La Celestina: Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea

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La Celestina: Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea

by Fernando de Rojas


A play set in Spain at the end of the fifteenth century; published in Spanish (as Tragi-comedia de Calisto y Melibea) in 1499; in English (as The Spanish Bawd) in 1631.


Having been rejected by Melibea, the daughter of a local nobleman, Calisto enlists the aid of the local witch and procuress Celestina in hopes of seducing the damsel.

Events in History at the Time of the Play

The Play in Focus

For More Information

Fernando de Rojas (d. 1541), the principal author of La Celestina, was born sometime in the fifteenth century in the town of Puebla de Montalban near Toledo, Spain. As far as we know, La Celestina is the only book that Rojas ever wrote, and few details of his life have ever come to light. What is known is that he was a lawyer by trade educated at the prestigious University of Salamanca and that he belonged to a noble family of Conversos, or Jews who adopted Christianity. The genesis of The Celestina also carries with it an air of mystery. According to Rojas, he came across the first act, entitled The Comedy of Calisto and Melibea, while in Salamanca. This first act had supposedly been penned by an anonymous author. Rojas found himself so enchanted with the work that he decided to expand and complete it during a two-week vacation from practicing law. From the nucleus first act was born a drama about two young lovers who take a popular ideal of love in Rojas’s era to an extreme that bears tragic consequences for themselves and those around them.

Events in History at the Time of the Play

The conflictive age

The Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea was born during a period of alteration, change, and ultimately, disharmony in Spain—one that the great scholar Américo Castro dubbed “the conflictive age.” If we take the date of the first known edition of La Celestina (1499) as our vantage point, less than a decade had passed since the landmark year of 1492. Christopher Columbus’s historic voyage to the Americas that year marked the encounter that launched sustained contact between two vastly different worlds. The implications of his “discovery,” however, were largely unknown to the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula until many years later. Two other events of 1492 would profoundly alter the nature of Spanish society and shape the lives of Spain’s people in a much more immediate way for the years to come: the capture of Granada and the expulsion of the Spanish Jews.

The capture of Granada and the expulsion of the Jews

The capture of Granada and the surrender of the city by its last Moorish king, Boab-dil (or Muhammad XI), took place on January 2, 1492, capping off the long process that was known as the “Reconquest,” the gradual military subjugation by the Christian kingdoms of those areas of the peninsula that had been under Muslim domination since the eighth century. Granada was the last stronghold of Muslim power on the Iberian Peninsula, a power that had been steadily shrinking throughout the previous centuries. With the capitulation of Granada, Spain would no longer be a territory divided between Christian and Muslim kingdoms, but a union of kingdoms under the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, one that was free to expand its territories beyond the geographical limits of the peninsula.

Political unity, however, did not imply social unity. Less than three months after Granada’s fall, on March 31, 1492, the edict of the expulsion of the Jews was promulgated. Prior to that point, Spain had been a multi-religious culture made up of Christians, Muslims, and Jews. With the edict, all Spanish citizens of Jewish ancestry who had not converted to Christianity were given a choice: either accept baptism or leave immediately. Some chose to convert and remained, while possibly as many as 50,000 abandoned Spain for places such as Portugal, North Africa, or Italy (Kamen, p. 42). Those who stayed behind suffered the fate of being objects of suspicion as to the sincerity of their conversion, an allegation leveled at the family of Fernando de Rojas. Spain’s Muslim inhabitants, while not forced to convert, would also become the center of much controversy and struggle in the years following 1492.

With these two events, several centuries of tense coexistence and struggle between the three main social groups of the peninsula—Christians, Jews, and Muslims—had finally been resolved in favor of one of them. Yet despite the project of incorporation of the diverse elements under one polity that Ferdinand and Isabella initiated, these actions by no means resulted in a harmonious and uniform nation. Instead, Spanish society contended against itself on multiple levels. Conver-sos (the group to which Fernando de Rojas belonged) not only lived under continual suspicion of insincere conversion but also under the suspicion of being subversives who practiced Judaism in secret. Tensions were aggravated by many Conversos’ holding positions of power and influence in society, which won them the resentment of other Spaniards. Other conflicts involved the Mudejars (Spanish Muslims in conquered territories), who refused to be assimilated. So did the Moriscos (Christians of Moorish descent), a situation that would end in their expulsion little more than a century later. Still other conflicts included a Castilian agricultural class that resented the intellectuals and the rising merchant class. The newly united monarchy was meanwhile in perpetual struggle with long established noble families for control of lands under their dominion. Through the Inquisition, the tribunal established to suppress deviation from the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, a sector of ecclesiastical authority fought against radical sects and sought to unmask those who secretly practiced Judaism. In short, La Celestina was born in a time of turmoil, a period of often internalized strife reflected in the opening lines of the play’s prologue: “The great sage Heraclitus states … that all things are the result of conflict and contention” (Rojas, La Celestina, p. 15).

