Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Segismundo in Life is a Dream/La vida es sueño (Calderón de la Barca) – in 4 languages!!!

Howdy! This week’s monologue takes us to the Golden Age of Spanish Drama. We’ve covered this era before in Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna. Now, time for Calderón de la Barca‘s seminal allegory Life Is a Dream. The following plot description is taken from a drama book from the 1930s.

Screen Shot 2019-08-31 at 10.34.12 AM
The 1640 edition.

THE horoscope of the infant Prince, Segismund, convinces the Polish King, Basilio, that Segismund is destined to bring dishonor on Poland and downfall to his father, Basilio. He therefore announces that Segismund has died with his mother in birth. Confined in a tower, deep in the rocky fastnesses of the frontier, Segismund grows to manhood chained like an animal to a ring in the floor, guarded under direction of Basilio’s confidential general, Clotaldo.

[I’m not really liking the king and I’m pretty sure Clotaldo didn’t plan on guarding one dude for decades when he made general]

As the play opens two strangers whose storm-frighted horses have bolted, stumble on Segismund’s prison. One of them confesses in a voice all too gentle for her masculine attire that she has come from Muscovy on a matter of vengeance and Segismund, for the moment unguarded, confesses that he too, thinks often on revenge. Clotaldo’s appearance is about to result in death for the newcomers when the general recognizes the stranger’s sword as one he had left years before in Muscovy as pledge for favor owed. The stranger identifies herself as Rosaura, daughter of Clotaldo’s quondam benefactor, and is proffered safe conduct to Warsaw.

[That’s convenient]

Meanwhile the King has Segismund brought to court while in a drugged sleep, to wake to all the appearances of royal splendor. His tragic story is related to him, he meets his cousins, Astolfo and Estrella, and falls promptly in love with the latter. When, however, his father, the King, appears, his desire for revenge on an unnatural father is too strong and he would have attacked the King had not the guards prevented. For this action he is returned in a drugged sleep to his prison and the King prepares to carry out his plans to marry his nephew, Duke Astolfo of Muscovy, to his niece, Estrella, and turn over his kingdom to them.

[Nobody: How much incest do you want? This play: YASSS]

Meanwhile, back in the prison, Segismund is convinced by Clotaldo that the entire day’s happenings are but a dream. Clotaldo nevertheless chides him for his unprincelike lack of self-control so effectively that when later in the day he is rescued by revolting Polish troops directed to his prison by Rosaura, he treats the vanquished King with great nobility and returns to him his forfeit crown. When he discovers that Astolfo has broken his engagement to Rosaura in hopes of gaining the Polish crown through marriage to Estrella, he dissolves the new bond, returning Astolfo to Rosaura and claims Estrella for himself.

[Unprincelike lack of self-control? You try being brought up chained to a castle with some creepy old general watching you your entire life and see how much self-control you have. And of course what happy ending doesn’t include cousin marriage?]

If you want the plot explained by Lego characters in German, look no further than here.

All joking aside, Life is a Dream is often considered the greatest Golden Age play. The themes of fate and free will are relevant today and so are the related themes of uncertainty vs. certainty.

I couldn’t find an English video of what is generally called “Segismundo’s first monologue.” So, let’s focus on Segismundo’s 2nd monologue.

Segismundo: I must control this savagery.

The English version of the monologue is indeed savage.

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Translation by Gwynne Edwards.

Now in the original Spanish:

Es verdad. Pues reprimamos
esta fiera condicion,
esta furia, esta ambicion,
por si alguna ve soñamos:
Y sí haremos, pues estamos
en mundo tan singular,
que el vivir sólo es soñar;
y la experiencia me enseña
que el hombre que vive, sueña
lo que es, hasta dispertar.
Sueña el Rey que es rey

Sueña el rey que es rey, y vive
con este engaño mandando,
disponiendo y gobernando;
y este aplauso, que recibe
prestado, en el viento escribe,
y en cenizas le convierte
la muerte, ¡desdicha fuerte!
¿Que hay quien intente reinar,
viendo que ha de despertar
en el sueño de la muerte?

Sueña el rico en su riqueza,
que más cuidados le ofrece;
sueña el pobre que padece
su miseria y su pobreza;
sueña el que á medrar empieza,
sueña el que afana y pretende,
sueña el que agravia y ofende,
y en el mundo, en conclusión,
todos sueñan lo que son,
aunque ninguno lo entiende.

Yo sueño que estoy aquí
destas prisiones cargado,
y soñé que en otro estado
más lisonjero me ví.
¿Qué es la vida? Un frenesí.
¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión,
una sombra, una ficción,
y el mayor bien es pequeño:
que toda la vida es sueño,
y los sueños, sueños son.

Dream vs. reality. Lovely. Let’s see what these monologues look like. We were lucky enough to find them in several languages. The first one is in English.

Even though the monologue is listed as a “male” monologue, please note several women performing it.

English

 

Spanish A

 

Spanish B

 

Spanish C

 

Spanish D

 

Spanish E

 

Spanish F

 

German (!)

 

Here it is in Portuguese:

É certo; então reprimamos
esta fera condição,
esta fúria, esta ambição,
pois pode ser que sonhemos;
e o faremos, pois estamos
em mundo tão singular
que o viver é só sonhar
e a vida ao fim nos imponha
que o homem que vive, sonha
o que é, até despertar.
Sonha o rei que é rei, e segue
com esse engano mandando,
resolvendo e governando.
E os aplausos que recebe,
Vazios, no vento escreve;
e em cinzas a sua sorte
a morte talha de um corte.
E há quem queira reinar
vendo que há de despertar
no negro sonho da morte?
Sonha o rico sua riqueza
que trabalhos lhe oferece;
sonha o pobre que padece
sua miséria e pobreza;
sonha o que o triunfo preza,
sonha o que luta e pretende,
sonha o que agrava e ofende
e no mundo, em conclusão,
todos sonham o que são,
no entanto ninguém entende.
Eu sonho que estou aqui
de correntes carregado
e sonhei que em outro estado
mais lisonjeiro me vi.
Que é a vida? Um frenesi.
Que é a vida? Uma ilusão,
uma sombra, uma ficção;
o maior bem é tristonho,
porque toda a vida é sonho
e os sonhos, sonhos são.

Portuguese A

 

Portuguese B

 

This play may be worth mining for other monologues in the future.

Don’t forget to check out more monologues and our new theatre horror stories.

Have a good one!

 

2 thoughts on “Monologue Monday: Segismundo in Life is a Dream/La vida es sueño (Calderón de la Barca) – in 4 languages!!!”

  1. Georg Kaiser was another interesting German (Expressionist) playwright…he wrote FROM MORNING ‘ TIL MIDNIGHT, in which I appeared in New York.

    Like

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