Sunday, December 25, 2016

The House of Bernarda Alba-Essay Questions

Would it be accurate to call The House of Bernarda Alba a feminist work?
Lorca's play confines itself to only female characters. It explores their suffering under a world that allows men to follow their whims and expect forgiveness, while women are held to impossible standards. The play implicitly condemns attitudes that preclude female sexuality and force women to subscribe to unrealistic moral codes. Through Bernada, it provides its most damning commentary - so harsh are the expectations placed on women that a powerful matriarch herself reinforces those skewed values and acts like a man, as though the only way to have power is to ignore and betray her own femininity. And yet to call Lorca's play feminist is perhaps to subscribe too political a vision to it. His interest is in universal humanist themes - sex, death, and repression - and to understand it only as a tract for women's rights would be to risk missing its more poetic exploration of larger themes. Regardless of how one answers the question, a feminist lens does provide some insight into the play.
Identify the tragic force of the play and the way it brings doom to Adela.
In a tragedy, the tragic force is that immutable force that a character attempts to battle, causing suffering and eventual defeat. In The House of Bernarda Alba, one could make an argument for  any of several of tragic forces. Perhaps the tragic force is sexuality. Adela is, like all her sisters, at the mercy of her sexual passions, consumed by them. However, where her sisters internalize their lust and it turns to bitterness, Adela forces it outwards and risks the shame and potential harm of a public affair with Pepe. One could argue that by trying to master her sexuality, Adela is defeated, as though her sexuality were too strong. One could also argue that the shackles placed on women provides the tragic force. By attempting to combat her limitations as a woman, Adela goes too far and dies. Another possible tragic force is repression. The real antagonist to Adela is her mother, who represents the forces of repression that Lorca would have understood from living in a newly fascist Spain. We see this when Adela breaks Bernarda's cane. What Adela wants more than Pepe or to fulfill her sexuality is to be free of shackles, of moral strictures, and of expectations. It is this repression more than anything that she combats, and which ultimately forces her to her tragic end.
Do a character analysis of Pepe el Romano. What do we know about him, what does he represent, and how does he factor into the play?
Though Pepe is, like the other men of the village, never seen onstage, his presence looms as a major character. Much of the play is built of symbols, and Pepe is no different. In the simplest way, he is the catalyst for the play's main conflicts. By bringing the possibility of marriage to the Alba household, he is offering not only sexual freedom in a respectable venue, but also freedom from the tyranny of Bernarda. What he offers is so strong that it engulfs all the girls, to the point that he as a person almost does not matter. They do, however, continue to note his handsomeness, and indeed, his name, which translates to "the Roman," clues us into the way he is viewed as a hero. And yet what Pepe also represents is the ugly side of a man. The women never acknowledge Pepe's abhorrent behavior in courting both Angusitas and Adela. He represents the male license to misbehave and to treat women as objects that is granted by women themselves. Pepe has been charged with too much power for him to ever live up to it, but so heavy are the chains of repression that he never would have to if he were to bring to any of the sisters the freedom they so desperately desire.
Explain Lorca's use of theatricality. In what way is his play like his poetic work?
Lorca, as both a playwright and poet, attempts to write a play that is less the telling of a story than the exploration of a theme. He wants to create characters that are both believable in their specificity and evocative in their symbolic weight. As such, all his characters have unsubtle symbolic qualities while still possessing individual, esoteric traits. Names are used to indicate the type of people the daughters are; Bernarda unflinchingly personifies repression while being unlike any other character in theater. Lorca accomplishes this balance through his precise use of language, through the rhythmic use of silence, and through the haunting atmospheric effect of his theatricality. His precise descriptions of the color of rooms, the use of strange devices (like Maria Josefa's song), and the heightened moments all create an atmosphere of claustrophobia and visceral unease. In the end, the story of this play is extremely simple - what matters is the experience of feeling locked in the world of the daughters.
What does Maria Josefa represent, and how does Lorca accomplish this representation?
Maria Josefa is a strange character. Bernarda's old mother, locked away because of her seeming senility, plays the role of a prophet. She brings wisdom through madness. What she represents is freedom, a freedom that finds its outlet in imagined sexuality. There is surely something sad about the fact that to find freedom, she has to retreat into her own fantasies, and yet the old woman is able to find peace in her fantasies of living with a new husband by the sea, finding sexual satisfaction in a pastoral landscape away from civilization. In her second scene, when she sings, Lorca indicates a certain innocence in her character through her use of a lamb as a baby. The warnings she brings when she enters are the costs of repression and the importance of freedom and fantasy. Through her senile yet atmospherically haunting scenes, Lorca paints Maria Josefa as the only true individual other than Adela, though the former's freedom comes from being close enough to death to be willing to toss off the shackles of conformity and expectation.
