Fernando de Rojas

Celestina

  • This summary of Celestina includes a complete plot overview – spoilers included!
  • We’re considering expanding this synopsis into a full-length study guide to deepen your comprehension of the book and why it's important.
  • Want to see an expanded study guide sooner? Click the Upvote button below.

Celestina Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Celestina by Fernando de Rojas.

Published in 1499, Celestina is a comedic play by Fernando de Rojas. When a rich, young bachelor is spurned by the woman he desires, he turns to Celestina (a procuress and brothel matron) for help, leading to the downfall of all involved. Celestina is the only known work by de Rojas and is credited with beginning the Spanish literary renaissance. The play was originally published with sixteen acts, but a second version of the play with five additional acts appeared in 1502; there are discrepancies about whether the acts were added by de Rojas or a publisher.

While out hunting with his falcon, a wealthy, young bachelor named Calisto follows his bird into a garden where he sees Melibea, a beautiful maiden. He quickly professes his love for her. Shocked by his forwardness, she rejects him. Depressed and suicidal, he returns home to play sad songs on his lute.

After a time, Sempronio, a servant, suggests that Calisto ask Celestina to make Melibea fall in love with him. Celestina is a notorious former prostitute who now runs a brothel, but she also works as procuress and go-between. Sempronio pretends to act on his master’s behalf, however, he has an ulterior motive: he is in love with Elicia, one of Celestina’s servants. He and Celestina secretly cooperate in a plot to get rich by tricking Calisto out of his money. In addition, Celestina will reward Sempronio with Elicia.

Upon hearing Sempronio’s suggestion, Pármeno, another of Calisto’s servants, goes to his master to warn him against the idea. Pármeno used to work for Celestina and knows she is not to be trusted. Calisto ignores him and meets with Celestina, offering her gold in exchange for making Melibea fall in love with him. Privately, Celestina asks Pármeno to stop warning his master and instead join with her and Sempronio. To sweeten the deal, she offers him Areusa, another of her servants whom she knows to be the love interest of Pármeno. He refuses, however, wishing to remain loyal to his master.

The deal is not long made before Calisto grows impatient. He sends Sempronio to hurry Celestina’s efforts. Meanwhile, Pármeno attempts to foil the plot by suggesting his master instead court Melibea honorably. This earns him a harsh tongue lashing from Calisto, who then leaves on his horse to ride past Melibea’s house. Angry that his loyalty is rewarded with such treatment, Pármeno decides he will join with Celestina and Sempronio.

Meanwhile, Sempronio arrives at Celestina’s house and, finding her busy creating a love charm, has sex with Elicia. Celestina then goes to Melibea’s house, where she gains entry by posing as a vendor woman selling thread and make-up. A servant of the house recognizes the notorious procuress and warns Melibea’s mother, but she doesn’t listen, even going so far as to leave Melibea in Celestina’s care while she leaves to go visit a sick relative. Celestina, always on the lookout to take advantage of a situation, bribes the servant by promising to make her blonde and to sweeten her breath.

Celestina tells Melibea that she is looking for some items that will help cure a sick man: a girdle that has been on pilgrimage and a copy of a prayer by Saint Polonia. When she hears that the name of the sick man is Calisto, Melibea becomes suspicious and tells Celestina to leave. Celestina soon talks her way back into Melibea’s good graces, and the girl not only gives her girdle to aid the sick man, she also promises to make a copy of the prayer for him.

The next day, Melibea is completely changed, and she can think of nothing but her love for Calisto. Even her maid remarks, “My señora has lost her wits.” Melibea sends for Celestina, who arranges a tryst between her and Calisto that night in the garden. The pair makes love while Sempronio and Pármeno stand guard.

In the morning, Calisto returns home while Sempronio and Pármeno visit Celestina to collect their share of the payment. She tries to cheat them, however, so they murder her in front of Elicia. They escape out a window, but are later caught by the guard and beheaded. Grieved over the loss of their lovers, Elicia and Areusa hatch a plan for revenge.

Calisto again goes to secretly meet with Melibea, bringing two different servants to keep watch. He uses a tall ladder to scale the garden wall, but while he is inside, Elicia and Areusa send two men to fight with Calisto’s servants. When he hears the commotion, Calisto tries to flee, but he slips from the ladder and is killed by the fall. When she sees her lover lying dead in the street, Melibea confesses the affair to her father before throwing herself out a window to her death.