Some Themes for You to Think about

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“Ros:  My lord, you have given me my life,

            and since I am alive on your account,

            I shall eternally be your slave.

Clo:     It wasn’t

            life that I gave you…

            I haven’t given you life,

            because you didn’t come here with it;

            for a vile live is no life at all…”


-From Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s La vida es sueño, Act I, page 53



This scene between Rosaura and Clotaldo, her father, basically sums up the major theme in the play.  The idea that all of the characters, in some way or another dreams for a different life reoccurs throughout the play, and is of course, where the author got the title. 


While I was watching the play, I wrote down a few other themes that Calderón was creating throughout the play, and I also found these as I was reading the script:


§         Nature vs. Nurture—Will Segismundo bring his father’s prophesy to fruition, or will he be a benevolent ruler?

§         Utopia vs. Dystopia—Is this an ideal society because it has a happy ending with everyone (but the comedian Clarín)living a pleasing life at the end or is this an imperfect society where only the people who fit in are those who have messed up lives (thus Clarín cannot be a part because he is the only member who seems to be sane, ironically)

§         Fate vs. Free Will—This is a pretty obvious theme and is related to the nature vs. nurture idea.

§         Higher you fight, the further you fall—I thought that this was an interesting observation by Segismundo, I believe, that relates to the idea of fate vs. free will and fortune’s wheel that many of us talked about with Chaucer (basically, fortune is a wheel, so for one moment you might be at the top, but the next you will be at the bottom).  This idea creates the question of whether or not one should always remain at the bottom so that one will never feel fate’s disappointments.


Most of these, although themes, are also really dualities, and most of them can be supported either way.  What do you think of these ideas?  Are they accurate?  Which of these, if any, do you think Calderón wished to develop and suggest as the correct option at the end of the play?  Let me know what you think!


I also wanted to say that I loved the play!  I thought the actors were great, the new setting was interesting, the costumes and scenery were awesome, and I think that I can honestly say that it is the best production I have seen from Seton Hill.  Great job to all those involved!   


See what other have to say about La vida es sueño.


Jenna said:

Those are good observations, Erica. I thought that the most prevalent theme was nature vs. nurture. Basilio could not expect that he could bring Segismundo from the cave and have him be a premiere ruler. Segismundo has only primal instincts, and needed nurtured for him to be benevolent. I think another theme is dreams vs. reality. In the play, we see that dreams and reality intermingle. However, it is all a reality and just Segismundo believes he dreamed.

Erica Gearhart said:

I did forget to add that major one to the list, even though that is probably the most significant one-the title is, after all, Life Is a Dream. Thanks!

Katie Vann said:

Erica I really liked to point you made about Clarin. I concentrated a lot on Clarin in my one blog, mainly on the importance of his dying speech. I like how you pointed out that he is perhaps the only sane one in the play. I never noticed that but now that you mentioned it I can definately see the evidence.

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