Celestina, still a synonym for matchmaker today: the story of a bachelor looking for a love affair

Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea and the Old Prostitute Celestina

Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea and the Old Prostitute Celestina

Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea and the Old Prostitute Celestina

  1. The tale by Fernando de Rojas (ca. 1465/73–1541) was printed in Valencia on February 21st, 1514

  2. A bestseller despite the fact that de Rojas was a descendant of converted Jews and lived under constant suspicion

  3. De Rojas explored Spanish anxieties about subversive elements within an increasingly homogenized society

Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea and the Old Prostitute Celestina

Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea and the Old Prostitute Celestina – R-4870 – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

A milestone of Spanish literature marking the transition from the Late Middle Ages to the Renaissance: the Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea, also known as La Celestina, was first published in 1499. There are two editions of the work, the 16-act Comedy and the 21-act Tragicomedy, which is presented here. The author, Fernando de Rojas (ca. 1465/73–1541), was a member of the persecuted community of “conversos”, who were either converts or the descendants of converts from Judaism. Nonetheless, his bawdy tale of a love affair is one of the greatest specimens of Spanish literature and was a huge commercial success in Roja’s lifetime.

Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea and the Old Prostitute Celestina

This is the most important edition of the only surviving work by Fernando de Rojas (ca. 1465/73–1541), which was printed in Valencia on February 21st, 1514. The Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea, also known as La Celestina, was first published in 1499. There are two editions of the work, the 16-act Comedy and the 21-act Tragicomedy, which is presented here. The author, de Rojas, was a descendant of converted Jews who practiced law in addition to his work as an author. Considered to be one of the milestones of Spanish literature, the early novel takes the form of a series of dialogues that could be staged as a play. It also marks the end of the medieval period and the beginning of Spanish Renaissance literature. It was written during the eventful reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, whose marriage between 1469 and 1504 witnessed the conquest of Grenada, the discovery of the Americas, and the expulsion of the Jews. As such, this work is of tremendous value both as a literary specimen and a cultural-historical artifact.

The Work of a “Converso”

One of the most significant aspects of this work is the fact that it was written by a member of a highly scrutinized and often persecuted group within late medieval Spanish society: the “conversos”, who were either converts or the descendants of converts from Judaism. Nonetheless, this person, who had to live under the constant suspicion of the dreaded Spanish Inquisition, came to write a definitively Spanish literary work. He began writing his novel while studying law at the University of Salamanca, where he graduated in 1498. His novel enjoyed great success in his own lifetime, appearing in 60 editions and six sequels. Later in life, Rojas served as the mayor of Talavera de la Reina during the 1530’s.

A Bawdy Spanish Tale

The story revolves around a love affair and is filled with bawdy and comical detail, before ending tragically. Despite its relatively racy content, the work did not gain the ire of Inquisitors. In the story, a bachelor named Calisto enlists the aid of an aging prostitute named Celestina, who helps him to arrange an affair with an unmarried girl kept in seclusion by her parents. After meeting Melibea by chance while hawking, he immediately becomes infatuated with the young beauty. Despite being framed in the language of courtly love, the aim is sex, not marriage. Such is the fame of this novel, that the name “Celestina” is still synonymous with a procuress or madam in Spain today. All of this licentiousness does not come to a pleasant end however, in the typical fashion of medieval moralizing tales, and many scholars have theorized that it is indeed an allegorical work. Either way, the characters leave a strong impression, and may represent Spanish anxieties about subversive elements within an increasingly homogenized society.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea and the Old Prostitute Celestina“

Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea
Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea and the Old Prostitute Celestina – R-4870 – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)
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Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Vicent Garcia Editores – Valencia, 2000
More Information
Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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