Calderon De La Barca's Life Is A Dream

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Staged in London this year, a new version of Calderon De La Barca 's play Life is a Dream, retells it from the point of view of its main female character. The website for Rosaura proclaims her as "one of the strongest characters in the history of theatre", (REF), giving the impression that Calderon, despite his strong absolutist and catholic views, believed in some equality of the sexes. After all, in the original play, when Rosaura bursts onto the stage, dressed like a man, swearing and climbing down a mountain side, she is signalling to the audience that this is a female character breaking down all the restrictions placed on her gender in 17th Century Spain. Conversely, by the play 's end, this feisty female is submitting meekly to marriage, …show more content…

The very act of cross-dressing itself was subversive, especially in Spain where costume was hugely important, not just on stage but in real life. Literary critic William Egginton notes in An Epistemology of the Stage, that when it came to costume the "Spanish public was extremely sensitive to such signifiers of class and could not, for example, tolerate or comprehend a scene in which the signs of social status presented by costume and speech would conflict". (402) With the audience so sensitive to costume details, what must they have thought about Rosaura 's male attire? Women dressing as men was a common device used by playwrights in the Golden Age (mujer vestida de hombre ) and one wonders was it merely because it was practical? After all, to have a character confined to the private space places limits on where the writer can set scenes. Far easier to have her dress as a man and then she can traverse the masculine public space. Yet the complete lack of men cross-dressing as women (even for comedic scenes) and the popularity of the mujer de la hombre device with the audience (more specifically the mosqueteros; more on that later) and in a country with such stong patriarchal ideals rather suggests it was used for titillation. This is also evident in the text of Life is a Dream where Rosaura is still sexually attractive to Segismundo though he believes she is a man, "I am so bewitched I can no longer think" (Act I, 174), strongly hinting that the actress would play this role with a wink to the audience, playing up on her sexual appeal. It is unlikely that Calderon was writing the first quasi-homesexual romance of the Golden

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