Harvard University Life's a Dream Pedro Calderón De La Barca Essay

Harvard University

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I’m studying for my History class and need an explanation.

A close reading of the play Life is a dream. What does this play tell you about the nature of Spanish society, about its values, social mores, expectations, political culture? This assignment is not a summary of the play, but an attempt to use literature as a historical source.


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Pedro Calderón de la Barca EDITED AND TRANSLATED BY L I F E ’ S la vida a Michael Kidd D R E A M es sueño Life’s a Dream Life’s a Dream Pedro Calderón de la Barca AB A PROSE TRANSLATION AND CRITICAL INTRODUCTION BY MICHAEL KIDD University Press of Colorado © 2004 by Michael Kidd Published by the University Press of Colorado 5589 Arapahoe Avenue, Suite 206C Boulder, Colorado 80303 All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America The University Press of Colorado is a proud member of the Association of American University Presses. The University Press of Colorado is a cooperative publishing enterprise supported, in part, by Adams State College, Colorado State University, Fort Lewis College, Mesa State College, Metropolitan State College of Denver, University of Colorado, University of Northern Colorado, and Western State College of Colorado. The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials. ANSI Z39.48-1992 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Calderón de la Barca, Pedro, 1600–1681. [Vida es sueño. English] Life’s a dream / Pedro Calderón de la Barca ; a prose translation and critical introduction by Michael Kidd. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 0-87081-776-0 (hardcover : alk. paper) — ISBN 0-87081-777-9 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Calderón de la Barca, Pedro, 1600–1681. Vida es sueño. I. Kidd, Michael, 1968– II. Title. PQ6292.V5K5313 2004 862'.3—dc22 2004010260 13 12 11 10 09 08 07 06 05 04 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Any reproduction or performance of this text without the express written consent of the translator is strictly prohibited. CO-WINNER OF THE 2004 COLORADO ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES PUBLICATION PRIZE The CEH Publication Prize annually supports publication of outstanding nonfiction works that have strong humanities content and that make an area of humanities research more available to the Colorado public. The CEH Publication Prize funds are shared by the University Press of Colorado and the authors of the works being recognized. The Colorado Endowment for the Humanities is a statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of humanities education for all Coloradans. Para Nicolás— corónente tus hazañas If the cave dweller were suddenly to leave the sunlight and go back down to his old seat in the cave, would his eyes not fill with gloom? PLATO, The Republic He said, “My Lord knows what is spoken in the heaven and the earth, and He is the Hearing, the Knowing.” “Nay!” say they, “medleys of dreams! Nay! he has forged it. Nay! he is a poet.” THE KORAN To be not a man but the figment of another man’s dream— what extraordinary indignity, what bewilderment! JORGE LUIS BORGES, “The Circular Ruins” Contents viii Life’s a Dream, Act 1 Contents AB PREFACE xi INTRODUCTION 1 1. Spain at the Turn of the Century (1600) 1 2. The Spanish Comedia 15 3. Calderón the Man: A Brief Chronology 20 4. Life’s a Dream: Analysis and Interpretation 23 TRANSLATOR’S NOTES 41 1. Dialect 41 2. Historicity 42 3. Medium: Verse vs. Prose 45 4. Scene Boundaries 50 5. Proper Names 54 6. Wordplay 60 7. Textual Variants and Obscurities 64 SUGGESTIONS FOR DIRECTORS 71 SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 77 1. Previous English Versions of La vida es sueño 77 2. Major Spanish Critical Editions of La vida es sueño 78 3. Poetry and Poetics 79 ix Contents 4. Linguistics and Translation Theory 79 5. Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and Handbooks 80 6. Calderón’s Life 80 7. Spain and Early Modern Europe: History, Religion, Culture 8. The Spanish Comedia and Life’s a Dream: Context, Performance, Editing, Interpretation 82 AB Life’s a Dream: A Prose Translation 89 CAST OF CHARACTERS 90 ACT 1 91 Scene 1 91 Scene 2 99 ACT 2 109 Scene 1 109 Scene 2 129 ACT 3 133 Scene 1 133 Scene 2 138 Scene 3 142 GLOSSARY 155 x 80 Life’s a Dream, Act 1 Preface AB T HIS PROSE TRANSLATION of Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s La vida es sueño is envisioned as both a classroom text and a script for performance, and the accompanying materials reflect that dual function. The Introduction and Glossary are written especially with American high school and university students in mind, whereas the Suggestions for Directors are intended primarily for those interested in taking the play to the stage. The Translator’s Notes will appeal to specialists, translators, and others with an interest in Spanish language and poetry or in the details of textual criticism. The Bibliography provides a starting point for anyone who wishes to pursue in greater depth the issues raised in the introductory materials. The Spanish text used as the basis of the translation is that of J. M. Ruano de la Haza (Castalia, 2nd ed., 2000); all significant divergences from Ruano’s text are explained in section 7 of the