This work is written with verses in 3 acts. The plot and the characters are similar to fairytales. The moral-didactical lesson of the story is also fairytale like because the main character becomes a positive character. The whole point of the book is that good always beats evil.
The author brings the main characters to a dilemma what is real and what is a dream in a humans life: does the dream come before waking up or does the waking up come before the dream. This unreal legend and characters helped the author to express his opinion about the role of upbringing and the faith and here we have a question about our influence on faith, the power of our mind and will that confront faith and about dream and reality.
We have a battle in Segismundo between dreams and reality. Living in an illusion means living in an unreal world and not looking objectively at reality. The dream remains in our memory, and a man has the feeling like his alive in that memory. That’s why Segismundo has the feeling like he is living a real life because the only thing real to him is Rosaura's beauty. The other characters also believe that they are dreaming, but their conception of reality is less confusing. According to Segismundo dream was his teacher who thought him to be good and honest. That is what helped him to beat himself. It doesn’t matter if we dream or not. The important thing is to find the purpose of our life.
"Life is a dream" is filled with unusual phrases, complex metaphors and the author put the events into one plot what helped him achieve a certain symmetry of his work. He pays less attention to action and plot twists and is more oriented to creating a thoughtful work of art. His characters often turn into symbols of some sort, but the symbolism does not interfere with the spontaneity of the plot. Through the monologs, we can find important questions, and our thought begins to develop.
The verse the author used is a short octosyllable. His main motives are: faith, rebellion, fear, power, anger, confusion, persistency, nobility, happiness, freedom, fidelity etc. The main action is set between Segismundo and his father Basilio, the polish king. Their conflict is based on his father fear about his power and injustice. Also Segismundo was in a conflict with Astolfo.
Place: a fortress deep in the forest where uncivilized people lived, Poland
Not long after his son was born Basilio found out from a prophecy that his son is going to be a tyrant and ruin the whole kingdom. Because of that he decided to put Sigismundo into a dungeon.
Segismundo spent his childhood surrounded by darkness and chains. His only friends were the jailor and Clotaldo, an old educator. One day Rosaura came to visit him dressed like a man.
Rosaura came to Poland to get revenge. When she was thinking about her painful destiny she heard Segismundo moan. His words caused a lot of emotions, sense of fear and pity at the same time.
When Segismundo realized that somebody was nearby and heard him he went after Rosaura. When he heard her voice he had mercy for her. When they started talking, and she wanted to share her life story with him Clotaldo came with his servants and took her away. The problem was that Basilio ordered to execute everyone who talked to Segismundo.
But Rosaura was lucky. The old Basilio, who didn’t have an heir was tormented by the question if the prophecy was true. He told his citizens about his son and his next move. He is going to test his son. He is going to carry him asleep to the castle and give him all of his power for a short amount of time.
That will be Segismundos test. If he shows himself as a wise and noble man he will get the throne but if he acts like a despot he will be put back into the dungeon. Basilio will hand over the throne to his nephew Astolfo and his princess.
Rosaura's destiny is changed because of Basilio's decision. In the meantime, she confessed to Clotaldo everything about herself. She came all the way from Moscow with one object, and that is revenge. She wanted to get back at Astolfo for leaving her because of Princess Estrella. At that moment Clotaldo remembers giving a sword to a girl, and now that sword is Rosaura's. It was because she was his daughter but he kept it to himself for now.
Segismundo was fighting with his new role when Clotaldo told him the truth. He wasn’t used to warmth and compassion so he started to act like a tyrants. Because of everything he’s been through, Segismundo judges his father for taking his freedom away. Basilio advised him to act nicely because all of this maybe isn’t real.
After that Segismundo saw Rosaura and wanted to kiss her. Clotaldo interfered then because he wanted to save her honor. He almost got killed by Segismundo but Astolfo saved him.
Segismundo was supposed to be taken to the dungeon again. He woke up there and wasn’t sure what was real and what was a dream. Clotaldo told him that everything was a dream but that even in a dream you need to be a good ruler.
Segismundo came to a conclusion that life was a dream and that he’ll wake up when he dies. Up until then he has to come up with a way to overcome the evil.
While Segismundo was thinking about the meaning of life, a great riot started in the kingdom. Soldiers came to Segismundo to free him and make him king. Segismundo is confused again about what is real and what is a dream. Again he came to the conclusion that life is a dream and that he should continue sleeping while keeping in mind that he could wake up every second.
In the meantime Clotaldo couldn’t keep his promise to Rosaura because Astolfo saved his life. Rosaura went to Segismundo asking for help. He didn’t want to do any harm to Astolfo so he went to his father's castle and, with the help of the army, he won.
Everyone thought then that Segismundo would become a tyrant but he was noble and generous. He forgave his father for everything. Then he asked Astolfo to marry Rosaura but he said no to that because he didn’t know where she came from. Clotaldo told him that not only she is his daughter and came from a noble family. Then Astolfo accepted marrying her.
Segismundo didn’t want princess Estrella to be left alone so he proposed. Everyone were amazed by his kindness and generosity but he told him that they shouldn’t be amazed because he had the best teacher and that was a dream. He conquered himself with his persistence.
Characters: Basilio, Segismundo, Clotaldo, Astolfo. Rosaura, Estrella
Pedro Calderon de la Barca Biography
Pedro Calderon de la Barca was born in Madrid in 1600. He belonged to baroque. He is considered to be the biggest dramatist of the Spanish baroque and the last writer of the golden era of the Spanish literature.
He spent some time in the army and then he got ordained and lived in the castle of Phillip VI.
His comedies can be divided into religious, philosophical and tragic. He wrote about 200 theater pieces and about 120 comedies.
His most famous works are Life is a dream and The Mayor of Zalamea.
In Life is a dream he combined poetical elements with a metaphorical style and philosophic thinking about purpose of life. He died in 1681 in Madrid.