1.- In Burgos, 1499 was printed an anonymous and nowadays headless
-without title- Comedy of Calisto and Melibea. This work was developped in sixteen acts.
Its beginning was similar to that of the medieval elegiac comedy, but its ending was rather different: Calisto, in love with Melibea and obeying his servant's advices, asks the services of the procuress Celestina. In this way he gets his maiden. Celestina's and servant's covetousness cause the murder of the procuress and the servants execution. After a piteous accident Calisto falls down from the wall to the garden of his parents mistress, he dies breaking his head and causes Melibea's suicide when she throws herself down from a tower after telling her candid father her love tragic story.
Four sevilian editions seem to have been printed in 1502 as well as one from Toledo and other from Salamanca. They are composed of 21 acts, but the fact is that they are many years later than 1502.
We think that the Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea in 21 acts should have existed from 1500 or 1501. The new acts were inserted after the 14th one in the Comedy and they are known as Treatise of Centurio. The new work included interpolations along the whole book. New acts introduced a Calisto's monolog; two pupils of Celestina: Elicia and Areusa's revenge by the bully Centurio; the aim of Melibea's parents of marring her daughter, and Calisto's last visit to his lover's home with his new servants cut short by Traso's disturbance. This bully was sent by Centurio who cannot realize the riot by himself.
He settled as a lawyer in Talavera de la Reina (Toledo), and married a woman belonging -like Fernando- to a converted from Judaism family. That apparently caused him no social desease. He had seven children and was Mayor of Talavera in 1538. He died in 1541 and, as his will can proof, he enjoyed a high social and economic status.
From the end of 15th century humanistic comedy was developped in Italy. It began with Paulus (1390) by Pier Paolo Vergerio, close to our work. La Celestina has much to do with these latin works, writen in Colleges and Universities, that were practiced in Spain until the beginning of 17th century. La Celestina is maybe an instance of a play to be declaimed between scholars rather than to be performed.
5.- The author's aim can be puzzling.
According to Rojas' words he advises of the evil ways of servants and procuresses and against results on their followers. This moral is false for those who see in La Celestina vital distress usual in converted from Judaism. Indeed, this work can also be seen as a ridiculous parody of sentimental fiction, a well-known literary gener in its age whose insincerity would be attacked in our book. Perhaps the author's aim could be a mixing of all.
6.- Carachters in our work are specially interesting.
Celestina took soon the first place as a protagonist instead of Calisto or Melibea. Her hybrid condition made her a key to the work: she controls the action parts, coordinates lovers and servants and makes things hard. She is also the first carachter who pays crimes with her life. The death of Calisto is a consequence of her pupil's revenge.
Calisto and Melibea mean destructive passion out of control. They cannot master their defects and they live far from reason. Matrimony is not a solution for them who just look for the pleasure for themselves.
Their servants, Parmeno and Sempronio as Elicia and Areusa, pupils of Celestina, are vile and dishonest. They cannot see beyond immediate benefit and never calculate their actions results.
Melibea's parents, Alisa and Pleberio misunderstand reality and suffer crudely for their mistake.
We note that unlike works as Lazarillo de Tormes or Don Quijote de la Mancha, La Celestina never shows gentle or deserving respect carachters, excepting Pleberio. On the contrary they offer a sample of self-interests and egotisms that cannot neither awaken reader's sympathy nor justify their actions. Could have Fernando de Rojas expressed his own inner diseases through them?
7.- Scholarship and sources of La Celestina are clearer when we read its pages after seeing the catalog of books that Rojas cites in his will.
About a half of his library was composed by juridical books. The other half by amusement literature.
Fernando de Rojas should have known medieval elegiac comedy featuring a suitor who, quided by a procuress, can be married to his lover. He also should have known latin humanistic comedy from Universities, presenting situations close to that writen by him. The most important books in his library were
The Epistles to Lucilius by Seneca, that can be the most frequent cultural reference in La Celestina as well as some of the latin author tragedies like Troyans. Boethius and his Consolation of Philosophy were among his books.
We also find Petrarca and Boccaccio in Rojas' work and library though De Remediis utriusque fortunae is present in the former and not in the latter.
Latin dramatists are represented by Terentius and Rojas library kept Plautus' Amphitruo.
Bible -Proverbs, Eclesiastes or New Testament- is often indirectly quoted through authors as Petrarca.
More than a half of La Celestina's sources are proverbs or folk sentences as those that we find collected in scholar books and called popular philosophy.
La Celestina comes out from this rich and complex mosaic and from an individual and personal genius.
8.- Its success can be similar to that of Amadis de Gaula. Soon imitations will appear. Interpolations and additions will grow from 16th century, but original works based on La Celestina were also composed:
Comedia Thebaida was printed ca. 1520: Berintho gets Cantaflua's love thanks to Franquila, loved by Aminthas and helped by procuress Veturia who ends the work. Comical scenes are usual in it.
It was bound together with Hipolita Comedy and Seraphina Comedy both written in the path of our masterwork.
Most popular imitation of La Celestina is Second comedy of Celestina (1534) by Feliciano de Silva (Ciudad Rodrigo, 1491-1554), a chivalry-romans writter.
There is also a Third Celestina and a Celestina's Daughter by Salas Barbadillo; there are imitations as The Lush Andalusian Girl; comedies as Himenea by Torres Naharro, La Dorotea or The Knight of Olmedo by Lope de Vega.
A writter could no more compose his work without reading La Celestina.
D.Miguel Pérez Rosado.