How is color used in The House of Bernarda Alba?
Lorca describes his play as a "photographic document" and sets up his color scheme to evoke the image of a black-and-white photo. The first two acts are set in fully white rooms, and all the women are expected to wear black dresses. This would theatrically create an extreme pallor that would both capture the play's "photographic" nature and also create a creepy feeling. The black and white color scheme also fits in with the themes of the play. Where Bernarda keeps an extremely white house – she wants no depravity or sin in her home and hence keeps it squeaky clean – the irony is that all her daughters, and she herself, are black on the inside, rotting under their repression. So when a character enters wearing a bright color, like Adela in her green dress in Act I, the contrast is striking. It is an apt symbolic representation of the way her pronounced individuality is in stark contrast to the repression all around her.
Lorca intended his play to be pure realism. Is The House of Bernarda Alba a realistic work?
The play concerns characters that one might find in the real world (in fact, Lorca based them on people he once knew). They have realistic psychological problems, and instances of poetic language are surprisingly few. Yet the play is difficult to label completely realist for two reasons. The first is its theatricality, which is pronounced and extreme. The bigger reason is that the characters are pronouncedly symbolic. The repression Bernarda represents is stifling, and the daughters are embroiled in their own personalities. The whole play works in symbols – the green dress, the cane that Adela breaks, the stallion – so that even though these symbols could exist in the real world, they are too strongly the work of a focused poet who wants to communicate something larger than just a 'realistic' story.
Defend Bernarda Alba as a sympathetic character.
It is not easy to defend the tyrant Bernarda as sympathetic. She uses her cane and intensity to force her daughters into a painful and repressive life. She seems to care more about how she is perceived by neighbors than about the happiness of her own girls. Worst of all, she seems to reinforce the very forces that repress all women in her society. Yet it is precisely through understanding these forces that one can see Bernarda as sympathetic. Perhaps what Lorca hates much more than the tyrant are the forces that create the tyrant. While Bernarda seems to care a lot about how she is perceived, the truth is that the townspeople are harshly devoted to their gossip and judgments, so much so that they force a young girl to murder her baby rather than own up to giving birth out of wedlock, and ultimately to die for her mistake. So Bernarda is not entirely incorrect in living by those values. In a perverse way, Bernarda thinks she is doing the right thing for her daughters – she understands that the world represses and punishes women for their sexuality and that the only way to be successful is to show the strength of a man. Because her daughters do not have that strength, she tries to keep them safe from those tragic forces of conformity and repression in the world, but ironically she herself is the most repressive force of all to that end. One can argue that Bernarda is sympathetic because it is the forces of the world, not her, that are the villain, and in the rare moments when we see her pain (such as when she learns about Adela's death), we see how distraught she is about acting in the way she believes she must.
How does La Poncia fit into the household? In what ways is she different from the other women, and in what ways is she representative of the same forces?
La Poncia, the trusted and long-time servant, is both separated from and totally immersed in the dark energies of the Alba household. The main way in which she is separated can be understood through class. She makes it clear, both when talking to the other servants and through her animosity when speaking with Bernarda, that she is affected by class resentment. Much of her anger comes from that resentment, and in that way she can never totally sympathize with the girls and their repression. However, it is precisely this resentment that makes her a perfect fit for the household. Everyone in that house is a victim of resentments born of repression, and everyone but Adela lets it consume them. So even though La Poncia is particularly rotted by class rather than by sexual repression, she and Bernarda are so close because both of them understand that the world yields this animosity, especially in women. The competitiveness between La Poncia nad Bernarda reflects the competitiveness that exists between all the girls, making the larger point that women in particular are subject to such bitterness. So in the end, what makes La Poncia best fit into the Alba household is the camaraderie they all share as a result of being women in a world that represses them.
Discuss religion in the play. Do characters give respect to their religion?