Translator’s Notes. To permit an unencumbered encounter with the play, no footnotes have been used in the body of the translation; all issues of interpretation and necessary clarifications are dealt with in the supplementary materials (see especially Introduction, section 4; Translator’s Notes, sections 5–7; and the Glossary). Unless otherwise indicated, all translations of secondary sources are mine. In preparing this project, I have benefited tremendously from the suggestions and moral support of friends and colleagues, many of whom read some or all of the manuscript. I am particularly grateful to Max Adrien, Jorge Brioso, Anthony Cárdenas, Scott Carpenter, Frederick De Armas, David Eddington, xi Contents Preface John Estill, Timothy Face, Jaime Gelabert, Alyosha Goldstein, Pam Hammons, José Ignacio Hualde, Humberto Huergo, John Lipski, Michael McGaha, Rogelio Miñana, Éva Pósfay, Dale Pratt, J. M. Ruano de la Haza, and Cathy Yandell. A special thanks to my wife, Adriana Estill, for her attentive ear and discerning eye. Finally, I am exceptionally indebted to Alfred Rodríguez, my former colleague and mentor at the University of New Mexico, who scrupulously reviewed two completed versions of the manuscript. His expertise, generosity, and spirited engagement will not be forgotten. —M.K. Northfield, Minnesota April 2004 xii Life’s a Dream, Act 1 Life’s a Dream xiii Introduction Introduction AB 1. SPAIN AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY (1600) When Calderón was born in 1600, Spain was the most powerful country in the world, but the seeds had already been planted of a decline that would take it, by the time of his death in 1681, to the humiliating status of a second-tier power. The story of Spain’s rise and fall is the sobering tale of a country that collapsed under the burden of its own achievements. Rather than chronicle that process in detail, which would occupy much more space than this Introduction allows, I will begin with three salient general features of early modern Spanish society: religious intensity, inequality before the law, and a deep sense of national pride that suffered serious blows throughout the seventeenth century. These three characteristics are important because they forcefully underpin the ideology of Calderonian Spain and, more broadly, of what is known as the Old Regime, that is, the set of social and political norms that held sway across Europe prior to the French Revolution in 1789. Thus, although none of the characteristics is unique to Spain, they all imply assumptions about the world strikingly different from those that inform modern liberal democracies (including present-day Spain), and their examination will provide an essential preface to the survey of Spanish literature and culture with which I end this section of the Introduction. A C ALDERÓN WAS BORN IN AN AGE of deep religious conviction. It may be difficult for westerners of the early twenty-first century, anesthetized by the 1 Introduction freedom of worship that all liberal democracies guarantee, to grasp the significance of this fact. Especially in Spain, whose Middle Ages were defined by a long struggle to reunite the peninsula under Christian rule, religious belief was not a matter of choice, and Catholicism permeated all aspects of life and determined the course of history. Even language reflects the omnipresence of religion: to speak Spanish became (and remains) synonymous with speaking “Christian,” and official correspondence of the period referred to “both Majesties” in deference to God as well as the king. Early modern Spanish identity, to the extent that one can generalize about it, was forged in a crucible of religiosity that never wavered. Many of the major events and institutions associated with this period came about as a result of that religiosity. The Spanish Inquisition was founded in 1478 with the purpose of rooting out heresy, especially among Jewish (and later Muslim) converts to Christianity. Unlike the Papal Inquisition, which had been in place in other parts of Europe since 1233, the Spanish Inquisition was placed under almost exclusive control of the Spanish kings; the pope’s power was limited to naming the Inquisitor General. Because its jurisdiction was limited to baptized Christians, its power was considerably increased when all unbaptized Jews were forced either to convert or to leave the peninsula in 1492.1 Also in 1492, the pope honored King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella with the title Catholic Monarchs upon their reconquest of Granada, the last independent Muslim kingdom on the peninsula; in 1609 the Moriscos (Moorish converts to Christianity) suffered the same fate the Jews had in 1492. In 1540 Ignatius of Loyola founded the Jesuit Order, dedicated to an active (rather than a speculative) pursuit of faith. The Jesuits provided great impetus to the Counter Reformation, which had come into full swing as Spain united with Rome to stay the rising tide of Protestantism. Costly religious wars between Catholics and Protestants ensued across Europe, exhausting the Spanish treasury in its struggle against countries like England (which it tried to invade) and the Low Countries (part of its Hapsburg patrimony, which it was able to hold only by force) in addition to its traditional Mediterranean rival, France. Finally, a great cost in manpower and wealth was imposed by the evangelization