Marriage and love

If there is one central theme that can be found in La Celestina, it most certainly is love. Fernando de Rojas, in the introductory epistle “The Author to a Friend of His,” says that one of the reasons he felt it was necessary to write La Celestina was “because of the multitude of youths and gallants in love” that abounded in the Spain of his time, and in particular for his unnamed friend whom he had witnessed in his youth “caught up by love and cruelly wounded by it for lack of defenses against the fires of passion” (La Celestina, p. 10).

Because of its theme and tragic ending, La Celestina has often invited comparison with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (first performed a century later in 1595). There are, however, fundamental differences in the way love is approached in Rojas’s tragedy. Indeed La Celestina is not a tale of two lovers threatened by hostile forces conspiring to keep them apart, such as the warring families found in the Verona of Romeo and Juliet. Rather, Calisto and Melibea came from noble families with no grudge between them, so there is no apparent impediment to the young suitor’s asking for and receiving the hand of the damsel. Nor is there any secret marriage on the part of the lovers that would have legitimized it in the eyes of the Church, for it seems that neither of the two was interested in marriage. Calisto and Melibea are focused instead on a desperate, all-consuming worship of the other. For Rojas, such an attitude is idolatrous, and as such would make a mockery out of marriage, whose purpose was the building of a family, a view that both of the lovers recognize. Hence Melibea explains to her servant Lucrecia, “I want no husband, I do not care to sully the bonds of matrimony nor to follow the marital steps of another man, as I find in books that I have read that there are many women who have done this, and they were more discreet than I and of higher rank and station” (La Celestina, p. 199).

Medieval and Renaissance culture distinguished between different types of love, though as a rule physical love was divided into two categories: licit and lascivious. The type of bodily love that was considered licit, and therefore sanctioned by the Church, was that which found its expression within the bonds of matrimony and was centered on bringing children into the world. Any other physical passion was deemed to be unhealthy and a violation of God’s design: a rupture of divine law and an offense against family honor. There was, however, another kind of love that became very accepted in elite circles and that seemed to straddle the dividing line between the lawful and the illicit, the spiritual and the sensual; scholars have generally referred to this other variety as “courtly love.”

While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of courtly love, suffice it to say that its influence spread throughout Europe, thanks to the popularity of the troubadour poetry that flourished in Provence, in southern France, during the twelfth century. In short, courtly love was an application of the highly ritualized rules of chivalry to relationships between men and women, and the name “courtly” was applied to it because this sort of behavior evolved in the courts of European royalty. By the time La Celestina was written, this practice had acquired certain standard characteristics. At its foundation was the ideal of the lover who aspired only to please a beloved whom he idealized to the point of adoration. Courtly love thus demanded that the gallant—a knight or other nobleman—undergo tribulations so as to merit the attention of the woman, of whom he considered himself to be totally unworthy. This ritual took place outside the bonds of marriage, and the woman was normally meant to be unattainable, more often than not the wife of another nobleman, who, if her admirer were successful, would grant him some token of her recognition, perhaps a kerchief or an article of clothing. Ideally, such a gift would then suffice as a sign of the chaste love between the two, with no other physical expression necessary, though in practice this was often not the case.

The custom of courtly love was widely embraced as an ideal by elite classes, in large part because of its portrayal in popular knightly fiction. At the same time, though in principle courtly love was not meant to lead to physical consummation, it was often criticized for being impossible to achieve in practice and for leading to adultery. This criticism had already found its way into literature, perhaps most notably in the Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s Inferno (1307-14), a book widely read in the Spain of Fernando de Rojas.

