The Incomplete Finish of Lorca´s The Public: A New Key

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Nelson Robert Orringer


Lorca´s most innovative drama, The Public (1929-30), pretends to be incomplete, yet poses the problems of his imperfection as a playwright, of his vacillation between two styles, and of the play´s contrived fragmentariness. Our study traces the two styles, “open-air theatre” and “theater-beneath-the-sand”, to Gabriele d'Annunzio, his mistress Eleonora Duse, and Duse´s admirer, Margarita Xirgu. Examining the scene-by-scene conflict between the two theatres offers a new method for grasping The Public. In scene 1, the Director debates with his own passions and critical faculties, he arguing for “open-air theatre,” and they for “theatre-beneath-the-sand.” Scene 2 stages a symbolic contest between the two conceptions. The Director´s double, the Figure in Bells, symbolizes “open-air theatre”; his lover Gonzalo´s double, the Figure in Vine-Leaves, represents “theatre-beneath-the-sand”. Scene 3 presents Romeo and Juliet as a drama of “theatre-beneath-the-sand”, but draws symbols from “open-air theatre”. Scene 5 parodies an auto sacramental, allegorizing the agony of theatre, while offering multiple possible explanations for the public´s destruction of the theatre to protest its revolutionary Romeo and Juliet. Scene 6 shows the fatal but inconclusive struggle between the Director, now championing “theatre-under-the sand”, and the illusionist, seeing theatre as sleight-of-hand, a view compatible with “open-air theatre”.

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Orringer, N. R. (2018). The Incomplete Finish of Lorca´s The Public: A New Key. Humanities Bulletin, 1(2), 177-192. Retrieved from