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Repetition makes the heart grow fonder

According to critic Stephen Rupp, Calderon creates in his play, La vida es sueno (or Life is a Dream) "a process of repetition which creates thematic and narrative patterns and generates a space of delay in which the reader may apprehend those patterns as central to a fitting closure" (292).

While reading Life is a Dream, I did take time to bust out my handy dandy highlighter and greenify several repeating words and phrases in the play. Thus, Rupp's analysis seems correct. Calderon's use of repetition did cause me to "apprehend those patterns" and note their importance to the text as a whole. For example, the very first word I highlighted was the second one spoken: "Hippogriff." While I didn't know this at the time, I would continue highlighting references to "animals" and "beasts" and "labyrinths" throughout the play. (In case you're confused as to why I lump "labyrinth" in with references to "beasts" see this site on the myth of the Minotaur in greek mythology. I plan on using this in my project so, I won't go into too much detail on this connection here.) Further examples of repetition lie in the repeated references to the play's title, continuous references to the sun and other light forms (stars, candles, etc), descriptions of life as a state of "living death," and repeated references to the conflict between free will and fate. Calderon's repeated references to all of these thematic elements solidify their importance in the readers mind, allowing his audience to gain a better grasp on the possible messages he is implying, and thus enabling them to enjoy them further.

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Comments (7)

Derek Tickle:

So what is it about repetition and how it can be used to emphasize many themes.

I think that the references to Segismundo are demoting and related to animals. This is, most likely, because of his imprisonment.

What about repetition in the Bible and how it has a different role? It seems as though repetition offers an important view of how humans and "nature" can be used to convey a specific point.

As for the title "Life is a Dream," I think that it begins to explain how anything you do in life can be compared to whether it is a dream or real life.

Ellen Einsporn:

Good points, Derek. Basically, repetition in the sense that Rupp describes it is easy to understand. Repetition increases importance. For example, the more an author repeats a symbol within his or her work, the more the reader becomes aware of it, and the more important it becomes.

Greta Carroll:

Ellen, I agree, there was a lot of repetition in the play. The repetition of hippogriff particularly interested me as well. It seemed mainly to be used in reference to Segismundo and Rosaura. However, while I was doing some research for my casebook this week, I discovered something interesting. Appelbaum (the translator and editor of our version of the play) in the introduction says that, “(his[Astolfo’s] name is borrowed from that of one of the heroes of Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando furioso…)” (xiii). Well, while I was researching I discovered that in Orlando furioso the character named Astolfo actually rides on a hippogriff for a time. So not only is this word literally repeated over and over in the play, it seems that it is also alluded to through the very naming of Astolfo.


Ellen, that is some good close reading. By reading your blog about all the animal references, it further drives the theme of nature vs. nurture as Segismundo initially only used his instincts as king and did not think about free will.

Bethany Merryman:

This is very interesting. I noticed the repetition in the play as well and agree that it really helps the reader pick out the important aspects of the story. And agree with Jenna that it further influences the idea of nature vs. nurture in the play.

Katie Vann:

I noticed a little of the repetition during the play, but not as much as I did after I read your blog. I'm interested to see what your project is since its something dealing with one of the refencecs in this play.

Ellen Einsporn:

Well, I'm glad my thoughts helped you all. Greta, yours helped me. I noticed the reference to the hippogriff in the play, but would have never known the interesting link to Astolfo. Thanks!


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