hotter than blood.” She is contrasting tears which are simply water from the eyes, as she says that the neighbours are; “your tears are just tears, they come from your eyes,” and those which can be compared to blood and therefore linked to a greater emotion. The woodcutters take the idea of the blood of passion in Act three, Scene one. The woodcutters are discussing the actions of the bride and Leonardo, and the opinion of the first woodcutter is that “when the blood chooses a path, it has to be followed.” He affirms that their blood denied them a choice.
Here the blood takes on the role of almost controlling their destinies. The first woodcutter also tells the bride and Leonardo that it is better to be a “bloodless carcass than alive with the blood rotting in your body.” This reemphasizes the passion of the two and the idea that their passion cannot be denied. The word rotting creates the image of slow death and the gradual departure of life from the body. This also presents two contrasting capacities of blood. It is a life force, but at the same time, it can have the ability to destroy that life. The reference to blood also helps to reinforce the play’s continuing violence. Violence leads to blood spilling, as expressed mainly through two characters; the mother and the moon.
The spilling of the blood also symbolizes the breaking of the family lines, and the bloody violence of the death of Leonardo and the bridegroom helps to lay a sort of guilt upon the bride. The mother refers to the blood spilling when she is talking about the murder of her husband and her son: “it is terrible – when you see that blood emptied into the ground.” Then, at the very end of act two, the mother declares that “the bloody days are back.” The audience knows that the mother is accustomed to blood and violence and has lived through ‘bloody days’ before, which again drives home the sense of tragedy.
At the beginning of the following actions, the image of blood is once more presented to the audience by the second woodcutter, who states that “blood that sees the light is swallowed by the dust,” which creates an image of violence. The mother also echoes this when she speaks of her sons’ blood spilling into the earth. This statement has two levels of meaning. The one is that it helps reinforce the image of violence by creating the image of blood that is physically spilled into the ground and metaphorically in terms of the continuation of the bloodline. When a person’s blood sees the light (when the person is killed), their blood will soak into the ground, once more becoming part of the earth and no longer being able to carry on to the next generation.
After the blood has been spilt, and Leonardo and the bridegroom have killed one another, the bride is described as returning “with their blood in her hair and on her skirt.” The blood in her hair and on her skirt is also an important symbol. The blood is not on her hands, which is the usual representation of a quilt, but the blood is on her person, showing that she was indirectly instrumental in the death of these two characters. Hair was regarded as a very sexual element in the society in which Lorca lived. The blood in her hair symbolizes the sexual passion involved in her relationship with Leonardo, leading to his death. This image again reinforces the violence of their death and the extent of the spilling of the blood.
While the mother refers to the spelling of her son’s and her husband’s blood with a feeling of despair and anguish, the moon is a more blood-thirsty character who enjoys spilling the blood in the many violent events. In his soliloquy, the moon anticipates the spilling of blood, saying, “tonight there’ll be blood to warm my cheeks … warm, spilling warm”. The moon acts as a chorus in this part of the play. It represents those searching for the bride and Leonardo and their need for justice. It is also introduced to provide the light that the bridegroom and the townspeople may hunt for the bride and Leonardo. The moon’s light is cold, and this light is the mechanism by which the blood can be spilled.
The moon brings a surreal aspect to the play that it is represented by a woodcutter and has its own purpose and desires. Blood represents three recurring themes in the play “Blood Wedding.” First, it creates a strong sense of inevitability of events by symbolizing links to the past by family and bloodline. Second, it also enforces the idea of the inescapability of fate and the cyclical nature of life and recurring events across generations. Third, it is also used to represent the extreme emotions felt by the characters and show the depth of their passion. The final theme is that of violence, which is present throughout the play.