In Dante’s Inferno the desires of two lovers, Paolo and Francesca, are excited by reading the legend of the love affair between England’s Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere. They give in to a passion whose flames have been fanned by the chivalric romance, then die at the hands of Francesca’s husband who catches them in the act of adultery. Like Calisto and Melibea, Dante’s lovers are condemned because they die unrepentant for their sins, which Dante refers to as having “lost the good of the intellect” (Inferno, 3.18); similarly, Rojas’s lovers are condemned because they have abandoned themselves to “runaway desires, uncontrolled by reason” (La Celestina, p. 124). Rojas’s drama resembles the Inferno in that it is a warning regarding the excesses to which a concept of love reduced to desire and fantasy could lead: Calisto’s suffering, Melibea’s gift to him of her girdle, and their idealization of each other in some ways also follow the pattern laid down by the popular ideal of courtly love. Nevertheless, it would be simplistic to assume that Rojas merely wished to write an attack on courtly love (the term is never mentioned in La Celestina). Rather, like Dante, the author cautions against a love attuned not to God’s will and the eternal good, but rather to the momentary satisfaction of the lovers.

In La Celestina, Rojas portrays both his male and female characters as universally corrupt and conniving; they resort to sordid tactics in the name of love. His play attempts to discredit the myth of the humble and chaste suitor and the idealized woman common to the popular literature of his time. By deglamorizing his protagonists and portraying the tragic outcome of their passion, the author of La Celestina seeks to demonstrate the falsity of the ideal that such literature presented to young people who read it. Thus, Rojas not only weaves a tale containing many of the hallmarks of courtly love, but also warns against its excesses and its dangers.

The Play in Focus

Plot summary

La Celestina is written in the form of a play in 16 acts, the first of which is considerably longer than the 15 that follow, and represents the original anonymous work that Rojas expanded upon.

The drama begins when Calisto enters a garden in pursuit of a falcon. There he meets Melibea and immediately becomes infatuated with her. He begins to flatter the girl and is rebuked by her. In the next scene, Calisto calls his servant Sempronio and bids him prepare the bedroom into which he hurriedly takes refuge. Calisto is obsessed by his meeting with Melibea, an obsession that scandalizes Sempronio, who protests that his master is not acting as a Christian by allowing the thought of Melibea and his frustration at her rejection to consume him. Calisto then responds with one of the most unforgettable lines of the whole drama: “I’m a Me-libean! Melibea is the one whom I worship, the one in whom I believe, the one whom I love” (La Celestina, p. 24). After trying to deter Calisto from giving in to his obsession with Melibea, Sempronio begins to waver when Calisto offers to bribe him into helping him obtain Melibea. Eventually Sempronio’s greed gets the better of him (though he makes the excuse that he does not wish to see his master in desperation), and he recommends the services of Celestina: an old hag schooled in the black arts and in prostitution. Calisto accepts the offer eagerly and sends Sempronio on his way to find Celestina. When he arrives, Sempronio’s lover, Eli-cia, a prostitute who works for Celestina, is catering to a client. Celestina is there, however, and instructs Elicia to hide her client and to shower Sempronio with false affection so that he will not suspect anything. The ruse works, and the hypocritical Sempronio brings Celestina to Calisto’s house. Parmeno, another servant of Calisto, opens the door and recognizes the old woman, who had been a friend of his mother. Parmeno warns Calisto against the malignancy of the old woman, but she overcomes Parmeno’s opposition by offering him the love of one of her girls, Areúsa. Celestina then offers to help Calisto ensnare Melibea. With the deal made, she returns home to conjure the spirits of the underworld to aid in her endeavor.

When she goes on her errand to the house of Melibea, Celestina is greeted by the servant Lu-crecia, a cousin of Elicia, and manages to reach Melibea and her mother, Alisa, under the charade of selling bread. The cautious mother, Alisa, is called away unexpectedly and Celestina is left alone with the young noblewoman. Appealing to Melibea’s compassionate nature, Celestina tells her that she is there at the request of an ill person who can be saved by Melibea. Upon hearing it revealed that the sick man is Calisto, Melibea hurls a chain of invectives at Celestina, but the old woman is much too sly to let herself be defeated so easily. She invents a story that Cal-isto has a severe toothache and merely wishes to have Melibea write a prayer for him and to send him her sash, which is said “to have touched the holy relics in Rome and Jerusalem” ( La Celestina, p. 76). Celestina’s deception overcomes the girl’s protestations, and not only does Melibea agree to send her girdle to Calisto, but she invites the procuress to come back in secret the next day so that she may collect the prayer without being noticed by Melibea’s mother. The stage has now been set for the tragedy to unfold.

With her objective achieved, Celestina returns to Calisto’s house and finds Sempronio there. In speaking with her, Sempronio’s greed and jealousy are ignited when he begins to realize that Celestina is being paid well for her services and that he himself will not be receiving the remuneration he thinks he deserves. Both he and Pármeno conspire to take advantage of Calisto’s distraction and embezzle his wealth. Calisto, oblivious to everything but his infatuation with Melibea, is elated at Celestina’s success and urges her to carry on with her scheme.

