La Celestina

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Title: La Celestina
Original title: Tragicomedia de Calixto y Melibea
Genus: tragicomedy
Original language: Spanish
Author: Fernando de Rojas
Publishing year: 1499
  • Calisto ; Lover of Melibea (middle to high)
  • Melibea ; Lover of Calisto (from high standing)
  • Pleberio ; Father of Melibea
  • Alisa ; Mother of Melibea
  • Celestina ; Matchmaker who brings Calisto and Melibea together
  • Pármeno ; Servant of Calisto
  • Sempronio ; Servant of Calisto
  • Tristán ; Servant of Calisto
  • Sosia ; Servant of Calisto
  • Lucrecia ; Servant of Melibea
  • Elicia ; Prostitute, mistress of Sempronio
  • Areusa ; Prostitute, mistress of Pármeno
  • Centurion

La Celestina by Fernando de Rojas is a tragic comedy .

History of origin

Wrapper from La Celestina

It was published anonymously for the first time in 1499. In 1500 paratexts were added to this raw version and republished. It was only in 1504, as a publication of the story, now with 21 files, and a prologue and a closing poem appears, is La Celestina called tragicomedy; previously the work was called a comedy. The original title of the work was from 1504 initially "Tragicomedia de Calixto y Melibea" and operated under this title in Spain until the 17th century. Abroad, starting from Italy, the title was established as early as the 16th century, under which it is still known today. “La Celestina” is one of the most famous and greatest works in Spanish literary history . It was translated into German by Christoph Wirsung .

Table of contents

Calisto, a young man, falls in love with Melibea. However, she cannot and does not want to know anything about him. In order to fulfill his request, Calisto, on the advice of his servant, hires Sempronio Celestina, an old matchmaker. She quickly gains access to Melibea and can convince her that she will meet Calisto. His other servant, Pármeno, tries in vain to stop Calisto from doing this. With the help of Celestina, Melibea and Calisto become lovers. Celestina pulls Sempronio and Pármeno on her side by pairing Sempronio with Elicia and Pármeno with Areúsa. As a result, the servants' desire for the two women is satisfied, and they now try together with Celestina to make a profit from Calisto's desire. When Celestina is paid by Calisto, she doesn't want to share with them. They kill Celestina and flee, but are caught and hanged a little later. Melibea and Calisto's happiness will not last long either. One evening he visits Melibea. When he hears a noise, he wants to see how his new servants are doing, who have been on guard for him. He falls off a ladder and dies. Melibea, beside herself at the loss, commits suicide by throwing herself from a tower. The work ends with Pleberius, Melibea's father, complaining about the work of Fortune , the world and love; all three together are responsible for the death of his daughter. This final monologue completes Fernando de Rojas' pessimistic worldview of Celestina .

Lament Pleberius

The lament of Pleberius, Melibea's father, brings the tragic comedy La Celestina to an end. The lawsuit appears as a conclusion to the negative events of the entire event and gives an evaluation along the way. At no other point in the text does Fernando de Roja's “La Celestina” view the world more clearly. One can say that Pleberio acts as the mouthpiece of Rojas. Through the character of Pleberius, Rojas brings his pessimistic views closer to the reader in his final monologue. With the death of his beloved daughter, Pleberio no longer believes, as he did before, that events in the world are objectively directed by an internal order. Rather, Fortune, the world and love seem to rule people and plunge them into misery. In his opinion, all three forces are unjust, because where they should work according to reason, they are haphazard and therefore dangerous. Fortuna deliberately destroyed what he loved most: his daughter. The world is now nothing more than a labyrinth of errors, in which one can no longer find one's way. Neither Fortuna nor the world represent an order; on the contrary: injustice and lack of plan dominate earthly events. For Pleberio, however, love is the cause and trigger of all evil. The world only appears to function as a stage for the appearance of love and it is love that not only has to answer for the death of his daughter, but also the death of four other people. It appears as the engine of all events. Love is responsible that Calisto and Melibea had to die. Because of their love, Calisto turned to Celestina for help. In the end, she had to die just like his two servants Sempronio and Pármeno. Pleberio does not blame his daughter, who took her own life of her own free will. Once you have surrendered to love, there is no escaping it. Melibea's father's complaint is an expression of a pessimistic worldview. Rojas lets this world view emerge in his work and proclaim Pleberio through his mouthpiece.

