Hannah Research no 1

Life
is a Dream

From
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

This article is about Pedro Calderon De La Barca’s play. For Lewis
Spratlan’s opera, see Life is a Dream
(opera)
.

Life is a Dream (Spanish: La vida es
sueño
) is a Spanish language
play by Pedro Calderón de
la Barca
. First published in 1635 (or possibly early in 1636),[1] it is a philosophical allegory
regarding the human situation and the mystery of life.[2] Focusing on Segismundo, Prince of Poland, the central
argument is the conflict between free will and fate.
The play remains one of de la Barca’s best-known and most studied works.

Life is a Dream. Bronze relief, detail of the monument to Calderón
in Madrid (J.
Figueras
, 1878).

Contents

[hide]

[edit]
Characters

  • Basilio,
    King of Poland
  • Segismundo,
    his Son, prince of Poland
  • Clotaldo,
    a Nobleman (Rosaura’s father)
  • Astolfo,
    Duke of Muscovy
    (nephew of Basilio)
  • Estrella,
    a Princess (niece of Basilio)
  • Rosaura,
    a Lady
  • Clarion,
    her Servant (gracioso)
  • Violante,
    Rosaura’s mother
  • Soldiers
  • Guards
  • Musicians
  • Attendants
  • Servants

[edit]
Synopsis

In the play, the king of Poland has
had his son Segismundo imprisoned all of his life because it has been prophesied that the son will bring disaster to the country.
The king tells his subjects that his son died after childbirth. After his son
has grown to be a man, the king reveals to his court
that his son lives, and allows the court to vote in favor of allowing the son
to become heir. However, the son turns out to be violent,
killing a man and attempting rape. For this he is drugged and
returned to his prison, and told upon waking that the previous day’s events
were merely a dream. Still, his jailer scolds him for his un-princely behaviour, which prompts
remorse in Segismundo. Rebels who are working against the king, who have found
out about the treatment of Segismundo, break him out of prison. The rebels
defeat the king’s army; however, Segismundo doubts again if he is
in reality or a dream, finally deciding that even in a dream we have to behave
well because “God is God” and forgives the king . The play ends in a wedding.

[edit] Plot

[edit]
Act 1, Day One

Rosaura, disguised as a man and
accompanied by her squire, Clarín, is heading for the royal court of Poland to
take vengeance on Astolfo, who had promised to marry her, but abandoned her.
She carries a sword that belonged to her father, whom she had never met. Upon
arriving in Poland, at nightfall, she falls from her horse, which runs away,
leaving her to trek down the mountain on foot. She glimpses a light in the
distance and follows it to a tower, where Segismundo has been imprisoned since
birth. At this point, Segismundo delivers his famous monologue, “Ay! Misero de mi, ay, infelice,”
expressing his unhappiness. He asks why he has been deprived of liberty all his
life, when birds, beasts, fish, and even streams are free.

Clotaldo, Segismundo’s jailer, discovers Rosaura and Clarín, and detains
them to bring them before the king since nobody can know about the existence of
Segismundo. Clotaldo recognizes Rosaura’s sword as his own, and struggles with
fulfilling his duty to the king and saving his son, but does not disclose his
dilemma to Rosaura.

Astolfo proposes to Estrella. He wants to marry her since they are both
children of the king’s sisters. And since the king has no children, the two of
them united would be the clear choice for the heir.

The king, Basilio, announces to his court that he does have a son who
was supposed to be a wicked ruler, so he had locked him away, but that he wants
to give him a chance to clear his conscience. He says if this does not work, he
will lock his son away again and give the throne to the children of his sisters
since they have decided to wed to unify their power.

Clotaldo brings the charges of Rosaura and Clarín before Basilio, who
pardons them since he has already decided to reveal the secret of Segismundo.

Rosaura reveals to Clotaldo that Astolfo is the one she has come to
kill. Clotaldo is torn again between helping her and his loyalty to his
country.

[edit]
Act 2, Day Two

In the second day, we know why Segismundo is imprisoned in a dungeon
since birth: an oracle predicted that he would be a cruel king, so his father,
Basilio, enclosed him. Basilio has devised a trap to discover whether Sigismund
is really cruel: he is drugged, taken into the palace, and presented with his
rightful position, reserving the possibility of making him believe that
everything is a dream lest he behave unjustly.

Rosaura is safe, and enters as an attendant of Estrella.

Segismundo acts like a tyrant prince, throwing a servant from the window
shortly after waking up, attempting to rape Rosaura, hurting Clotaldo when he
comes to help his daughter, and involving himself in a sword fight with
Astolfo. In light of his behavior, the king decides to drug him again and take
him back to the tower.

Astolfo courts Estrella, since with their union they would share the
succession to the throne instead of competing for it once Segismundo is out of
the picture. Astolfo recognizes Rosaura (who is going by the name Astrea), and
they break off for good.

The day finishes with Segismundo, once again in the tower, asking
himself if it could all have been a dream, and closes with the famous verses
that give name to the play:

I dream that I am here

of these imprisonments charged,

and I dreamed that in another
state

happier I saw myself.

What is life? A frenzy.

What is life? An illusion,

A shadow, a fiction,

And the greatest profit is
small;

For all of life is a dream,

And dreams, are nothing but
dreams.

Yo sueño que estoy aquí

de estas prisiones cargado,

y soñé que en otro estado

más lisonjero me vi.

¿Qué es la vida? Un frenesí.

¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión,

una sombra, una ficción,

y el mayor bien es pequeño:

que toda la vida es sueño,

y los sueños, sueños son.

[edit]
Act 3, Day Three

The people of Poland, at finding out that they have a prince, organize a
revolt and liberate Segismundo from his tower (after first mistaking Clarion
for the prince). Segismundo frees Clotaldo, allowing him to go with the king,
and displaying that he has returned to his senses.

Rosaura wants to kill Astolfo, and tells her reasons to her father
first, and then to Segismundo.

The king’s troops and the prince’s troops meet, and Segismundo wins. The
two encounter each other face to face, and the king throws himself at
Segismundo’s feet, allowing the prophecy to be fulfilled, but instead of
killing him Segismundo forgives him. In light of the generous attitude of the
prince, the king grants him the throne.

As king, Segismundo decides that Astolfo must keep his promise to marry
Rosaura to preserve her honor. At first Astolfo is hesitant because she is not
of noble origin, but Clotaldo then publicly reveals that she is his daughter,
so Astolfo consents. Segismundo then promises to marry Estrella himself.

[edit] Analysis of Segismundo’s soliloquy

Life is a Dream is one of Calderón’s most
well known and well studied works. This interest not only hails from the play’s
complex philosophy, but also from its notable dramatic structure. However, ever
since Marcelino Menéndez
y Pelayo
’s 1910 classification of Life is a Dream as a
philosophical drama, criticism has largely dwelled on the existential issues of the work, often at the cost
of paying specific attention to its formal dramatic characteristics.[citation needed]

A few central ideas constitute the major philosophical themes of the
play: the opposition between destiny and liberty, the topic of life as a dream,
and the theme of free will. These central themes overshadow other themes
present, like the education of princes, the model ruler, power, and justice.

Focusing on Segismundo’s line, “Y los sueños, sueños son,” a
more accurate English translation, better representing Calderon’s poetic and
philosophical intent, may be given as: “And dreams themselves are merely
the dreams of dreams,” implying and underscoring the ephemeral nature of
human life and physical existence.

[edit]
The Rosaura Subplot

The Rosaura subplot has been subjected to much criticism in the past as
not belonging to the work. Menéndez y Pelayo saw it as a strange and exotic
plot, like a parasitical vine. [3] Rosaura has also been dismissed as the
simple stock character of the jilted woman. With the British School of
Calderonistas, this attitude changed. A. E. Sloman explained how the main and
secondary actions are linked [4]. Others like E. M. Wilson and William
M. Whitby consider Rosaura to be central to the work since she parallels
Segismundo’s actions and also serves as Segismundo’s guide, leading him to a
final conversion.[5][6] For some Rosaura must be studied as
part of a Platonic ascent on the part of the Prince. Others compare her first
appearance, falling from a horse/hippogryph to the plot of Ariosto‘s Orlando furioso where Astolpho (the name of
the character who deceives Rosaura in our play), also rides the hippogryph and
witnesses a prophecy of the return of the mythical Golden Age. For Frederick de Armas,
Rosaura hides a mythological mystery already utilized by Ariosto. When she goes
to Court, she takes on the name of Astraea, the goddess of chastity and justice.
Astraea was the last of the immortals to leave earth with the decline of the
ages. Her return signals the return of a Golden Age. Many writers of the
Renaissance and early modern periods used the figure of Astraea to praise the
rulers of their times. It is possible that Rosaura (an anagram for
“Dawns”) could represent the return of a Golden Age during the reign
of Segismundo, a figure that represents King Philip IV of Spain.[7]

[edit]
Analysis of the ending

There have been many different interpretations of the play’s ending,
where Segismundo condemns the rebel soldier who freed him to life imprisonment
in the tower. Some have suggested that this scene is ironic – that it raises
questions about whether Segismundo will in fact be a just king. Others have
pointed out that Calderón, who lived under the Spanish monarchy, could not have
left the rebel soldier unpunished, because this would be an affront to royal
authority.

