The theater of violence in post-Civil War Spain

Date of Completion

January 1997


Literature, Romance|History, European|Theater




Spanish playwrights of the post-Civil War period (1939-1975) draw upon diverse aesthetic and political aspects of drama in their treatment of history, but one of the most prominent and significant of these centers on the idea of violence. In this dissertation I examine four postwar dramatists who use violence in their works as a means of exploring the organic relationship between historic truth and its mythification: Antonio Buero Vallejo, Alfonso Sastre, Jose Martin Recuerda, and Fernando Arrabal.^ Chapter one discusses four plays that treat the theme of war and its reliance on myth in order to justify violence. Drawing upon Roland Barthes concept of myth, I explore the myth of power and the power of myth as each relates to the Franco regime. Also examined are the challenges offered to the Francoist conception of contemporary Spain as the natural and necessary product of the nation's glorified past.^ For many post-Civil War writers, the historical drama represents an important means for expressing the dialectic relationship between the past and present. In Chapter two, I analyze three historical dramas in which violence is used to break the silence of imposed repression and endow Spain's current and past reality with diverse meanings. By focusing on the protagonist in each work, the role of the rebel versus the revolutionary is discussed as it relates to issues of responsibility, collective guilt, and the individual conscience.^ In the final chapter, I analyze three plays in which the authors use violence to challenge the validity of certain values esteemed by society under Franco. The violence portrayed in these works is rooted in a morality maintained by silence, repression, and hypocrisy. A wide range of individual reactions to violence are addressed including denial/justification, fear/repression, and resignation/response.^ By its encompassing nature violence allows the authors studied here to examine important thematic and structural issues and to controvert common beliefs concerning such complex relationships as reality/appearance, victim/victimizer, and myth/truth. ^