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Life Is a Dream [Paperback]

Pedro Calderon de la Barca , Gregary Racz
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 26 2006 Penguin Classics
The masterwork of Spain’s preeminent dramatist—now in a new verse translation

Life Is a Dream is a work many hold to be the supreme example of Spanish Golden Age drama. Imbued with highly poetic language and humanist ideals, it is an allegory that considers contending themes of free will and predestination, illusion and reality, played out against the backdrop of court intrigue and the restoration of personal honor.

In the mountainous barrens of Poland, the rightful heir to the kingdom has been imprisoned since birth in an attempt by his father to thwart fate. Meanwhile, a noblewoman arrives to seek revenge against the man who deceived and forsook her love for the prospect of becoming king of Poland. Richly symbolic and metaphorical, Life Is a Dream explores the deepest mysteries of human experience.


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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 razon de estado [to God for reasons of state]. Of his philosophical dramas the best known are El magico prodigioso [the wonderful magician] and La vida es sueno [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
5.0 out of 5 stars Life is indeed a dream Feb. 2 2001
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.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars FORGET HAMLET, A NEW GUY IS IN TOWN Jan. 27 2004
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.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life is indeed a dream Feb. 2 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent play at an excellent price Sept. 11 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!
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superbly Faithful and Show-Worthy Version May 3 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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 17th Century Existentialism May 19 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"
11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FORGET HAMLET, A NEW GUY IS IN TOWN Jan. 27 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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