Life is a Dream

by

Pedro Calderón de la Barca

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Basilio Character Analysis

Basilio is the King of Poland and Segismundo’s father. Basilio is a “learned” man, especially in science and mathematics, and he hopes to use his knowledge to overcome fate. When Segismundo is born under an “astrological conjunction” that implies he will be a cruel and tyrannical king, Basilio locks him up. However, as years pass, Basilio begins to question his decision and wonders if Segismundo might be able to resist his evil nature and act instead based on his own free will. Basilio decides to free Segismundo and bring him back to the palace as a prince, but he first has Clotaldo sedate him with a potion made of herbs, so that they can tell Segismundo his experience has all been a dream should he behave badly and need to be sent back to prison. Segismundo reacts badly when he finds out his true identity, and he curses Basilio for robbing him of his divine right and freedom. Basilio sends Segismundo back to prison, and informs his nephew, Astolfo, that he is to be the new king, but the damage has already been done. The commoners refuse to accept a foreigner as king and begin to revolt, and they break Segismundo out of prison, overthrowing Basilio. Basilio surrenders at his son’s feet, but Segismundo shows him mercy. Impressed by his son’s good deed and convinced the prophecy is wrong, Basilio makes Segismundo the new king after all. The character of Basilio illustrates the conflict between fate, or predestination, and free will. Instead of believing that one’s destiny is fixed, Basilio believes that one can decide their fate through exercising free will.

Basilio Quotes in Life is a Dream

The Life is a Dream quotes below are all either spoken by Basilio or refer to Basilio. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of Life is a Dream published in 2012.
Act One Quotes

By Clorilene my wife
I had an unlucky son,
during whose gestation the heavens
exhausted their miracles
even before he emerged into the lovely light
from the living grave
of the womb (because birth
and death are similar).
Infinite times his mother,
amid the visions and delirium
of dreams, saw her entrails
being burst by a bold
monster in human shape;
dyed in her blood,
he was killing her, born
to be the human viper of the age.

Related Characters: Basilio (speaker), Segismundo, Astolfo, Estrella
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

The day of her delivery arrived
and, the forecasts coming true
(because evil forecasts never lie,
or, if so, only belatedly),
he was born at such an astrological conjunction
that the sun, tinged with its blood,
was fiercely entering
into a joust with the moon,
and, with the earth for their barrier,
the two celestial lamps
were struggling light to light,
since one cannot say “hand to hand.”
The greatest, most terrifying
eclipse ever suffered by
the sun from the time when it bloodily
bewailed the death of Christ,
was this one: because the globe,
drowned in living flames,
seemed to be suffering
its final paroxysm.

Related Characters: Basilio (speaker), Segismundo, Astolfo, Estrella
Page Number: 18-9
Explanation and Analysis:

I, referring to my books,
found in them, and in all things,
that Segismundo would be
the most insolent man,
the most cruel prince,
and the most impious monarch,
through whom his kingdom would come
to be fragmented and divided,
a school for treason
and an academy of vice;
and that he, carried away by his fury,
amid fearful crimes,
would one day set his foot
on me, and that I, surrendering
would find myself groveling before him
(with what anguish I say this!),
the gray hairs of my beard
serving as a carpet to his feet.

Related Characters: Basilio (speaker), Segismundo, Rosaura/Astraea, Astolfo, Estrella
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Well, I, lending credence
to soothsaying fate,
which forecast harm to me
in dire predictions,
decided to lock up
the wild beast that had been born,
to see whether a wise man
can prevail over the stars.

Related Characters: Basilio (speaker), Segismundo, Clotaldo, Astolfo, Estrella
Page Number: 19-20
Explanation and Analysis:

The third and final factor
is the realization that it was a tremendous mistake
to lend easy credence
to the predictions of events;
because, even if his nature
is inclined toward outrages,
perhaps it won’t overcome him,
since even the most dire fate,
the most violent inclination,
the most evil planet,
merely dispose our free will in a certain direction,
but never compel it in that direction.

Related Characters: Basilio (speaker), Segismundo, Astolfo, Estrella
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two Quotes

I wish to determine whether heaven
(which cannot lie,
especially after giving us
such great displays of its severity
with regard to his cruel nature)
can be assuaged, or at least
mollified, and whether, overcome
by merit and wisdom,
it can go back on its word;
because man has dominion over the stars.

Related Characters: Basilio (speaker), Segismundo, Clotaldo
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

I’m not dreaming, because I feel and believe
that which I was and that which I am.
And, even though you regret it now,
there’s not much you can do about it:
I know who I am, and even if you sigh
and grieve, you won’t be able
to undo the fact that I was born
heir to this crown;
and if you saw me formerly
a prisoner of my shackles,
it was because I didn’t know who I was;
but now I have been informed
as to who I am, and I know that I’m
a hybrid of man and beast.