It is worth considering that Segismundo’s transformation in the course
of the play is not simply a moral awakening, but a realization of his social
role as the heir to the throne, and this role requires him to act as kings act.
For some, the act of punishing the rebel soldier makes him a Machiavellian
prince. [8] Others argue that, while this action
may seem unjust, it is in keeping with his new social status as the king.
Daniel L. Heiple traces a long tradition of works where treason seems to be
rewarded, but the traitor or rebel is subsequently punished. [9]

It may well be that, rather than intending his audience to see this
action as purely right or wrong, Calderón purposefully made it ambiguous,
creating an interesting tension in the play that adds to its depth.

[edit]
Models and Themes

The conception of life as a dream is a very ancient one, found in
Hinduism and Platonism. It is found in writers from Lope de Vega to
Shakespeare.

Key elements from the play may be derived from the Christian legend of Barlaam and Josaphat,
which Lope de Vega had brought to the stage. This
legend itself a derivation of the story of the early years of Siddharta Gautama, which serves as the basis for
the film Little Buddha
that illustrates so the Hindu-Buddhist concept of
reality as illusion
.

Another religious concept is that of free will against predestination. Catholic Spain favored the Counter-reformation
that defined the human will as able to choose the good (in cooperation with
God’s grace), against the Calvinist conception of the total depravity of
the human will unless it is predestined by God to be renewed by grace.
Segismundo chooses pardon against the oracle.

Catholicism is melded with “pagan” astrology in this play, as Segismundo’s horoscope, as interpreted by Basilio, becomes the
cause of his incarceration. Calderón would have known of the malefic qualities
of Saturn, here associated with Basilio. He would have also known Lope de Vega’s
Lo que ha de ser (1624), a play that also includes the incarceration of
a child and the importance of astrology.

One of the major conflicts of the play is the opposition between father
and son, which may have biographical elements. [10] This conflict is also modeled on
classical mythology. It parallels the struggle of Uranus vs. Saturn or Saturn
vs. Jupiter. [11]

Many other motifs and themes derived from a number of traditions can be
found in this rich and complex drama: the labyrinth, the monster, the four elements,
notions of freedom vs. predestination, original sin, pride, disillusionment,
the Oedipus myth, etc. [12][13][14][15]

 

Posted in Rough Classics | Leave a comment

Hannah’s Research Life’s a Dream

Life
is a Dream

From
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

This article is about Pedro Calderon De La Barca’s play. For Lewis
Spratlan’s opera, see Life is a Dream
(opera)
.

Life is a Dream (Spanish: La vida es
sueño
) is a Spanish language
play by Pedro Calderón de
la Barca
. First published in 1635 (or possibly early in 1636),[1] it is a philosophical allegory
regarding the human situation and the mystery of life.[2] Focusing on Segismundo, Prince of Poland, the central
argument is the conflict between free will and fate.
The play remains one of de la Barca’s best-known and most studied works.
Life is a Dream. Bronze relief, detail of the monument to Calderón
in Madrid (J.
Figueras
, 1878).

Contents

[hide]

[edit]
Characters

  • Basilio,
    King of Poland
  • Segismundo,
    his Son, prince of Poland
  • Clotaldo,
    a Nobleman (Rosaura’s father)
  • Astolfo,
    Duke of Muscovy
    (nephew of Basilio)
  • Estrella,
    a Princess (niece of Basilio)
  • Rosaura,
    a Lady
  • Clarion,
    her Servant (gracioso)
  • Violante,
    Rosaura’s mother
  • Soldiers
  • Guards
  • Musicians
  • Attendants
  • Servants

[edit]
Synopsis

In the play, the king of Poland has
had his son Segismundo imprisoned all of his life because it has been prophesied that the son will bring disaster to the country.
The king tells his subjects that his son died after childbirth. After his son
has grown to be a man, the king reveals to his court
that his son lives, and allows the court to vote in favor of allowing the son
to become heir. However, the son turns out to be violent,
killing a man and attempting rape. For this he is drugged and
returned to his prison, and told upon waking that the previous day’s events
were merely a dream. Still, his jailer scolds him for his un-princely behaviour, which prompts
remorse in Segismundo. Rebels who are working against the king, who have found
out about the treatment of Segismundo, break him out of prison. The rebels
defeat the king’s army; however, Segismundo doubts again if he is
in reality or a dream, finally deciding that even in a dream we have to behave
well because “God is God” and forgives the king . The play ends in a wedding.

[edit] Plot

[edit]
Act 1, Day One

Rosaura, disguised as a man and
accompanied by her squire, Clarín, is heading for the royal court of Poland to
take vengeance on Astolfo, who had promised to marry her, but abandoned her.
She carries a sword that belonged to her father, whom she had never met. Upon
arriving in Poland, at nightfall, she falls from her horse, which runs away,
leaving her to trek down the mountain on foot. She glimpses a light in the
distance and follows it to a tower, where Segismundo has been imprisoned since
birth. At this point, Segismundo delivers his famous monologue, “Ay! Misero de mi, ay, infelice,”
expressing his unhappiness. He asks why he has been deprived of liberty all his
life, when birds, beasts, fish, and even streams are free.

Clotaldo, Segismundo’s jailer, discovers Rosaura and Clarín, and detains
them to bring them before the king since nobody can know about the existence of
Segismundo. Clotaldo recognizes Rosaura’s sword as his own, and struggles with
fulfilling his duty to the king and saving his son, but does not disclose his
dilemma to Rosaura.

Astolfo proposes to Estrella. He wants to marry her since they are both
children of the king’s sisters. And since the king has no children, the two of
them united would be the clear choice for the heir.

The king, Basilio, announces to his court that he does have a son who
was supposed to be a wicked ruler, so he had locked him away, but that he wants
to give him a chance to clear his conscience. He says if this does not work, he
will lock his son away again and give the throne to the children of his sisters
since they have decided to wed to unify their power.

Clotaldo brings the charges of Rosaura and Clarín before Basilio, who
pardons them since he has already decided to reveal the secret of Segismundo.

Rosaura reveals to Clotaldo that Astolfo is the one she has come to
kill. Clotaldo is torn again between helping her and his loyalty to his
country.

[edit]
Act 2, Day Two

In the second day, we know why Segismundo is imprisoned in a dungeon
since birth: an oracle predicted that he would be a cruel king, so his father,
Basilio, enclosed him. Basilio has devised a trap to discover whether Sigismund
is really cruel: he is drugged, taken into the palace, and presented with his
rightful position, reserving the possibility of making him believe that
everything is a dream lest he behave unjustly.

Rosaura is safe, and enters as an attendant of Estrella.

Segismundo acts like a tyrant prince, throwing a servant from the window
shortly after waking up, attempting to rape Rosaura, hurting Clotaldo when he
comes to help his daughter, and involving himself in a sword fight with
Astolfo. In light of his behavior, the king decides to drug him again and take
him back to the tower.

Astolfo courts Estrella, since with their union they would share the
succession to the throne instead of competing for it once Segismundo is out of
the picture. Astolfo recognizes Rosaura (who is going by the name Astrea), and
they break off for good.

The day finishes with Segismundo, once again in the tower, asking
himself if it could all have been a dream, and closes with the famous verses
that give name to the play:

I dream that I am here

of these imprisonments charged,

and I dreamed that in another
state

happier I saw myself.

What is life? A frenzy.

What is life? An illusion,

A shadow, a fiction,

And the greatest profit is
small;

For all of life is a dream,

And dreams, are nothing but
dreams.

Yo sueño que estoy aquí

de estas prisiones cargado,

y soñé que en otro estado

más lisonjero me vi.

¿Qué es la vida? Un frenesí.

¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión,

una sombra, una ficción,

y el mayor bien es pequeño:

que toda la vida es sueño,

y los sueños, sueños son.

[edit]
Act 3, Day Three

The people of Poland, at finding out that they have a prince, organize a
revolt and liberate Segismundo from his tower (after first mistaking Clarion
for the prince). Segismundo frees Clotaldo, allowing him to go with the king,
and displaying that he has returned to his senses.

Rosaura wants to kill Astolfo, and tells her reasons to her father
first, and then to Segismundo.

The king’s troops and the prince’s troops meet, and Segismundo wins. The
two encounter each other face to face, and the king throws himself at
Segismundo’s feet, allowing the prophecy to be fulfilled, but instead of
killing him Segismundo forgives him. In light of the generous attitude of the
prince, the king grants him the throne.

