Yerma by Federico Lorca Summary and Analysis

Topics: Human Nature

This sample paper on Yerma Summary offers a framework of relevant facts based on the recent research in the field. Read the introductory part, body and conclusion of the paper below.

Yerma by Federico Lorca has been described by critics as ‘One of the modern pinnacles of modern poetic drama that realises unknown aspirations and yearnings’. To create these definitive themes truly anchored in the depths of the play the dreams desires and more importantly cravings have to be accentuated through lighting, set design, props, and most importantly the creation by the actors on stage.

This essay discusses the approaches I intend to take to create the relevant atmospheres and themes to draw out the crucial themes and imagery.

The opening scene is very specific to the stage directions but there are certain changes I would adopt. In exchange for a ‘strange dreamlike light’ I would have a bright accusing light, and in particularly a spotlight of a different colour on Yerma to symbolise her difference from everyone else, in her inability to conform to the Spanish familiar lifestyle, making her an indirect and an unwilling revolutionary.

The bright light would shine on Yerma whilst the rest of the stage would be lit gentler, again, highlighting her individual difference and her break away from ‘normality’.

The lights should be dusky shades of reds and oranges (dry, barren and earth tones) in the background, symbolising a long landscape of barrenness, the idea of eternal dryness and nothing. The spotlight on Yerma would be a bright white light, symbolising her own fertility and her own desires, but the spotlight acting as a barrier and preventing her from escaping the eternal prison of her own cravings, and the taunt of the life outside still a continual dry existence.

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Yerma Analysis and Symbolism

Though the spotlight would dim, I would like to hold a spotlight on her throughout the whole of the first scene to symbolise her mental prison, and her enclosed thoughts that yearn for children, which would occasionally get brighter in moment of womanly desires or direct relation to her fertility. I would keep the shepherds entrance with the child, as a symbolism of the theme of children, and the Shepard to present the era of the play. The stage itself would be set in the country side.

There would be a stunted and under grown tree stretching up towards the sun, as if to reach for nutrients, a true reflection of Yerma’s pleas to witchcraft and her God to impregnate her. A dusty track would lead out into the distance of the set to show the eternal and monotonous lifestyle of the Spanish culture, the idea you follow one particular path and one particular routine till you die. It can also be used to express the strength of the barrenness, the lack of anything that could aid Yerma or women in Spanish society.

Marius Romero staged a successful performance of Yerma in London and insisted that two necessary parts of the set was a pool of water to “reinforce the contrast between purification and regeneration”. The water is a symbol of a truly natural and earthy source, which would be positioned away from Yerma, as a taunt and a trick to show her ‘unnatural’ inability to produce children. The other key area was a popular building in previous centuries called ‘stark buildings’. These are exceedingly inaccessible buildings, with little chance for entrance of escape and can be spotted in some of Dali’s work.

This would symbolise the oppression of woman in Spanish society, and the idea that everyday life could not touch them, in these cold dark prisons which usually took the form of their homes. The general colours of the set would be oranges and yellows, dry colours posing as warm and comforting, but really a true symbolism of Yerma’s eternal despair. Apart from the tree and the pool of water and Yerma’s sewing basket which she would keep as a symbol of her position in society, the rest of the stage would be bare as yet another accentuation of the theme of barren that constantly runs significantly throughout the play.

At the very opening instead of just having the clock strike, I would have a slow monotonous continual ticking throughout the Shepard’s and child’s time on stage. Coinciding with that I would have the sounds of a group of children playing, shouting and running quietly in the background. As the child touched Yerma that clock would begin to tick louder and quicker, and the children’s voices would rise in a steep crescendo. The clock is used as an important symbol of a woman’s bodily clock, menstrual cycle and Yerma’s personal lack of time.

The pace would quicken to symbolise that her time was running out, then the whole noise would reach a peak and stop extremely suddenly and abruptly to emphasise Yerma’s swift drop back from her subconscious being splayed through her dream, to her desperate reality. I would adapt the song being sung offstage to having a child singing it standing directly in front of her, that she just sees through, as a symbolism of her greatest craving being directly in front of her, perhaps if she was not so faithful to Juan.

