La Celestina


About The Celestina

The Celestina, originally entitled The Tragicomedy of Calixto and Melibea is a translation and adaptation of a theatrical piece written in Spanish in the city of Burgos, Spain in 1499 by Fernando de Rojas, an attorney. The author tells us that his work aims to forewarn lovers who, conquered by their inordinate appetites, lose all reason. He also warns about the dangers of falling prey to greedy and unscrupulous whoremongers, pimps, and flatterers.

This drama in the picaresque style is a tragic comedy as it is hilarious throughout, but ends in disaster. As all great literature, it is ageless. The Celestina is as fresh, relevant, intense, entertaining, funny and tragic as young love throughout the ages and throughout the world.

Irina’s English translation is well suited to modern theater. It can be performed either in an old style setting or as a contemporary piece.



Excerpts from Scene 1.

(Garden under Melibea’s Balcony; Calixto’s Home; Celestina’s Home)


Calixto-           In this, Melibea, I see the grandeur of God.

Melibea-          In what, Calixto?

Calixto-           In giving nature the power to create the perfect beauty which I see in you, and which so conveniently manifests itself before me. Such beauty and mercy inspire service, sacrifice, devotion and other acts of piety which I offer to God. Who in this life has seen such glorious beauty in human form, such as I witness in you? For sure, for sure, even the glorious saints have never been favored with visions as delicious as that which is before me now. But oh, oh, sadness overtakes me. While the saints enjoy their visions with no fear, I am tormented by the knowledge that your absence will soon cause me unbearable anguish.

Melibea-          And what do you seek, Calixto?

Calixto-           I seek you, Melibea which I would consider a prize greater than a seat in heaven among all God’s saints.

Melibea-          Your words, Calixto, are a mad and daring attempt to cause a virtuous woman as myself to lose her honor. My patience will not abide the crudeness of your obvious intention to enter into an illicit relationship with me. Begone! Begone!

Calixto-           I shall depart as one whom ill fortune taunts with cruel hatred.

Sempronio, Sempronio, Sempronio! Where is that cursed fellow?

Sempronio-    Here I am sir, looking after the horses.

Calixto-           Oh, forget the horses and look after me. Oh God, would that blessed death come to me. Know that I am doomed to live with a broken heart and a dispirited spirit.

Sempronio-     What did you say?

Calixto-           Oh you idiot. Get lost. Don’t question me, or I’ll beat you to death for your dense stupidity. Go! Get out of my sight! I wish to kill myself in solitary splendor.

Sempronio-      I’m out of here. I’m history. I’m cruising, since you have forsaken reason and choose to suffer your misery in solitude.

Calixto-            Go to hell. Go directly to hell and do not pass Go.

Sempronio-      [ASIDE] Oh what unforeseen and sudden trouble has befallen me. What misfortune! What has happened to abruptly rob Calixto of his happiness along with his sanity? Should I leave him alone, or should I stick around? If I leave him, he will kill himself. If I stick around, he’ll kill me. Better he should die than I. But if his corpse is found, with no other witness, I’ll be blamed for his murder. Oh lord, what a dilemma. Well, perhaps I should seek to offer him solace. It is said that talking and weeping is therapeutic for the afflicted. I had best give it a shot. [RETURNING] Calixto, Sir?

Calixto-           Sempronio! You fool. Are you still here?

Sempronio-     Yes Señor .

Calixto-           Well then, bring me my lute.

Sempronio-     Yes sir. Here it is.

Calixto-           [SINGING] What pain, what sorrow can be such?

What misery, what wound can hurt so much?

Sempronio-      That lute is out of tune.

Calixto-           How to tune the untuned? How does harmony feel to him who is out of tune with himself, whose will disdains reason. Whose heart is pierced by pears, wounded by war, calamity, love, animosity, injuries, sins, suspicions? Such a one merely plays and sings the saddest songs he knows, out of tune.


The Emperor Nero fiddles

Watching Rome as it burns

Children and elders shout and weep

But Nero rejoiced and lost no sleep.

Calixto-           My fire burns hotter and less is the pity of my tormentor, than the pity of the Emperor Nero.

Sempronio-      I swear to God almighty, my employer is crazy, loco.

Calixto-           What are you muttering, Sempronio?

Sempronio-      I didn’t say anything, sir.

Calixto-           Speak up, don’t be afraid.

Sempronio-      I was saying that how can a fire that torments only one person be greater than that which burned Rome along with a multitude of people?

Calixto-           You ask how? I’ll tell you how. The flame which lasts eighty years is greater than that which burns out in a day. That’s the difference between the fire that burns me and the fire of which you speak. Indeed, the flames of purgatory burn bright and long. That’s why I would rather be reincarnated as a dumb animal than reach the glories of heaven after suffering the purification of purgatory’s fires.

Sempronio-      [ASIDE] That’s something else. Not only is Calixto crazy, but he is also an unbeliever, a sinner, a heretic.

Calixto-           Didn’t I tell you to speak up and not to mutter? What are you saying?

Sempronio-       I’m saying, God forbid, what you just said is a kind of blasphemy.

Calixto-           Why?

Sempronio-      Because what you just said is against the Christian faith

Calixto-           And what’s that to me?

Sempronio-      Aren’t you a Christian?

Calixto-           Me? I’m a Melibean. I adore Melibea. I believe in Melibea. I worship Melibea.

Sempronio-   Oh, Indeed! Now that I understand your malady and I see what thorn in your foot is causing you to limp, I will cure you.

Calixto-           That’s an incredible promise.

Sempronio-      Not at all. Its a piece of cake. The beginning of good health is an understanding of the ailment.

Calixto-           And what is my ailment?

Sempronio-      [LAUGHING] You love Melibea.

Calixto-           Why are you laughing?

Sempronio-      Son of a bitch! I’m laughing at you, who have fallen in the oldest trap known to mankind. Read the history books. Listen to the words of the wise, Solomon, Seneca, Aristotle. Gentiles, Jews, Christians and Moslems all agree that women are the downfall of men. The Devil works his evil ways through women. Women and wine make sinners of men. Adam was ousted from the perfection of paradise because of Eve.

Calixto-           Well, whatever you say has no effect on me at all. The more you talk, the more I love Melibea. What is, is. Melibea is beautiful without a flaw. Her golden hair, her green eyes, her long lashes, her thin eyebrows, her perfect nose, her small mouth, her delicate and white teeth, her full red ruby lips, her smooth shiny skin which darkens even the snow.

Sempronio-      Are you finished?

Calixto-           I have been as brief as possible.

Sempronio-      Well, even so, you as a man are far worthier. The male is superior to the female. Woman seeks man, even as matter seeks form.

Calixto-           Oh that Melibea would seek me.

Sempronio-      That can be managed, it can be arranged. I will bring Melibea into your arms, indeed right into your bed.

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