As king, Segismundo decides that Astolfo must keep his promise to marry
Rosaura to preserve her honor. At first Astolfo is hesitant because she is not
of noble origin, but Clotaldo then publicly reveals that she is his daughter,
so Astolfo consents. Segismundo then promises to marry Estrella himself.

[edit] Analysis of Segismundo’s soliloquy

Life is a Dream is one of Calderón’s most
well known and well studied works. This interest not only hails from the play’s
complex philosophy, but also from its notable dramatic structure. However, ever
since Marcelino Menéndez
y Pelayo
’s 1910 classification of Life is a Dream as a
philosophical drama, criticism has largely dwelled on the existential issues of the work, often at the cost
of paying specific attention to its formal dramatic characteristics.[citation needed]

A few central ideas constitute the major philosophical themes of the
play: the opposition between destiny and liberty, the topic of life as a dream,
and the theme of free will. These central themes overshadow other themes
present, like the education of princes, the model ruler, power, and justice.

Focusing on Segismundo’s line, “Y los sueños, sueños son,” a
more accurate English translation, better representing Calderon’s poetic and
philosophical intent, may be given as: “And dreams themselves are merely
the dreams of dreams,” implying and underscoring the ephemeral nature of
human life and physical existence.

[edit]
The Rosaura Subplot

The Rosaura subplot has been subjected to much criticism in the past as
not belonging to the work. Menéndez y Pelayo saw it as a strange and exotic
plot, like a parasitical vine. [3] Rosaura has also been dismissed as the
simple stock character of the jilted woman. With the British School of
Calderonistas, this attitude changed. A. E. Sloman explained how the main and
secondary actions are linked [4]. Others like E. M. Wilson and William
M. Whitby consider Rosaura to be central to the work since she parallels
Segismundo’s actions and also serves as Segismundo’s guide, leading him to a
final conversion.[5][6] For some Rosaura must be studied as
part of a Platonic ascent on the part of the Prince. Others compare her first
appearance, falling from a horse/hippogryph to the plot of Ariosto‘s Orlando furioso where Astolpho (the name of
the character who deceives Rosaura in our play), also rides the hippogryph and
witnesses a prophecy of the return of the mythical Golden Age. For Frederick de Armas,
Rosaura hides a mythological mystery already utilized by Ariosto. When she goes
to Court, she takes on the name of Astraea, the goddess of chastity and justice.
Astraea was the last of the immortals to leave earth with the decline of the
ages. Her return signals the return of a Golden Age. Many writers of the
Renaissance and early modern periods used the figure of Astraea to praise the
rulers of their times. It is possible that Rosaura (an anagram for
“Dawns”) could represent the return of a Golden Age during the reign
of Segismundo, a figure that represents King Philip IV of Spain.[7]

[edit]
Analysis of the ending

There have been many different interpretations of the play’s ending,
where Segismundo condemns the rebel soldier who freed him to life imprisonment
in the tower. Some have suggested that this scene is ironic – that it raises
questions about whether Segismundo will in fact be a just king. Others have
pointed out that Calderón, who lived under the Spanish monarchy, could not have
left the rebel soldier unpunished, because this would be an affront to royal
authority.

It is worth considering that Segismundo’s transformation in the course
of the play is not simply a moral awakening, but a realization of his social
role as the heir to the throne, and this role requires him to act as kings act.
For some, the act of punishing the rebel soldier makes him a Machiavellian
prince. [8] Others argue that, while this action
may seem unjust, it is in keeping with his new social status as the king.
Daniel L. Heiple traces a long tradition of works where treason seems to be
rewarded, but the traitor or rebel is subsequently punished. [9]

It may well be that, rather than intending his audience to see this
action as purely right or wrong, Calderón purposefully made it ambiguous,
creating an interesting tension in the play that adds to its depth.

[edit]
Models and Themes

The conception of life as a dream is a very ancient one, found in
Hinduism and Platonism. It is found in writers from Lope de Vega to
Shakespeare.

Key elements from the play may be derived from the Christian legend of Barlaam and Josaphat,
which Lope de Vega had brought to the stage. This
legend itself a derivation of the story of the early years of Siddharta Gautama, which serves as the basis for
the film Little Buddha
that illustrates so the Hindu-Buddhist concept of
reality as illusion
.

Another religious concept is that of free will against predestination. Catholic Spain favored the Counter-reformation
that defined the human will as able to choose the good (in cooperation with
God’s grace), against the Calvinist conception of the total depravity of
the human will unless it is predestined by God to be renewed by grace.
Segismundo chooses pardon against the oracle.

Catholicism is melded with “pagan” astrology in this play, as Segismundo’s horoscope, as interpreted by Basilio, becomes the
cause of his incarceration. Calderón would have known of the malefic qualities
of Saturn, here associated with Basilio. He would have also known Lope de Vega’s
Lo que ha de ser (1624), a play that also includes the incarceration of
a child and the importance of astrology.

One of the major conflicts of the play is the opposition between father
and son, which may have biographical elements. [10] This conflict is also modeled on
classical mythology. It parallels the struggle of Uranus vs. Saturn or Saturn
vs. Jupiter. [11]

Many other motifs and themes derived from a number of traditions can be
found in this rich and complex drama: the labyrinth, the monster, the four elements,
notions of freedom vs. predestination, original sin, pride, disillusionment,
the Oedipus myth, etc. [12][13][14][15]

 

Posted in Rough Classics | Leave a comment

Hannah’s Research Life a Dream no 3

Life Is a Dream: Plot Summary

// // Act 1, Scene 1

A figure dressed as a man enters. When the man speaks, the audience
realizes that it is a woman. Transported from her home in Muscovy by a flying
horse, Rosaura has been set down in the mountains of Poland, accompanied by the
talkative Clarin. Without naming the cause of her grief, Rosaura complains of
her unhappiness. She and Clarin stumble upon a tower and hear within the rattle
of chains and then a human voice. It is Segismundo, clothed in animal skins, lamenting
his wretched state.

Enraged that he has been overheard in his moment of weakness, Segismundo
threatens to kill Rosaura and Clarin. Rosaura begs him for mercy. Her voice
enchants him; he cannot take his eyes off her. Not knowing that she is a woman,
he is, nevertheless, fascinated by her. Wretched as she thought she was, seeing
Segismundo makes Rosaura realize how much worse it is for him. She asks if
there is anything she can do to help him, but the jailer Clotaldo and the
guards rush in and seize her and Clarin.

Segismundo struggles vainly to free himself from his chains in order to
save them from the death that is the punishment for anyone who sees him.
Rosaura and Clarin are blindfolded and their weapons confiscated. Rosaura tells
Clotaldo to guard her sword, since it is a key to great mysteries, though she
does not know what they are. She was given the sword by a woman and instructed
to go to Poland to revenge an injury done to her (Rosaura). An unidentified
person in Poland, she was told, would recognize the sword and protect her.
Clotaldo recognizes the sword. He had given it to Violante, Rosaura’s mother,
whom he had seduced but not married. Violante gave the sword to Rosaura, and it
signifies to Clotaldo that Rosaura is his child—his son, he thinks.

Resolving the conflict between love for his “son” and duty to
his king, Clotaldo decides to take his prisoners to the king and perhaps win
pardon for his “son”; if the pardon is granted, Clotaldo might then
be able to help his “son” avenge the wrong done him. But Clotaldo
does not reveal himself to Rosaura. Should his effort fail, his “son”
will die—not knowing that it will be through the agency of his own father.

Act 1, Scene 2

Cousins contending for the throne of Poland, Astolfo, with his soldiers,
and Estrella, with her ladies, confront each other. Rather than battle, Astolfo
proposes that they join together in love and jointly rule Poland. Estrella is
wary of his declaration of love, because he wears the portrait of another woman
on a chain around his neck. Their exchange is cut short by the entrance of
Basilio, king of Poland, and his entourage.

Addressing the court, Basilio explains his plan for the succession,
revealing a history that had been unknown to the court and which solves some of
the mysteries of the first scene. Learned in mathematics, Basilio cast the
horoscope of his son, Segismundo, while the child was still in his mother’s
womb. In it, Basilio saw that Segismundo would overthrow him and become a
tyrannical ruler. To defeat destiny, Basilio declared that Segismundo died at
birth, along with his mother, and then secretly locked the infant in a tower.
He made Clotaldo his tutor and jailer and decreed death to anyone who entered
the tower and discovered the secret.

Before he surrenders his crown to Astolfo and Estrella, however, Basilio
informs the court that he has planned an experiment to see whether Segismundo
can overcome his destiny. Segismundo will be drugged, brought from prison to
the court, attired and treated like a prince, and told his true history and the
reason for his imprisonment. Basilio hopes that armed with this warning,
Segismundo will become a good ruler. If he shows himself to be virtuous, he
will be made king. Astolfo and Estrella agree to renounce their claims in that
case. Should Segismundo show himself to be cruel and tyrannical, however, he
will be drugged again, returned to the tower prison, and told that his
experience at the court was merely a dream. Astolfo and Estrella will rule
Poland.

