La Celestina, written by Fernando de Rojas in 1499, is often considered one of the greatest works of Spanish literature, and with good reason. It set a precedent for future writings, both in Spain and abroad--even inspiring Shakespeare's masterpiece Romeo and Juliet. The play came on the heels of a ground-breaking Spanish grammar guide by Antonio of Nebrija which established for the first time a standard for the language. And it stands, despite the rigours of the Spanish Inquisition, as a representation of its unique time.
The context into which La Celestina was born was the brink between two worlds, two times. This was the last gasp of the Middle Ages. The traditions of feudalism and courtly love still held sway, but not for long. Spain as an entity was only in its conception, forged together out of the medieval kingdoms of Aragon and Castile by the marriage of their scions, Ferdinand and Isabella.
The Catholic Monarchs, as they were known, consolidated their rule with a decisive victory over Granada, the last stronghold of the once-mighty Muslim empire of Al-Andalus in the Iberian peninsula. But territory was not the only factor in their conquest. First the Jews were required to convert to Christianity or face exile with the Edict of Expulsion of 1492, and the Muslims soon followed, despite promises to the contrary, in 1502 (Kamen 22). The infamous Spanish Inquisition was legitimized by papal bull in 1478 to make certain that converts to Christianity were sincere (Murphy 69).
[...] Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Print. Roth, Cecil. The Spanish Inquisition. New York: W. W. Norton Print. [...]
[...] Whenever a major culture shift occurs in human history, human ethics scramble to catch up. This was no different in the context of 1499 Spain, nor in the example of La Celestina. On the one hand, those like Melibea struggle to hold on to an outmoded system--one that makes less and less sense in a changing world. On the other, people like Celestina and Sempronio throw away the old ways with both hands, preferring to seize as much of life as possible at the expense of prudence. [...]
[...] The new influx of literature flying from the printing press was closely inspected for objectionable content and censored or banned (Roth 191). It is estimated that the Inquisition put 12,000 people to death over its span of influence (Murphy 102). In Spain at the turn of the 16th century, appearances became highly important. As the descendant of converted Jews, the author likely knew this. Even the Classics of Spanish Literature had to submit to the indignity [of censorship]. Fernando de Rojas' Celestina y Meliboe--Spain's greatest contribution to European letters before Cervantes . [...]
[...] La Celestina in its cultural and historical context La Celestina, written by Fernando de Rojas in 1499, is often considered one of the greatest works of Spanish literature, and with good reason. It set a precedent for future writings, both in Spain and abroad--even inspiring Shakespeare's masterpiece Romeo and Juliet. The play came on the heels of a ground-breaking Spanish grammar guide by Antonio of Nebrija which established for the first time a standard for the language. And it stands, despite the rigours of the Spanish Inquisition, as a representation of its unique time. [...]
[...] If Celestina is a picture of feminism, then Melibea is its antithesis. If her defense of honor had been out of self-respect, we may have been able to look up to her as a hero, but even that strength flows more from obligation to protect her father's reputation than to preserve herself. She gives over to her love for Calisto relatively easily despite her objections, becoming the caricature that Sempronio so scornfully describes to his master in Act II: “They are quickly won and quickly lost; soon pleased and soon displeased”. [...]
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