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Pedro Calderón de la Barca

Calderón de la Barca, Pedro (pāˈħrō käldārōnˈ dā lä bärˈkä) [key], 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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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