Pedro Calderón de la Barca was born in Madrid in 1600 and is one of the foremost writers of the Spanish Golden Age. As well as being a philosophical poet and playwright, he also served as a soldier and a Catholic priest. His life spanned the reign of three kings (Philip III, Philip IV and Charles II) and he witnessed the state of Europe radically change around him. In many ways, his work reflects a crisis of modernity.
Calderón's debut as a playwright was Amor, honor y poder or Love, Honor, and Power, performed at the Royal Palace on 29 June 1623. Over the next two decades, he went on to write over 70 plays. Calderón gained considerable favour in the court, and in 1636–1637 he was made a knight of the Order of Santiago by Philip IV. The king also commissioned a series of spectacular plays for the new royal theatre in the Buen Retiro palace. Many years later, Calderón was appointed honorary chaplain to Philip IV in 1663, and continued in this role under Charles II. He died in Madrid in 1681.
Calderón streamlined the second cycle of Spanish Golden Age Theatre, known as the 'Comedia Nueva' or New Comedy. He reduced scenes and superfluous characters in order to perfect the dramatic structure of his plays. He also focused on the staging of his work, which he described as the 'memory of appearances'.
His plays were first adapted into English during his lifetime, but the bulk of his work was first seen in England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Today, La Vida es sueño or Life is a dream is his best remembered work.
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