Along with 'Bodas de sangre' and 'Yerma' it forms Lorca's rural trilogy. The play centers on the events of an Andalusian house, in which the title character (age 60) wields total control over her five daughters Angustias (39 years old), Magdalena (30), Amelia (27), Martirio, (24), and Adela (20). The housekeeper (La Poncia) and Bernarda's mother (Maria Josefa) also live there. The deliberate exclusion of any male character from the action is highly significant as it helps to build up the high level of sexual tension that is present throughout the play. Pepe 'el Romano', the love interest of Bernarda's daughters, never actually appears on stage. After the death of her second husband, Bernarda Alba becomes very strict with her five daughters who have hardly ever had any contact with the opposite sex. When the eldest daughter (Angustias) inherits her father's fortune, she attracts a suitor (Pepe el Romano). Passion and jealousy between the daughters unravels and ends in tragedy. Adela, the youngest, does not want to submit to her mother's will and secretly maintains a sexual relationship with Pepe.. The play explores themes of repression, passion, and conformity, and inspects the effects of men upon women. Bernarda's cruel tyranny over her daughters foreshadows the stifling nature of Franco's fascist regime, which was to arrive just a few weeks after Lorca finished writing his play.
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