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Life is a Dream: (La Vida Es Sueano) (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 26 Apr 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 132 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (26 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143104829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143104827
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 996,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

I have read about twelve of [Calderon's] plays; some of them certainly deserve to be ranked among the grandest and most perfect productions of the human mind. He exceeds all modern dramatists with the exception of Shakespeare. (Percy Bysshe Shelley)

About the Author

Pedro Calderon de la Barca (1600–1681), Spanish dramatist, last important figure of the Spanish Golden Age. His more than 100 plays were carefully contrived, subtle, and rhetorical. 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.

Gragary J. Racz is associate professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at Long Island University, Brooklyn. His translation of the mock-Renaissance farce Rigmaroles appeared in Three Comedies, his edited volume of plays by the contemporary Spanish dramatist Jaime Salom. Racz has published works by the Cuban writer Jose Lezama Lima, the Peruvian Eduardo Chirinos, and the Argentine experimental XUL group.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Butler on 7 May 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What a beautiful play. Spanish baroque at its height. All about free will versus the Calvinist dogma of predestination. Mixed with Renaissance politics. (Students of Philip Sidney should read this!) I'd love to see an expressionist production in a gorgeous old theatre!

The translation, while very easy to read, is slightly too "modern" in tone, at least that's how it seems to me (though I haven't read the Spanish original). And the notes at the back are very superficial. Some things are explained which don't need to be, for the average reader, while other things are not explained which might benefit from a little glossing. The introduction is ok, but short. However, there's an excellent list of critical texts for further reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Dec. 2005
Format: Paperback
For me, Calderon was a great discover. First book of spanish literature I read, really innocent reader, I realised how big his influence had been on world literature. His powerful way of writing and using words, although at the same time it s very synthetic, quick to read, goes straight to the heart of the subject, but leads you also in a fantastic world, the real world but dreamt...The great escape. To read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Allison on 20 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
This book was well written and a wonderful insite to the mind of a playwright who's play has survived to date and being played in the London Theatre scene.
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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 Jan. 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the case yes, Pedro Calderón de la Barca is one of the top playwrigths of all times. Rigth now there's just 400 years from his birthdate and in Spain we have an entire year of conmemorations, and I'm sorry, because Calderón made a tremendously serious theatre that I must learn in the school: the destiny of man, his freedom, the influence of God in human life, Heaven and Hell... In confidence, too much for me. Life is a Dream is one of his best known and written plays, but I never tasted Calderón very much and today I think few Spanish do. Too much solemnity, I think he may be compared to Wagner in music. Of course we are speaking of the best Spanish language, and his plays are as solidly built as an iron battleship, but Calderón, a wealthy person that wrote withouth economic needs, was also a soldier and a monk, the paradigmatic paladin of the Catholic Church and the most strong opponent of the reform of Luther. Certainly, being a man highly talented his plays don't are vulgar and have a deep philosophical bottom that overcomes all, but in Spain we are in general a little tired of all that. Sense of honour is really tremendous in calderonian dramas and passions and vengeances are so strong that one practically can see God - Father roaring between the clouds, all the Kings and heroes of Spain -the predestinated country on whole earth- and even the Pope judging you when you hear the perfect verses of Don Pedro. There are specialized actors in these classic authors. If you are an ordinary person of today and have the normal moral standards of modern western consumer society, then beware with the strong works of Calderón de la Barca: you may have indigestions and nigthmares during many time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 0 reviews
54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
Life is indeed a dream 2 Feb. 2001
By Guillermo Maynez - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This immortal play is an allegory: a tale which illustrates us on some superior truth, employing symbols. Basil is the king of Poland, who hides his son Sigmund (Freud?, just kidding)in a tower, for fear that an oracle may come true. Once, he takes him out to see what kind of man he is, and discovers Sigmund is arrogant and authoritarian. Then he puts him back in his cell and manages to convince him that everything was just a dream. After that, civil war begins, and Sigmund is out to fight, a totally different man from what he was.
"Life is a dream" is a play about the utter unreliability of our senses. Of course, we have to use them to figure out some reality in which we can live. But we have no idea of who we are and where we come from, much less what will happen after death. We also don't know what death is. It is also a case in favor of peace and solidarity. Why spend our brief and dream-like time on Earth being mean and dirty?: let's all be friendly and good, and this will be a good dream and not a nightmare.
Despite its philosophical subject, the play is quick-paced and funny. The plot to make Sigmund believe everything was a dream is hilarious, and it is easy to see why it's a classic. Read it.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Excellent play at an excellent price 11 Sept. 2005
By K. E. Rayne - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This play is a hidden gem. Calderon has written a classic comedy that follows the formula but ventures into classic philosophy as well: what is our life? Is it real? Is it a dream? If it is a dream, how then should we live our lives? This is the center of Oedipus Rex, with its fate versus free will theme, and Calderon explores it with humor and compassion. The Dover edition is inexpensive but doesn't cut corners, making it perfect for college students. I highly recommend it!
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A Superbly Faithful and Show-Worthy Version 4 May 2007
By Steven E. Bradbury - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Pedro Calderon de la Barca is one of the great playwrights of the Renaissance, and his La Vida es Sueño, or Life is a Dream, is at the top of nearly everyone's list of Calderon's "Greatest Hits." Depicting the revolt of a Polish prince imprisoned by his father because of a prophecy that the boy would one day endanger the realm, this three act play has been translated into English more than a dozen times in the last century alone, but this is the first version I have seen that is not only faithful to the letter of the text but to the form and feeling of the play in the pleasure of the reading moment. In a monumental act of poetic ventriloquy, the translator Gregary Racz has miraculously managed to reproduce the exact rhyme scheme of this "Golden Age" masterpiece in an elegantly metrical English that echoes the original Spanish line for line, all 3319 of them. Vide this snippet from the closing soliloquy of ACT II.

What's life? Not anything it seems.

A shadow. Fiction filling reams.

All we possess on earth means nil,

for life's a dream, think what you will,

and even all our dreams are dreams.

I predict Racz's Life is a Dream will have an immensely long shelf-life and a brilliant career on the Anglo-American stage.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
17th Century Existentialism 20 May 2011
By lllllll - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a story, And the greatest good is little enough: for all life is a dream, and dreams themselves are only dreams"
12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
FORGET HAMLET, A NEW GUY IS IN TOWN 27 Jan. 2004
By M. Ferrer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
To be or not to be maybe is one of the most famous quotation. It is catchy, but " ¿Qué es la vida?/un frenesi/ ¿Qué es la vida?/ una ilusión" is better.
Forget a spoiled prince too obssesed with his mother. Forget a maid who needs a therapy and soon. We have Segismundo and Rosaura. A brave, drop dead gorgeous dark hero and a resourceful, witty, inteligent heroine. You will laugh, you will cry.
You have romance, sword-fighting-cross-star lovers, intrigue, foreign policy. All in one.
Seriously, this is the best play ever written. You can enjoy only the story or find a real interpretation of Spain under the Habsburgs. But also a search for identity. Calderon asks the eternal question WHO ARE WE and wrapped it in a wonderful, rich and manificent dress.
Try it and you forget Dennmark. And if you can read it in Spanish. Maybe is hard but it will worth.
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