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Last Updated on October 28, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 666

Written and published at the turn of the sixteenth century, Celestina is a novel that is largely in dramatic form. While it makes extensive use of dialogue, the work’s large number and great diversity of settings indicate that it was not meant to be staged. The central plot concerns a love story between two young people, Calisto and Melibea, which is doomed from the start because carnal desire is allowed to dominate morality and restraint. Rojas is highly critical of Calisto’s use of Celestina, the title character, to help him obtain his beloved.

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The Destructive Power of Desire

The youthful suitor Calisto feels both love and lust for the virtuous Melibea, but he is too impatient to adequately trust in the power of love itself. Rather than go through the proper channels, which would be to court her with her parents’ permission, Calisto begins his relationship with Melibea by asking Celestina, a madam, to convince Melibea to have sex with him. Driven by his bodily desires, he makes rash decisions to seduce Melibea by any means. The corruption of her love, along with Calisto’s unethical behavior, doom their relationship. Once Melibea has surrendered her body to him, she is no longer fit to be a wife to anyone else, and after Calisto dies in an accident, she kills herself. Because she truly loves him in her heart, her grief is one reason for this—but another is her loss of virtue, by which she has sacrificed her reputation and, with it, her future prospects.

Human Susceptibility to Temptation

None of the novel’s characters is totally immune from Rojas’s critical gaze. Melibea’s parents operate more ethically than any of the other characters, but they are far from perfect. Melibea’s mother quite literally opens the door to temptation when, fooled by Celestina’s disguise as a peddler, she invites the procuress into her home. Rojas implies that excessive trust in others combined with ignorance of the world’s evils may together do as much harm as excessive vigilance against them. Celestina, in turn, convinces the innocent virgin, who is not strong enough to resist temptation, to meet Calisto in the garden for an illicit affair. This pattern continues because, once Calisto awakens her sexual desires, she can no longer resist following those urges. While the fact that she was so easily led astray might encourage readers to doubt that she was truly virtuous in her heart, readers of the time period would have believed in the strength of temptation, with its source in the devil’s corrupt power.

The Inherent Immorality...

(The entire section contains 666 words.)

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