After the court withdraws and Basilio is left alone, Clotaldo enters
with Rosaura and Clarin. Because Basilio has revealed the story of Segismundo,
Rosaura will not be punished for having seen him. There is still, however, her
dishonor to avenge. Clotaldo returns her sword, and she tells him that Astolfo
is the enemy she seeks. Clotaldo again is burdened by divided loyalties.
Astolfo is his lord. He tells Rosaura that since Astolfo is the duke of Muscovy
and Rosaura is his subject, Astolfo cannot have dishonored “him” (Rosaura)
no matter what he did. Rosaura is then compelled to reveal that she is a woman
and that the dishonor was rape.

Act 2, Scene 1

Astonished by his transformation, Segismundo appears at court, dressed
like a prince. Clotaldo tells him who he is and of the dire prophecy about him,
hoping that the warning will correct him. Segismundo, however, responds in
rage, threatening to kill Clotaldo. Clotaldo exits; Astolfo enters and salutes
Segismundo, who returns his greeting with insults. Estrella enters. Segismundo
is captivated by her beauty and is rudely forward with her. When a servant
points out the faults in his behavior, Segismundo grabs the man and throws him
off a balcony. When Basilio learns that Segismundo has acted according to his
unhappy expectations, despite warning, he is grieved. Segismundo responds to
his reprimands with contempt, and Basilio leaves him angrily, advising him that
although he appears to be enjoying a position of power, he ought to take
heed—he may only be dreaming.

Segismundo does not heed him, however. When Rosaura, now dressed as a
woman and following in Estrella’s train, encounters him again, he demands she
surrender to him. She tries to leave; he orders the doors shut. As Segismundo
is about to force Rosaura to yield to him, Clotaldo attempts to save her.
Segismundo draws his dagger, and Clotaldo seizes it. They struggle. Rosaura
exits, crying for help; Astolfo runs in and comes between Segismundo and
Clotaldo. Astolfo demands that Segismundo return his dagger to its sheath, but
Segismundo refuses. Astolfo draws his sword, and the two duel. Basilio enters,
and, following the code of chivalry, they both sheath their swords in front of
the king. Basilio demands an explanation. Segismundo boasts that he has tried
to kill Clotaldo and that he may be moved to kill Basilio himself in revenge
for having been imprisoned. So saying, he leaves the stage. The king orders
that Segismundo be returned to his prison and made to believe that all that has
occurred was only a dream.

Alone with Estrella, Astolfo declares his love, but she scoffs at him
and demands that he speak of love not to her but to the woman whose portrait he
has been wearing. He promises to replace that portrait with Estrella’s and goes
to bring her Rosaura’s portrait. Estrella then catches sight of Rosaura, who
has entered during their conversation. Unaware that Astolfo’s portrait is of
Rosaura, she asks Rosaura to take it from Astolfo when he returns, because it
would embarrass Estrella to do so herself.

When Astolfo returns with the portrait, expecting to find Estrella, he
is shocked to find Rosaura instead. She says that she is not Rosaura but
Astrea, Estrella’s serving woman. He insists that she is Rosaura; denying it
again, she explains that Estrella has asked her to take the portrait from him.
He refuses to give it to her; she attempts to seize it, and they struggle.
Estrella enters, astonished at the sight of them. Rosaura explains that as she
waited for Astolfo, she remembered that she had a picture of herself and took
it out to look at. Astolfo, upon seeing her, took the picture from her.
Estrella sees the picture of Rosaura and gives it to her, believing the story
that it is hers. Rosaura leaves, and Estrella demands the “other”
portrait from Astolfo. There being no other portrait, he has none to give and
cannot admit that the portrait of Rosaura was the one in his possession, for
that would be admitting that he had dishonored her. Disgusted by him, Estrella
says that she wants neither the portrait nor ever to see him again. She leaves,
and he trails after, begging her to let him explain.

Act 2, Scene 2

Drugged, Segismundo is returned to his prison, accompanied by Clotaldo,
his tutor/jailer, and by Clarin, who is imprisoned because he talks too much.
Segismundo wakes, as astonished to be back in prison as he was to be a prince.
Clotaldo explains he has been dreaming, but Segismundo has trouble believing
it. Since his experience at court seemed so real, perhaps he might have been
awake then and be dreaming now, he thinks. When Clotaldo questions him about
his life at court, Segismundo recalls its glories and his own violent behavior,
including his attempts to kill Clotaldo. Clotaldo reminds Segismundo that he
has cared for him as his tutor and advises him that even in dreams one ought to
do good. Left alone, Segismundo realizes that what Clotaldo has said is true
and promises himself to restrain his fierceness and fury because—since he can
never be sure when he is dreaming and when he is not—perhaps everything is a
dream and life is an illusion in which we are not what we are but only what we
dream we are.

Act 3, Scene 1

Clarin’s reverie about what life is like in prison is interrupted by a
mob, shouting that they have come to free Segismundo. They do not want to be
ruled by Astolfo, a foreigner. They mistake Clarin for Segismundo, however.
Segismundo enters, declares himself, and finds that he is at the head of a
force that will fight to make him king. He is reluctant to believe that what is
happening is real, remembering that the last time he was endowed with kingship,
it was a dream. He maintains that the people freeing him are only shadows. The
mob persists. A soldier argues that dreams are omens and that Segismundo’s
earlier dream was an omen of the reality that now appears to him. Segismundo
accepts the role they impose on him, even if it is illusory; he is prepared to
be disillusioned.

That Segismundo’s realization that everything is illusory has tempered
his spirit is clear when Clotaldo enters. He expects to be murdered and throws
himself at Segismundo’s feet, ready to die. Segismundo tells him to rise. He
acknowledges that Clotaldo has been his teacher; that he needs Clotaldo’s
guidance; and that even if he is dreaming, he wishes to do good deeds. Clotaldo
explains that he cannot side with him against Basilio. Segismundo flies into a
momentary rage but catches himself, particularly because he is not even sure he
is awake. He praises Clotaldo’s courage and allows him to go to the king.
Whether he is awake or asleep, Segismundo says, does not matter. All that
matters is to act well and do good deeds.

Act 3, Scene 2

There is tumult and bloodshed as the people battle, some supporting
Segismundo and others Astolfo. Basilio himself rides into battle to defend his
crown against Segismundo. Rosaura complains to Clotaldo that although Astolfo
has seen her, he still woos Estrella. She wants Clotaldo to kill Astolfo.
Clotaldo explains that because Astolfo saved his life when Segismundo tried to
kill him, he is in Astolfo’s debt; to kill him would show an unbecoming lack of
gratitude. He says that, instead, he will give Rosaura his fortune but that she
must enter a convent. Rosaura refuses and declares that she will kill Astolfo
herself to avenge her honor. At that point, Clotaldo agrees to help her.

Act 3, Scene 3

Leading his troops, Segismundo declares that the less he cares for
victory, the less it will grieve him when he wakes to find his triumph has been
only in a dream. Armed, Rosaura implores his assistance in her cause against
Astolfo, recounting the story of her mother’s seduction and betrayal by a man
whose identity she does not know (but whom the audience knows is Clotaldo) and
of her own similar seduction and betrayal by Astolfo. She speaks of the other
times that she and Segismundo have seen each other—in the tower, where he was
imprisoned, and at court, where he had princely power. That she has known him
in both these states adds to his confusion about which was a dream and which a
waking state, or if both are the same.

Whether waking or dreaming, Segismundo understands that Rosaura is in
his power and that he may satisfy his lust. This momentary urge is overcome by
his reflection that if he is dreaming, abandoning the way of goodness will gain
him little lasting pleasure. If he is not dreaming and really awake, the case
is similar, for life is like a dream from which one wakes in death, and there
is little satisfaction gained from an evil action, which is as short-lived as
an action in a dream and will have eternal consequences. Segismundo therefore
steels himself against his lust for Rosaura and proceeds to do battle against
Astolfo.

Clarin, though he is hiding, is killed in the crossfire of battle.
Segismundo’s forces are victorious. Basilio, urged to flee by Astolfo and
Clotaldo, does not. He is resigned to the death he expects at the hands of
Segismundo. But Segismundo lets his father live, renounces his own passion for
Rosaura, and gives her to Astolfo to marry, thereby restoring her honor. He
takes Estrella as his wife and becomes the king, virtuous and merciful, because
he is aware that life is a dream and dreams are illusions that end.

