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Pedro Calderón de la Barca was born in Madrid, Spain, on January 17, 1600, the son of a government official. He was educated at the Jesuit College in Madrid, after which he studied law at the University of Alcalá (1614-1615) and the University of Salamanca (1615-1621); he never earned his degree, however. He entered the household of Constable of Castille, Don Bernardino Fernández de Velasco, in 1621, and began writing plays for the Constable's court in 1623. Aside from participation in a few military campaigns, most notably against the rebellious Catalans, Calderón's life was relatively unremarkable.
One of the most respected dramatists of his day, Calderón composed some 111 comedias. Of these, the best known are The Mayor of Zalamea ("El Alcalde de Zalamea), The Wonderful Magician ("El Mágico prodigioso), and Life Is a Dream ("La Vida es sueño"). In the last, Calderón explores the conflict between free will and predestination by telling the story of the King of Poland who imprisoned his son in a tower from birth in order to prevent an astrological prediction that the son would take the father's throne. Other important works include The Physician of His Honour, Secret Insult, Secret Vengeance and The Painter of his Own Dishonour. All of his works displayed innovations in style and technique that were unique to Calderón, and he created a group of literary disciples in his distinct manner of Spanish comedia.
Calderón ceased writing comedias for public performance following the death of his mistress in 1648, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1651. He continued to write autos sacramentales (morality plays), however, as well as special pieces for the court of King Philip IV. He was made superior of the congregation of St. Peter in 1666, after which he lived quietly in Madrid until his death, on May 25, 1681.
This page was last updated on 01/17/2017.