• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Stop wasting time looking for files and revisions. Connect your Gmail, DriveDropbox, and Slack accounts and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio will automatically organize all your file attachments. Learn more and claim your free account.


Translation Project Details

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 8 months ago

La vida es sueño Translation Project


Text: Pedro Calderón de la Barca La vida es sueño (Life is a Dream)


Rational for Selection:

            My research focus in Spanish early modern literature prompted me to select Calderon’s La vida es sueño, a supreme example of Golden Age drama, as the text for the project.  Other factors that affected my decision were my growing interest in translation studies, and the realization that there are several similarities between translation and text-analysis: both translation and text-analysis involve the re-creation of text, a close analysis of its content, and a heightened understanding of our role as co-creators of literature.  Additionally, Calderon’s work is ideal due to its rich imagery, abundant thematic content, and the translation challenges it highlights through its English-language versions.

            Due to time constraints, only one portion of the play was selected to be compared across all versions.  The portion selected is the famous soliloquy by the play’s main character, Sigismundo, considered by many critics as the Spanish equivalent to Shakespeare’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy by Hamlet.



  • Employ translation software (Babylon) to re-create both source and translation texts by first converting them from ex. Spanish into English, or English into Spanish, and then translating those versions back into the original language, Spanish or English. 
  • Compare and contrast amongst themselves and with each other source text editions, man-made translations, and software translation versions by utilizing various text-analysis tools (TagCrowd, TAPoR, ManyEyes, Crawdad) from the toy chest to visualize word frequencies along with their importance, identify usage patterns and themes. 



  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of utilizing text-analysis tools?
  • How do text-analysis tools help identify themes and patterns within a text?
  • How do text-analysis tools affect the reading experience and our understanding of texts?
  • What can text-analysis tools show us about texts in translation?
  • How do translation software versions compare to man-made translations?



1. Tools: applied to texts in Spanish and comparison of various translations

            a. TagCrowd

Use: Visualize word frequencies as text clouds. 


- Does not recognize special characters or accents (ex. ñ, ó) - Need to remove or convert them to other characters. 

- Groups some, but not all similar words in Spanish when this option is selected - obstacle to comparison between English and Spanish texts.


            b. TAPoR

Use: Create word clouds, word lists, and concordances to identify main themes.


- Difficulty of working in organized manner due to vast variety of tools - Need to create account to simplify use of tools, group findings, and texts.

- Word Cloud/ List Words/Concordance tools convert special characters and accents into question marks - Need to remove or convert them to other characters.

- No Spanish or other language common word stop list is provided – Need to create your own stop list.

- Word Cloud tool does not give the option of grouping similar words and only provides the “glasgow” stop word list.

- Concordance tool groups some, but not all similar words in Spanish when this option is selected.  Also, the word distribution graph does not function with special characters - obstacle to comparison between English and Spanish texts.


            c. ManyEyes

Use: Visualize text with tag clouds (word frequencies with number of occurrences and context shown in a tooltip) and word trees (individual word, phrase and punctuation concordance shown within context to reveal recurrent themes and phrases).


- Tag clouds, not as appealing visually as those of other tools, for example TagCrowd clouds.

- Tag cloud tool automatically ignores common words in English and other languages like Spanish.


            d. Crawdad

Use: Visualize network of the most influential words (nodes with values above 0.015) and their interconnections with frequency of co-occurrence.  Compare group influence scores (range from 0-1) which serve as indicators of high coherence and focus in the text, as well as a tabular summary of high influence words and word pairs.


- Automatically stops common English words.

- Does not have the option to include a stop list.

- Does not show all influential words or their interconnections in visual map.


            e. Babylon

Use: Apply translation tool to English, French, and Spanish text versions.


- Some words were not translated by the program and were left in the original language. Ex. “Sueño” is translated but not “Sueña”.

- Strange numerical characters appeared in some of the texts.

- Sentences lost their coherence/sense, particularly in Jessica’s literary text, while in Jeff’s theoretical text the distortion was considerably minimized, and in Monica’s reduced to discrepancies in substitution of “a” for “one”.


