The life of Pedro Calderón de la Barca took place in a century of radical changes in the historic being of the Western man, reflected by the scientific revolution, the philosophical thinking, the political doctrines, the institutions, the traditions, and the arts and letters. The playwright, witness of the height of the Spanish power and its decline, was a cavalry soldier, and he wrote dramas that show his first hand knowledge on war and militia, among them, those that dealt on the great victories of the Spanish Armada.
Calderón is the heir if the new dramatic art forged by two brilliant generations of theatrical writers, and an author of great success and extensive fame who excited all publics, from the most popular to the most aristocratic. He was rewarded with the unbeatable conditions to apply his genius without restrictions; apart from the patronage of the monarchy, church, and the city council of Madrid, he was able to use several theatrical spaces: the theatre of the palace, courtyards, and public squares on the sacramental acts, a unique set in all of Europe. Disciple of the Jesuits and student in Salamaca, Calderón possessed an encyclopedic culture that is reflected in his huge work open to all kinds of political, philosophical, teological or moral questions. The poet-playwright, ordered priest at the age of fifty, and recognized for a great reflexion capacity, was a fan of bullfighting, lived a gallant life in his youth with numerous incidents that prove his daring, irreverent, quixotic, spirited nature. Equally happy to grab his pen as he was to grab his sword, in the world of his comedies there are plenty of sword crossings, unleashed rage, and acuity. The family life of the playwright is felt in many of his works, where the authority of the progenitor and the rebellion of the son can be found, problems that are linked with the representation of other conflicts hosting political and theological questions.
The objects of this conference will be the profound triggers of an incomparable art and of its intimate relation with a reflexion that subdued the fundamental impulses of the newborn Modernity, which the playwright from Madrid experienced himself, to a harsh critic. Theatrical poetry and and thought merge in a work where there is a miraculous conspiracy between the "imagined concept" and the "practical concept", the act of writing, and its scenery.
Reactionary, conformist and orthodox; or libertine, subversive and skeptic; poet of the Inquisition or atheist playwright, depending on the personal tastes of whoever has interpreted him along the last four centuries, Calderón worried about representing and elucidating the problems of evil and liberty, as well as the insatiable and devilish appetite for certainty that controls the rational will of this period of time. At the same time, he is the great playwright of Catholicism; poet of the faith and the mystery of the Eucharist, the sanctity and martyrdom. The character inhabiting his comedies, the most fun and enjoyable of all of the European literature, and the protagonist of the tragedies that shake order and entropy, certainty and doubt, syllogism and the abyss.
The unconditional absolute faith, piety, reverence, and awe cohabit with skepticism and the problematic nature of the author's thoughts in works with titles such as No hay mas fortuna que Dios, En la vida todo es verdad y todo mentira, Lo que va del hombre a Dios, No hay que creer ni en la verdad, La devoción de la cruz, Gustos y disgustos son solo imaginación, No hay instante sin milagro and La vida es sueño. The variety of theatrical genres which he cultivated allowed him to explore from different perspectives the fate of the profane and earthly characters, either in a comic or tragic tone, and the destiny designed by providence. Calderón places his characters on a theatre in which they are obliged to play roles within a given script in which they feel trapped and fight to understand. Awed by the painful doubts, they do not cease to ask about the sense of existence and attempt to solve the enigmas of destiny, an overabundance of queries that can be summarized in the questions what is life?, what is belief? Calderón the great theatrical chronicler of the nihilistic process characterizing the modern period in which we still live.