Celestina returns to Melibea’s house, where the maiden, who confesses to the old woman that she was smitten with Calisto from the first moment she saw him, struggles between her passion and her conscience, her desire for Calisto, and her knowledge that theirs is an affair that will bring neither honor nor happiness to her family. She nevertheless agrees to a secret rendezvous the following evening. Celestina returns to Calisto with the news, and he pays her with the gold chain that he wears around his neck. Upon learning of this reward, Sempronio and Parmeno decide to demand from Celestina a share of the payment.

When the two lovers finally meet again, Melibea feigns an attempt at dissuading Calisto from his infatuation. His protestations, however, convince her to set another tryst for the following night. In the meantime, Calisto’s two servants approach Celestina to coerce her into sharing her profits with them. She tries to outwit them, but succeeds only in provoking the two men into killing her, which initiates a chain of deaths that will blight the rest of the story.

The next day Calisto awakens to discover that Parmeno and Sempronio have been executed for the murder of Celestina. He nevertheless decides to go through with meeting Melibea, and brings two other servants, Tristan and Sosia, with him. Upon climbing the walls of Melibea’s garden, he finally attains the love he has been seeking and returns home.

What Calisto does not know, however, is that Celestina’s prostitutes Elicia and Areúsa have decided to punish him for the murder of Celestina and have persuaded a bully named Centurio to be the instrument of their revenge. Centurio, not sure he can carry out his charge, engages a friend to make some noise that will frighten Calisto’s servants the next time the lovers meet.

In each other’s arms again the following night, Calisto and Melibea are interrupted by the shouts of Calisto’s servants. The young suitor decides to come to their aid, but in his haste Calisto falls from the ladder by which he entered Melibea’s home and he dies. Melibea, crazed and in desperation, climbs to the top of a tower on her property, and after having confessed to her father, Pleberio, the affair she has hidden from him, throws herself down. The story ends with Pleberio uttering a long and sorrowful soliloquy in mourning for his daughter and against the illicit passion that caused her death.

Magic, religion, and unbelief

The figure that binds together the plot of the Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea is Celestina: a go-between, a procuress of prostitutes, and a sorceress. Indeed, Celestina’s use of the black arts is an integral part of the story that expedites the consummation of the two young lovers’ passionate impulses. She makes her living in part by conjuring spirits and using spells to bring the desires of her clients to fruition. It is this talent that brings her celebrity and also places her on the margins of society. While La Celestina is a work of fiction, magic and sorcery were acknowledged as realities during the time that the work was written. Otis Green, in his Spain and the Western Tradition, notes that the practice of lovers seeking out sorceresses to satisfy their desires was known and condemned by the Church (Green, p. 116). Indeed, one of the responsibilities of the Spanish Inquisition was to find and prosecute those involved in the exercise of magic.


Just as belief in God was universal in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, so was the belief in evil spirits. Though it is not clear how widespread the use of sorcery was, the practice of resorting to spells and the aid of demonic powers in an attempt to achieve one’s desires was recognized to exist and was condemned repeatedly by civil and ecclesiastical authorities. Celestina, though herself a fictional character, is modeled after witches of whom Fernando de Rojas most likely knew. Thanks to records from the Inquisition of Toledo, we know that during Rojas’s time there were thought to be in use a large number of spells and incantations for the secret conquest of a lover, spells that often made use of herbs, potions, animal or human body parts, wax figurines, or amulets. Those accused of using or trafficking in such spells could be put on trial for heresy or apostasy—hence Celestina’s fear at being caught by the authorities while she carries out her charges. At a special conference in 1526, after the time of the play, Spain’s inquisitors would conclude that witchcraft was “little more than a delusion” and persecution for witchcraft would diminish in Spain (Kamen, p. 186). By the time the play was written, the Inquisition had outlawed persecution for witchcraft and authorities were trying only to squelch minor superstitions and the use of love potions and spells.

Nevertheless, within the plot of La Celestina, magic serves not as a source of tension in the plot, but rather as an expedient. The true source of dramatic tension lies elsewhere: “I believe in her as God, I confess her as God, and I do not believe that there is any higher power in heaven, even though she dwells among us here below” (La Celestina, p. 26). This cry of adoration that Calisto utters regarding Melibea encapsulates one of the central struggles of La Celestina and its times: that between religion and unbelief.

