Federico GarcŪa Lorca


The House of Bernarda Alba


(La casa de Bernarda Alba)


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A drama of women in the villages of Spain




A. S. Kline © 2007 All Rights Reserved

This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose. Permission to perform this version of the play, on stage or film, by amateur or professional companies, and for commercial purposes, should be requested from the translator,




(Four white walls, bathed in pale blue light, in the internal courtyard of Bernardaís house. It is night. The setting should be utterly simple. The doorways, illuminated by interior lighting, cast a bright glow on the stage. In the centre a table with an oil lamp, at which Bernarda and her daughters are eating. La Poncia is serving them. Prudencia is seated apart. As the curtain rises there is a complete silence, broken only by the sound of plates and cutlery. )


PRUDENCIA: I should go. Itís been a long visit. (She rises.)


BERNARDA: Stay. We never see each other.


PRUDENCIA: Has the last bell for the rosary sounded?


LA PONCIA: Not yet.


(Prudencia sits down.)


BERNARDA: And how is your husband?


PRUDENCIA: The same.


BERNARDA: We never see him either.


PRUDENCIA: You know what heís like. Since he quarrelled with his brothers over the inheritance he never goes out the front door, he uses a ladder and climbs over the wall by the stable-yard.


BERNARDA: So like a man. And your daughterÖ?


PRUDENCIA: He hasnít forgiven her.


BERNARDA: Heís right.


PRUDENCIA: I donít know what to say. It makes me suffer.


BERNARDA: A disobedient daughter ceases to be your daughter and instead becomes your enemy.

PRUDENCIA: I let it flow over me. The only comfort I have is to take refuge in the church, but now Iím losing my sight Iíll have to stop going so the children wonít mock at me. (A heavy blow against the wall is heard.) What was that?


BERNARDA: The stallion, heís shut in, and kicks at the wall. (Calling out) Hobble him, and let him out in the yard! (In a lower voice) He must be hot.


PRUDENCIA: Are you going to let him loose on the new mares?


BERNARDA: At dawn.

PRUDENCIA: Youíve done well to increase your stable.


BERNARDA: By dint of pain and money.


LA PONCIA: (Interrupting) And now sheís got the best stable in the region! Itís a shame prices are so low.


BERNARDA: Would you like some honey and cheese?

PRUDENCIA: I donít feel like eating.


(Another blow is heard.)


LA PONCIA: Dear God!


PRUDENCIA: That went straight to my heart!


BERNARDA: (Rising angrily) Do I have to say everything twice? Let him out to roll in the straw! (She pauses, and as if speaking to the stable lads) Shut the mares in the stable, but let him out, before he brings the wall down. (She goes back to the table and sits down) Ay, what a life!

PRUDENCIA: You have to do a manís work.


BERNARDA: Thatís right. (Adela gets up from the table) Where are you going?


ADELA: For a drink of water.


BERNARDA: (Calling) Bring a jug of fresh water. (To Adela) You can sit down. (Adela sits)


PRUDENCIA: And Angustias, when does she get married?


BERNARDA: Theyíll ask for her hand in three days time.

PRUDENCIA: You must be very happy!


ANGUSTIAS: Of course!


AMELIA: (To Magdalena) Now, youíve spilt the salt!


MAGDALENA: Thingís canít be worse for you than they are already.

PRUDENCIA: It always brings bad luck.


BERNARDA: Enough of that!

PRUDENCIA: (To Angustias) Has he given you the ring yet?


ANGUSTIAS: (Displaying it) See for yourself.

PRUDENCIA: Itís beautiful. Three pearls. In my day pearls signified tears.


ANGUSTIAS: Well times have changed.

ADELA: I donít think so. Such things mean the same. An engagement ring should be set with diamonds.


PRUDENCIA: Thatís more appropriate.


BERNARDA: With pearls or without them, itís what you make of things.


MARTIRIO: Or what God makes of them.


PRUDENCIA: They tell me your furniture is fine too.


BERNARDA: Itís cost me a small fortune.


LA PONCIA: (Intervening) The best piece is the wardrobe, with a mirror.


PRUDENCIA: Iíve never seen a wardrobe with a mirror.


BERNARDA: All we had was a chest.


PRUDENCIA: Whatís important is that everything works out for the best.


ADELA: One can never tell.


BERNARDA: Thereís no reason why it shouldnít.


(The distant sound of bells is heard.)


PRUDENCIA: The last call. (To Angustias) Iíll visit again so you can show me your trousseau.


ANGUSTIAS: Whenever you wish.


