Bernarda Alba And Medea: Created Millenia Apart, Yet So Similar
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Most people would define a great female protagonist as intelligent, strong minded and willing to fight for what she believes in. Both Bernarda Alba from Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba and Medea by Euripides fit this description. One is a tyrannical mother who imposes her choices on her five daughters, the other is arguably the strongest non-Olympian woman in all of Greek mythology. If we take a closer look, we notice that these two characters have many things in common. From their positions of strength, to the masculine aspects of their personalities; from the way they deal with situations to the part they play in the deaths of their children. In this essay we will attempt to seek out their similarities, as well as discover how two playwrights, who wrote for distinct audiences millennia apart, could have created two women so alike.
First it is important to place both ‘heroines’ in the setting where their tale unfolds. Bernarda Alba was created to be the allegorical form of Spanish dictator General Franco. Her control over her daughters is therefore very much like the right-wing military dictatorship that Franco had created in Spain. Medea was written centuries earlier, and set in the world of Greek mythology; the protagonist has just been abandoned by her husband Jason for Glauce, the Princess of Corinth. It is known that “most of Euripides’ thinkers are women”1, an apt description for Medea, who is very strong mentally and determined.
It would seem that these women are very different when its comes to the question of power. Bernarda Alba is immediately powerful in all aspects of the world that she lives in, and especially in her own household, “Tyrant over everyone around her”2. Medea, on the other hand, seems to be utterly powerless from the start: “But what of me? Abandoned, homeless, I am a cruel husband’s plaything”3, she is a foreigner in Corinth, she has burned all her bridges in her native land, her husband has left her, and she now has no protection in a land that is not her own. However, thanks to her single minded character she overcomes this ‘handicap’ and takes matters into her own hands: “The day on which I will make corpses of three of my enemies, father, daughter and husband-my husband.”4 This makes her unlike any other tragic hero in Greek mythology; another would have let this weakness take over their fate.