Celestina's pessimistic worldview

Relation Rojas to Petrarch

Fernando de Rojas refers in his work La Celestina in several places to the Italian poet Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374), both through literal quotations, as well as through references to the insights of Petrarch. Most of the quotes were taken from the index of a Petrarch 1496 collection that Rojas had read. Nevertheless, Rojas seems to have been familiar with Petrarch's ideas in general. The works De Remediis, De Rebus Familiaribus and Bucolicum Carmen are of particular importance. In addition to addressing life as a universal conflict, Rojas seems to have been particularly interested in Petrarch's views on the dangers of prosperity, greed and sexual love. Petrarch rejects fate as a determining factor in human life from the very beginning; However, if a person strays from his positive path, he gets into a cycle in which he no longer has full decision-making power. Man should be guided by reason. On the other hand, there are lust and covetousness. If these affects are given in, a person leaves the path of moderation and treads a new path on which he can no longer influence. It is particularly difficult to continue to make rational decisions when one is favored by happiness, because then most people become immoderate and indulge in the affects. Fernando de Rojas's work is also about the conflict between reason on the one hand and excessiveness on the other: the focus is on Calisto and Melibea, who are favored by happiness and fall in love with each other. However, they cannot moderate themselves and thus slide into a sexual relationship that ends in the death of both. Sempronio and Pármeno become greedy and not only kill Celestina out of greed, but also have to pay for it themselves. Rojas did not take Petrarch's ideas as mere plagiarism; rather, he interpreted it according to his own ideas and raised it to an even more pessimistic level.

Work of Fortuna

In Fernando de Rojas La Celestina allusions to the work of Fortuna appear again and again. This is an expression of the renaissance ideas in “La Celestina”. Fortuna is the ancient goddess of luck; it is responsible for man's earthly fate. However, it only helps the brave and courageous. Their tool and symbol is the wheel: whoever has reached the highest level of earthly happiness must inevitably - as the movement of the wheel wants - come down again. When Celestina has reached the climax (bringing Calisto and Melibea together; friendship with his servants Sempronio and Pármeno; payment by Calisto), she has to leave this climax again and dies at the hands of the two servants. The other protagonists are no different: Sempronio and Pármeno had become greedy and killed Celestina. For this reason both of them had to die. The love between Calisto and Melibea is not a lucky star, because it is not enshrined in courtly love. In both cases, desire is greater than reason. Calisto falls off the ladder and Melibea puts an end to her own life. The nature of death is no accident either. In four out of five cases, people die from falls; only with the matchmaker the case can be seen metaphorically. Since a person, once caught in Fortuna's cycle, can no longer leave this cycle on their own, this shapes a negative worldview. It is precisely this pessimistic worldview that is expressed in the work.

Degradation of positive values

The characters in La Celestina set themselves positively connoted values, such as friendship, love and loyalty, on such false foundations that they themselves trigger the ruin of the actors. The love between Calisto and Melibea is based on false assumptions, because neither of the two adheres to the topoi of courtly love prescribed by society . Already in the first encounter, Calisto violates the social norms of the 15th century when dealing with a woman. Nevertheless, the two fall in love and are very well aware that their physical loves will not be tolerated by society. In doing so, they consciously place themselves in dangers that end with Calisto's fall from the ladder and Melibea's suicide . Thus, the actually positive connotation of the word love is reversed by the two and transformed into something negative that ultimately both falls into ruin. The same goes for friendship. Rojas, for example, portrays the friendship of the servants Sempronio and Pármeno as a very strong one, but this too is degraded and devalued because it is based on false assumptions. On the one hand, Celestina only manages to convince Pármeno of the advantages of a friendship with Sempronio by gaining his trust with stories about his mother and on the other hand by fulfilling his desire for the prostitute Areúsa. The other negative point is that through this friendship, the two servants completely forget their loyalty to Calisto and instead try to profit from his lovesickness. What is particularly striking is the atrophy of the loyalty to Calisto in Pármeno, who at the beginning of the work does indeed prove to be a loyal servant of his master. But as the friendship with Sempronio developed, the two grew more and more greedy and the loyalty to Calisto tended towards zero. Both think only of themselves and their advantage and no longer give up on their master or even his security, but try to deceive him. Fernando de Rojas lets positive values ​​such as love, friendship and loyalty in his work inevitably lead to something negative, as the characters are unable to choose the right one.


Web links

Commons : La Celestina  - collection of images, videos and audio files