PRUDENCIA: God give us goodnight.


BERNARDA: Goodbye, Prudencia.


THE FIVE DAUGHTERS: God go with you.


(Pause. Prudencia exits.)


BERNARDA: Weíve finished. (They rise.)


ADELA: Iím going to the main door to stretch my legs and get some air.


(Magdalena sits down in a low chair against the wall.)


AMELIA: Iíll go with you.




ADELA: (With suppressed hatred) I wonít get lost.


AMELIA: Darkness begs company.


(They leave. Bernarda sits. Angustias is clearing the table.)


BERNARDA: Iíve told you, I want you to talk to your sister Martirio. What happened with the photograph was a joke and should be forgotten.


ANGUSTIAS: You know she doesnít like me.


BERNARDA: Each sees into their own heart. I never pry into hearts, but I desire a united front and family harmony. Do you understand?




BERNARDA: Then thatís fine.


MAGDALENA: (Half-asleep) Anyway, youíll have left here before you know it! (She falls asleep)


ANGUSTIAS: Not soon enough.


BERNARDA: What time did you finish talking last night?


ANGUSTIAS: Twelve-thirty.


BERNARDA: What does Pepe have to say?


ANGUSTIAS: He seems distracted. He talks to me as if heís thinking of something else. If I ask him whatís on his mind, he just says: ĎWe men have our own worries.í


BERNARDA: You shouldnít ask him; thatís even more true when youíre married. Speak if he speaks, and look at him when he looks at you. Youíll be better off that way.


ANGUSTIAS: Mother, I think he hides a great deal from me.


BERNARDA: Donít try and find out what it is, donít question him, and, above all, donít let him ever see you cry.


ANGUSTIAS: I should be happy and Iím not.


BERNARDA: Itís no matter.


ANGUSTIAS: I often gaze at Pepe through the bars of the window, and his image is blurred, as if he were cloaked in a shroud of dust thrown up by his sheep.


BERNARDA: Youíre not well, thatís all.


ANGUSTIAS: I hope itís that!


BERNARDA: Is he here tonight?


ANGUSTIAS: No. Heís gone to the city with his mother.


BERNARDA: Then weíll retire early. Magdalena!


ANGUSTIAS: Sheís asleep.


(Adela, Martirio and Amelia enter.)


AMELIA: What a dark night!


ADELA: You canít see two feet in front of you.


MARTIRIO: A fine night for thieves, or for someone who needs to hide.


ADELA: The stallion was in the centre of the yard. So white! Twice as big, and filling the darkness.


AMELIA: Thatís right. He was frightening. Like a phantom!


ADELA: The sky is filled with fistfuls of stars.


MARTIRIO: She stared at them so hard she almost strained her neck.


ADELA: Donít you love them too?


MARTIRIO: What happens above the rooftops means nothing to me. What goes on inside these four walls is enough for me.


ADELA: Thatís typical.


BERNARDA: She has her ways as you have yours.


ANGUSTIAS: Good night.


ADELA: Youíre off to bed already?


ANGUSTIAS: Yes, Pepeís not here tonight. (She exits.)


ADELA: Mother, when a meteor passes, or thereís a flash of lightning, why do people say:

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Blessed Santa Barbara

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† in the sky with paper

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† youíre writ, and holy water?


BERNARDA: In past days they knew many things that weíve forgotten.


AMELIA: I shut my eyes so as not to see them.


ADELA: I donít. I like to see things flash out fire that have been dormant for years and years.


MARTIRIO: Those things have nothing to do with us.


BERNARDA: And itís best not to think of them.


ADELA: What a beautiful night! Iíd like to stay up late to catch the breeze from the fields.


BERNARDA: But itís time for bed. Magdalena!


AMELIA: Sheís fast asleep.


BERNARDA: Magdalena!


MAGDALENA: (Annoyed) Leave me in peace!


BERNARDA: Itís time for bed!


MAGDALENA: (Rising in a bad mood) You canít let anyone alone! (She exits muttering)


AMELIA: Good night. (She exits.)


BERNARDA: You two, go on now.


MARTIRIO: Why isnít Angustiasí fiancť coming by tonight?


BERNARDA: Heís away.


MARTIRIO: (Looking at Adela) Ah!


ADELA: Till the morning. (She exits)


(Martirio has a drink of water and exits slowly looking towards the door of the stable-yard. La Poncia enters.)


LA PONCIA: Youíre still here?


BERNARDA: Enjoying the silence and unable to understand what this Ďserious thingí is thatís supposed to be going on here.


