Critical Evaluation

If Lope de Vega wrote plays at an early age, Pedro Calderón de la Barca was no less precocious. When his Death, the Best Friend was published in 1657, it was announced as the work of a nine-year-old boy. In his letter of 1680 to his friend the duke of Veragua, he stated that Cart of Heaven was completed when he was thirteen. Very likely he was practicing the art of playwriting before he graduated from the University of Salamanca in 1619, certainly immediately afterward. One critic dated The Fake Astrologer before 1622 because of its mingling of Tirso de Molina and Lope de Vega, and all critics put it before 1625, when Calderón went into military service. Because of the many pirated copies by publishers and actors, it quickly appeared in several authorized versions before being included, with additional scenes, in part 2 of his Collected Plays in 1637, a volume reissued posthumously in 1682 by Calderón’s friend Juan de Vera Tassis.

In The Fake Astrologer, a satire on grifters and impostors, there is no deep philosophy and little beyond a fast-moving farce. The first scene of act 2 provides a good sample of the belabored language of Gongorism as Diego pleads his love in baroque style and María replies in language no less flowery and figurative. It takes the servant to bring the speakers down to earth. There is no moral lesson, unless it is Morón’s insistence that one cannot trust a woman with a secret.

The Fake Astrologer also satirizes astrology, which had adherents even in devout Catholic Spain of the Golden Age. Calderón, like other literary greats of the time in Spain and Portugal, did not...

(The entire section is 686 words.)