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La vida es sueño (Spanish Edition) (Spanish) Paperback – February 22, 2015
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Calderon is perhaps a bit easier for the average student than the other two premier Spanish dramatists of the epoch, and this psychologically probing play is perhaps among the easiest to access, aesthetically and in terms of the background needed, for non-native speakers of Spanish who have little grip on "Golden Era" Spain and its assumed realities.
The play centers upon a Caliban-like proto-kinglet, whose philosopher-king-father has secreted him a chamber distant from almost all human commerce; he fears he will topple him. Eventually, he decides, after some consideration, to raise the by-now scarcely human anthropoid to the threshold of kingship. It doesn't work. This leads to some realizations on the part of the characters and the audience, relating to the nature of society and human rank. Like many philosophically probing works composed before the modern era, the piece has its elegance marred by a rather disingenuous ending. But we get the point, if we understand Spanish. There is also a boy-meets-girl subplot to entertain the masses.
The annotations could be better. They are found at the bottom of page, and explain words and certain facts of history or Spanish culture. This edition is illustrated with cartoons that will annoy an adult; the type of adolescent imagination to which they might have appealed would not have understood the play and in fact may not exist in our day.
The story itself is intriguing (think Shakespeare, except this is his contemporary from Spain) and though much of the actions are archaic the result is still a compelling read. (Though it's even better if you get to see it performed.)
I was lucky to take the editor's seminar at SDSU and listen to his lecture on the play and the author. He is highly entertaining and has deep knowledge on the work he edited. The book was not required but I was able to borrow this book to study it prior to the lecture.
However, I am not biased, if you're a more advanced Spanish reader, I would recommend the Cátedra edition instead.