Segismundo’s Religion vs. Basilio’s Astrology

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From Sears’s “Freedom Isn’t Free: Free Will in La vida es sueƱo Revisted”:

“Basilio also has his faithful follower Clotaldo instruct Segismundo in ‘sciencas,’ but of a far different kind than the ‘estudios’ of which the king himself is master: ‘en la ley le ha instruido/ catolica’ (in Catholic law/ he has instructed him) (757-58). Thus, if only in embryonic form, Segismundo is in possession of a kind of knowledge that outranks his father’s astrological science” (282). 

Sears makes an extremely interesting point when she brings up the differences between Basilio’s and Segismundo’s study.  Not only is this idea stressed through Basilio’s admittance that Segismundo has been raised in the Catholic Church, but the very language the Basilio and Segismundo speak in stresses the differences.  When Segismundo talks he uses such words as “Oh heavens” (11) and “God” (13), in contrast to Basilio who instead talks of “science” (37) and “constellations” (39). 

Not only is this strange simply because it creates a disparity between the two characters, but as Stanley Appelbaum the editor and translator of our edition of the text remarks in the introduction, “Basilio, in the eyes of Calderon’s contemporaries, would be seen to derogate sadly from his royal station by dabbling in astrology…” (xiii).  So as usual the question comes down to why would Calderon do this?  Why make the “savage” Prince have more appropriate beliefs despite his imprisonment than the “civilized” King?    

In the introduction, Appelbaum suggests that Basilio’s interest in astrology is simply meant to hint to the audience that he may lose his throne.  However, I think it is more than this.  I think that Calderon was constantly trying to stress that the belief that we can possess foreknowledge of what is to come (like Basilio thinks) is simply not something humans were meant to have.  However, neither were we supposed to believe that we have no control over our existence.  But it is instead as Sears explains that we have free will within certain parameters. 

Read more on Sears’s article. 



james lohr said:

I noticed that you asked why one would give the "savage prince" more appropriate beliefs. What makes one belief more appropriate than another?

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