"Life is a Dream" is Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s most famous play and in the opinion of many the finest in the Spanish language. First published and first produced in 1636, during the heyday of Spain’s golden age of literature, "Life is a Dream" is a play in verse that intertwines a complex family drama with a tale of honor and vengeance.
It is brilliantly constructed with several themes intertwined: Illusion (dreams)/reality, free will/predestination, the responsibility of monarchs/the art of governing, knowledge or experience/superstition, love/vengeance, honour/dishonour, loyalty/rebellion, justice/vengeance, prudence/ instinct, father/son conflict or order/disorder.
"Life is a Dream" is set around the kingdom of Poland. A king, Basillio, is looking settle a dispute for the heir to his throne between his neice and nephew. He reveals that he has a son locked away out of fear that he would overthrow his kingdom and destroy him, which was revealed to him by the stars. He decided to give his son (Sigesmund) a chance to prove himself worthy of the throne, but fails and is sent back to isolation. He is later set free during a rebelion when soldiers discover his existance. Sigesmund overthrows the kingdom and shows his father mercy.