In a certain way, characters give extreme respect to religion. The rituals of Spanish Catholicism are treated with honor – consider the bells that everyone acknowledges or the way Bernarda leads a call-and-response before dismissing the mourners. However, religion seems yet another repressive force overall. For Prudencia, religion is only a crutch to manage her regret over having banished her daughter. The fact that she was not allowed, under her society's strictures, to have challenged her husband's decision to banish the daughter, means that religion only presents her with a way to make peace with rather than challenge the status quo. Further, religion is only another venue through which the pettiness of humans can be seen. Bernarda expresses the belief that a woman should only look at a man in church, and Prudencia will soon quit going to church because she is being mocked. In the end, while Lorca does not make any blanket condemnation of religion, he does present it as unable to transcend the greater repressive and destructive forces of humanity.

To a Skylark

A skylark soars into the sky singing happily. As it flies upward, the clouds of evening make it invisible, but its song enables the poet to follow its flight. All the earth and air is filled with its song. The unseen but still singing skylark is compared to a poet composing, a maiden in love, a glowworm throwing out its beams of light, a rose in bloom diffusing its scent, and the sound of rain on twinkling grass. Songs sung in praise of love or wine or music played for a wedding or a celebration cannot compare in loveliness with the song of the skylark.
What accounts for the happiness of the song of the skylark? It is free from all that gives pain to man. It knows what lies beyond death and has no fear. Even if man freed himself from hate, pride, and fear, man's joy would not equal the skylark's. The secret of its capacity to sing so happily would be an incomparable gift for the poet. If the skylark could communicate to Shelley half its happiness, then he would write poetry that the world would read as joyfully as he is listening to the song of the bird.
Shelley's interest in the skylark is not that of the bird lover or the bird watcher. What he is fascinated by is the happiness that, for him, is present in the song of the bird. He doesn't say that he sees the bird, but it would seem that he has watched it leave the ground and disappear into the bright clouds above the setting sun, for he says that "the pale purple even / Melts around thy flight." The color of the bird, its flight pattern, the quality of sound which distinguishes its song from that of other birds — in short, the individuality of the bird — the reader learns nothing about from reading "To a Skylark." Shelley has converted the bird or, specifically, the bird's song into a symbol of happiness. The poem, then, is not so much about a skylark as it is about happiness. The singing bird is personified as a "blithe" or happy spirit in the first line of the poem.
Shelley pursues two main lines of thought in the poem. The first is an effort to determine to his own satisfaction with what the singing bird is comparable. This is a relatively unimportant matter. The reader merely learns what the singing skylark brings to Shelley's mind in the way of similes. The birdsong is like a poet composing, a maiden making music, a glowworm scattering light, and a rose diffusing its perfume. The similes have in common the fact that all four are, like the now unseen skylark, out of sight or not easily seen.
The second line of thought is central to the poem. What, Shelley asks, is the secret that accounts for the skylark's happiness, manifested in its song?

What objects are the fountains
Of thy happy strain?
What fields, or waves, or mountains?
What shapes of sky or plain?
What love of thine own kind? What ignorance of pain?
These questions lead him to an analysis of the human condition. Man knows pain, experiences weariness, annoyance, and love's satiety. He is plagued by hate and pride and fear. He cannot escape his past, thoughts of the future cause him worry, he longs for what does not exist, and his laughter is mixed with sorrow. He dreads death. The skylark, on the other hand, Shelley fancies, "of death must deem / Things more true and deep / Than we mortals dream." Therefore the skylark has no fear of death.