of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. A 2 Introduction A S MODERN READERS , we also take for granted the legal sanctity of individual equality and political representation, a product of Enlightenment thought that has become the cornerstone of liberal democracy. But in early modern Europe, no such principles existed in practice. A few examples from Calderón’s Spain must suffice. First, the distribution of power was not equitable. At the top, of course, reigned the king and his court. The powerful nobility, concentrated in the countryside, had its own estate in Parliament, as did the clergy, which, along with the military orders (religious in character), wielded considerable influence. A third parliamentary estate was occupied by the major municipalities, which were considerably diverse in structure and tended to represent a democratizing force. Above the municipal level, however, citizens had no political representation; nor was there trial by a jury of peers, for the king was the ultimate arbiter in cases of injustice. Private property was held primarily by the crown and the first two parliamentary estates, whereas the municipalities were allowed to lease land from the crown for public use. Taxation was regressive, with the poor shouldering the burden of contributions to the state treasury. The inferiority of women, peasants, slaves, Indians, and the unbaptized was routinely (although not universally) asserted, and discrimination against such groups not only prevailed but was also legally sanctioned. For example, in the wake of the expulsion of the Jews, as those who chose to convert rather than leave the country began to occupy civil and clerical positions of authority, promulgation began of the famous “pure-blood” statutes—analogous to the English anti-Catholic laws—which excluded anyone of non-Christian lineage from occupying positions of power. The anguish subsequently felt by the many writers and intellectuals of the period who were of Jewish descent became, according to the twentieth-century Spanish historian Américo Castro, a defining feature of early modern Spanish literature.2 Despite all these factors, the term absolute monarchy gives an incorrect impression of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain, which was actually “one of the freest nations in Europe, with active political institutions at all levels. Remarkably free discussion of political affairs was tolerated, and public controversy occurred on a scale paralleled in few other countries.”3 The fact that the system was inequitable does not mean its inequities were not perceived, and the literature of the period amply documents many diverse perspectives regarding 3 Introduction justice and equality. As far back as the thirteenth century, St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274) had argued for the radical equality of all human souls, and his principles were now invoked in Spain to defend the rights of Indians and women. Typically, however, such arguments were directed against individuals who abused the system or against particular manifestations of the system rather than against the system itself. This is an important distinction. Men like Bartolomé de las Casas (1474–1566) and Francisco de Vitoria (1492–1546) argued for humane treatment of the Indians, but they firmly supported the effort to convert them to the Catholic faith. Hence the New Laws of 1542—promulgated largely in response to Las Casas’s unpublished manuscript, A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies (Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias)—abolished the encomienda (the land-tenure system that required the natives to pay rent or to work in exchange for the right to continue living on their ancestral territories), the abuse of which had turned the Indians into de facto slaves.4 Teresa of Ávila (“Saint Teresa,” 1515–1582), for her part, notes in the first chapter of her autobiography that her father’s caring nature led him to pity the plight of slaves (ownership of which was legal throughout sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe); yet rather than question the system that permitted slavery to exist, he simply refused to own them himself and treated those owned by others with kindness. Similarly, the lesson that María de Zayas apparently intends to teach her female readers through the harrowing tales of her Eye-Opening Love Stories (Desengaños amorosos, 1647) is not to rebel against male authority but simply to dissociate themselves from men altogether, as does the character Lisis upon entering the convent at the end of the last story. Finally, regarding the inherent inequality believed to exist between lords and vassals, it is telling that when the peasants of Lope de Vega’s Sheep’s Fount (Fuente Ovejuna, 1619) rise up to overthrow and murder their tyrannical master, literally tearing him to pieces, they do so with shouts of “Long live King Ferdinand! Death to evil Christians and traitors!” Lest there be any doubt, however, the occasional real threat to the values of the Old Regime was met with a severity that tended to discourage future attempts: the Comuneros revolt of 1520, the Morisco uprising of 1568, the Catalonian insurrection of the 1640s (in which Calderón himself fought on the side of the king), the Pueblo rebellion of 1680, and so on. 4 Introduction A I N MOST PEOPLE ’ S MINDS , the year 1492 is associated with Columbus’s maiden