Out of the Wings

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La dama duende (1629), Pedro Calderón de la Barca


There are plenty of scene changes in this three-act comedia, shifting back and forth between the family home and the street. Act 1 has three scenes, one in each of the three locations (Angela’s room, Manuel’s room and the street). Act 2 has five scenes, and act 3 has four scenes.


There are three locations: Angela’s room, Manuel’s guest apartment in the same house, and the street outside. The set for the house must allow the possibility of communication between Angela’s and Manuel’s respective apartments by means of a glass panel disguised as a mirrored wall. At least one production has used a turntable for this, but there are myriad options for the director to create the glass panel/cupboard that separates his room from her quarters. In the Golden Age this illusion may have been created through opening and closing of the discovery space upstage (Ruano de la Haza 1987). The outdoor scenes could take place in front of the house. Angela’s apartment requires lamps and the ability for it to be ‘transformed’ from her normal lady’s dayroom into the mysterious noblewoman’s private apartment, with treats to eat and ice water to drink, served by elegantly dressed ladies-in-waiting. There is a place in Angela’s room where a person can hide to hear the conversation in the room but not be seen, as both Luis and Beatriz take advantage of this hideaway. In the Golden Age theatre spaces (corrales) this would have been done ‘al paño’ – that is with a character overhearing from a doorway. Manuel’s apartment needs a desk or table for writing letters and under which Cosme can hide. It is connected by a door to a little alcove bedchamber, where Cosme is locked in, but from which he can still be heard. There is a brazier or coal-burning stove in the room, from which Isabel takes ashes to refill Cosme’s purse when she steals his money. Extinguishable and re-lightable lamps are referred to, as there is a need for the difference between ‘light’ and ‘darkness’ — fumbling around in the dark, and then sudden revelations when a candle is lit, are crucial to the plot. Isabel brings in a basket of linens, letters are written and exchanged, Cosme has a purse with coins. Angela and Isabel are veiled when they go out in public or are in disguise, and Angela is normally in mourning clothes except when she dresses extravagantly to pose as the mysterious noblewoman. Manuel has luggage and travelling clothes, including a black cloak, and of course, all the noblemen carry swords.

  • Ruano de la Haza, J. M. 1987. ‘The Staging of Calderón’s La vida es sueño and La dama duende’, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, 64,1, 51-63

Cast number
Minimum Maximum
4 males 5 males
4 females 4 females
8 (total) 9 (total)
Cast information
plus extra servants and attendants
  • DON MANUEL, Friend of Don Luis
  • DON JUAN, Angela’s brother
  • DON LUIS, Angela’s brother
  • COSME, Manuel’s comic servant
  • RODRIGO, Servant
  • DOÑA ANGELA, Noblewoman, and a widow
  • DOÑA BEATRIZ, Noblewoman, friend of Angela’s
  • ISABEL, Angela’s servant
  • CLARA, Servant

Entry written by Kathleen Jeffs. Last updated on 4 October 2010.

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