Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Spain. Although the novel makes no specific mention of where it is set, it is clear that its setting is in Spain during the fifteenth century, when it was written. The author, Fernando de Rojas, was a converso (a Jew who publicly converted to Christianity) and therefore a member of a group that was treated with suspicion and subjected to public humiliation. Although the novel was approved by the Inquisition’s censors because it offers, on the surface, a straightforward account of the wages of sin, its bitterly ironic denunciation of all forms of hypocrisy and pretense is hard not to associate with what Rojas presumably experienced personally.

Tradition has it that the story takes place in Spain’s university town of Salamanca, where Rojas himself studied. Indeed, a walled garden there is known as the Garden of Melibea—a place that figures in the novel. However, these traditional associations are of little consequence in understanding the novel, except perhaps to note that its popularity may be seen as an indication that its views were widely shared in Spain.

Celestina is a strongly moral work, and each place in it is presented in a moral light. These places include the garden, the street, and the various private abodes of the characters. The difference between the public declaration of the street and private desires expressed in private is emphasized by a central literary device in the novel, which (except for short summaries at the beginning of each chapter) consists entirely of the speech of the characters. The novel’s frequent use of asides and soliloquies allows the reader to see what the characters are saying only to themselves as well as what they say to one another.

When characters appear in public areas, such as the street, they speak with two voices. One is the public voice, which tends toward elaborate courtesies and big promises. The other is the voice of the aside and of talking to oneself. This voice often offers an immediate cynical reinterpretation of what has just been said, or, in the case of the love-struck Calisto, who talks to himself as he walks down the street, is cause for gossip among onlookers.

It is behind closed doors that people are at their frankest, and the novel is filled with incidents of doors being closed in people’s faces, visitors coming to...

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Celestina Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Barbera, Raymond. “No puede creer que la tenga en su poder.” Romanic Review 28, no. 1 (January, 1991): 105. A concise article in English that treats the relationship between the characters by developing the sentence that serves as the article’s title. Describes the role of ambiguity in Celestina.

Dunn, Peter. Fernando de Rojas. New York: Twayne, 1975. Provides a detailed summary of each act in Celestina followed by a helpful commentary. Acquaints the reader with literary evaluation by discussing the genre, antecedents, characters, and structure of the work.

Gilman, Stephen. The Spain of Fernando de Rojas. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972. Portrays the life of Fernando de Rojas. Depicts the difficult circumstances that his Jewish family, converted to Catholicism, had to face in Spain.

Martin, June Hall. Love’s Fools: Aucassin, Troilus, Calisto, and the Parody of the Courtly Lover. London: Tamesis Books, 1972. Explains the late medieval tradition of moralistic satire. Shows how Calisto exemplifies the parody of courtly love.

Simpson, Lesley Byrd. Introduction to The Celestina, by Fernando de Rojas. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971. The introduction to this translation by Simpson situates the work in literary history. Gives a brief synopsis of the plot and a character analysis.