At Leonardo Felix’s house, his wife and his mother-in-law sing a gruesome lullaby to his young child, about a horse that dies of thirst because it refuses to drink the water in a river. Leonardo enters, having come from the blacksmith, where his horse was being reshod. He complains that the horse always needs new shoes, although Leonardo rarely rides him. Leonardo’s Wife remarks that a farmwoman saw Leonardo riding on the outskirts of town yesterday, and asks Leonardo what he was doing there.
Leonardo denies that he rode so far away—he has no reason to. The Wife remains skeptical, though, especially since the Mother-in-Law saw Leonardo bring the horse back “in a lather” (12) that evening. Eventually the Wife lets it go, offering Leonardo a lemon drink and telling him the exciting news—her cousin is getting married. The Bridegroom’s Mother is said to disapprove of the wedding, which Leonardo finds understandable. As he puts it, “that girl has depths.” (13) The Mother-in-Law mutters that Leonardo should know, since for three years he “knew” the Bride before he knew his current Wife.
A Girl who works in the clothing store rushes into the house, excited to gossip with the Mother-in-Law about the expensive wedding clothes that the Bridegroom and his Mother have bought for the ceremony. Apparently, the upcoming wedding is “a marriage of two fortunes.” (14)
Leonardo, who has not been listening, asks the Girl what she is doing at his house. She announces that she came to tell him about the finery the Bride’s fiancé has bought for her. “What makes you think we want to know that?” (14), he demands angrily. The Girl sobs and runs away, and his Wife and his Mother-in-Law reprimand him for being so rude.
The Wife observes that Leonardo has been testy lately, and earnestly pleads with him to tell her what is wrong. However, he avoids the question, snapping at his mother and yelling at his wife to shut up before storming out. As he leaves, he wakes up the baby. The Wife and Mother-in-Law resume singing the disturbing lullaby.
This brief scene emphasizes the differences between the Bridegroom’s home and the Felix household. Unlike the stark loneliness of the Bridegroom’s home, haunted by the memories of his dead father and brother, the Felix household is full of chatter and action, with a new baby and in-laws all living together. Unlike the Bridegroom’s family, the Felixes live with the oldest and youngest generations in the same household, suggesting that they are more susceptible to antiquated ideas about marriage, violence, and the conflict between families.
This scene also introduces lyric and poetic dialogue, which will become more frequent as the play progresses. In this instance, the lullaby lyrics do not comment directly on the action, but rather serve to establish a sinister, atavistic mood that contrasts sharply with the cheerful, logical conversation between the Bridegroom and his mother. The obstinacy of the horse, which dies rather than drink from the large, cold river before it, has its parallels in the behavior of Leonardo and Mother, neither of whom are really willing to put the family conflict aside so that the Bride and Bridegroom can be happy together.
As in the previous scene, Lorca hints at the financial situation of Leonardo’s family rather than revealing it outright. The Wife’s concerns about grain prices and about whether she will be able to buy a cap for her baby are a dramatic departure from the attitude of the Bridegroom’s Mother, who is more concerned about safety than money when he announces he is going to the vineyards. It is impossible to know from the preceding scene that the Bridegroom’s family is rich, since he and his mother are simply unconcerned about money.
However, the dire financial worries of Leonardo and his Wife suggest that they were once wealthy but have fallen upon hard times; they are concerned because they are unused to living in reduced circumstances. This reading is confirmed by the Girl, who rushes to tell the Mother-in-Law about the Bridegroom’s lavish purchases. Unlike the Bridegroom’s Mother, who knows nothing about her son’s fiancée, the Mother-in-Law is the first to hear new gossip, suggesting that she retains a high social status despite her family’s precarious finances.
The peculiar nomenclature that Lorca develops for his characters continues to merit scrutiny. Of the notorious Felix family, only Leonardo is named; his Wife and Mother-in-Law are only referred to in relation to him. This is particularly significant since, even if Lorca was determined not to name these characters, he could still have referred to them as the Bride’s Cousin and the Bride’s Aunt, respectively. By defining them by their relationships to Leonardo, he foreshadows the young man’s social status and destructive power. This decision also emphasizes the subjugation of women to men in this society; although the women would prefer bucolic lives of embroidery and farming, their wishes are ignored so that the men can pursue their insatiable appetites for action and violence.