Spanish Golden Age Brief Overview:
Between 15th and 17th Century (1492-1659 roughly). The Spanish Golden Age was a period of Spanish history when artists and literature bloomed. The Golden Age coincides directly with the rise and fall of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty. The Habsburgs ruled during the Spanish Golden age. (Additionally, they ruled in Austria as well). They were incredible supporters of the arts in both Spain and Austria.
The Golden Age began with the successes of Columbus. His journeys to the new world known as Reconquista (Reconquest) inspired the Spanish culture and placed Spain on the political map as the leader of the new world and the forerunner in discovering new lands and unearthing the globe. The Golden Age ended in 1659 with the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which was a political settlement between the French and Spanish cultures. The death of Calderon (1681) is also considered the death of El Siglo de Oro, which basically means the Spanish Renaissance, the thriving of arts and humanities in Spain.
Similarities between Shakespeare and Calderon:
Shakespeare and Calderon: Both writing around same time, use music to help create dramatic tension; Calderon uses Shakespeare's themes (Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, Macbeth); Both write with metaphors; both allow royalty to speak in long monologues that show off how smart they are or how much they love war.
Differences in Writing Styles (Shakespeare/Calderon):
Shakespeare was written in English, and from the Folios and Quartos, we could see how editors have edited/changed his work over the years. With Calderon, his work is translated so there are many variations, all with subtle changed. Example: life is a dream or life's a dream. First line: hippogryphs or horses.
Differences Between Spanish Theater and Theater Today:
Theatre in Calderon's time was meant to be spectacle. He was commissioned by Phillip IV to write plays for the court. Today, theatre is more publicly available, being shown in smaller theatre houses across the world with themes and styles varying from play to play, from the realism of modern american theatre to the more outlandish German cabaret style. In Calderon's day theatre was taking place in three major locations: 1) the Palace of the Buen Retirio built on the outskirts of Madrid in the 1630s. By 1635 (the date of Life Is A Dream) there were the other two locations: 2) the "salon de reinos [hall of arms] in the palace began to be used for performances. 3) the "estanque grande" [large lake] and an island in its middle were used for more splendid stagings. Other major difference is the use of specific theatrical conventions that are not common practice today - such as the use of "emblematic staging" where symbols and visuals cues through tableau, revealed by pulling back a curtain, were used to convey a message to an audience who would have known what they meant. For example, an almond tree was symbolic of those who mature at too young an age. A peacock was for pride.