Each of the characters in Lorca’s Blood Wedding is given a social role with the exception of Leonardo who is differentiated by having a name which blatantly represents the physical attributes of the character. Each of Lorca’s characters could be said to represent some aspect of his own feelings or thoughts. Rural life in early 20th century Andalusia was harsh and traditional with considerable importance placed on fertility, especially the potent masculinity dramatically represented in a heightened form through Leonardo. The relationship between the Horse, which is so much associated with its master, and Leonardo could be seen as one between the dominant man and the submissive animal or it could be viewed as a partnership in which Leonardo is being led blindly with the horse as a force leading him to destruction, just as Lorca himself could be seen to be driven by his own homosexuality which roused considerable controversy in 1930s rural Andalusia.
The purpose of the horse seems quite unambiguous to begin with, although with analysis it seems that the horse acts as a guide, ‘…far-away and solitary/Black pony, full moon”1, where Lorca suggests the horse is a representative of the male persona. There is also an obvious link between the Horse and Rider in the poem, and, the Horse and Leonardo in Blood Wedding. Therefore it could be suggested that both horse and man are solitary and yet mutually dependent. From one point of view, Leonardo would not have been able to see his true love and quench his thirst for the Bride without the Horse as his means of transport. Without the involvement of such a spirited horse to convey him to the harsh realms of the Bride’s home in the tragedy of Leonardo’s struggle, it is possible that he would eventually settle down with his wife.
The fact that this horse is black, a visual reference which characterises several different elements within the play, reinforces its impact while considerable dramatic power is achieved by the reference to its ‘hooves….red with blood’2 which creates a strong ominous feeling of danger and pain. Thus the horse becomes associated with the dramatic force of foreshadowing used by Lorca in the early stages of the play, evoking the idea of predestination and thematically linking traditional life in rural Spain with the force of destiny in classical tragedy.
The powerful symbolism of the Horse connotes different representations of Leonardo’s personality: the lover, the passionate man and the loyal young boy. Leonardo and the Horse travel together everywhere and Leonardo makes an effort to look after his companion by ‘…putting new shoes on the horse…’3ï¿½. Leonardo will trust his horse to take him where his instinct tells him he needs to be, irrespective of the physical effort involved: ‘But the horse was half dead from sweating.’ However, Leonardo seems naively unaware that it is the horse which makes other characters suspicious of his absences from home so it could be suggested that Lorca uses the horse as the means to lead to Leonardo’s eventual revelation. This is particularly important because, initially the audience see the horse as subservient to Leonardo but it could be said that the Horse symbolises the vulnerability of Leonardo to his own emotions and natural instincts.
The Horse is also mentioned in a particularly passionate dialogue, for example ‘but no sound of the horse. Now he’ll be loving her4’ï¿½, which not only emphasises Leonardo’s sensuality but also the reference to ‘…Horsey’s throat is hot and parched…[but] wouldn’t drink the water deep…’5ï¿½, symbolises Leonardo’s ‘thirst’ for the Bride which seems impossible to satisfy. As Lorca himself was subjected to a similar form of suppression, being a homosexual in early 20th century Spain, where he could not experience what he truly felt, this is one example where Lorca has transpired his suffering through the play to the audience, as many in the audience would have a sense of sympathy towards Leonardo as he fights for what he believes in. The Horse can thus be interpreted here as symbolising Leonardo’s hidden passion which is revealed to the community when he and the Bride elope together on horseback.
In contrast to the idea of the horse being of significance only in relation to Leonardo, there are some aspects of its presentation which could suggest it is the protagonist, quite literally the leading character which features during the play when vital decisions are being made. ‘He was here… The sound of a horse is heard,’6ï¿½ï¿½ and ‘On horseback!’7ï¿½ï¿½ both contribute to significant episodes in the play: the first quotation is followed by the realisation that the Bride may have doubts about the wedding and her future husband, creating an atmosphere of foreboding, while the second quotation is followed by the decision of the Mother to pursue the lovers knowing that her son will more than likely reach the same fate as her late husband and eldest son.
This supports the idea that not just Leonardo but the audience too are led through the play by the horse. Another way in which the Horse is shown to lead is when it takes the run-away couple away to their fate and from then on is mentioned only in relation to the pursuit of the couple such as, ‘I heard the sound of galloping…’8.ï¿½ï¿½This proposition serves to not only reinforce the idea of the Horse as a leader but also as a central protagonist in the play, challenging the audience’s initial underestimation of the influence of the Horse.
Many critics believe Lorca is at his best when his language becomes more consciously poetic and this often occurs when he is portraying the Horse particularly in the Lullaby, which introduces the Horse through such dialogue as ‘…Even though his mouth is hot,/Streaming tiny drops of sweat.’9ï¿½ï¿½.Once again the Horse is invested with an almost supernatural quality as a force which leads Leonardo, without wavering, to fulfil his destiny.
For me the Horse gave the play structural coherence connecting all the characters even before the audience are aware of its significance and preparing them, subliminally for the future events of the play. To conclude, the Horse has been proved to exert a strong dramatic force with implicit symbolic connections to traditional Spain of the early 20th century, connoting masculinity, fertility and fate. The more obvious dramatic devices used by Lorca, such as the personification of Death as a Beggar Woman and the role of the Three Woodcutters, often attract more critical attention but the Horse seemed to me to be a forgotten piece of the structural puzzle which needed to be found in order to achieve a fuller understanding of Lorca’s motives and aims in writing this play.
Federico Garcia Lorca, Blood Wedding, translated by Gwynne Edwards, Methuen Student Edition, 1997
1 The main theme in Lorca’s poem, “Song of the Rider”
2 Page 10, Act 1, Scene 2, Blood Wedding
3 Page 12, Act 1, Scene 2, Blood Wedding
4 Spoken by FIRST WOODCUTTER, page 445, Act 3, Scene 1, Blood Wedding
5 Spoken by the WIFE, page 10/11, Act 1, Scene 2, Blood Wedding
6 The point at which the Servant realises that the Bride is still seeing Leonardo: Page 21, Act 1, Scene 3, Blood Wedding
7 The moment when the Wife tells the wedding guests that the Bride and Leonardo have run away together: Page 42, Act 2, Scene 2, Blood Wedding
8 Spoken by the Bridegroom when he realises the couple are close by due to the sound of pounding horses’ hooves: Page 49, Act 3, Scene 1, Blood Wedding
9 Spoken by the Wife in the menacing and sinister lullaby in which the description of the Horse is peculiarly powerful.