The traditional view of Don Pedro Calderón de la Barca is of an austere and serious-minded writer who used his knowledge and poetic skills to reinforce his audience’s faith in Church dogma and in Spain’s holy mission to establish a global Catholic monarchy. Yet among his contemporaries Calderón had the reputation as one of Spain’s greatest humorists. His short pieces and comedias alike demonstrate his gifts at creating entertaining comedy. Even his Corpus Christi productions are full of joyful singing and dancing, and most contain graciosos and numerous laughable scenes. On a personal level—and also contrary to the prevailing perception—Calderón was gregarious and fully engaged in the social and amorous practices of his day. He was arrested more than once, was excommunicated, was held responsible for a murder, and fathered at least one illegitimate child. Answering the call to arms in 1640, as a knight of the Order of St. James, the playwright fought bravely for his king in two campaigns against the rebels and their French allies in Cataluña. My purpose here is four-part: to review the darker aspects and hard times of Calderón’s early life, not to denigrate an extremely talented dramatist but to broaden our view of him as a human being; to defend Calderón from the suggestion by A.A. Parker and others that Calderón was somehow emotionally disturbed; to demonstrate that in one 1627 play in particular some of his troubles and experiences seem to find dramatic reverberations; and, finally, to suggest a more complete picture of him as a man, a view that reconciles his tragic and difficult personal life, his comic and optimistic spirit, and the ostensibly traditional nature of his philosophy of life.


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pp. 57-107
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