 

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Hannah’s Research Life’s a Dream no 2

Life Is a Dream: Introduction

La vida es sueño (Life Is a Dream), probably
first performed in 1635 and published in 1636 in Madrid, is the best-known work
in a large body of secular and religious plays by Pedro Calderón de la Barca,
one of Spain’s greatest dramatists, and, after Lope de Vega (1562–1635), the
foremost playwright of Spain’s Golden Age, a period between 1580 and 1680 when
Spanish literature and painting reached their zenith. As the title suggests, in
Life Is a Dream, Calderón plays with the problem of distinguishing
between illusion and reality. Set in a mythical version of the kingdom of
Poland, Life Is a Dream tells the story of King Basilio, who imprisons
his son, Segismundo, at birth, because his astrological studies have given him
reason to fear that the boy will grow up to be a tyrant and a rebel against his
authority. Inside this fable, Calderón considers the power of the contrasting
forces of free will and determinism to shape human character and destiny. In
the subplot, in which Rosaura seeks to find Astolfo, who has dishonored her,
Calderón examines the problems of honor and vengeance.
Pedro Caldern de la Barca © Bettmann/Corbis. Reproduced by permission

Life Is a Dream shows the influence of Lope
de Vega, representing a form he perfected, the comedia, a three-act play
written in verse, which mixes comic and serious elements in a complex plot full
of mystery and derring-do. Its cast of characters was also well established—the
old man, the young man, the young lady, the maid, and the clown. Rather than
exerting influence on future drama, Life Is a Dream embodies the
culmination of a tradition. Spanish drama itself shows a serious decline after
the end of the seventeenth century.

In the original Spanish, Life Is a Dream is a verse play. In
translations attempting to be true to the original verse form, the qualities
that add to the play’s appeal—its lyricism, poetic invention, and linguistic
beauty—can make the play seem stilted and more difficult and less engaging than
it is. Edward and Elizabeth Huberman, in 1963, fashioned a prose translation of
La vida es sueño that, while it does not sacrifice the beauty, wit,
drama, imagery, or philosophical playfulness of the original, flows with ease
and is natural and engaging. It is available in Spanish Drama, edited by
Angel Flores and published by Bantam Books.

 

Life Is a Dream Summary

Act 1, Scene 1

A figure dressed as a man enters. When the man speaks, the audience
realizes that it is a woman. Transported from her home in Muscovy by a flying
horse, Rosaura has been set down in the mountains of Poland, accompanied by the
talkative Clarin. Without naming the cause of her grief, Rosaura complains of
her unhappiness. She and Clarin stumble upon a tower and hear within the rattle
of chains and then a human voice. It is Segismundo, clothed in animal skins,
lamenting his wretched state.

Enraged that he has been overheard in his moment of weakness, Segismundo
threatens to kill Rosaura and Clarin. Rosaura begs him for mercy. Her voice
enchants him; he cannot take his eyes off her. Not knowing that she is a woman,
he is, nevertheless, fascinated by her. Wretched as she thought she was, seeing
Segismundo makes Rosaura realize how much worse it is for him. She asks if
there is anything she can do to help him, but the jailer Clotaldo and the
guards rush in and seize her and Clarin.

Segismundo struggles vainly to free himself from his chains in order to
save them from the death that is the punishment for anyone who sees him.
Rosaura and Clarin are blindfolded and their weapons confiscated. Rosaura tells
Clotaldo to guard her sword, since it is a key to great mysteries, though she
does not know what they are. She was given the sword by a woman and instructed
to go to Poland to revenge an injury done to her (Rosaura). An unidentified
person in Poland, she was told, would recognize the sword and protect her.
Clotaldo recognizes the sword. He had given it to Violante, Rosaura’s mother,
whom he had seduced but not married. Violante gave the sword to Rosaura, and it
signifies to Clotaldo that Rosaura is his child—his son, he thinks.

Resolving the conflict between love for his “son” and duty to
his king, Clotaldo decides to take his prisoners to the king and perhaps win
pardon for his “son”; if the pardon is granted, Clotaldo might then
be able to help his “son” avenge the wrong done him. But Clotaldo
does not reveal himself to Rosaura. Should his effort fail, his “son”
will die—not knowing that it will be through the agency of his own father.

Act 1, Scene 2

Cousins contending for the throne of Poland, Astolfo, with his soldiers,
and Estrella, with her ladies, confront each other. Rather than battle, Astolfo
proposes that they join together in love and jointly rule Poland. Estrella is
wary of his declaration of love, because he wears the portrait of another woman
on a chain around his neck. Their exchange is cut short by the entrance of
Basilio, king of Poland, and his entourage.

Addressing the court, Basilio explains his plan for the succession,
revealing a history that had been unknown to the court and which solves some of
the mysteries of the first scene. Learned in mathematics, Basilio cast the
horoscope of his son, Segismundo, while the child was still in his mother’s
womb. In it, Basilio saw that Segismundo would overthrow him and become a
tyrannical ruler. To defeat destiny, Basilio declared that Segismundo died at
birth, along with his mother, and then secretly locked the infant in a tower.
He made Clotaldo his tutor and jailer and decreed death to anyone who entered the
tower and discovered the secret.

Before he surrenders his crown to Astolfo and Estrella, however, Basilio
informs the court that he has planned an experiment to see whether Segismundo
can overcome his destiny. Segismundo will be drugged, brought from prison to
the court, attired and treated like a prince, and told his true history and the
reason for his imprisonment. Basilio hopes that armed with this warning,
Segismundo will become a good ruler. If he shows himself to be virtuous, he
will be made king. Astolfo and Estrella agree to renounce their claims in that
case. Should Segismundo show himself to be cruel and tyrannical, however, he
will be drugged again, returned to the tower prison, and told that his
experience at the court was merely a dream. Astolfo and Estrella will rule
Poland.

After the court withdraws and Basilio is left alone, Clotaldo enters
with Rosaura and Clarin. Because Basilio has revealed the story of Segismundo,
Rosaura will not be punished for having seen him. There is still, however, her
dishonor to avenge. Clotaldo returns her sword, and she tells him that Astolfo
is the enemy she seeks. Clotaldo again is burdened by divided loyalties.
Astolfo is his lord. He tells Rosaura…

 

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Hannah’s Research Life’s a Dream no 3

Life Is a Dream: Plot Summary

// // Act 1, Scene 1

A figure dressed as a man enters. When the man speaks, the audience
realizes that it is a woman. Transported from her home in Muscovy by a flying
horse, Rosaura has been set down in the mountains of Poland, accompanied by the
talkative Clarin. Without naming the cause of her grief, Rosaura complains of
her unhappiness. She and Clarin stumble upon a tower and hear within the rattle
of chains and then a human voice. It is Segismundo, clothed in animal skins, lamenting
his wretched state.

Enraged that he has been overheard in his moment of weakness, Segismundo
threatens to kill Rosaura and Clarin. Rosaura begs him for mercy. Her voice
enchants him; he cannot take his eyes off her. Not knowing that she is a woman,
he is, nevertheless, fascinated by her. Wretched as she thought she was, seeing
Segismundo makes Rosaura realize how much worse it is for him. She asks if
there is anything she can do to help him, but the jailer Clotaldo and the
guards rush in and seize her and Clarin.

Segismundo struggles vainly to free himself from his chains in order to
save them from the death that is the punishment for anyone who sees him.
Rosaura and Clarin are blindfolded and their weapons confiscated. Rosaura tells
Clotaldo to guard her sword, since it is a key to great mysteries, though she
does not know what they are. She was given the sword by a woman and instructed
to go to Poland to revenge an injury done to her (Rosaura). An unidentified
person in Poland, she was told, would recognize the sword and protect her.
Clotaldo recognizes the sword. He had given it to Violante, Rosaura’s mother,
whom he had seduced but not married. Violante gave the sword to Rosaura, and it
signifies to Clotaldo that Rosaura is his child—his son, he thinks.

Resolving the conflict between love for his “son” and duty to
his king, Clotaldo decides to take his prisoners to the king and perhaps win
pardon for his “son”; if the pardon is granted, Clotaldo might then
be able to help his “son” avenge the wrong done him. But Clotaldo
does not reveal himself to Rosaura. Should his effort fail, his “son”
will die—not knowing that it will be through the agency of his own father.

Act 1, Scene 2

Cousins contending for the throne of Poland, Astolfo, with his soldiers,
and Estrella, with her ladies, confront each other. Rather than battle, Astolfo
proposes that they join together in love and jointly rule Poland. Estrella is
wary of his declaration of love, because he wears the portrait of another woman
on a chain around his neck. Their exchange is cut short by the entrance of
Basilio, king of Poland, and his entourage.

Addressing the court, Basilio explains his plan for the succession,
revealing a history that had been unknown to the court and which solves some of
the mysteries of the first scene. Learned in mathematics, Basilio cast the
horoscope of his son, Segismundo, while the child was still in his mother’s
womb. In it, Basilio saw that Segismundo would overthrow him and become a
tyrannical ruler. To defeat destiny, Basilio declared that Segismundo died at
birth, along with his mother, and then secretly locked the infant in a tower.
He made Clotaldo his tutor and jailer and decreed death to anyone who entered
the tower and discovered the secret.

