Study Guide

Celestina

by Fernando de Rojas

Celestina Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

One day, while pursuing his stray falcon, Calisto enters a strange garden where he sees and falls in love with a beautiful young woman named Melibea. His eagerness to take advantage of her gentle innocence shocks her, and she angrily drives him away. Calisto goes home desolate and ready to die; his only comfort is the melancholy tunes he plays on his lute. One of his servants, Sempronio, lets him suffer for a time before he suggests that his master seek the aid of Celestina, a procurer, with whose servant, Elicia, Sempronio is in love. At Calisto’s command, the servant hurries to Celestina’s house to summon the old bawd. He and the procurer agree to work together to cheat lovesick Calisto. The young nobleman has another servant, Pármeno, who once worked in Celestina’s house. He tells his master of the bawd’s evil reputation throughout the city and warns him against her.

Ignoring the warning, Calisto welcomes Celestina and offers her gold to act as a go-between in his suit. While he is upstairs getting the money for her, Celestina tries to win Pármeno to her side by assuring him that she is interested in his welfare because of her fondness for his mother. She also promises to help him in winning the affections of Areusa, whom he covets. Pármeno, knowing her tricks, is not entirely convinced.

Unable to control his impatience to make Melibea his own, Calisto sends Sempronio to hurry Celestina in her efforts. Refusing to consider Pármeno’s suggestion that he court Melibea honorably instead of trusting a notorious go-between, he does, however, order his horse so that he can ride past her house. He rides away after further criticism of Pármeno for trying to cross his desires, harsh words that make the servant regret his decision to remain faithful to his young master.

When Sempronio arrives at Celestina’s house, he finds her making a love charm. While she is busy, he and Elicia make love. Then Celestina, who weighed the threat to her life from Melibea’s father against the gold that a grateful Calisto will pay her, goes to talk to Melibea. Lucrecia, a servant in the household, sees the go-between coming and warns Melibea’s mother against Celestina, but Alisa thinks the woman no more than a vendor of sewing materials, hair nets, and feminine makeup. Trustingly, she asks Celestina to stay with Melibea while she herself goes to visit a sick sister.

Celestina first tells Melibea that she comes on behalf of a sick man. After purposely confusing Melibea, she finally explains that all Calisto wants is a rope belt that was taken on pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem and a copy of a prayer by Saint Polonia, supposed to cure toothaches. Ashamed of what she thinks are unjust suspicions of the old bawd, Melibea gives her the rope girdle and promises to copy the charm so that it will be ready by the next day. Before she leaves the house, Celestina wins Lucrecia to her side by promising to sweeten the maid’s breath and to make her a blond. Going to Calisto’s house, the procurer boasts of her success, and the grateful lover promises her a new...

(The entire section is 1263 words.)