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Life's a Dream

(La Vida es Sueño)

By Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Translated by Michael Kidd

Publication Year: 2004

Co-Winner of the 2004 Colorado Endowment for the Humanities Publication Prize

"A snappy, playable though poetic prose translation by Michael Kidd (Carleton College) of Calderón's famous La vida es sueño. That is arguably the best of the 500 plays that survive from this dramatist's alleged 2000 efforts. Moreover, the translation comes with excellent critical introduction, supporting materials, and a glossary. Life's a Dream . . . is the best choice for any university or other theater group that wants to stage this play. The fact that modern English prose cannot capture the florid fol-de-rol of early seventeenth-century Spanish is actually an advantage. The love story and the political implications emerge unscathed."—Chronique, Biliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance

"An excellent and reliable English edition of one of the Spanish Golden Age's more fascinating plays."—Frederick A. de Armas, University of Chicago

”This is a faithful, accurate, and eminently actable poetic prose translation of Calderón's masterpiece, which ingeniously resolves its many intricate linguistic and semantic puzzles."—José María Ruano de la Haza, University of Ottawa

"A first-class version of one of the all-time classics of world literature."—Julio Baena, University of Colorado at Boulder

A beautiful and haunting tale of love, betrayal, knowledge, and power, Life's a Dream (La vida es sueño, 1636) is the best known and most widely admired play of Catholic Europe's greatest dramatist, Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681). Calderón's long life witnessed both the pinnacle and collapse of Spanish political power as well as the great flowering of Spanish classical literature. Michael Kidd's new prose translation renders Calderón's masterpiece into a transparent, modern American idiom that preserves the beauty and complexity of Calderón's Baroque Spanish. The result is a highly readable and adaptable text that is enhanced by a generous selection of supporting materials, including a thorough critical introduction and glossary.

Published by: University Press of Colorado


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Frontispiece

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-15

THIS PROSE TRANSLATION of Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s La vida es sueño is envisioned as both a classroom text and a script for performance, and the accompanying materials reflect that dual function. The Introduction and Glossary are written especially with American high school and university students in mind, whereas the Suggestions for Directors are intended primarily for those...

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pp. 1-40

When Calderón was born in 1600, Spain was the most powerful country in the world, but the seeds had already been planted of a decline that would take it, by the time of his death in 1681, to the humiliating status of a second-tier power. The story of Spain’s rise and fall is the sobering tale of a country that collapsed under the burden of its own...

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Translator's Notes

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pp. 41-70

RENDERING CALDERÓN’S LA VIDA ES SUEÑO into English presents the translator with a series of difficult but unavoidable questions. Which dialect is desirable? Should archaisms be modernized or rendered into analogous English structures? Which is the most appropriate medium, verse or prose? What constitutes a scene change? How should...

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Suggestions for Directors

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pp. 71-76

LIKE MANY CLASSICAL PLAYS, Life’s a Dream can be productively staged withtrue minimalist principles. Only three settings are implied throughout the play:Sigismund’s tower and surroundings (1.1, 2.2, 3.1), the royal palace (1.2, 2.1,3.2), and a wilderness area somewhere between the two (3.3). As Ruano de laHaza has pointed out, no mention is made in either the dialogue or the stage...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 77-88

Life’s a Dream: A Prose Translation

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pp. 89-104

Cast of Characters

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pp. 90-106

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Act 1

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pp. 91-108

Monstrous hippogriff, peer of the wind, you’re as ill conceived as a bolt of lightning without flame, a bird without color, a fish without scales, or a beast without instinct! Where do you speed off to bucking, lurching, and bolting before the obscure labyrinth of those barren crags? Stay, then, on this mountainside and...

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Act 2

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pp. 109-132

In this way, my lord. With the soothing concoction you had brewed from a mixture of medicinal herbs, whose tyrannical properties and secret powers so dissipate, rob, and disorient human reasoning that they turn one into a living corpse, and whose potency robs one in his sleep of his senses and faculties—there’s no reason to doubt that this is possible, for so many times, my lord, experiment has...

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Act 3

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pp. 133-154

In a haunted tower, because of what I know, I’m being held captive. What will they do to me because of my ignorance if they ax me because of my knowledge? To think that a fellow should be sentenced to a life of starving to death! Everyone will say I’m feeling sorry for myself. Well, they’re right, because this silence, in my opinion, doesn’t befit one named Bugle, and I can’t shut up. My only...


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pp. 155-159

E-ISBN-13: 9780870818059
E-ISBN-10: 0870818058
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870817779
Print-ISBN-10: 0870817779

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 57666663
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Life's a Dream