Pedro Calderon de la Barca

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Pedro Calderon de la Barca

Pedro Calderón de la Barca y Barreda González de Henao Ruiz de Blasco y Riaño (born January 17, 1600 in Madrid ; †  May 25, 1681 ibid) was a Spanish poet and playwright .


Calderón came from a Spanish noble family. His father held the office of treasurer at the Spanish court. However, he lost his parents relatively early: his mother, who came from the Spanish Netherlands in Mons / Hainaut (hence the name addition Henao), died in 1610. His father passed away only five years later. Calderón attended the Jesuit college in Madrid from 1609 to 1614 . He was supposed to become a priest , but at this time he began to study literature. He continued his education with a law degree at the University of Alcalá de Henares and the University of Salamanca , but dropped out in 1620 to become a soldier in the marine infantry .

From 1620 to 1622 he successfully participated in a literary competition held in Madrid in honor of St. Isidore . Lope de Vega , who was the organizer of this competition, wrote: "A prize was given to Don Pedro Calderón, who at his age wins the laurels that time tends to give only gray hair."

There are two different versions of Calderón's life over the following years:

  • According to his biographer Diego Juan de Vera Tassis y Villarroel, he is said to have served in the Spanish army from 1625 to 1635 and served as a soldier in Flanders and Italy.
Facsimile of a manuscript by Calderón
  • However, there are documents that show that Calderón actually lived in Madrid during this period. In 1629 his brother Diego was stabbed to death. The perpetrator sought refuge in the Holy Trinity nunnery. Calderón and friends entered the monastery and tried to capture the perpetrator. This sacrilege was reported by the well-known priest Hortensio Félix Paravicino during a sermon to the Spanish King Philip IV . Calderón defended himself against the accusations with the writing El Príncipe constante , but was imprisoned anyway. He only stayed in prison for a short time and quickly gained a reputation as an outstanding playwright in the years that followed.

After Lope de Vega's death in 1635, he took over his position as court dramatist . He was recognized as the best playwright of his time. A volume of his pieces, published by his brother José in 1636, contained the works celebrated at the time such as La Vida es sueño ( Life a dream ), El Purgatorio de San Patricio (The purgatory of St. Patricius), La Devoción de la Cruz , La Dama duende ( Lady Kobold ) and Peor está que estaba . From 1636 to 1637 Calderón was made Knight of the Order of Santiago by Philip IV, who had already commissioned a number of pieces for the royal theater in Buen Retiro . He was as popular with the public as Lope de Vega was at the height of his fame.

Despite this position, he joined a unit of mounted cuirassiers on May 28, 1640, which was put together by the Spanish general Olivares . He took part in the Spanish campaign against the renegade Catalonia and was particularly distinguished by his generosity in the city of Tarragona . When his health was badly damaged (some biographers speak of a wound), he resigned from the Spanish army in November 1642. Three years later he received a pension for his services.

Pedro Calderón in the office of priest

The story of his life over the next several years is largely in the dark. It seems that due to the death of his wife, he had to contend with serious personal problems in 1648 and 1649 and turned back to the Church. In 1650 he joined the Franciscan order . In 1651 he was ordained a priest and was pastor of a parish in the town of San Salvador in Madrid. His intention was never to write a play for the theater again. He stuck to it until he became a chaplain in Toledo in 1653 . He then began to spend much of his time writing autos sacramentales . They were performed with great effort on Corpus Christi and in the weeks that followed. In 1662, two of Calderón's cars ( Las órdenes militares and Mística y real Babilonia ) were the subject of an investigation by the Spanish Inquisition. She censored the first of the two pieces and confiscated the manuscripts. In 1671, however, the judgment was overturned.

Memorial plaque for the grave of Pedro Calderón de la Barca, which was destroyed in a fire in 1936, in the Nuestra Señora De Los Dolores Church in Madrid.

In 1663, King Philip IV of Spain appointed Calderón as court chaplain. He kept this office even after Charles II took office in 1665. At the age of 81 he wrote his last secular play, Hado y Divisa de Leonido y Marfisa, in honor of Charles II's marriage to Marie-Louise von Bourbon. Despite his position at court, he spent his final years in poverty.

Literary evaluation

The work of Calderón represents the first high point of Spanish theater. Compared with the more popular and often more original Lope de Vega ( Vega Carpio ), he embodies the more rigorous art, coupled with profound philosophy . About 120 dramas (so-called comedias ) and 80 Corpus Christi plays have survived from Calderón . He also wrote a number of entremés , libretti for operas and zarzuelas .

In the 17th century Calderón was considered the undisputed master of Spanish theater; it was only rediscovered by the German classical and romantic periods . Exemplary works were translated by August Wilhelm Schlegel ; and ETA Hoffmann devoted himself while he was in Bamberg 1806-1813, the translation of Calderón into German. Even today, in July, the Calderón Festival takes place in the old court of Bamberg as an open-air theater. They are hosted by today's ETA Hoffmann Theater .