Two mindsets help explain common attitudes toward religion in the age in which La Celestina was born: the medieval mentality and that of Renaissance humanism. In early-sixteenth-century Spain, while the outlook of the European Middle Ages still took precedence, the ideals of the Renaissance that had been born in Italy were beginning to exert an ever stronger presence.

In terms of its worldview, the Middle Ages saw religiosity as coinciding with all aspects of life. People considered God to be the center of all activity, a world view that explains dramatically contradictory phenomena: the exaltation of man as brother, for example, and the attempt to bend his will by violence (the Inquisition). God, according to the medieval world view, had to do with everything. A reader during the time of the publication of La Celestina would not be shocked to read that Calisto goes into a church and calls upon St. Mary Magdalene to help him seduce Melibea, even though he or she would probably note the contradiction inherent to the action. On the other hand, the fact that Sempronio deems his master’s worship of Melibea and consequent denial of Christ to be scandalous is in keeping with the tenor of the time, in which “there is not an object or an action, however trivial, that is not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation” (Huizinga, p. 151).

Yet the Spain of 1499 was also a Spain that had begun to see the influence of the Renaissance. In the fifteenth century, the winds of this new way of viewing the world began to blow through Spain and inspire its lettered classes. Whereas for the medieval person the goal of one’s life was to aspire to heaven, under the influence of newly rediscovered classical texts, Renaissance humanists began to aspire to fame and honor in earthly endeavors such as art, warfare, and learning. They attempted also to harmonize conflicting ideals such as those of the pagan antiquity with Christianity. The humanists looked for inspiration to the pre-Christian writers of classical Greece and Rome. With their appreciation of Greek and Roman art came a new admiration for the beauty of the human form and a glorification of youth as its exaltation. At the same time, life on earth began to be seen as a series of opportunities for glory and pleasure, and its brevity as an experience of bitterness. “Gather from your joyful springtime,” wrote Garcilaso de la Vega (1503-36) in Sonnet 23, “the sweet fruit, before fierce time / covers its lovely summit with snow” (Garcilaso in Rivers, pp. 37-38; trans. D. Bacich). Hence, though society in general retained a strong religious spirit, a split began to be regarded between earthly and spiritual matters. Heaven and eternity began to be felt as distant ideals that had less and less to do with the glory to be achieved on this earth. Melibea herself echoes this tension between the present and eternity when speaking of her desire for Calisto: “When I think of him I am happy, when I see him I rejoice, when I hear his voice I am glorified. … I have no other regret than the time that I wasted when I did not enjoy him, when I did not know him—after 1 have come to know myself” (La Celestina, p. 199).

Sources and literary context

Though the Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea is striking in its originality, scholars such as Maria Rosa Lida de Malkiel have pointed out some main antecedents to the play: Greco-Roman comedies, medieval theater, and the humanistic comedies of Italy.

To begin with, Rojas himself tells us that he considers the anonymous first act to be a “Teren-cian work,” thus revealing something about its literary ancestry. Terence was one of the masters of Roman comedy in antiquity, together with Plautus, and both of them wrote plays from which certain external characteristics of La Celestina were drawn. Roman comedies, however, though they often dwelt on matters of love in developing their plots, almost never deemed it a topic worthy of serious consideration. Elegiac comedies, another source of inspiration that Rojas probably drew on, were works usually in Latin and popular around the twelfth century, with less complex plots and a less uniform structure than their classical counterparts. What really set elegiac theater apart from classical Roman comedy and brought it closer to what Rojas would eventually do with La Celestina was its serious treatment of love. Most elegiac comedies centered on a story of illicit love, a struggle between passion and duty, often with a courtly ideal at its base, features that would reappear in La Celestina. In addition to elegiac comedies, the medieval world also produced mystery plays, or autos sacramentales as they were known in Spain. Usually the autos narrated biblical episodes such as the Flight into Egypt or the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents, or else told morality stories with the help of allegorical figures, personifications of abstract concepts such as Virtue or Vice. Such works were extremely popular with audiences in Spain at least until the end of the seventeenth century, and often were written by famous authors such as Calderon de la Barca. La Celestina s didactic purpose in warning against the perils of passion unguided by reason and faith inherits this tradition of teaching through theater.


In the European Middle Ages comedy meant simply a story with a happy ending and not necessarily a work meant to be amusing (think of Dante’s Divine Comedy). Tragedy generally referred to the story of someone of high estate brought down to desolation as a consequence of personal actions. Such a conception differed from the classical idea of tragedy, whereby the great (either gods or heroes), whether prompted by ignorance, by their own will, or by outside circumstances, were destroyed by an inescapable fate. Fernando de Rojas decided to label his work a tragic-comedy because the first act dealt with the pleasure of the protagonists, while the drama ultimately ended in sadness.