2. Comparison Spanish Texts:

  • Tag Clouds ManyEyes -

a. Spanish #1: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/SNJtSMsOtha6Nl~IBNMUM2~

b. Spanish #2: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/SNJtSMsOtha66lkUtDMUM2~

Results: At a glance, small differences where detected in punctuation, particularly in the appearance of a question mark in the tag cloud for text #2, conspicuously missing from #1.  Beyond this difference, the most important words are repeated in the same order and have an equal number of occurrences.  Key words by order of appearance: despertar (2), muerte (2), mundo (2), rey (2), sueña (7), sueño (3), sueños (2), vida (3). Only in #2, ? (3) at end of cloud.

  • Word Trees ManyEyes -

a. Spanish #1: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/ScwMDMsOtha6leVu0OOMM2~

b. Spanish #2: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/SNJtSMsOtha6Hn~rl7NUM2~

Results: At a glance, the three words with the most occurrences [sueña (7), sueño (3), vida (3)] share exactly the same branch breakdown and the first word of each branch.

  • Influence Map Crawdad -

a. Spanish #1: Spanish 1stopv9.gif

b. Spanish #2:  Spanish 2stopv10.gif

Results: Major differences become apparent between the texts.  While #1 contains 8 words with strong influence, #2 contains 11 as well as the only visibly strong interconnection, which occurs between sueña and mundo (a word that takes greater importance in #2).  At closer inspection, additional variations in focus appear with #1 giving prevalence to prisiones and estamo, while #2 inserts mandando, cargado, disponiendo and fiera giving a greater number of connections to sueña and sueño.  The group influence scores also vary significantly with a value of 0.451 for #1 and 0.374 for #2, an indicator that text #1 has more coherence and focus.  Although, these editions at a first distant glance seem almost identical, they reveal major differences when compared through a more “refined” tool that provides a closer inspection.


3. Comparison English Texts:

  • Tag Clouds ManyEyes -

a. English #3: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/SNJtSMsOtha6CokuTONUM2~

b. English #4: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/SNJtSMsOtha6VoklfVNUM2~

c. English #5: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/SNJtSMsOtha6ko~FcbNUM2~

Results: At a glance, #3 and #5 share greater similarities with each other than with #4.  In text #3 the top words are dreams (7), dream (5), life (6), earth (3), and means (3), in text #4 dream (6), sleep (5), half (4), life (3), and lives (3), and in text #5 dreams (9), dream (7), life (3) and tis (3).  The importance of death is shared by text #3 and #5, while it is completely minimized by #4 which substitutes the life/death contrast with awake/sleep.

  • Word Trees ManyEyes -

a. English #3: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/ScwMDMsOtha6ad_N2uNMM2~

b. English #4: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/ScwMDMsOtha6~eFru4OMM2~

c. English #5: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/ScwMDMsOtha6WeleIHOMM2~

Results: Placed in context, the variations that were discovered in the tag cloud are only magnified since words are utilized in vastly diverging manner by each author.  This reinforces the inherent difficulty in “judging” translations.  Additionally, #4 and #5 are from the same time period, and as contemporaries we would expect the translations to share some similarities when compared to a translation produced almost 150 years later, #3.  In the analysis this assumption is proved wrong, since #3 and #5 are actually the texts with the most similarities.  Observing briefly the translators’ aims (quoted further down in the page) it becomes apparent that these authors also shared similar goals with their re-creations of Calderon’s work and this is a determining factor for the comparison.  Further research would be required to distinguish more clearly what is shared or not by each work.

  • Influence Map Crawdad -

a. English #3: English 3v6.gif

b. English #4: English 4v7.gif

c. English #5: English 5v8.gif

Results: The indicator for group influence varies significantly between translations, with a value of 0.249 for #3, 0.253 for #4, and 0.711 for #5, an indicator that text #5 has more coherence and focus than any of the other two texts, as well as the source texts.  In text #3 dream and man share equal importance, but upon closer comparison, man actually has the strongest influence.  In text #4 dream heads the map but it distinguishes itself from the other versions by its unique use of words related to the theater (play, actor, stage).  In text #5 dream holds the strongest influence followed by life, man and ti.  New words that make themselves present in these English translations, but are absent from the Spanish texts, are riches, wealth and gold, while world and fiction, very significant words in the Spanish texts, are completely absent from the English translations.