Related Characters: Segismundo (speaker), Basilio
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

Since we had been speaking
about that eagle, when you slept
you dreamt of empire,
but even in dreams it would have been proper
at that time to honor the man
who raised you with such great pains,
Segismundo, because even in dreams
good deeds are never wasted.

Related Characters: Clotaldo (speaker), Segismundo, Basilio, Astolfo
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Three Quotes

Sire, even though fate knows
every pathway and finds
the man it seeks amid the thickness
of rocks, it isn’t a Christian
belief to say that there’s no protection against its fury.
There is, for the man with foresight
can gain victory over fate;
and, if you are not yet secure
against distress and misfortune,
create that security for yourself

Related Characters: Clotaldo (speaker), Segismundo, Basilio, Astolfo
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Life is a Dream LitChart as a printable PDF.
Life is a Dream PDF

Basilio Character Timeline in Life is a Dream

The timeline below shows where the character Basilio appears in Life is a Dream. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
...stranger for unlawfully entering the secret prison. If Clotaldo takes the two strangers to King Basilio, they will surely be killed, but to hide them from the king and disobey orders... (full context)
Dreams vs. Reality Theme Icon
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
Astolfo reminds Estrella that their uncle, King Basilio, is childless and has no one to take the throne after his death. As the... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
As Basilio enters, both Astolfo and Estrella plead their case to ascend the throne. Basilio assures them... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
Under Segismundo’s rule, Basilio claims, Poland is destined to be torn and full of dissent. Their country will be... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
Basilio tells Estrella and Astolfo that there are a few important factors to remember. First, Basilio... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
Basilio has decided to bring Segismundo to the palace tomorrow. Segismundo will be placed on Basilio’s... (full context)
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
Astolfo agrees to Basilio’s plan to bring Segismundo to the palace, and the people yell out for their prince.... (full context)
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
Clotaldo is relieved. Now he won’t have to tell Basilio that the stranger is his son. Rosaura turns to Clotaldo and thanks him for sparing... (full context)
Act Two
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Dreams vs. Reality Theme Icon
Clotaldo and Basilio enter the palace, and Clotaldo says that he has carried out each of the king’s... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
...in the carriage and brought him to the palace, where they placed him in King Basilio’s luxurious bed. Now that Clotaldo has done exactly as the king has ordered, he asks... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Segismundo, Basilio reminds Clotaldo, is destined for “a thousand misfortunes and tragedies,” and Basilio wants to find... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Dreams vs. Reality Theme Icon
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
Basilio expects that Segismundo would be exceedingly upset to find out that he is a prince... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
...prison because it is his fate to be a wicked tyrant, but his father, King Basilio, believes that Segismundo’s good sense can overcome his evil nature. Segismundo is furious, and he... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...to calm down, but Segismundo threatens to take his head off. As Astolfo exits, King Basilio enters, demanding to know what is going on. Segismundo explains that the servant irritated him,... (full context)
Dreams vs. Reality Theme Icon
Basilio tells Segismundo that he wishes he had never been born, and Segismundo curses Basilio for... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Dreams vs. Reality Theme Icon
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
...and Astolfo rushes in, coming to Clotaldo’s aid. As Astolfo and Segismundo draw their swords, Basilio enters the room with Estrella. Segismundo threatens to kill Astolfo, too, and he tells Basilio... (full context)
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
Basilio and Clotaldo exit, but Estrella and Astolfo stay behind. Astolfo claims that he isn’t surprised... (full context)
Dreams vs. Reality Theme Icon
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
...and Clotaldo claims it is because Clarín knows his secrets. “You’re a ‘Clarion,’” Clotaldo says. Basilio enters, upset that Segismundo must be sent back to prison. Segismundo begins to dream and... (full context)
Act Three
Dreams vs. Reality Theme Icon
...he is the real Segismundo, and Clarín immediately explains. Fearing a prophecy, Clarín says, King Basilio has deprived Segismundo of his liberty and plans to make Astolfo the new king. The... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
...theme of the day, he cannot possibly join forces with him and fight against King Basilio. Clotaldo says that Segismundo will have to kill him if he expects him to betray... (full context)
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
As the alarm sounds and Segismundo and Clotaldo exit the tower, Basilio and Astolfo enter. Basilio laments that his kingdom is torn and divided. Half of them... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
Estrella enters. Basilio must get ahold of the uprising, she warns, or Poland is sure to be soaked... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
...attack on the palace, and the men begin to fight. As Clarín runs to hide, Basilio enters with Clotaldo and Astolfo, retreating from the fighting. Basilio’s men have been defeated by... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Clarín falls dead to the ground, and Basilio claims that it is God’s will. Clotaldo tells Basilio that it isn’t “Christian” to claim... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Segismundo addresses the people with Basilio at his feet. He claims his father, the king, has turned him into a “human... (full context)
Fate vs. Free Will Theme Icon
Dreams vs. Reality Theme Icon
Morality, Honor, and Vengeance  Theme Icon
On account of Segismundo’s good will, Basilio immediately names him king of Poland. As his first act as king, Segismundo orders Astolfo... (full context)