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Rojas, Fernando de

ROJAS, FERNANDO DE

ROJAS, FERNANDO DE (c. 1465–1541), Spanish Converso author. Rojas was born in Puebla de Montalbán near Toledo, studied in Salamanca and settled in Talavera de la Reina. In 1517 he was a witness in defense of a man accused of Judaizing and in 1525 the Inquisition objected to his serving as lawyer for his Converso father-in-law, Alvaro de Montalbán, because he was a New Christian. Acclaimed as the "father of the Spanish novel," Rojas is generally recognized as the author of all or most of one of Spain's greatest literary works and the earliest Spanish tragedy, La Celestina (first-known ed. Burgos, 1499). Though written completely in dialogue, this is more a novel than a play. The first edition was an anonymous 16-act Comedia de Calisto y Melibea. In the third-known edition (Seville, 1501), Rojas hesitantly reveals his authorship in a prefatory letter and in some acrostic verses, stating that he found a fragment of the first act and continued the work. The various editions dated 1502 (although printed later) contain a new prologue and five added acts, as well as numerous textual changes. The title was also changed to Tragicomedia de Catisto y Melibea. Rojas himself suggests that the first act may have been by Juan de Mena or Rodrigo de Cota de *Maguaque. He probably wished to obscure his own part in the writing because of the work's anticlericalism. From 1519 the play was known as La Celestina. The fact that Rojas was a Converso has been adduced to explain the pessimism of his work, unequaled in any contemporary production. The Celestina has probably inspired more studies than any other Spanish book with the exception of *Cervantes' Don Quixote, to which alone it is placed second. It has been translated many times into English (first by James Mabbe in 1631).

bibliography:

S. Gilman, The Art of La Celestina (1956); J.M. Cohen, A History of Western Literature (1956), 130–2, 198; F. de Rojas, The Spanish Bawd: La Celestina (1964), translation and introduction by J.M. Cohen; M. Bataillon, La Célestine selon Fernando de Rojas (1961); L.G. Zelson, The Celestina and Its Jewish Authorship (1930), reprint from Jewish Forum (Dec. 1930); F.J. Norton, Printing in Spain 1501–1520 (1966).

[Kenneth R. Scholberg]

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