The mood starts unsteadily and eerily, the expression of Yerma’s desire is at one of its peak moments, as her subconscious interferes into her dreams, crossing over from reality. On stage I would have the actress having a reaction to more of a nightmare, sharp, quick tortured movements that disturb her, and display the idea of her craving being so much to the extreme that it is physical pain. The dialogue and mood drops into a domesticated routine between what at first appearances could be misconceived as a happy and considerate partnership between man and wife.

As Yerma broaches the subject of children, I would have the lights slightly dimmed and tinted with red as a symbolism of a dangerous subject. I would have Juan turning away, occupying himself with a pointless activity with a mixed expression of misery and anger. The mood would rise into high tension as these two stubborn characters face a head on collision, the looks that pass between them of irritation and Yerma’s over exaggerated affection towards Juan would appear false and forced, symbolising a marriage in crisis.

When Yerma meets Maria the mood changes into a whole new sheet of emotions. Admiration and fierce stabs of jealousy swamp Yerma at the news Maria is expecting a baby. Her fascination manages to override her bitterness, and this would be shown by a lot of physical contact with Maria in an attempt to closen herself to the baby she craves as her own. She is directed to act ‘queasy’ and faintly, to emphasise the growth of her cravings, as they extend out of her control.

On stage, the actress would turn away from Maria, appearing physically ill. For this sector I would have the lights tinted with green as the stereotypical colour of jealousy, and the children noises of play repeated softly in the background as a taunt to Yerma. The mood then changes drastically again into a high level of unspoken sexual tension between Yerma and Victor as Yerma recognises a companion and a soul mate in Victor, at his agreement of the need of a child.

The air takes on a dangerous and forbidden sense that I would have the actors edging uncomfortably away from each other, avoiding standing too close, looks being held longer than necessary and Juan’s nervous conversation may hold a stutter as if to hold back what he truly wants to say. The lights would be pink to accentuate the unspoken passion and the continual spotlight on Yerma would brighten significantly, to symbolise her womanliness and desperate fertility. In 1936 Lorca is quoted in saying “Theatre is poetry that rises from the book and becomes human enough to talk and shout, weep and despair.

Poetry and song are main focuses in the opening scene and Lorca got his inspiration from traditional Spanish songs and narrative Ballads. The scenes first dialogue takes the form of a song, which gives the impression of a nursery rhyme. The use of ‘Nana’ gives the idea of a child speaking it, and the song should be sung using a child like voice and developed into a chant so it holds an edge of mocking to taunt Yerma. Yerma’s first song holds a large amount of imagery that relates directly to childbirth and fertility.

For example ‘Let the fountains leap, and the river run’. This is another reference to water and its neutrality and the expected and natural flow of a river. Before she sings she is directed to stroke her stomach, this is an accurate stage direction as it allows the audience to visibly see the strength of her cravings and the stretch of her imagination that allows her to fall just before the brink of insanity. I would direct Yerma to sing the song directly to the unborn child she is stroking and perhaps hug herself as if she is in on her own private secret.

I would wish her to display the characteristics of a truly pregnant woman, to emphasise the fact that her subconscious could force Yerma into the idea that she is really pregnant. The song gives an air of fantasy and hysteria to the play, and provides an insight into Yerma’s capabilities in her imagination. At the closing of the scene Yerma repeats a verse from the original song, as Victor has just refreshed her desire for a real family, as her subconscious reacts to Victor’s presence.

We see Yerma being physically affected by her dazed movements and appearance at the end of the scene, her fixation into space may be her visualising her dream of children and subconsciously, Victor. Throughout the songs the spotlight would brighten, due to the direct links to fertility. The moods are much defined throughout the opening scenes and changes smoothly, with the songs acting as mood shifter so any atmosphere can be created between dialogues. In conclusion the main moods that I would aim to direct across significantly are desperation, unwilling, insanity and jealousy.

The clearly defined sectors of the scene allow the use of colour in lighting as a symbol of the particular message being portrayed. The scene has themes firmly indented which need to be portrayed through acting skills in particular, other wise the whole objective and meaning of the play is lost. Lorca was quoted to say “A poet must be a professor of the five bodily senses” and as Yerma has been described as “A tragic poem in three acts and six scenes” I believe Lorca wanted the audience to have to use all their senses too, and for the creation on stage to enable the audience to do that.

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Yerma by Federico Lorca Summary and Analysis. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

Yerma by Federico Lorca Summary and Analysis
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