4. Comparison English Texts vs. Software Versions (limited to English versions only)

  • Tag Clouds ManyEyes -

English #3 English #3b

a. Version 3b: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/SGH1dMsOtha6z6~7oZhdM2~

b. Version 4b: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/SGH1dMsOtha6n7UbFFidM2~

c. Version 5b: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/SGH1dMsOtha6M8k5BVidM2~

Results: At a glance, the similarities between “original” translations and the software versions are many.  Slight differences appear with the increase or decrease of occurrence of top words. Comparing #3 with 3b reveals the presence of three new key words (land, vocation, wealth).  With #4 versus 4b, the original word dream’d gets combined with dream and live with life, increasing their number of occurrence, while longer and waking get replaced in importance by shadow and vigil.  It is important to note that a new and significant word is added, no…, with 6 occurrences.  In the comparison of text #5 versus 5b, a number of new words rise in importance (evil, fate, joy, and light), while only one decreases significantly (wrong).     

  • Word Trees ManyEyes -


English #3 English #3b

a. Version 3b: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/SGH1dMsOtha6E7~e46idM2~

b. Version 4b: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/SGH1dMsOtha698~anMidM2~

c. Version 5b: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/view/SGH1dMsOtha6X8kULcidM2~

Results: Placed in context, the similarities between the man-made and software translations are dramatically reduced.  Although most of the top words are illustrated the same number of times as in the original version, the rearranging of the order of words by the software has produced a loss of coherence.  Some of the original sense is still present, but it appears jumbled in most cases.  Sentence ordering is also altered, creating even further distortions of the source text.    

  • Influence Map Crawdad -

English #3 English #3b

a. Version 3b: vs3b engv6.gif

b. Version 4b: vs4b engv9.gif

c. Version 5b: vs5b engv11.gif

Results: The indicator for group influence varies significantly between versions, with a reduced value of 0.186 vs. 0.249 for #3, dramatically increased 0.664 vs. 0.253 for #4, and somewhat reduced 0.662 vs. 0.711 for #5, an indicator that the translation software does affect with great variance the coherence and focus of the texts.  The most affected is #4 that interestingly gains greater focus and coherence, possibly due to the grouping of similar words in the original (ex. Live/life, dream’d/dream).  This version is also the most altered in terms of the top words, with dream being relegated to a more minor role of influence, and replaced by no….  The other versions, with some additions and subtractions, tend to maintain a similar structure, although in all cases, the addition of new influence words is the prevalent pattern.  


General Results:

  • Each translation is a unique text and should not be compared to “original” versions and judged in a hierarchy.
  • Translators’ infidelities do reveal their soul and/or aims.
  • Translation software still needs a lot of improvement, especially for literary texts.  However, it does illuminate other ways in which translations differ from each other.
  • Multiple tools should be used to reveal different aspects of the same text.  This is particularly useful for the comparison of multiple texts against each other.
  • Altering perspectives between distant and close reading does enrich our understanding of texts.  However, they are dependent on each other requiring flexibility to switch back and forth between both modes of interpretation.


Extensions: Ideas for further research

  • Explore differences between types of texts (literary, theoretical, etc.) and Babylon software’s effectiveness in each.
  • Continue to compare man-made and software translation versions against “source” texts.
  • Investigate what translators’ aims and translation choices reveal about their own culture and conditioning.


