*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...
(The entire section is 972 words.)