Biography of Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681)

Pedro Calderón de la Barca.

Poet and dramatist Spanish, born in Madrid on January 17, 1600, and died in his hometown in 1681. Continuation of the new art of making comedies released by Lope de Vega, in his theatre intensifies the lyrical component, is adensa moral and philosophical reflection, the religious dimension is enriched and deepens the psychological introspection of the characters, forging a dramatic corpus considered as the most profound and finish of the aureus Theatre as a whole.


Family accommodated and a native of the mountain (i.e. accredited noble ancestry), was the son of a Secretary of the Board and greater accounting of Treasury, which gave the family a social situation of certain importance and accommodation. The playwright was the third of the child of the marriage and received a careful education at the Colegio Imperial de Madrid, run by the society of Jesus in the building currently housing the Instituto de Bachillerato "San Isidro", between 1608 and 1613. Their status as third son was destined from the cradle to a Chaplaincy fundadada by his grandmother. Between 1614 and 1620 he studied, first, in Alcalá de Henares, and later at Salamanca, until obtaining the degree of Bachelor in canons. It is youth years where is associated to classical life disordered students, which continued from his return to Madrid, leaving aside an ecclesiastical career and entering the Court literary environments. He participated in the fair and events of those years, such as those of beatification and canonization of San Isidro in 1621 and 1622 respectively. This places all us in the wake of Lope de Vega, which was successor in the scene. In 1623 he premiered his first comedy, love, honour and power, which had no little success. During these years he became mired in lawsuits by his life of quarrels and game and because of the testament of his father, which forced the playwright and his brothers to plead with her stepmother and to sell the position of his father to pay you what you asked. Probably were these events which led him to enter the service of the Duke of Frías, which toured Flanders and Northern Italy between 1623 and 1625.

Upon his return, Calderon went on with his life before and started to get hits on the scene, at the time that began to overshadow the figure of Lope. The outbreak, in the company of others, at the sacred convent of the Trinity of Madrid, where the daughter of Lope, was in pursuit of a comedian, caused the enemy of Lope and Fary Hortensio Paravicino Félix. The taunt that the latter made Calderon in the constant Prince presents it quite far from the taciturn Calderon both liked to submit to criticism. In the same year of 1629 in which these events took place, he saw brand new La Dama Duende, his first big hit. The Decade of 1630 to 1640 was the most fruitful in it comes to the corrals of comedies. At the same time, he began to receive commissions for the Court theatres, both in the Golden Hall disappeared Alcazar and the newly opened Palacio del Buen Retiro, for whose primary function in 1634 wrote the new Palacio del Retiro. In El Retiro, the functions were carried out in a Coliseum built for this purpose - which had all the advances in scenic area, for which the Court had hired Cosme Lotti - Italian, but also stages mounted on boats in the pond of the gardens. Calderon collaborated with Lotti in all kinds of palatial shows, especially since, in 1635, was named director of such representations. In 1636 he was granted the habit of Santiago. They were the years of the Médico de su honra, daughter of air, etc. In 1636 appeared, in addition, the first part of his plays, collected in number of twelve, which will have successive parts in 1637-1664 and 1672-1677, year where he also appeared the first installment of its sacramental.

Calderon de la Barca:

As a Knight of Santiago, he participated in the relief of Fuenterrabia in 1638 and in the campaign of Catalonia in 1640, with respect to which tells the story, never proven, of that the King tried to prevent the possible loss of its playwright on the battlefield by the order that does not leave Madrid while not to deliver you a completed comedy. Calderon gave in a few days the contest titled of love and jealousy, which is represented in the Retiro pond. Wounded during the siege of Lerida, obtained the absolute license in 1642, which accompanied a life pension.

On his return, he entered the service of the Duke of Alba and continued dedicating himself to the theatre, although only the religious, given that theaters remained closed between 1644 and 1645 and, later, between 1646 and 1649 on the occasion of the mourning for the Queen Isabel de Borbón, first wife of Felipe IV and Prince Baltasar Carlos. In this environment occurred, moreover, the death of his brothers José (1645) and Diego (1647), and the birth of his only son, illegitimate. Moved by all this, enters the third order of San Francisco in 1650 and was ordered priest the following year, thus occupying the chaplaincy founded by his grandmother. In 1653 he was appointed Chaplain of the new Kings of Toledo. He devoted himself to the composition of cars that charge you the municipalities of Madrid and Toledo, and stopped writing for the pens, although he continued with the orders of the Court (which consisted of parts of mythological theme and spectacular Assembly, in which the music began to play a prominent role). They are the first operas and zarzuelas of Spanish, of which little has come to us, except some loose numbers. The term Zarzuela was coined for a mixed genre which is sung and is represented, but has nothing to see this courtly sight of mythological subject with the genre of popular character that, based on the same idea but with a plot base taken from the sainete or own lopesca comedy, will begin to generalize from the 18th in public theatres and aristocratic salons. Nothing more wrong, therefore, that the custom common to Calderon's the first of our whose, given that nothing but the mixture of singing and representation there in common between two otherwise completely different genres.