LA PONCIA: Bernarda, forget about it.


BERNARDA: Everything is as it should be in this house. My vigilance guards against all.


LA PONCIA: Nothing you can see, thatís true. Your daughters live as though they were shut in a cupboard. But neither you nor anyone else can see inside someoneís heart.


BERNARDA: My daughters can breathe tranquility.


LA PONCIA: That matters to you because youíre their mother. Iíve enough to do looking after this house.


BERNARDA: So youíre saying nothing.


LA PONCIA: I keep to my place, in peace.


BERNARDA: The fact is thereís nothing to say. If there was grass here youíd be the first to let the neighboursí sheep in to graze.


LA PONCIA: I conceal more than you think.


BERNARDA: Has your son seen Pepe here again at four in the morning? Are people still repeating a litany of lies against this house?


LA PONCIA: No one says a thing.


BERNARDA: Because they canít, because thereís nothing for them to sink their teeth into. My vigilance has seen to that!


LA PONCIA: I donít want to say anything, Bernarda, because I donít know what youíre after. But donít be so certain.


BERNARDA: Iím utterly certain!


LA PONCIA: Perhaps a lightning bolt will suddenly strike you! Perhaps a blood clot will suddenly block your heart!


BERNARDA: Nothing will happen. Iím alert to all your suspicions.


LA PONCIA: All the better for you then.


BERNARDA: Certainly!


SERVANT: (Entering) Iíve finished washing the dishes. Do you need anything else, Bernarda?


BERNARDA: (Rising) Nothing. Iím going to bed.


LA PONCIA: What time do you want me to call you?


BERNARDA: Donít bother. Iíll sleep well tonight. (She exits.)


LA PONCIA: When you canít fight the tide, the easiest thing is to turn your back on it.


SERVANT: Sheís so full of pride she has a mote in her eye.


LA PONCIA: I canít do anything about it. I want to stop things before they go any further, but they frighten me too much. You hear this silence? Yet there are storms brewing in each of these rooms. The day they break out theyíll sweep us all away. Iíve had my say.


SERVANT: Bernarda thinks no one can match her, but she doesnít know the effect a man can have on a house full of single women.


LA PONCIA: Itís not all Pepe el Romanoís fault. Itís true that last year he was after Adela, and she was mad about him, but she should have kept to herself and not incited him. A man is a man,


SERVANT: Some say heís been talking with Adela too often at night.


LA PONCIA: Theyíre right. (Whispering) And there have been other things.


SERVANT: I donít know what will happen here.


LA PONCIA: Iíd like to cross the water and leave this warring house.


SERVANT: Bernarda is hastening the wedding on, and maybe nothing will happen.


LA PONCIA: Things have already gone too far. Adela is determined, while the others keep watch on her all the time.


SERVANT: Martirio too?


LA PONCIA: Sheís the worst. Sheís a poisonous well. She knows Pepe is not for her and sheíd drown the world if she could so no one else should have him.


SERVANT: Theyíre wicked girls!


LA PONCIA: Theyíre women without a man thatís all. In such cases even blood ties are forgotten. Shhh! (She listens)


SERVANT: What is it?


LA PONCIA: (Rising) The dogs are barking.


SERVANT: Someone must have passed the door.


(Adela enters in white bodice and petticoat.)


LA PONCIA: Havenít you been to bed?


ADELA: I wanted a drink of water. (She drinks from a glass on the table.)


LA PONCIA: I thought you were asleep.


ADELA: I was thirsty. And you two: arenít you going to bed?


SERVANT: Shortly.


(Adela leaves.)


LA PONCIA: Letís be gone.


SERVANT: Weíve earned our sleep. All day, Bernarda never lets me rest.


LA PONCIA: Bring the lamp.


SERVANT: The dogs are barking like mad things.


LA PONCIA: Theyíll stop us sleeping.


(They leave. The stage is almost dark. MarŪa Josefa enters carrying a lamb in her arms.)


MARÕA JOSEFA: †††††††††††††††† Little lamb, my little one,

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† weíll go, down to the sea.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† The little ant shall open his door,

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† I shall give you milk and more.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Bernarda,

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† leopard-face.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Magdalena

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† she-hyena.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Little lamb!

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Baa, baa.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Flowers thereíll be at Bethlehem Gate.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† (She laughs.)


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† You and I donít want to sleep.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† By itself the door will open

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† weíll hide along the shore

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† deep inside a reef of coral.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Bernarda,

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Leopard-face.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Magdalena,

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† she-hyena.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Baa, baa.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Flowers thereíll be at Bethlehem Gate.