Before he surrenders his crown to Astolfo and Estrella, however, Basilio
informs the court that he has planned an experiment to see whether Segismundo
can overcome his destiny. Segismundo will be drugged, brought from prison to
the court, attired and treated like a prince, and told his true history and the
reason for his imprisonment. Basilio hopes that armed with this warning,
Segismundo will become a good ruler. If he shows himself to be virtuous, he
will be made king. Astolfo and Estrella agree to renounce their claims in that
case. Should Segismundo show himself to be cruel and tyrannical, however, he
will be drugged again, returned to the tower prison, and told that his
experience at the court was merely a dream. Astolfo and Estrella will rule
Poland.

After the court withdraws and Basilio is left alone, Clotaldo enters
with Rosaura and Clarin. Because Basilio has revealed the story of Segismundo,
Rosaura will not be punished for having seen him. There is still, however, her
dishonor to avenge. Clotaldo returns her sword, and she tells him that Astolfo
is the enemy she seeks. Clotaldo again is burdened by divided loyalties.
Astolfo is his lord. He tells Rosaura that since Astolfo is the duke of Muscovy
and Rosaura is his subject, Astolfo cannot have dishonored “him” (Rosaura)
no matter what he did. Rosaura is then compelled to reveal that she is a woman
and that the dishonor was rape.

Act 2, Scene 1

Astonished by his transformation, Segismundo appears at court, dressed
like a prince. Clotaldo tells him who he is and of the dire prophecy about him,
hoping that the warning will correct him. Segismundo, however, responds in
rage, threatening to kill Clotaldo. Clotaldo exits; Astolfo enters and salutes
Segismundo, who returns his greeting with insults. Estrella enters. Segismundo
is captivated by her beauty and is rudely forward with her. When a servant
points out the faults in his behavior, Segismundo grabs the man and throws him
off a balcony. When Basilio learns that Segismundo has acted according to his
unhappy expectations, despite warning, he is grieved. Segismundo responds to
his reprimands with contempt, and Basilio leaves him angrily, advising him that
although he appears to be enjoying a position of power, he ought to take
heed—he may only be dreaming.

Segismundo does not heed him, however. When Rosaura, now dressed as a
woman and following in Estrella’s train, encounters him again, he demands she
surrender to him. She tries to leave; he orders the doors shut. As Segismundo
is about to force Rosaura to yield to him, Clotaldo attempts to save her.
Segismundo draws his dagger, and Clotaldo seizes it. They struggle. Rosaura
exits, crying for help; Astolfo runs in and comes between Segismundo and
Clotaldo. Astolfo demands that Segismundo return his dagger to its sheath, but
Segismundo refuses. Astolfo draws his sword, and the two duel. Basilio enters,
and, following the code of chivalry, they both sheath their swords in front of
the king. Basilio demands an explanation. Segismundo boasts that he has tried
to kill Clotaldo and that he may be moved to kill Basilio himself in revenge
for having been imprisoned. So saying, he leaves the stage. The king orders
that Segismundo be returned to his prison and made to believe that all that has
occurred was only a dream.

Alone with Estrella, Astolfo declares his love, but she scoffs at him
and demands that he speak of love not to her but to the woman whose portrait he
has been wearing. He promises to replace that portrait with Estrella’s and goes
to bring her Rosaura’s portrait. Estrella then catches sight of Rosaura, who
has entered during their conversation. Unaware that Astolfo’s portrait is of
Rosaura, she asks Rosaura to take it from Astolfo when he returns, because it
would embarrass Estrella to do so herself.

When Astolfo returns with the portrait, expecting to find Estrella, he
is shocked to find Rosaura instead. She says that she is not Rosaura but
Astrea, Estrella’s serving woman. He insists that she is Rosaura; denying it
again, she explains that Estrella has asked her to take the portrait from him.
He refuses to give it to her; she attempts to seize it, and they struggle.
Estrella enters, astonished at the sight of them. Rosaura explains that as she
waited for Astolfo, she remembered that she had a picture of herself and took
it out to look at. Astolfo, upon seeing her, took the picture from her.
Estrella sees the picture of Rosaura and gives it to her, believing the story
that it is hers. Rosaura leaves, and Estrella demands the “other”
portrait from Astolfo. There being no other portrait, he has none to give and
cannot admit that the portrait of Rosaura was the one in his possession, for
that would be admitting that he had dishonored her. Disgusted by him, Estrella
says that she wants neither the portrait nor ever to see him again. She leaves,
and he trails after, begging her to let him explain.

Act 2, Scene 2

Drugged, Segismundo is returned to his prison, accompanied by Clotaldo,
his tutor/jailer, and by Clarin, who is imprisoned because he talks too much.
Segismundo wakes, as astonished to be back in prison as he was to be a prince.
Clotaldo explains he has been dreaming, but Segismundo has trouble believing
it. Since his experience at court seemed so real, perhaps he might have been
awake then and be dreaming now, he thinks. When Clotaldo questions him about
his life at court, Segismundo recalls its glories and his own violent behavior,
including his attempts to kill Clotaldo. Clotaldo reminds Segismundo that he
has cared for him as his tutor and advises him that even in dreams one ought to
do good. Left alone, Segismundo realizes that what Clotaldo has said is true
and promises himself to restrain his fierceness and fury because—since he can
never be sure when he is dreaming and when he is not—perhaps everything is a
dream and life is an illusion in which we are not what we are but only what we
dream we are.

Act 3, Scene 1

Clarin’s reverie about what life is like in prison is interrupted by a
mob, shouting that they have come to free Segismundo. They do not want to be
ruled by Astolfo, a foreigner. They mistake Clarin for Segismundo, however.
Segismundo enters, declares himself, and finds that he is at the head of a
force that will fight to make him king. He is reluctant to believe that what is
happening is real, remembering that the last time he was endowed with kingship,
it was a dream. He maintains that the people freeing him are only shadows. The
mob persists. A soldier argues that dreams are omens and that Segismundo’s
earlier dream was an omen of the reality that now appears to him. Segismundo
accepts the role they impose on him, even if it is illusory; he is prepared to
be disillusioned.

That Segismundo’s realization that everything is illusory has tempered
his spirit is clear when Clotaldo enters. He expects to be murdered and throws
himself at Segismundo’s feet, ready to die. Segismundo tells him to rise. He
acknowledges that Clotaldo has been his teacher; that he needs Clotaldo’s
guidance; and that even if he is dreaming, he wishes to do good deeds. Clotaldo
explains that he cannot side with him against Basilio. Segismundo flies into a
momentary rage but catches himself, particularly because he is not even sure he
is awake. He praises Clotaldo’s courage and allows him to go to the king.
Whether he is awake or asleep, Segismundo says, does not matter. All that
matters is to act well and do good deeds.

Act 3, Scene 2

There is tumult and bloodshed as the people battle, some supporting
Segismundo and others Astolfo. Basilio himself rides into battle to defend his
crown against Segismundo. Rosaura complains to Clotaldo that although Astolfo
has seen her, he still woos Estrella. She wants Clotaldo to kill Astolfo.
Clotaldo explains that because Astolfo saved his life when Segismundo tried to
kill him, he is in Astolfo’s debt; to kill him would show an unbecoming lack of
gratitude. He says that, instead, he will give Rosaura his fortune but that she
must enter a convent. Rosaura refuses and declares that she will kill Astolfo
herself to avenge her honor. At that point, Clotaldo agrees to help her.

Act 3, Scene 3

Leading his troops, Segismundo declares that the less he cares for
victory, the less it will grieve him when he wakes to find his triumph has been
only in a dream. Armed, Rosaura implores his assistance in her cause against
Astolfo, recounting the story of her mother’s seduction and betrayal by a man
whose identity she does not know (but whom the audience knows is Clotaldo) and
of her own similar seduction and betrayal by Astolfo. She speaks of the other
times that she and Segismundo have seen each other—in the tower, where he was
imprisoned, and at court, where he had princely power. That she has known him
in both these states adds to his confusion about which was a dream and which a
waking state, or if both are the same.

Whether waking or dreaming, Segismundo understands that Rosaura is in
his power and that he may satisfy his lust. This momentary urge is overcome by
his reflection that if he is dreaming, abandoning the way of goodness will gain
him little lasting pleasure. If he is not dreaming and really awake, the case
is similar, for life is like a dream from which one wakes in death, and there
is little satisfaction gained from an evil action, which is as short-lived as
an action in a dream and will have eternal consequences. Segismundo therefore
steels himself against his lust for Rosaura and proceeds to do battle against
Astolfo.

Clarin, though he is hiding, is killed in the crossfire of battle.
Segismundo’s forces are victorious. Basilio, urged to flee by Astolfo and
Clotaldo, does not. He is resigned to the death he expects at the hands of
Segismundo. But Segismundo lets his father live, renounces his own passion for
Rosaura, and gives her to Astolfo to marry, thereby restoring her honor. He
takes Estrella as his wife and becomes the king, virtuous and merciful, because
he is aware that life is a dream and dreams are illusions that end.

