Calderón de la Barca, Pedro

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Calderón de la Barca, Pedro

Pedro Calderón de la Barca (pā´ŧħrō käldārōn´ dā lä bär´kä), 1600–1681, Spanish dramatist, last important figure of the Spanish Golden Age, b. Madrid. Educated at a Jesuit school and the Univ. of Salamanca, he turned from theology to poetry and became a court poet in 1622. His more than 100 plays were carefully contrived, subtle, and rhetorical. The earlier plays, of the cloak-and-dagger school, include La dama duende [the lady fairy] and Casa con dos puertas mala es de guardar [the house with two doors is difficult to guard]. His finest work is in his more than 70 autos sacramentales (one-act religious plays), among them El divino Orfeo and A Dios por razón de estado [to God for reasons of state]. Of his philosophical dramas the best known are El mágico prodigioso [the wonderful magician] and La vida es sueño [life is a dream], which deals with the themes of fate, prognostication, and free will. Calderón took holy orders in 1651 and thereafter wrote few plays except the autos, of which he supplied two a year for the Corpus Christi festival.

See studies by S. Madariaga (1920, repr. 1965), J. H. Parker and A. M. Fox (1971), E. Honig (1972), and H. Gerstinger (tr. 1973).

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