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Federico García Lorca

Personal information
Surname: García Lorca
First name: Federico
Born: 5 June 1898, Fuente Vaqueros, Spain
Died: 18 August 1936

Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) is without doubt the most famous Spanish playwright of the twentieth century. His poetry and plays are studied in universities worldwide and his work is frequently performed, both nationally and internationally. He was born in Fuente Vaqueros in the southern province of Granada at the end of the nineteenth century. This rural childhood influenced the themes and imagery of much of his work, in which elements from nature and traditional Andalusian country life are often present. As a young man, Lorca initially studied law at the University of Granada. Here, he also took up studies in poetry and art. In 1919, however, Lorca left Granada to study in Madrid, where he lived in the Residencia de Estudiantes (Students’ Residence). Lorca’s stay at the Residencia de Estudiantes was pivotal in terms of the people he met and his future career as both a poet and dramatist. The Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí and the French film maker Luis Buñuel also lived at the Residencia, as well as a number of young Spanish poets who would later come to be known as the Generation of 1927, of which Lorca would also become part. Gradually, during his time in Madrid in the Residencia (where he stayed until 1928), Lorca built up his reputation as a well-known poet and playwright.

Lorca’s close friendship with Salvador Dalí – who designed the set for the 1927 production of his play Mariana Pineda, for example – ended in 1928. Dalí had criticised Lorca’s recently published collection of poetry and ballads, the Romancero gitano (Gypsy Ballads) and had moved to Paris to collaborate on projects with Luis Buñuel. In 1929, in part to take his mind off the disintegration of his friendship with Dalí, Lorca left Spain. He travelled to France and England, and eventually sailed to the United States where he spent a year. Lorca’s experience of the States, and of New York City in particular, led - among other things - to his well-known collection of poems entitled Poeta en Nueva York (Poet in New York).

In 1930 Lorca returned to Spain. He helped established ‘La Barraca’, a travelling theatre company and toured the country for several years putting on adaptations of Golden Age plays. During the early 1930s Lorca also travelled to South America to attend productions of his own plays. He wrote some of his best-known dramas during this period, including his last, La casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba), written in 1936 but never performed during his lifetime.

On 17 July 1936 the Spanish Civil War began. Days beforehand, and against the advice of his friends, Lorca left Madrid and travelled to Granada to spend the summer. Despite the fact that the playwright never definitively aligned himself with any political position, on 16 August 1936 he was denounced and arrested by nationalist forces at the house of poet and friend, Luis Rosales. Imprisoned for several days, Lorca was shot by nationalist militia sometime between 18 and 19 August. The reasons for execution have been debated by many scholars, with some arguing that he was murdered for political reasons, others claiming that his homosexuality, combined with Nationalist jealousy about his success, were what really led to his death. Lorca’s body is presumed to be buried somewhere near the city of Alfácar, Granada.

Further information

Some doubt remains as to whether García Lorca was murdered on 18 or 19 August 1936. The Fundación García Lorca website notes that one of the most well-respected biographers of García Lorca, Ian Gibson, suspects the writer was murdered in the early hours of 18 August 1936. This information is available in English by clicking on the biography section of the Fundación García Lorca website.


Federico García Lorca’s theatre explores a wide variety of themes that reflect concerns also apparent in his poetry. Many studies focus on the relationship between Lorca’s life and his work, centring on the poet’s struggle with his own sexuality and how it relates to the dramatisation of sexual desire in his plays and poems. While human desire and sexuality are key aspects of Lorca’s drama, they are by no means the only ones. Probably the most internationally well known of Lorca’s plays, La casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba) and Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding), for example, dramatise the tension between individual freedom and social responsibility, as well as exploring the frustrated sexual desires of the characters. These plays are two of a number that focus on the position of women in a society that demands of them sexual morality and submissiveness to men. The nature of women’s role in society forms part of a wider concern in Lorca’s drama pertaining to the nature of identity and how human beings connect – or fail to connect – with one another. The ‘frustrated relationships’ (Lewis 2007: 722) that he dramatises between characters are reflected in the metatheatrical aspects of his plays, in which he explores the often fraught relationship between stage and spectator (see, for example, Boyle 2006: 162).

  • Boyle, Catherine. 2006. ‘A reflection on Crisis and Meaning in Federico García Lorca’s Dramatic Languages’, Bulletin of Spanish Studies, 83.1, 161-72

  • Lewis, Hugh Aled. 2007. ‘The Directorial Function in the Theatre of Federico García Lorca’, Bulletin of Spanish Studies, 84.6, 721-36


The language of Lorca’s drama is highly poetic, reflecting that of his ballads and poetry. His work has been described as ‘poetic drama’ (Fergusson 1955: 342), in which aspects of nature and of Andalusian life feature prominently. These elements – for example, horse riders, gypsy songs, the moon, rivers – have multiple symbolic resonances throughout Lorca’s work as he uses them to invoke moods and to reinforce dramatic themes, such as fertility and death. His plays, as his brother Francisco García Lorca notes, are often a mixture of tragedy and comedy (in García Lorca 1970: 9). While some of Lorca’s better-known plays centre around family conflicts (although they are still infused with symbolism), others such as El público (The Public) and Comedia sin título (Play Without a Title) are more experimental and concentrate on issues such as sexuality and the nature of theatre itself.

  • Fergusson, Francis. 1955. ‘Don Perlimplin: Lorca's Theatre-Poetry’, The Kenyon Review, 17.3, 337-48

  • García Lorca, Federico. 1990. ‘The Love of Don Perlimplín and Belisa in the Garden’. In Five Plays: Comedies and Tragicomedies, trans. James Graham-Lujan and Richard L. O’Connell, pp. 109-32. London, Penguin

Plays in the database
Useful reading and websites
  • Boyle, Catherine. 2006. ‘A reflection on Crisis and Meaning in Federico García Lorca’s Dramatic Languages’, Bulletin of Spanish Studies, 83.1, 161-72

    This article provides an insight, with the help of direct quotations from Federico García Lorca, into how the playwright perceived the difficult relationship between contemporary Spanish theatre and the audiences it hoped to reach.

  • Lewis, Hugh Aled. 2007. ‘The Directorial Function in the Theatre of Federico García Lorca’, Bulletin of Spanish Studies, 84.6, 721-36

  • The Fundación Federico García Lorca website is available at http://www.garcia-lorca.org/Home/Idioma.aspx (Online Publication)

Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 5 October 2010.

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