The masterwork of Spain’s preeminent dramatist—now in a new verse translation
Life Is a Dream is a work many hold to be the supreme example of Spanish Golden Age drama. Imbued with highly poetic language and humanist ideals, it is an allegory that considers contending themes of free will and predestination, illusion and reality, played out against the backdrop of court intrigue and the restoration of personal honor.
In the mountainous barrens of Poland, the rightful heir to the kingdom has been imprisoned since birth in an attempt by his father to thwart fate. Meanwhile, a noblewoman arrives to seek revenge against the man who deceived and forsook her love for the prospect of becoming king of Poland. Richly symbolic and metaphorical, Life Is a Dream explores the deepest mysteries of human experience.
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About the Author
PEDRO CALDERON DE LA BARCA (1600–1681) was one of the leading dramatists of the Spanish Golden Age. His father was Secretary to the Royal Treasury and a minor noble, and his mother was a devoutly religious woman who died when he was a child. Calderón studied canon law in preparation for his presumed career in the church, but in the 1620s he started to write verse, and his success in competitions attracted attention. The first known staging of one of his plays was a 1623 performance of Amor, Honor, Poder (Love, Honor, and Power). Eventually, the prolific Calderón would write approximately 120 full-length dramatic works, 80 one-act autos sacramentales (religious mystery plays), and many other short pieces of poetry and theater. In 1636 King Philip IV named him a knight of the Order of Santiago. His output lessened in the 1640s, and in 1651 Calderón entered the priesthood, becoming chaplain of the Capilla de los Reyes Nuevos at the cathedral in Toledo, and then, in 1656, head of the congregation of San Pedro in Madrid. He continued to write both secular and religious plays until his death.
GREGARY J. RACZ is associate professor in the Department of Foreign Languages & Literature at Long Island University, Brooklyn. His translation of the mock-Renaissance farce, Rigmaroles, appeared in Three Comedies, his edited volume of plays by the contemporary Spanish dramatist Jaime Salom. A specialist in poetic translation, Racz has published works by the Cuban writer Jose Lezama Lima, the Peruvian Eduardo Chirinos, and the Argentine experimental XUL group.
I have read about twelve of [Calderons] plays; some of them certainly deserve to be ranked among the grandest and most perfect productions of the human mind. He exceeds all modern dramatists with the exception of Shakespeare. (Percy Bysshe Shelley)