Shelley, in personifying the skylark, has created a myth, just as in "Ode to the West Wind" and "The Cloud." He has endowed his skylark with mind ("Teach us, Sprite or Bird, / What sweet thoughts are thine"). The skylark is happy because it knows only what makes it happy. It has a decided advantage over human beings, who know both what makes them happy and what makes them unhappy. They fear death because they are ignorant of what lies beyond death, among other reasons. The skylark knows what lies beyond death, and the nature of what it knows banishes its fear of death. It is no wonder that it is incomparably happy. Shelley knows that his skylark is merely a bird with a song that, to the human ear, sounds like a happy song. He is indulging in fancy and has no intention whatever of deceiving the reader or himself. The exquisite happiness that his ear has heard in the song of the nightingale has carried him away. In the last stanza of the poem he appeals to the creature of his imagination to teach him half the gladness "that thy brain must know." Happiness is the secret of the lovely song of the skylark; if Shelley possessed only half of the "gladness" of the skylark, he could write poetry that the world would read with the same rapt attention he is giving to the song of the skylark that his ears hear.

Percy Bysshe Shelley and To Skylark

Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets, and is regarded by some as among the finest lyric, as well as epic, poets in the English language. 
BornAugust 4, 1792 United Kingdom
DiedJuly 8, 1822,  Italy
SpouseMary Shelley (1816–1822), Harriet Westbrook (1811–1816)
Percy Bysshe Shelley was born at Field Place, Sussex, in 1792, the son of a well-to-do landowner. At the age of ten, he was sent to Syon House Academy near London. There he was bullied and often lonely, but there too he acquired an interest in science, especially astronomy and chemistry, and became an avid reader of juvenile thrillers filled with horrors of various kinds. Shelley reacted to the bullying he was subjected to with violent anger and a determination to devote himself to opposing every form of tyranny.
In 1804, Shelley entered Eton College, where he encountered more of the same bullying he had been subjected to at Syon House. His outbursts of rage and his inability to fight encouraged the other boys to provoke him. He became known as "Mad Shelley" because of his rather unconventional behavior. However, he made a number of friends at Eton and embarked on his literary career. It was also in 1810 that Shelley began his short career at Oxford University. A third publication, a pamphlet entitled The Necessity of Atheism, brought Shelley's university career to an abrupt end. On March 25, 1811, he was summoned to appear before the master of University College and, when he refused to admit or deny his authorship of the pamphlet, he was immediately expelled.
Shortly after his expulsion, he eloped to Scotland with Harriet Westbrook, a schoolgirl companion of his sister, Hellen. Shelley's marriage further alienated him from his father, whose pride had been deeply hurt by Shelley's expulsion from Oxford. Shelley and his young wife drifted from one locality to another, living precariously on whatever money they could borrow. Eventually Shelley's father settled an allowance on him. During this period Shelley continued to read incessantly. His reading helped to confirm him in the radical political and social opinions he had acquired.
A major turning point in Shelley's life occurred in July 1814, when he eloped to the continent with Mary Godwin, the daughter of the radical philosopher William Godwin.
In Switzerland, Shelley met Byron, who had left England only ten days before Shelley. The two developed a warm friendship which lasted until Shelley's death. The months that they spent together in Switzerland were among the happiest in Shelley's life. They found each other's company very stimulating.
In 1818, Shelley left England for Italy, never to return.

