Celestina, La


Celestina, La
   by Fernando de Rojas
(ca. 1490–1502)
   La Celestina is the name popularly given to the famous Spanish prose dialogue originally published in 1499 as the Comedia de Calisto y Melibea. The anonymous first edition consisted of 16 auctos or acts, but a second edition in 1502 (rechristened a Tragicomedia) added five more acts between the original acts 14 and 15, and also revealed (in an acrostic) the author to be one Fernando de Rojas.A prefatory letter to the later editions claims that Rojas discovered the first act and part of the second act, written by an unknown author, and completed the text in just two weeks. Rojas, a converted Jew who is known to have practiced law and who died in 1541, was apparently a law student at the University of Salamanca between 1494 and 1502, and scholars believe that the work was intended for reading aloud to students at the university (a custom of the time). The first reading of the original 16-act version of the text is believed to have taken place in 1497. The text tells the story of the noble youth Calisto who, pursuing a hawk, enters the garden of a Jew named Pleberio. There he meets and falls in love with the Jew’s beautiful daughter Melibea, but she rebuffs him. Calisto’s unsavory servant Sempronio suggests that his master employ the services of an aged bawd, La Celestina, who is practiced in all the arts of seduction and will be able to win the girl’s love for Calisto. After a complex dialogue, the devious Celestine is able to persuade the virtuous Melibea to answer Calisto’s suit.
   The grateful Calisto pays Celestina in cash and a gold necklace. But when the wicked Sempronio and his fellow servant Pármeno hear of this, they decide they deserve a share of the profit. They await Celestina at her hut near the river, along with their whores, Celestina’s friends Elicia and Areusa, but when Celestina returns home, she refuses to share her fee and is stabbed to death by the two servants.Apprehended by the authorities, Sempronio and Pármeno are hanged the following day. In the first version of the text, these events are followed by Calisto’s tryst with Melibea in her garden, where he successfully seduces her but is killed when he falls from the garden’s high wall. The lamenting Melibea responds by throwing herself from a tower, and the dialogue ends with Melibea’s grieving parents, Pleberio and Alissa, responding with moral sentiments to their daughter’s death and dishonor.
   In the revised, 21-act version of the story, a new character is introduced after act 14. Centurio, a miles gloriosus or “braggart soldier” character, is persuaded by the harlots Elicia and Areusa to help them avenge Celestina and their lovers Sempronio and Pármeno on Calisto, whom they blame for the deaths. Calisto has not died but continues to visit Melibea for several weeks after their first time together, and thus Centurio is able to set a trap for Calisto at Melibea’s house.When Calisto is within, Centurio’s gang attacks Calisto’s followers awaiting him outside, and when Calisto rushes to aid his friends, he falls from his ladder and dies. The final acts follow the plot of the earlier version.
   Rojas’s chief sources for his text seem to have been the medieval Spanish writers Juan RUIZ and Martínez de Toledo, but he clearly also used the Bible, Homer, Virgil, PETRARCH, and the Roman playwrights Plautus (the source of the miles gloriosus) and Terence (from whom he seems to have borrowed the device of the servants’ love affairs paralleling the protagonists’). The book contains scenes of frank sexuality, verbal obscenity, and thinly veiled social criticism that seem not to have run afoul of the authorities. In fact, its huge popularity led to the printing of 63 editions in Spain in the 16th century alone. In addition, translations of La Celestina, as it came to be known after its most popular character, were made into Italian in 1506, German in 1520, French in 1527, and English before 1530. Further, there were six different sequels to the book published in 16th century Spain. La Celestina proved inspirational and profoundly influential on other Spanish writers, including Cervantes and Lope de Vega, who considered it a national treasure.
   Reasons for the text’s popularity are not hard to find. The romantic “Romeo and Juliet” love story appeals to many readers. Others are moved by Melibea’s grieving parents. Rojas’s brilliant use of dialogue to explore the complex relationships and psychological interplay of characters is much admired by scholars. The realistic, picaresque-type scenes involving the low-class characters in particular are celebrated for the vivid picture they give of late 15th-century Spanish society. Further, many critics have been intrigued by the embittered voice of social criticism beneath the overt morality of the text.Written during the decade of grand historical events of Spanish history (the discovery of the New World, the conquest of Granada, the expulsion of Jews from Spain), La Celestina gives voice to a great deal of bitterness and alienation— perhaps giving vent to the disenchantment with his society Rojas felt as the son of a forced Jewish convert to Christianity.
   But without doubt the largest reason for the book’s long-lived popularity is the character of Celestina herself. Often called one of the great characters of Spanish (if not European) literature, the old crone is a fascinating comic embodiment of evil—a shrewd, hypocritical, malign, and cunning panderess and sorceress who nevertheless comes across as completely human.
   Bibliography
   ■ Cohen, J. M., trans. The Spanish Bawd: La Celestina, being the tragi-comedy of Calisto and Melibea. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1964.
   ■ Gilman, Stephen. The Spain of Fernando de Rojas: The Intellectual and Social Landscape of La Celestina. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972.
   ■ Severin, Dorothy Sherman, ed. Celestina. With the translation of James Mabbe (1631).Warminster, Wiltshire, U.K.: Aris and Phillips, 1987.
   ■ ———. Tragicomedy and Novelistic Discourse in Celestina. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Celestina —   [θeles tina], La Celestina, eigentlich (Tragi )Comẹdia de Calịsto y Melibẹa, spanisches Lesedrama in Prosa, entstanden um 1490. Die erste erhaltene Ausgabe (1499) umfasst 16 Akte, die Ausgaben ab 1502 21 Akte. Der Autor, zumindest der Akte 2 …   Universal-Lexikon