Goethe dedicated a verse to Calderón in his West-Eastern Divan .

Schopenhauer called Calderón's work La vida es sueño the philosophical drama par excellence.

The Czech linguist Václav Černý discovered the previously unknown manuscript of the Calderón drama "El gran duque de Gandía" in the castle library of Mladá Vožice in 1960 . He prepared the manuscript for publication by the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences . The work was published in 1963 under the original title in an edition of 3000 copies. Václav Černý used French for the introduction and the glossary. On May 24, 1966, the drama, which has been lost for more than 300 years, was premiered as part of the Wiener Festwochen under the changed title “The world is triumph”. Ulrich Baumgartner was responsible for directing and editing .


Calderón monument in Madrid ( J. Figueras , 1878).


Comedias verdaderas , 1726
  • Armin Gebhardt: Calderon, Spain's most important poet. Ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-89821-223-8 .
  • Heinz Gerstinger : Calderon. Calderon de la Barca (1600–1681), Friedrich, Velber Hannover 1967.
  • Peter Goßens: A "living monstrance". Calderón and the Project of Catholic World Literature in the 19th Century. In: Estudios Filológicos Alemanes. Revista del Gruppo de Investigación Filología Alemana. Vol. 13 (2007), pp. 401-420
  • Max Kommerell : Contributions to a German Calderon. 2 volumes. Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 1946.
    • 1. Volume: Something about the art of Calderon .
    • Volume 2: Life is a dream. - The daughter of the air.
  • Stephan Leopold: La victoria del telos o la ironía de la representación: Tipología, legitimación y mestizaje en "La aurora en Copacabana". In: Manfred Tietz (ed.): Calderón y el pensamiento ideológico y cultural de su época. (XIV Coloquio Anglogermano sobre Calderón. Heidelberg, 24-28 de julio 2005) Steiner, Stuttgart 2008, pp. 317-336.
  • Stephan Leopold: Calderón y Kleist: Prince Friedrich von Homburg como transposición hipertextual de La vida es sueño. In: Manfred Tietz (Ed.): Teatro calderoniano sobre el tablado. Calderón y su puesta en escena a través de los siglos. (XIII Coloquio anglogermano sobre Calderón. Florencia 10-14 July 2002) Steiner, Stuttgart 2003, pp. 261-274.
  • Kurt & Roswitha Reichenberger: Bibliographisches Handbuch der Calderón research / Manual bibliográfico calderoniano (I): The Calderón texts and their tradition . Edition Reichenberger, Kassel 1979, ISBN 3-87816-023-2 .
  • Kurt & Roswitha Reichenberger: Bibliographisches Handbuch der Calderón research / Manual bibliográfico calderoniano (II, i): Secondary literature on Calderón 1679–1979: General and “comedias”. Estudios críticos sobre Calderón 1679–1979: Generalidades y comedias . Edition Reichenberger, Kassel 1999, ISBN 3-931887-74-X .
  • Kurt & Roswitha Reichenberger: Bibliographisches Handbuch der Calderón research / Manual bibliográfico calderoniano (II, ii): Secondary literature on Calderón 1679–1979: Corpus Christi plays, interludes and attributions. Estudios críticos sobre Calderón 1679–1979: Autos sacramentales, obras cortas y obras supuestas . Edition Reichenberger, Kassel 2003, ISBN 3-935004-92-3 .
  • Kurt & Roswitha Reichenberger: Bibliographisches Handbuch der Calderón research / Manual bibliográfico calderoniano (III): Bibliographical description of the early prints . Edition Reichenberger, Kassel 1981, ISBN 3-87816-038-0 .
  • Franziska Sick: Lies, Fraud and Tragedy: Investigations on the Spanish drama of honor, on Corneille and Racine 1996, DNB 954665171 (Habilitation University of Stuttgart 1996, 227 pages).
  • Christoph Strosetzki: Calderón . Metzler-Verlag, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-476-10327-7 .
  • Christoph Wurm : "El divino Orfeo" - Calderón and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. In: Forum Classicum. 1/2011, pp. 55-59. ISSN  1432-7511 .
  • Jing Xuan: The King in Context. Subversion, dialogicity and ambivalence in the secular theater Calderón de la Barcas (= Studia Romanica , Volume 124), Winter, Heidelberg 2004, ISBN 3-8253-1664-5 (dissertation University of Munich 2002, 278 pages).

Web links

Wikisource: Pedro Calderón de la Barca  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Pedro Calderón de la Barca  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Goethe: West-Eastern Divan - Hikmet Name / Book of Sprüche (1819), p. 130, Stuttgart 1999.
  2. Annual Chronicle of Literary Life 1966
  3. ^ On the version by Hans Magnus Enzensberger in the Hans Magnus Enzensberger project