Text Details: Excerpts All Texts.doc

Pedro Calderón de la Barca La vida es sueño

  • Source: no manuscripts survive
  1. D.W. Cruickshank and J.E. Varey (1973)

      Base Text: Primera Parte de Comedias de Don Pedro Calderón de la Barca collected by    Joseph Calderón de la Barca, his brother (Madrid, 1636). (Transcription by Elizabeth Lagresa)


  1. Vern G. Williamsen Ed. (1982)

      Base Text: Everett W. Hesse, La vida es sueño (New York: Scribner's Sons, 1961) based, in turn, on the princeps of the work in the Primera Parte de las Comedias de Don Pedro Calderón de la Barca (Madrid, 1636).(w3.coh.arizona.edu/projects/comedia/textlist.html)


Pedro Calderón de la Barca Life is a Dream

  • Translations: all are full-length English-language versions
  1. Gegory J. Racz (2006) – Assoc. Professor Long Island University, Brooklyn. Claims to be the first attempt to render the drama in analogue meter and rhyme since the 1850’s.

      Base Text: Juan Eugenio de Hartzenbusch, 1851 "Biblioteca de Autores Españoles".  (Transcription by Elizabeth Lagresa)


  1. Edward FitzGerald (1853/1858) – English poet. In 1853, he issued Six Dramas of Calderon, freely translated, and in 1865 two more plays from Calderon.

      Base Text: unknown. (http://www.gutenberg.org)


  1. Denis Florence MacCarthy (1850/1873) – Irish poet, translator and biographer. Claims to be the first translation in the meter of the original.

      Calderon's Dramas. Published in London by Henry S. King in 1873. Containing Life is a Dream (La Vida es Sueño).  

      Base Text: Hartzenbusch edition of Calderon's Comedias, Madrid, 1856 ("Biblioteca de Autores Españoles"). (www.gutenberg.org/)


Babylon Software Versions of Pedro Calderón de la Barca La vida es sueño & Life is a Dream 

  1. Version 1a - Spanish #1 translated with Babylon into English
  2. Version 1b - English Babylon version 1a, translated back into Spanish with Babylon
  3. Version 2a - Spanish #2 translated with Babylon into English
  4. Version 2b - English Babylon version 2a, translated back into Spanish with Babylon
  5. Version 3a - English #3 Racz translation, translated with Babylon into Spanish
  6. Version 3b - Spanish Babylon version 3a, translated back into English with Babylon
  7. Version 4a - English #4 FitzGerald translation, translated with Babylon into Spanish
  8. Version 4b Spanish Babylon version 4a, translated back into English with Babylon
  9. Version 5a - English #5 MacCarthy translation, translated with Babylon into Spanish
  10. Version 5b - Spanish Babylon version 5a, translated back into English with Babylon


Translators' Aims:

Three solutions for the same problem: how to maintain “faithfulness” to the original while attempting to influence positively

the lack of acceptance of this Spanish play by English-speaking societies


1. Racz

“The present translation of Calderon’s masterpiece represents

the first attempt to render the drama entirely in analogous meter and rhyme

since 1853, when both Denis Florence MacCarthy and Edward FitzGerald,

with varying degrees of success, contemporaneously produced

full-length English-language versions of the play…

The language of this translation has attempted to retain a hint of archaism

without striving to sound pseudo-Shakespearean. 

One aim of this approach has been to allow contemporary English-language

audiences to eavesdrop, as it were, on the aesthetics of dramatic production

 in a Spain whose nearly four-hundred-year remove in time is

surpassed by a cultural distance vaster still.” (A Note on the Translation) 


2. FitzGerald

“The dominant motives in Calderon's dramas are characteristically

national: fervid loyalty to Church and King, and a sense of honor heightened

almost to the point of the fantastic. Though his plays

 are laid in a great variety of scenes and ages, the sentiment and the

 characters remain essentially Spanish; and this intensely local quality

 has probably lessened the vogue of Calderon in other countries. In the

 construction and conduct of his plots he showed great skill, yet the

 ingenuity expended in the management of the story did not restrain the

 fiery emotion and opulent imagination which mark his finest speeches

and give them a lyric quality which some critics regard as his greatest


The bad watch kept by the sentinels who guarded their state-prisoner, together

with much else (not all!) that defies sober sense in this wild drama, I

must leave Calderon to answer for; whose audience were not critical of

 detail and probability, so long as a good story, with strong, rapid, and

picturesque action and situation, was set before them.” (Intro) 


3. Mac-Carthy

 “Now first translated fully from the Spanish in the metre

 Of the original. By Denis Florence Mac-Carthy.