  • celestină — CELESTÍNĂ s.f. Sulfat de stronţiu natural, sticlos transparent, incolor sau uşor colorat, întrebuinţat ca materie primă la prepararea sărurilor de stronţiu. – Din fr. célestine. Trimis de valeriu, 13.09.2007. Sursa: DEX 98  celestínă s. f., g. d …   Dicționar Român

  • Celestīna — Celestīna, Titel eines span. dramatischen Prosaromans in 21 Akten, dessen Hauptfigur eine sittenlose Kupplerin mit Namen C. ist; daher typischer Name für jegliche Kupplerin; mit ironischer Absichtlichkeit oft Scelestina geschrieben, als käme das… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Celestina — Celestīna, span. Buchdrama, s. Rojas, Fernando de …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • celestina — s. f. 1.  [Botânica] Planta corimbífera, de belas flores azuis. • s. m. 2. Variedade azul de sulfato de estrôncio. 3.  [Figurado] Mulher finória que tem lábia. 4.  [Brasil] Enfermeira de ladrões e assassinos …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • Celestina — I (De Celestina, personaje literario.) ► sustantivo femenino 1 Alcahueta, persona que actúa de mediadora encubriendo o facilitando las relaciones amorosas entre otras. SINÓNIMO [encubridora] [tortaconventos] FRASEOLOGÍA polvos de la madre… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • celestina — I (De Celestina, personaje literario.) ► sustantivo femenino 1 Alcahueta, persona que actúa de mediadora encubriendo o facilitando las relaciones amorosas entre otras. SINÓNIMO [encubridora] [tortaconventos] FRASEOLOGÍA polvos de la madre… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Celestina, La — ▪ novel by Rojas       Spanish dialogue novel, generally considered the first masterpiece of Spanish prose and the greatest and most influential work of the early Renaissance in Spain.       Originally published in 16 acts as the Comedia de… …   Universalium

  • celestina — celestina1 (Por alus. a Celestina, personaje de la Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea). f. alcahueta (ǁ mujer que concierta una relación amorosa). ☛ V. polvo de la madre Celestina. celestina2 (De celeste). 1. f. Mineral formado por sulfato de… …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • Celestina, La — altCelestina o Tragicomedia de Calixto y Melibea, La/alt ► LITERATURA Obra atribuida a Fernando de Rojas. En la primera edición de 1499, en Burgos, contaba con 16 actos que pasaron a 21 en la de Sevilla de 1502. El tema central son los amores de… …   Enciclopedia Universal


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