Further Critical Evaluation of the Work
Calderón’s IT IS BETTER THAN IT WAS falls into that subdivision of his cloak-and-sword plays known as the Palace Plays. Although the techniques applied to this type are essentially the same as in the cloak-and-sword plays, the distinguishing feature is that the Palace Plays revolve around incidents in the lives of the upper nobility.
The primary purpose of IT IS BETTER THAN IT WAS is simple amusement, and consequently there is little of the philosophy of Calderón’s later plays. Yet there are on display many of the traits for which the playwright is noted. The stylization of balance and contrast for which Calderón had so strong a penchant is found not only in the linguistic style and imagery, but also in the arrangement of the plot. The main plot deals with Don Carlos’ love for Flora, who is aiding his escape from his pursuers. The secondary plot centers around the love of Arnaldo and Laura. This situation turns on the appearance versus reality theme brought by misunderstanding, deceptions, veiled ladies, and forbidden suitors. Comic situations arise because of the discrepancy between illusion and reality and are accentuated by the compromising circumstances in which the characters find themselves.
The linguistic style and imagery are full of the gyrations of conceptual and formal language, particularly characteristic of the seventeenth century Spanish court. The rigid formality of this style and imagery, although seeming artificial today, served to create the courtly atmosphere of the society in which the action took place and its vogue for expressing matters of the heart in veiled language.
IT IS BETTER THAN IT WAS, while not being one of Calderón’s most notable plays, was characteristic of his early efforts and was a great favorite of audiences who enjoyed the tricks and deceptions of Calderón’s comedies.