 Two of the dramas contained in this volume are the most celebrated of

 all Calderon's writings.  The first, "La Vida es Sueno", has been

translated into many languages and performed with success on almost

every stage in Europe but that of England

The present version of the entire play has been made with the advantages

which the author's long experience in the study and interpretation of

Calderon has enabled him to apply to this master-piece of the great

Spanish poet.  All the forms of verse have been preserved; while the

closeness of the translation may be inferred from the fact, that not

 only the whole play but every speech and fragment of a speech are

 represented in English in the exact number of lines of the original,

without the sacrifice, it is to be hoped, of one important idea.” (Intro)


Background Text:


Author - Pedro Calderón de la Barca:

            He was considered one of the leading dramatists of the Spanish Golden Age.  Born in Madrid on January 17, 1600, Calderon studied canon law in preparation for his presumed career in the church, but in the 1620’s he started to write verse, and his success in competitions attracted attention.  Eventually, the prolific Calderon would write approximately 120 full-length dramatic works, some 80 one-act autos sacramentales (religious mystery plays), and many other short pieces of poetry and works for the theater.  He continued to write both secular and religious plays until his death on May 25, 1681.


Text - La vida es sueño: (1635)

            Considered by many to be the supreme example of Spanish Golden Age drama, La vida es sueño was written as a comedy, yet it has tragic overtones and its leading characters meditate on such serious questions as moral behavior, the opposition between free-will and predestination, reality and illusion, various types of hybridity, and the nature and purpose of human life in general.  These central themes overshadow other themes present, like the education of princes, the model ruler, power, honor and justice. 

            In it, the notion that the world is a stage and life an apparition, a dream, is not simply a poetic image or metaphor; it is presented as a philosophy, a design for living.  The implication is that in spite of the purposelessness of life, or perhaps because of it, life should be lived with dignity, courage, and morals.  The lessons taught about human conduct carry a twofold message: life is a dream, yet it must not be lived irresponsibly.  Each of us must discover our own idea of virtue and honor and practice it, as it were, gratuitously.  The subplot is that of a routine comedy, full of disguises and surprise recognitions; yet it is carried by characters whose main purpose seems to be to meditate on human destiny and to contemplate death, while their speech, at once formal and exuberant, full of rich imagery, expresses their vitality and earthly attachment. 


Plot - Summary:

            In the play, the king of Poland, Basil, has had his son Segismund imprisoned all of his life because it has been prophesied that the son will bring calamity to the country.  The king tells his subjects that his son died after childbirth, but after his son has grown to be a man, he reveals to his court that he lives, and allows the court to vote in favor of allowing the son to become heir.  However, the son turns out to be violent, killing a man and attempting rape.  For this he is drugged and returned to his prison, and told upon waking that the previous day's events were merely a dream.  Still, his jailer, Clotaldo, scolds him for his un-princely behavior, which prompts remorse in Segismund.  Rebels against the king, who have found out about the treatment of Segismund, break him out of prison. The rebels defeat the king's army; however, Segismund doubts again if he is in reality or a dream, finally deciding that even in a dream we have to behave well, and ultimately forgives the king.


Translations - History:

            Over twenty English-language translations of Calderon’s La vida es sueño are in existence.  The majority of these have been published in book form, though some remain in manuscript, and many are now out of print.  These texts vary considerably in aesthetic conceptualization and poetic strategy, and range from literal prose versions to free-verse renderings, and abridged adaptations for the stage.  The earliest translation of the play into English, by Malcolm Cowan, dates from 1830. 


Archive Links:


Student Bio: Elizabeth Lagresa

Team Project Page:close reading re-visited

Annotated Bibliography: Bibliography Translation

Research Report: Borges "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote"


Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.