Humanistic comedy, another form of theater with which Rojas was familiar, first appeared in Italy in the fourteenth century and soon spread to Spain. Like elegiac theater, humanistic comedy treated love quite seriously, but prided itself on more complicated plots, on the richness and diversity of its settings, and on its rejection of formulaic structures.

A careful reading of La Celestina reveals that Fernando de Rojas drew on a vast reservoir of dramatic tradition in order to create the tragicomedy: stock characters from Roman comedy, serious treatment of the tension between passion and reason from elegiac theater, moral admonition from the mystery plays, realism as well as variety in the number of different settings and locations from the humanistic comedies.

Composition and reception

A complex piece of theater, La Celestina was never, according to Maria Rosa Lida de Malkiel, meant to be presented on stage. “It was written for recitation,” explains Lida de Malkiel, “as can be inferred from the Prologue and from a stanza that urges that it be read expressively, modulating the voice to set off the differences of emotion and of character” (Lida de Malkiel, p. 67). Nevertheless, from the moment of its appearance, La Celestina proved extremely popular, as shown by the number of its reprintings and translations as well as the numerous imitations it spawned. Many writers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including Miguel de Cervantes and Lope de Vega (see Don Quixote and Fuente Ovejuna , also in WLAIT 5: Spanish and Portuguese Literatures and Their Times), praised it both for its artistic merit as well as its didactic value. Indeed, Rojas did not hide the fact that his intention was to follow the dictum laid down by the Roman author Horace: to teach while giving delight. In the verses that accompany the prologue to La Celestina, Rojas compares his work to a bitter pill, which in order to be made easier to swallow, is coated in sugar, thereby causing the body to recover its health. In other words, whereas the plot, the characters, and their intrigues captivate the reader, the tragic end illustrates the bitter lesson—an ideal love that makes an idol, or object of worship, out of another mortal can only lead to dire consequences.

Nevertheless, the work was not without its critics, who reproached its author for giving too much delight while not teaching enough. Some, such as Juan Luis Vives, while recognizing that the tragic end of the protagonists represents a condemnation of their excessive passion, reprimanded Rojas for being frivolous by portraying their lasciviousness with too much zeal. Others criticized the play for not balancing its representation of vice with a sufficient representation of virtue, charging that the very youths it was meant to instruct focused on its titillating aspects to the exclusion of its moral lessons. Such a charge points to the extreme popularity that La Celestina had achieved by the end of the sixteenth century. In fact, the ambivalent opinions that many in Castile held regarding La Celestina were exemplified by its eventual censorship by the In quisition in 1640. While not deeming the book deserving of outright prohibition, the Inquisition expunged several of its passages that were considered dangerous for impressionable readers. Specifically it expunged those passages in which Calisto pronounces himself a “Melibean,” rejecting Christ and his church—ironically Rojas had used these passages to warn against the extremes to which the courtly ideal could lead.

—Damian Bacich

For More Information

Castro, Américo. The Spaniards: An Introduction to Their History. Trans. Willard F. King and Selma Margaretten. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971.

Culianu, loan. Eros and Magic in the Renaissance. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1984.

Dante Alighieri. The Divine Comedy: Cantica I Inferno. Trans. Dorothy Sayers. London: Penguin, 1955.

Gilman, Steven. The Spain of Fernando de Rojas: The Intellectual and Social Landscape of La Celestina. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972.

Green, Otis H. Spain and the Western Tradition: The Castilian Mind in Literature from El Cid to Calderón. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968.

Huizinga, Johan. The Waning of the Middle Ages. New York: Anchor, 1954.

Kamen, Henry. Spain 1469-1714: A Society of Conflict 2d ed. London: Longman, 1991.

Lewis, C. S. The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition. London: Oxford, 1938.

Lida de Malkiel, Maria Rosa. Two Spanish Master pieces: The Book of Good Love and The Celestina. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1961.

MacKay, Angus. Spain in the Middle Ages: From Frontier to Empire, 1000-1500. London: Macmillan, 1977.

Rivers, Elias, ed. Renaissance and Baroque Poetry of Spain. New York: Dell, 1966.

Rojas, Fernando de. La Celestina: Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melihea. Trans. Wallace Woolsey. New York: Las Americas Publishing Company, 1969.

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La Celestina: Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea

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