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Life Is a Dream (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 26, 2006

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (December 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143104829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143104827
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #954,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


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)

Language Notes

Text: English, Spanish (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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53 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Guillermo Maynez on February 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.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Steven E. Bradbury on May 3, 2007
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.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By K. E. Rayne on September 11, 2005
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!
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