(She goes out singing. Adela enters. She looks around her carefully, and vanishes through the door to the stable-yard. Martirio enters through another door and stands centre-stage in a state of agonised alertness. She is also in her petticoat. She has covered herself with a waist-length black shawl. MarŪa Josefa enters.)



MARTIRIO: Grandmother, where do you think youíre going?


MARÕA JOSEFA: Are you going to open the door for me? Who are you?


MARTIRIO: What are you doing here?


MARÕA JOSEFA: I escaped. Who are you?


MARTIRIO: Go to bed.


MARÕA JOSEFA: Youíre Martirio, I see that now. Martirio: with the face of a martyr. When are you going to have a child? This is mine.


MARTIRIO: Where did you find the lamb?


MARÕA JOSEFA: I know itís a lamb, but why shouldnít a lamb be a child? Itís better to have a lamb than nothing at all. Bernarda with a leopardís face: Magdalena with a hyenaís.


MARTIRIO: Donít raise your voice.


MARÕA JOSEFA: True. Itís all quite dark. Because Iíve white hair you think I canít have a child, but I can: children, children, and more children. This child will be clothed in white, and thereíll be another child and another and theyíll all be snow-white, and weíll be like the waves, every one of us. Then weíll know everything, and our heads will be white, and weíll be sea-foam. Why is there no sea-foam here? Here there are only mourning shawls.


MARTIRIO: Hush, hush.


MARÕA JOSEFA: When my neighbour had a child, I would take it chocolate and afterwards she would bring me some, and so it was, always, always, always. Youíll have white hair, but the neighbours wonít visit you. I want to take a walk but Iím afraid the dogs will bite me. Will you go with me till weíre past the fields? I donít like fields. I like houses, but houses that are wide open, and the women, our neighbours, sleeping in their beds with their little children, and their men outside sitting on chairs. Pepe el Romano is an ogre. All of you want him. But heíll devour you. Because youíre grains of wheat. No, not grains of wheat. Tongue-less frogs!


MARTIRIO: (Energetically) Come, you must go to bed. (She pushes at her.)


MARÕA JOSEFA: Yes, but youíll let me out later, wonít you?


MARTIRIO: Of course I will.


MARÕA JOSEFA: (Weeping) Little lamb, my little one,

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† weíll go, down to the sea.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† The little ant shall open his door,

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† I shall give you milk and more.



(She exits. Martirio shuts the door through which she has gone, and moves towards the door to the stable yard. She hesitates then advances a few more steps.)


MARTIRIO: (Whispering) Adela. (Pause. She continues to the door. Loudly) Adela!


(Adela appears. Her hair is tousled.)


ADELA: Why are you calling me?


MARTIRIO: Leave that man alone!


ADELA: Who are you to speak to me like that?


MARTIRIO: Itís not the role of an honest woman.


ADELA: Wouldnít you love to be there yourself!


MARTIRIO: (Loudly) Itís time for me to speak out. This canít go on.


ADELA: Itís only just beginning. Iíve had the courage to take what I want. The spirit and power you lack. Iíve felt death beneath this roof and Iím off to seek what is mine, what belongs to me.


MARTIRIO: That man without a soul came here for another woman. You intercepted him.


ADELA: He came for the money, but his eyes were on me all the time.


MARTIRIO: I wonít allow you to take him. Heís to marry Angustias.


ADELA: You know as well as I he doesnít love her.




ADELA: You know, because youíve seen: he loves me.


MARTIRIO: (Desperately) Yes.


ADELA: (Coming closer) He loves me, he loves me.


MARTIRIO: Stick a knife in me, if thatís what you wish, but donít speak those words again.


ADELA: Thatís why you donít want me to see him. You donít care if he embraces someone he doesnít love. Nor do I. He can live with Angustias for a hundred years. But itís him embracing me thatís so terrible for you, because you love him, you love him too!


MARTIRIO: (Dramatically) Yes! I can say it without shame. Yes! Let my bitter heart split open like a pomegranate. I love him!


ADELA: (Impulsively, moving to embrace her) Martirio, Martirio, itís not my fault.


MARTIRIO: Donít touch me! Donít try to soften my heart. My blood is no longer like yours, and even if I wish to see you as a sister now I only see you as the other woman. (She pushes her away)


ADELA: Thereís no remedy here. Whoever must drown will drown. Pepe el Romano is mine. He will take me to the rushes by the shore.


MARTIRIO: He will not!