 

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Hannah’s Research on Life’s a Dream

Life Is a Dream: Introduction

La vida es sueño (Life Is a Dream), probably
first performed in 1635 and published in 1636 in Madrid, is the best-known work
in a large body of secular and religious plays by Pedro Calderón de la Barca,
one of Spain’s greatest dramatists, and, after Lope de Vega (1562–1635), the
foremost playwright of Spain’s Golden Age, a period between 1580 and 1680 when
Spanish literature and painting reached their zenith. As the title suggests, in
Life Is a Dream, Calderón plays with the problem of distinguishing
between illusion and reality. Set in a mythical version of the kingdom of
Poland, Life Is a Dream tells the story of King Basilio, who imprisons
his son, Segismundo, at birth, because his astrological studies have given him
reason to fear that the boy will grow up to be a tyrant and a rebel against his
authority. Inside this fable, Calderón considers the power of the contrasting
forces of free will and determinism to shape human character and destiny. In
the subplot, in which Rosaura seeks to find Astolfo, who has dishonored her,
Calderón examines the problems of honor and vengeance.
Pedro Caldern de la Barca © Bettmann/Corbis. Reproduced by permission

Life Is a Dream shows the influence of Lope
de Vega, representing a form he perfected, the comedia, a three-act play
written in verse, which mixes comic and serious elements in a complex plot full
of mystery and derring-do. Its cast of characters was also well established—the
old man, the young man, the young lady, the maid, and the clown. Rather than
exerting influence on future drama, Life Is a Dream embodies the
culmination of a tradition. Spanish drama itself shows a serious decline after
the end of the seventeenth century.

In the original Spanish, Life Is a Dream is a verse play. In
translations attempting to be true to the original verse form, the qualities
that add to the play’s appeal—its lyricism, poetic invention, and linguistic
beauty—can make the play seem stilted and more difficult and less engaging than
it is. Edward and Elizabeth Huberman, in 1963, fashioned a prose translation of
La vida es sueño that, while it does not sacrifice the beauty, wit,
drama, imagery, or philosophical playfulness of the original, flows with ease
and is natural and engaging. It is available in Spanish Drama, edited by
Angel Flores and published by Bantam Books.

 

Life Is a Dream Summary

Act 1, Scene 1

A figure dressed as a man enters. When the man speaks, the audience
realizes that it is a woman. Transported from her home in Muscovy by a flying
horse, Rosaura has been set down in the mountains of Poland, accompanied by the
talkative Clarin. Without naming the cause of her grief, Rosaura complains of
her unhappiness. She and Clarin stumble upon a tower and hear within the rattle
of chains and then a human voice. It is Segismundo, clothed in animal skins,
lamenting his wretched state.

Enraged that he has been overheard in his moment of weakness, Segismundo
threatens to kill Rosaura and Clarin. Rosaura begs him for mercy. Her voice
enchants him; he cannot take his eyes off her. Not knowing that she is a woman,
he is, nevertheless, fascinated by her. Wretched as she thought she was, seeing
Segismundo makes Rosaura realize how much worse it is for him. She asks if
there is anything she can do to help him, but the jailer Clotaldo and the
guards rush in and seize her and Clarin.

Segismundo struggles vainly to free himself from his chains in order to
save them from the death that is the punishment for anyone who sees him.
Rosaura and Clarin are blindfolded and their weapons confiscated. Rosaura tells
Clotaldo to guard her sword, since it is a key to great mysteries, though she
does not know what they are. She was given the sword by a woman and instructed
to go to Poland to revenge an injury done to her (Rosaura). An unidentified
person in Poland, she was told, would recognize the sword and protect her.
Clotaldo recognizes the sword. He had given it to Violante, Rosaura’s mother,
whom he had seduced but not married. Violante gave the sword to Rosaura, and it
signifies to Clotaldo that Rosaura is his child—his son, he thinks.

Resolving the conflict between love for his “son” and duty to
his king, Clotaldo decides to take his prisoners to the king and perhaps win
pardon for his “son”; if the pardon is granted, Clotaldo might then
be able to help his “son” avenge the wrong done him. But Clotaldo
does not reveal himself to Rosaura. Should his effort fail, his “son”
will die—not knowing that it will be through the agency of his own father.

Act 1, Scene 2

Cousins contending for the throne of Poland, Astolfo, with his soldiers,
and Estrella, with her ladies, confront each other. Rather than battle, Astolfo
proposes that they join together in love and jointly rule Poland. Estrella is
wary of his declaration of love, because he wears the portrait of another woman
on a chain around his neck. Their exchange is cut short by the entrance of
Basilio, king of Poland, and his entourage.

Addressing the court, Basilio explains his plan for the succession,
revealing a history that had been unknown to the court and which solves some of
the mysteries of the first scene. Learned in mathematics, Basilio cast the
horoscope of his son, Segismundo, while the child was still in his mother’s
womb. In it, Basilio saw that Segismundo would overthrow him and become a
tyrannical ruler. To defeat destiny, Basilio declared that Segismundo died at
birth, along with his mother, and then secretly locked the infant in a tower.
He made Clotaldo his tutor and jailer and decreed death to anyone who entered the
tower and discovered the secret.

Before he surrenders his crown to Astolfo and Estrella, however, Basilio
informs the court that he has planned an experiment to see whether Segismundo
can overcome his destiny. Segismundo will be drugged, brought from prison to
the court, attired and treated like a prince, and told his true history and the
reason for his imprisonment. Basilio hopes that armed with this warning,
Segismundo will become a good ruler. If he shows himself to be virtuous, he
will be made king. Astolfo and Estrella agree to renounce their claims in that
case. Should Segismundo show himself to be cruel and tyrannical, however, he
will be drugged again, returned to the tower prison, and told that his
experience at the court was merely a dream. Astolfo and Estrella will rule
Poland.

After the court withdraws and Basilio is left alone, Clotaldo enters
with Rosaura and Clarin. Because Basilio has revealed the story of Segismundo,
Rosaura will not be punished for having seen him. There is still, however, her
dishonor to avenge. Clotaldo returns her sword, and she tells him that Astolfo
is the enemy she seeks. Clotaldo again is burdened by divided loyalties.
Astolfo is his lord. He tells Rosaura…

 

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Hannah’s Research on Life’s a Dream

Life
is a Dream

From
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

This article is about Pedro Calderon De La Barca’s play. For Lewis
Spratlan’s opera, see Life is a Dream
(opera)
.

Life is a Dream (Spanish: La vida es
sueño
) is a Spanish language
play by Pedro Calderón de
la Barca
. First published in 1635 (or possibly early in 1636),[1] it is a philosophical allegory
regarding the human situation and the mystery of life.[2] Focusing on Segismundo, Prince of Poland, the central
argument is the conflict between free will and fate.
The play remains one of de la Barca’s best-known and most studied works.
Life is a Dream. Bronze relief, detail of the monument to Calderón
in Madrid (J.
Figueras
, 1878).

Contents

[hide]

[edit]
Characters

  • Basilio,
    King of Poland
  • Segismundo,
    his Son, prince of Poland
  • Clotaldo,
    a Nobleman (Rosaura’s father)
  • Astolfo,
    Duke of Muscovy
    (nephew of Basilio)
  • Estrella,
    a Princess (niece of Basilio)
  • Rosaura,
    a Lady
  • Clarion,
    her Servant (gracioso)
  • Violante,
    Rosaura’s mother
  • Soldiers
  • Guards
  • Musicians
  • Attendants
  • Servants

[edit]
Synopsis

In the play, the king of Poland has
had his son Segismundo imprisoned all of his life because it has been prophesied that the son will bring disaster to the country.
The king tells his subjects that his son died after childbirth. After his son
has grown to be a man, the king reveals to his court
that his son lives, and allows the court to vote in favor of allowing the son
to become heir. However, the son turns out to be violent,
killing a man and attempting rape. For this he is drugged and
returned to his prison, and told upon waking that the previous day’s events
were merely a dream. Still, his jailer scolds him for his un-princely behaviour, which prompts
remorse in Segismundo. Rebels who are working against the king, who have found
out about the treatment of Segismundo, break him out of prison. The rebels
defeat the king’s army; however, Segismundo doubts again if he is
in reality or a dream, finally deciding that even in a dream we have to behave
well because “God is God” and forgives the king . The play ends in a wedding.

[edit] Plot

[edit]
Act 1, Day One

Rosaura, disguised as a man and
accompanied by her squire, Clarín, is heading for the royal court of Poland to
take vengeance on Astolfo, who had promised to marry her, but abandoned her.
She carries a sword that belonged to her father, whom she had never met. Upon
arriving in Poland, at nightfall, she falls from her horse, which runs away,
leaving her to trek down the mountain on foot. She glimpses a light in the
distance and follows it to a tower, where Segismundo has been imprisoned since
birth. At this point, Segismundo delivers his famous monologue, “Ay! Misero de mi, ay, infelice,”
expressing his unhappiness. He asks why he has been deprived of liberty all his
life, when birds, beasts, fish, and even streams are free.