voyage to the Indies, an event that richly deserves all the importance attached to it. Although Columbus (1451–1506)—who was financed by the Spanish crown and wrote his diary in Spanish but was not Spanish by birth (he was born in Genoa and later moved to Portugal)—died insisting he had reached India, it soon became apparent that he had come upon two great continents previously unknown to Europeans. Spain’s primary claim to those continents and to whatever riches and natural resources they contained catapulted it almost immediately from its traditional, Mediterranean sphere of influence onto the center stage of European politics, forever changing the course of its history. Eventually, Spain’s pretensions in the New World would put it at odds not only with its traditional Mediterranean rival, France, but also with two rising Atlantic powers, Holland and England, toward whom its animosity only grew with the success of the Protestant Reformation. Columbus’s voyage, together with the other momentous events of 1492 and several that soon followed,5 cemented in Spaniards’ identity a proud nationalism bound to a profound sense of manifest destiny. By the seventeenth century, however, national pride was coming under increasing strain. An ominous portent was the catastrophic defeat of the Invincible Armada by the English Navy in 1588. More important, the shiploads of gold and silver that flooded into the country from the New World, much to the envy of Spain’s European enemies (and subject to relentless pirate attacks by those enemies), were not nearly enough to finance the staggering military expenditures of the Spanish crown against those same European enemies on the continent; and the treasury was forced to declare bankruptcy at least eight times between 1557 and 1680. At the same time, the influx of American bullion into the peninsula came about without a corresponding rise in productivity, thus creating a galloping inflation that necessitated a seemingly endless series of currency devaluations throughout the seventeenth century, popularly known as the “currency dance” (baile del vellón). Intelligent observers interpreted these factors as dire warning of the country’s political decline, confirmed in 1648 when the Peace of Westphalia (which ended the Thirty Years’ War) formalized Spain’s surrender of European hegemony to France. By the time of Calderón’s death in 1681, Spaniards could look back to 5 Introduction the time of the Catholic Monarchs only with nostalgia, as a golden age of their country’s history from which they had been forever expelled. A S PAIN ’ S LITERARY GOLDEN AGE also took root in the time of Ferdinand and Isabella, although it did not reach fruition until much later. In this sense, the year 1492 is yet another milestone. Antonio de Nebrija (1444–1522), a renowned humanist and professor at the University of Salamanca, published in that year his Grammar of the Castilian Language (Gramática de la lengua castellana), the first grammar of a modern vernacular language, which prophetically argued for the use of Spanish as an instrument of empire. In December of the same year, Juan del Encina (1468–1529), a student of Nebrija’s, composed and performed several short nativity sketches, which he called eclogues, in the palace of the Duke and Duchess of Alba outside Salamanca. In the history of Spanish drama, which had no significant medieval tradition upon which to build, these unrefined plays are tremendously important and can be seen as the starting point of an unbroken dramatic tradition that eventually culminates in Calderón and Life’s a Dream. (More detail on the evolution of Spanish theater is offered in the next section of the Introduction.) Spanish poetry and prose also flourished during this period. In 1496 Encina published his eclogues together with a treatise titled Art of Spanish Poetry (Arte de poesía castellana), the first manual of poetry written in Spanish, in which he argues for the beauty and poetic potential of the Spanish language. He was proven right only a few decades l ...
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Running Head: ANALYSIS

“Life is Dream” Analysis
Institutional Affiliation



“Life is a Dream” is a play, which was originally published in 1635 at the end of the
Spanish Golden Age. The play, in general, is a forceful, psychological study of a human
being as an individual or a person. Besides, it analyses Spain's societal conduct codes in the
Spanish society of the seventeenth century. Essentially, the play is a philosophical viewpoint
on the significance of the existence of humankind just as the human life' mystery. Spain faced
a significant decrease of power and possession universally throughout the end of the Spanish
Golden Age. The fall of this Spanish empire would enhance and give critical understanding
in the play's analysis as well as its perception. This essay, in general, provides an assessment
of what "Life is a Dream" play expresses regarding the nature of the Spanish Society, its
values, expectations, social mores, and political culture. Besides, this play depicts that even
though life not any longer real than the sleeping stories of a person, the Golden rule still
Spanish Society
In the Golden Age, the Spanish Society was a cause of concern regarding what was
bogus and what was real. When the political...

annabaker (4630)
New York University

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