ADELA: I canít stand the horror of living under this roof having tasted the sweetness of his mouth. Iíll be whatever he wants me to be. With the whole village against me; scorched by their tongues of fire, hounded by those who call themselves decent people, Iíll stand before them all with a crown of thorns on my brow, the one that a woman loved by a married man wears.


MARTIRIO: Be silent!


ADELA: Yes, yes. (Quietly) Letís go to sleep, let him marry Angustias. I donít care. Iíll go and live in a little house all by myself, where he can see me whenever he wants, when need overcomes him.


MARTIRIO: That wonít happen as long as Iíve a drop of blood in my veins.


ADELA: Not to you, who are weak: but I can bring a wild stallion to its knees by lifting my little finger.


MARTIRIO: Donít raise your voice, it disturbs me. My heart is gripped by so evil a force that, regardless of my wishes, itís smothering me.


ADELA: They tell us to love our sisters. God must have abandoned me, in the midst of darkness, because I see you more clearly than ever before.


(The sound of someone whistling is heard and Adela runs to the door, but Martirio blocks her passage.)


MARTIRIO: Where are you off to?


ADELA: Get away from the door!


MARTIRIO: Push past me if you can!


ADELA:Away! (They struggle.)


MARTIRIO: (Shouting) Mother! Mother!


ADELA: Let me go!


(Bernarda appears. She is wearing petticoats and a black shawl.)


BERNARDA: Quiet. Quiet. A pity I havenít a lightning bolt in my hand!


MARTIRIO: (Pointing at Adela) She was with him! Look at her petticoat covered with straw!


BERNARDA: A bed of straw is the bed of a whore! (She approaches Adela angrily.)


ADELA: (Confronting her) Thatís enough of your gaolerís voice! (She takes hold of her motherís walking stick and breaks it in half.) Thatís how I treat the tyrantís rod. Donít take another step. No one but Pepe can command me!


(Magdalena appears.)




(La Poncia and Angustias enter.)


ADELA: Iím his woman. (To Angustias) Listen, go into the yard and tell him so. Heíll rule this whole household. Heís there now, breathing like a lion.




BERNARDA: The shotgun! Whereís the shotgun? (She exits in haste)


(Amelia enters upstage, looking on in terror, her head against the wall. Martirio exits.)


ADELA: No one can stop me! (She starts to exit.)


ANGUSTIAS: (Restraining her) Youíll not leave here in triumph, you thief, to dishonour our house!


MAGDALENA: Let her go: so that weíll never have to see her again!


(A gunshot is heard.)


BERNARDA: (Entering) Go on, look for him now if you dare!


MARTIRIO: (Entering) Thatís the last of Pepe el Romano.


ADELA: Pepe! My God! Pepe! (She rushes out.)


LA PONCIA: Did you finish him off?


MARTIRIO: No! He galloped off on his horse!


BERNARDA: It wasnít for want of trying. But we women are poor shots.


MAGDALENA: Why say such things, then!


MARTIRIO: For her benefit! Iíd like to pour a whole river of blood over her head.


LA PONCIA: You witch.


MAGDALENA: You she-devil!


BERNARDA: Itís better this way. (A thud is heard.) Adela! Adela!


LA PONCIA: (At the door.) Open up!


BERNARDA: Open up now. Donít think this house can hide your shame.


SERVANT: (Entering) Youíve woken the neighbours.


BERNARDA: (In a low harsh voice) Open the door, before I break it down! (Pause. Total silence.) Adela! (She moves away from the door.) Bring an axe! (La Poncia pushes open the door and goes inside. She utters a scream and reappears.) What is it?


LA PONCIA: (Clasping her hands to her throat) Pray God none of us may end like that!


(The sisters shrink back. The servant crosses herself. Bernarda gives a cry and steps forward.)


LA PONCIA: Donít go in!


BERNARDA: No. No, I shall not! Pepe: you may have fled for your life now through the dark branches, but one day youíll be brought low. Cut her down! My daughter died a virgin! Carry her to her room and dress her as a maiden. No one will dare say a word! She died a virgin! Tell them to ring the bells twice at dawn.


MARTIRIO: She was a thousand times fortunate: to have had him.


BERNARDA: And no tears. Death must be stared straight in the face. Silence! (To another daughter) Silence, I say! (To another) You can shed tears when youíre alone. Weíll drown ourselves in a sea of mourning! She, the youngest of Bernarda Albaís daughters died a virgin. Do you hear? Silence, Silence I say! Silence!




Friday the 19th of June, 1936.


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