Pedro Calderón de la Barca was born in Madrid on January 17, 1600, to an aristocratic family. Little is known about his childhood. His mother died when Calderón was ten, and his father died five years later. Calderón was educated in the Jesuit Colegio Imperial in Madrid and later in the University of Alcalá de Henares and the University of Salamanca, where he prepared himself for the priesthood. He did not, however, embark immediately on an ecclesiastical career, but preferred instead to dedicate himself to literary pursuits, participating in various poetry contests in which he won some recognition—including praise on two occasions from Lope de Vega, who at the time was Spain’s leading dramatist.
In 1623, Calderón’s first datable play, Amor, honor y poder (love, honor, and power) was performed in Madrid. At approximately the same time, the poet embarked on a military career and may have participated in the surrender of Breda, which he dramatized in his play El sitio de Breda (the siege of Breda). For a time, he continued to involve himself with both the theater and the military. Following the death of Lope de Vega in 1635, Philip IV appointed Calderón court dramatist and director of the newly constructed and lavish court theater at Buen Retiro. In 1637, the king named him a knight in the Order of Santiago. In 1638, he fought against the French in the Battle of Fuenterrabía, and in 1640, he helped suppress a rebellion in Catalonia (northeastern Spain). Finally, in 1642, ill health—perhaps resulting from a wound received in...
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