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Theatre / The Lady of the Dawn

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"La Dama Del Alba" is a Spanish play written by playwright Alejandro Casona, first performed in 1944. It is best known for having Death herself as one of the main characters.

The play takes place in a small unnamed Spanish town (believed to be the author's) on the fourth anniversary of the day Angelica, the eldest daughter of the local Narces family, died by drowning in a river, just days after getting married. Since they Never Found the Body, no proper burial could be performed and her death still haunts her loved ones.


Then, a mysterious woman, known only as The Pilgrim, comes along their home. Since it is believed that hosting religious pilgrims brings blessings, they allow her to stay. Angelica's grandfather finds her familar, but can't remember where he met her before.

She goes to sleep, but asks some children to wake her up before 9 PM. They forget to do so, however.

Then the old man remembers who she is: Death herself, whom he met when several men died in a mining accident several years before. He pleads with her not to claim another member of the family, but she explains she has no choice in the matter. However, since she overslept, she now cannot claim her target- Martin, Angelica's widower. She leaves, but warns that she will return in 'seven moons'- on the Day of Saint John, a local holiday.

Meanwhile, Martin rescues a young woman named Adela from the river (apparently having tried to commit suicide.) He brings her home and the Narces take to her immediately- Angelica's mother even dresses her like her dead daughter. This causes the locals to start whispering that the newcomer is an intentional replacement for her.


On the Night of Saint John, Death returns, but seems confused as to who she has come to claim. Then she overhears Martin reveal a secret to Adela: Angelica never died- she ran away with another man. He made up the story of her death as a way to keep from hurting her family with the truth. And now, he has fallen in love with Adela, but cannot take her as his bride because he knows that Angelica is still alive.

Then, Angelica, whose life has been nothing but suffering since she left, returns to the town. Death intercepts her before anyone sees her. She explains to her that her time has come, and anyway if her secret were revealed it would only hurt the happiness of her family even more. Angelica then commits suicide by jumping into the river.

The next day, when the body is found, her mother declares that it must be a miracle, for her body hasn't decayed after all these years. Her wake is finally held, freeing her family from their mourning, and leaving Martin free to marry Adela. Death comments how much she envies mortals, who get to experience love, unlike her.


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