Despite being away from the pens, received criticism for its condition of priest playwright, which defended arguing the commissions that are importunaba you. In 1663 he was appointed Chaplain of honour of the King and in 1666, most of Carlos II chaplain. He continued writing until the year of his death. His últmia comedy, I Hado and divisa de Leonido and Marfisa, is represented in 1680, and your last sacramental self, the divine Philothea, saw light, completed by Melchor de León, in 1681, shortly after death of Calderon. After this, opens a period of decadence of our theatre which runs more than one century.


Without reaching the ends of the work of Lope, Calderón is also enormous: about one hundred and twenty comedies, more than 80 cars, and several short pieces. Despite a certain amount of poetic pieces, among which stands out the poem composed on the currency Psalle et Sillé-"sings and silent" – located in the choir of the Church of the new Kings of Toledo, his work is basically dramatic. The dramatic production of Calderon appears when the theatrical mechanism is already organized in Spain. Such a machine will serve for a genie opposite in almost everything to Lope, characterized by its gaze inward against the need to externalize Lope.

Since Menendez y Pelayo, his work comes by dividing in comedies and cars and within the first, a subdivision in comedies of coat and sword, tragic dramas, philosophical dramas and religious dramas. This classification, despite the problems which can make the distinction between "religious" and "philosophical" in some cases, has proved to be useful in establishing a taxonomy within the work of the playwright. However, several characteristics common to all his creation can be singled out: the concern of the moral responsibility of the male, the conflict between reality and illusion, and the honor as a source of social conflicts between the feeling and the role of men in society; the same can be said of the formal aspect, in which constant resort to metaphor, hyperbole and, above all, to the paradox makes every comedy or auto a genuine dramatic poem in which joined the poetic tongue elaborated by Lope with the ornamental boldness.

Swashbuckling comedies are the slope of the theatre of Calderón who most resembles the Lope. Calderon represents lopesca comedy mold debugging through the simplification of the plot and the improvement of the construction, normally through the Suppression of public scenes as those that liked both Lope and his generation. Action engine tends to be love, that confluence of jealousy and honour. The characters move in accordance with the decorum of their social level and the action is usually based on misunderstanding. It is the case of the fake astrologer; House with two doors, bad is store; Man poor, everything is traces; The warden himself; Beware of mansa water or not there are teasing with love. Of course, it is the genus to which it belongs also La Dama Duende, the first of their successes, in which one of the daring ladies of our theatre, Doña Angela, enters at night her beloved room to mess up furniture as if it were a ghost.

As it can be deduced from all this, line of the Calderon of the pens would not be that would continue the Spanish at the end of the seventeenth and eighteenth Theatre, but Calderon of the sacramental and the heroic and mythological comedy of Palace, where the scenic adornment was as important as the text itself, and this thanks to the poetic quality of Calderon's, then the balance would tilt of the side of the props so run into diminishing Organizer with a less skillful playwright who the one that concerns us. These palatial comedies, also called "from device", generally written at later date, highlight or love gets rid of love, based on the tale of love and psyche; The fiera, the beam and the stone, zarzuela based on the myths of Pygmalion, Anaxarate and Cupid; Wild beasts afemina love, about Hercules and Omphale and echo and Narcissus, a myth that lent itself to unique musical echo effects thanks to the final transformation of the protagonist, such as by Monteverdi, Carissimi, and later, Bach employees in different works. In this section, it should be noted also La púrpura de la Rosa, represented in the Buen Retiro in 1660 and it would be the first opera in America.

Among the religious dramas we will point out the purgatory of St. Patrick; The constant Prince and the prodigious magical.