In spite of Shelley's growing disenchantment with the world, he experienced some of the deepest happiness of his life during his last months. Ironically, this happiness was associated with the boat in which he met his death. At the end of April 1822, the Shelleys and their friends the Williamses rented a house in San Terenzo, a village on the Gulf of Spezia, not far from Pisa. To San Terenzo they brought a boat, the Don Juan, built for them in Genoa according to Edward, several days later, the bodies of Shelley and Williams were washed up on the shores of the Bay of Lerici. The body of Shelley was cremated and the ashes buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, not far from the grave of Keats.
To a Skylark
To a Skylark doesn't exactly have a plot. You might want to think of it more like a bunch of observations about a single idea—a stretched-out description of the song of a bird. The poem opens up with the speaker calling out to a bird (which he calls a "Spirit"). He tells the bird how much he loves its singing. Then he describes how it shoots up into the sky at dusk, into the purple evening.
After that, he compares the bird's song to a bunch of different things, including a star, the planet Venus, a poet, a maiden, a worm, a rose, and so forth (yeah, seriously, a lot of things). Then he starts to talk about how all of the beautiful things that human beings make can't compare to the song of this bird. All human songs are sad, but this bird's song is just pure joy. Finally the speaker dreams of being able to sing with as much joy and freedom as this happy bird.
The speaker, addressing a skylark, says that it is a “blithe Spirit” rather than a bird, for its song comes from Heaven, and from its full heart pours “profuse strains of unpremeditated art.” The skylark flies higher and higher, “like a cloud of fire” in the blue sky, singing as it flies. In the “golden lightning” of the sun, it floats and runs, like “an unbodied joy.” As the skylark flies higher and higher, the speaker loses sight of it, but is still able to hear its “shrill delight,” which comes down as keenly as moonbeams in the “white dawn,” which can be felt even when they are not seen. The earth and air ring with the skylark’s voice, just as Heaven overflows with moonbeams when the moon shines out from behind “a lonely cloud.”
The speaker says that no one knows what the skylark is, for it is unique: even “rainbow clouds” do not rain as brightly as the shower of melody that pours from the skylark. The bird is “like a poet hidden / In the light of thought,” able to make the world experience “sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not.” It is like a lonely maiden in a palace tower, who uses her song to soothe her lovelorn soul. It is like a golden glow-worm, scattering light among the flowers and grass in which it is hidden. It is like a rose embowered in its own green leaves, whose scent is blown by the wind until the bees are faint with “too much sweet.” The skylark’s song surpasses “all that ever was, / Joyous and clear and fresh,” whether the rain falling on the “twinkling grass” or the flowers the rain awakens.
Calling the skylark “Sprite or Bird,” the speaker asks it to tell him its “sweet thoughts,” for he has never heard anyone or anything call up “a flood of rapture so divine.” Compared to the skylark’s, any music would seem lacking. What objects, the speaker asks, are “the fountains of thy happy strain?” Is it fields, waves, mountains, the sky, the plain, or “love of thine own kind” or “ignorance or pain”? Pain and languor, the speaker says, “never came near” the skylark: it loves, but has never known “love’s sad satiety.” Of death, the skylark must know “things more true and deep” than mortals could dream; otherwise, the speaker asks, “how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?”
For mortals, the experience of happiness is bound inextricably with the experience of sadness: dwelling upon memories and hopes for the future, mortal men “pine for what is not”; their laughter is “fraught” with “some pain”; their “sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.” But, the speaker says, even if men could “scorn / Hate and pride and fear,” and were born without the capacity to weep, he still does not know how they could ever approximate the joy expressed by the skylark. Calling the bird a “scorner of the ground,” he says that its music is better than all music and all poetry. He asks the bird to teach him “half the gladness / That thy brain must know,” for then he would overflow with “harmonious madness,” and his song would be so beautiful that the world would listen to him, even as he is now listening to the skylark.
The eccentric, songlike, five-line stanzas of “To a Skylark”—all twenty-one of them—follow the same pattern: the first four lines are metered in trochaic trimeter, the fifth in iambic hexameter (a line which can also be called an Alexandrine). The rhyme scheme of each stanza is extremely simple: ABABB.
If the West Wind was Shelley’s first convincing attempt to articulate an aesthetic philosophy through metaphors of nature, the skylark is his greatest natural metaphor for pure poetic expression, the “harmonious madness” of pure inspiration. The skylark’s song issues from a state of purified existence, a Wordsworthian notion of complete unity with Heaven through nature; its song is motivated by the joy of that uncomplicated purity of being, and is unmixed with any hint of melancholy or of the bittersweet, as human joy so often is. The skylark’s unimpeded song rains down upon the world, surpassing every other beauty, inspiring metaphor and making the speaker believe that the bird is not a mortal bird at all, but a “Spirit,” a “sprite,” a “poet hidden / In the light of thought.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley

P.B. Shelley being one of the greatest romantic poets of early nineteenth century was an uncompromising rebel. He continued his struggle for the cause of individual liberty, social justice and peace. He wished to bring social reforms by his inspiring and courageous works of literature. He dreamt of an ideal society in which there should be no slavery and no exploitation. In this poem 'To a Skylark' he has addressed a skylark (a little bird) that soars up at a great height and sings so sweetly that the world is enchanted and bewitched by its sweetness.
The Skylark symbolizes high imagination, eternal happiness and harbinger of peace and progress. It is a spirit. Though it is unseen, yet it pours forth profuse sweetness. It stands for idealism and newly built society – free from corruption, exploitation and economic slavery. The Skylark’s sweet note and ideal message spread everywhere in the atmosphere. It is heard by the poet who is highly impressed. He boldly claims that the Skylark is a superior thing in the sky. The cloud, the stars, the moon, the sun – all are left behind and the Skylark dominates by its excellent tune and soothing voice.
The poet himself does not know what the Skylark actually is. The mystery of the Skylark is still unsolved to the poet. But, he is sure of the fact that he can learn a message of welfare from it and can spread in the world for recreation of the society. The poet had drawn beautiful comparison. In such comparison, he has proved his imaginative quality and an extraordinary talent.
He has compared the beauty and sweetness of the Skylark to a highly born beautiful girl who lives in her tower like palatial building and sings sweet love songs. Similarly, its comparison with a golden glow-worm among the flowers and grass and with rose having soothing scent is excellent and befitting. The poet is so confident about the sweetness and joy of Skylark’s song that he says that even the rainbow clouds do not spread as bright drops as the presence of the Skylark spreads a rain of melody. In short the music of the Skylark surpasses every pleasure of nature.
The poet wishes to get instruction and messages from the Skylark. So he asks it to teach him its sweet thoughts. The poet is confident that the skylark is pouring out a flood of rapture which is divine.
This poem is one of the best lyrics of P. B. Shelley. It has a tragic feeling in it. The line, “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought” is very meaningful. It tells the philosophy of Shelley’s life. Though the songs of Skylark are the sweetest yet they express saddest and most tragic thought.
The Skylark scorns the nasty habits of the earth and stands for bliss, joy and prosperity of the world. The poet is of cosmopolitan outlook. He is restless to preach his idealism in the world. Therefore, he earnestly requests the Skylark to teach him the message.
Some critics say that P.B Shelley was not a practical man. He was far away from realism. So, his Skylark always flew higher and higher and did not come to the earth, like the Skylark of Wordsworth. On the whole, this poem is Shelley’s one of the finest creations. The flow of art, the similes, the flight of imagination and lyrical quality make this poem unparallel in romantic literature.
Here, Shelley compares the bird to a poet with a message. He admires the bird for singing informally. The bird sings because it wants to, not because it must. Shelley's own religious experience was forced, but the bird sings a hymn by its own choice. To Shelley, the bird's song is a message that needs to penetrate the hearts of people below who are caught up in their own busyness and whose hearts are somewhat hard and unsympathetic.
He then compares the skylark to a princess who is locked in a high tower, singing songs of solace to herself as she misses her love. The bird is like a glowworm with its light unseen, and like a rose that is blown from its bush, leaving only a sweet scent. Again, it is unseen, but lovely. The bird, too, is unseen, but the song gives evidence to its loveliness. He sees the bird as awakening our souls to all that is 'joyous, clear, and fresh' in life.
Shelley believes that this spiritual bird, perhaps not even a real bird, has a message to teach humankind in its song. He believes the song is not of this world. Romanticists reach deep within the soul to that place of longing that can't be met with earthly things. The bird's song is hitting this deep place in Shelley's soul. It is the 'hidden want' he speaks of.
To say that the brilliant poet Percy Shelley rebelled against the status quo of his day would be an understatement. His then-radical views about atheism got him expelled from Oxford. Shelley was a vegetarian, believed in promiscuity, and pioneered many characteristics that we later saw in many young people during the 1960s! While he was married to one woman, he eloped with Mary Godwin, a young woman with ideas that matched his own. Shelley died in boating accident in 1822 at the age of 30. In spite of his short, radical life, he is considered to be one of England's finest poets.

Romantic Era

It is important to understand the philosophies of Shelley, Mary Shelley, and their friend Lord Byron who pioneered Romantic philosophies in their literature. Romantics elevated emotion over reason. They believed that truth came from looking within, and often wrote from a melancholy perspective. Romantics idealized the native man, the rural, and nature. They also emphasized the supernatural and gothic in their writings. The individual's rights were of utmost importance.