Clotaldo, Segismundo’s jailer, discovers Rosaura and Clarín, and detains
them to bring them before the king since nobody can know about the existence of
Segismundo. Clotaldo recognizes Rosaura’s sword as his own, and struggles with
fulfilling his duty to the king and saving his son, but does not disclose his
dilemma to Rosaura.

Astolfo proposes to Estrella. He wants to marry her since they are both
children of the king’s sisters. And since the king has no children, the two of
them united would be the clear choice for the heir.

The king, Basilio, announces to his court that he does have a son who
was supposed to be a wicked ruler, so he had locked him away, but that he wants
to give him a chance to clear his conscience. He says if this does not work, he
will lock his son away again and give the throne to the children of his sisters
since they have decided to wed to unify their power.

Clotaldo brings the charges of Rosaura and Clarín before Basilio, who
pardons them since he has already decided to reveal the secret of Segismundo.

Rosaura reveals to Clotaldo that Astolfo is the one she has come to
kill. Clotaldo is torn again between helping her and his loyalty to his
country.

[edit]
Act 2, Day Two

In the second day, we know why Segismundo is imprisoned in a dungeon
since birth: an oracle predicted that he would be a cruel king, so his father,
Basilio, enclosed him. Basilio has devised a trap to discover whether Sigismund
is really cruel: he is drugged, taken into the palace, and presented with his
rightful position, reserving the possibility of making him believe that
everything is a dream lest he behave unjustly.

Rosaura is safe, and enters as an attendant of Estrella.

Segismundo acts like a tyrant prince, throwing a servant from the window
shortly after waking up, attempting to rape Rosaura, hurting Clotaldo when he
comes to help his daughter, and involving himself in a sword fight with
Astolfo. In light of his behavior, the king decides to drug him again and take
him back to the tower.

Astolfo courts Estrella, since with their union they would share the
succession to the throne instead of competing for it once Segismundo is out of
the picture. Astolfo recognizes Rosaura (who is going by the name Astrea), and
they break off for good.

The day finishes with Segismundo, once again in the tower, asking
himself if it could all have been a dream, and closes with the famous verses
that give name to the play:

I dream that I am here

of these imprisonments charged,

and I dreamed that in another
state

happier I saw myself.

What is life? A frenzy.

What is life? An illusion,

A shadow, a fiction,

And the greatest profit is
small;

For all of life is a dream,

And dreams, are nothing but
dreams.

Yo sueño que estoy aquí

de estas prisiones cargado,

y soñé que en otro estado

más lisonjero me vi.

¿Qué es la vida? Un frenesí.

¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión,

una sombra, una ficción,

y el mayor bien es pequeño:

que toda la vida es sueño,

y los sueños, sueños son.

[edit]
Act 3, Day Three

The people of Poland, at finding out that they have a prince, organize a
revolt and liberate Segismundo from his tower (after first mistaking Clarion
for the prince). Segismundo frees Clotaldo, allowing him to go with the king,
and displaying that he has returned to his senses.

Rosaura wants to kill Astolfo, and tells her reasons to her father
first, and then to Segismundo.

The king’s troops and the prince’s troops meet, and Segismundo wins. The
two encounter each other face to face, and the king throws himself at
Segismundo’s feet, allowing the prophecy to be fulfilled, but instead of
killing him Segismundo forgives him. In light of the generous attitude of the
prince, the king grants him the throne.

As king, Segismundo decides that Astolfo must keep his promise to marry
Rosaura to preserve her honor. At first Astolfo is hesitant because she is not
of noble origin, but Clotaldo then publicly reveals that she is his daughter,
so Astolfo consents. Segismundo then promises to marry Estrella himself.

[edit] Analysis of Segismundo’s soliloquy

Life is a Dream is one of Calderón’s most
well known and well studied works. This interest not only hails from the play’s
complex philosophy, but also from its notable dramatic structure. However, ever
since Marcelino Menéndez
y Pelayo
’s 1910 classification of Life is a Dream as a
philosophical drama, criticism has largely dwelled on the existential issues of the work, often at the cost
of paying specific attention to its formal dramatic characteristics.[citation needed]

A few central ideas constitute the major philosophical themes of the
play: the opposition between destiny and liberty, the topic of life as a dream,
and the theme of free will. These central themes overshadow other themes
present, like the education of princes, the model ruler, power, and justice.

Focusing on Segismundo’s line, “Y los sueños, sueños son,” a
more accurate English translation, better representing Calderon’s poetic and
philosophical intent, may be given as: “And dreams themselves are merely
the dreams of dreams,” implying and underscoring the ephemeral nature of
human life and physical existence.

[edit]
The Rosaura Subplot

The Rosaura subplot has been subjected to much criticism in the past as
not belonging to the work. Menéndez y Pelayo saw it as a strange and exotic
plot, like a parasitical vine. [3] Rosaura has also been dismissed as the
simple stock character of the jilted woman. With the British School of
Calderonistas, this attitude changed. A. E. Sloman explained how the main and
secondary actions are linked [4]. Others like E. M. Wilson and William
M. Whitby consider Rosaura to be central to the work since she parallels
Segismundo’s actions and also serves as Segismundo’s guide, leading him to a
final conversion.[5][6] For some Rosaura must be studied as
part of a Platonic ascent on the part of the Prince. Others compare her first
appearance, falling from a horse/hippogryph to the plot of Ariosto‘s Orlando furioso where Astolpho (the name of
the character who deceives Rosaura in our play), also rides the hippogryph and
witnesses a prophecy of the return of the mythical Golden Age. For Frederick de Armas,
Rosaura hides a mythological mystery already utilized by Ariosto. When she goes
to Court, she takes on the name of Astraea, the goddess of chastity and justice.
Astraea was the last of the immortals to leave earth with the decline of the
ages. Her return signals the return of a Golden Age. Many writers of the
Renaissance and early modern periods used the figure of Astraea to praise the
rulers of their times. It is possible that Rosaura (an anagram for
“Dawns”) could represent the return of a Golden Age during the reign
of Segismundo, a figure that represents King Philip IV of Spain.[7]

[edit]
Analysis of the ending

There have been many different interpretations of the play’s ending,
where Segismundo condemns the rebel soldier who freed him to life imprisonment
in the tower. Some have suggested that this scene is ironic – that it raises
questions about whether Segismundo will in fact be a just king. Others have
pointed out that Calderón, who lived under the Spanish monarchy, could not have
left the rebel soldier unpunished, because this would be an affront to royal
authority.

It is worth considering that Segismundo’s transformation in the course
of the play is not simply a moral awakening, but a realization of his social
role as the heir to the throne, and this role requires him to act as kings act.
For some, the act of punishing the rebel soldier makes him a Machiavellian
prince. [8] Others argue that, while this action
may seem unjust, it is in keeping with his new social status as the king.
Daniel L. Heiple traces a long tradition of works where treason seems to be
rewarded, but the traitor or rebel is subsequently punished. [9]

It may well be that, rather than intending his audience to see this
action as purely right or wrong, Calderón purposefully made it ambiguous,
creating an interesting tension in the play that adds to its depth.

[edit]
Models and Themes

The conception of life as a dream is a very ancient one, found in
Hinduism and Platonism. It is found in writers from Lope de Vega to
Shakespeare.

Key elements from the play may be derived from the Christian legend of Barlaam and Josaphat,
which Lope de Vega had brought to the stage. This
legend itself a derivation of the story of the early years of Siddharta Gautama, which serves as the basis for
the film Little Buddha
that illustrates so the Hindu-Buddhist concept of
reality as illusion
.

Another religious concept is that of free will against predestination. Catholic Spain favored the Counter-reformation
that defined the human will as able to choose the good (in cooperation with
God’s grace), against the Calvinist conception of the total depravity of
the human will unless it is predestined by God to be renewed by grace.
Segismundo chooses pardon against the oracle.

Catholicism is melded with “pagan” astrology in this play, as Segismundo’s horoscope, as interpreted by Basilio, becomes the
cause of his incarceration. Calderón would have known of the malefic qualities
of Saturn, here associated with Basilio. He would have also known Lope de Vega’s
Lo que ha de ser (1624), a play that also includes the incarceration of
a child and the importance of astrology.

One of the major conflicts of the play is the opposition between father
and son, which may have biographical elements. [10] This conflict is also modeled on
classical mythology. It parallels the struggle of Uranus vs. Saturn or Saturn
vs. Jupiter. [11]

Many other motifs and themes derived from a number of traditions can be
found in this rich and complex drama: the labyrinth, the monster, the four elements,
notions of freedom vs. predestination, original sin, pride, disillusionment,
the Oedipus myth, etc. [12][13][14][15]

 

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