Pedro Calderón de la Barca


Calderón was born in Madrid into an old Christian family. He first studied in the Jesuits Imperial College and then continued his studies in Alcala and Salamanca (1617) where he was excommunicated after not paying his lodgings in St. Millan College.

In Madrid (1621) he and his brothers killed Nicolas de Velasco and took shelter in The Austrian Embassy. In 1629 he made enemies because of entering a Trinity convent, chasing an actor. In 1623 he wrote his first play for the Royal Palace in Alcazar. He wrote comedies of intrigue and his best known plays were written in the 30s.

By 1634 he was a famous writer when the Retiro’s Palace was created. Two years later, he published his First Part of Comedies, beginning with Life is a Dream. King Philip IV granted him the habit of the Order of Santiago. Calderon´s works were performed for either a cultured public -Royal Palace- or a popular one. He later created The Big Theater of World, The Doctor of his Honor, Devotion of Cross, etc. Between 1640 and 1642 he fought against the French under the orders of Count Duke of Olivares. Then he worked for the Duke of Alba. The closing of theaters from 1647 to 1649 because of royal mourning, made him dedicate himself to religion.

He became a priest in 1650 in order to get a chaplaincy, which he succeeded with the king’s help. Now he started writing operas, zarzuelas and mythological comedies. From 1670 till his death, he was commissioned by Madrid council to write sacramental plays.

Calderon developed new mechanical tricks for the stage; new scenes and new music, taking inspiration from Italian theater. He wrote more than 120 comedies, 80 sacramental plays and a great number of short plays. He was rediscovered by German romanticism about 1881 and has always been a model for Hispanic literature.

D.Miguel Pérez Rosado.
Ph. D. in Hispanic Philology.