Honour dramas are the most fame have given to the author and that, probably, most critical have attracted about her figure. Their arguments are extreme cases in which the public reputation of a man is compromised by adultery, or the simple suspicion, without leaving it to the disgraced obliged to wash his honor with the stain of the culprits. The concept of honor, quite alien to the mentality of our time, does not refer to the outburst of jealousy, but a genuine social commandment that must obey in cold blood:

"The King, the hacienda and the vidase has to give, but the heritage of the alma almay honors is only of God".

All in all, it was a code that, at least in the theatre and the novel, the public accepted and applauded. Its survival in our society has been constant topic for writers concerned with the study of the Spanish character, both essays and novels, in which, coincidentally or not, coincides with the theme of Don Juan. It is the case of La Regenta, "Clarín", and Tigre Juan and the healer of his honour, Ramón Pérez de Ayala. In the latter, calderoniano honor parody is evident from the title. The three best-known works of this section of the calderoniana production are the painter of his disgrace; Tort secret, secret revenge and, above all, the Médico de su honra, in which a Knight leaves die bleeding to his wife on the simple suspicion, unfounded, of having been unfaithful with the subsequent consent, and even praise of the King. However, most famous drama Calderón honor is the Mayor of Zalamea, in which honour conflict abandons the courtly scene to appear among commoners as Mayor Pedro Crespo, a character worthy and conscious of its value and his position in society rebelling against abuses (such as always of a sexual nature) of the captain don Álvaro de Ataíde, noble family. The position of the villain is reinforced in the work by the cowardice of a hidalgo poor trying to pretend that does not have. As in the previous case, the King sanctioning to which has washed his honor poses ultimate approval of their conduct.

Enrique Borrás, original voice.

[Excerpt from the Mayor of Zalamea, Calderón de la Barca, extracted from "The file of the word" of the Centre for historical studies, edited by the Residencia de Estudiantes.

Enrique Borrás embodied the figure of Don Pedro Crespo in a masterly way, growing the character thanks to the purity and simplicity of its staging].

With regard to philosophical dramas, is be taken into account in the first place the life is a dream, where it reflects on the reason of State against the human freedom through the figure of Prince Segismundo, son of the King of Poland, who has been away from the throne because of a forecast that predicted it to dethrone his father. The curiosity of the King takes him to the throne during a day to return to his prison, but the young man will fight to get the throne that is destined to dethrone his father and thus RID Poland of the unjust King that has kept him prisoner to stay secure on the throne without fear. Reflection on ill-acquired power also appears in daughter of the air and the schism in England, the first about the myth of child and Semiramis and the second about Enrique VIII of England of Catherine of Aragon divorce to marry Ana Bolena. In all three cases, recurrence to distant, mythical or contrary to Spain spaces allow the playwright speak freely, without fear that their words be interpreted against the Spanish Court, with which, moreover, their relations could not be better. On the other hand, respect for the monarchic institution takes you to focus the historical case of Enrique VIII on the figure of Ana Bolena, which is who amounts to where you it is not intended and who, like Semiramis in the daughter of the air, just being thrown down by the same people who helped raise it. The problem of governance, constant throughout the 17TH, first thanks to the valimientos of the Dukes of Uceda and Lerma, and already with Felipe IV, the count-Duke of Olivares, as well as with the minority of Carlos II and the Government of don Juan José de Austria, seems to have been a matter of importance to Calderon, who has tried it during the times of Olivares in knowing good and evilpremiered in 1628.

Calderon de la Barca:

Calderon de la Barca:

Finally, the sacramental are written for the feast of Corpus Christi, in which it extols the real presence of Christ in the consecrated way. Because of this, the cars had in its metaphorical development which was related to the nature of the party and that turned them into what the own Calderon called "sermons / put into verse" in which we sought to explain to the people of the theological issues that otherwise could not access. Are the more allegorical ones which have no other argument, as the great theatre of the world, the great market of the world or there are no more fortune than God; others help a mythological argument (the charms of guilt, about Circe and Ulysses; The divine Orpheus; or Andromeda and Perseus, which are included within the wide stream that, from the middle ages, had sought a moral explanation to the mythological Fables) or biblical (King Balthazar dinner; Dreams there that really are about the history of José in Egypt; The best fruit tree; Your neighbor as you, about the good Samaritan; The planting of the Lord, etc.). Others took advantage of historical themes or legendary (the devotion of the mass, the Holy King don Fernando, etc.) and, even, reasons such as the construction of the new Palace in the new Palacio del Retiro or the military orders.

Pedro Calderón de la Barca,


VV.. proceedings of the International Congress for Calderon and Spanish golden age theatre. Madrid, 1983.

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