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Celestina, The Tragicomedy



La Celestina was written during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs of
Spain at a time of great historical change as the Middle Ages gave way
to the Renaissance period, bringing with it immense political, social and
economic shifts. This literary work marked the beginning of the Siglo de
Oro – the Golden Age of Spanish literature and, more specifically, the
birth of the tragicomédia (tragicomedy) – a distinctive literary form that
bore several important additions to the original comédia genre, and
which began to be published at the start of the 16th century.

La Celestina is one of the most important works of literature ever to be
written in Spanish, second only to Cervantes´ Don Quijote, and as such
marks a pinnacle of Spanish theatre. It´s influence, as much in European
theatre as in the Spanish literary scene, was notable. “Never before had
character, action, time and place been portrayed with such determinedly
faithful accuracy to real life as in the tragicomédia. However, at the same time Rojas refuses to merely copy the everyday or the ordinary and looks for artistically enriched verisimilitude, mastering the use of a distinctive stylistic device in multiple registers.”

Another extremely contemporary feature of the play is its treatment of religion. At the time, the medieval vision of a world order created by God had already been broken with, but the requirement that religion be included as a theme in all forms of artistic expression (as was the case during the Siglo de Oro) had yet to be implemented. Religion is challenged and rejected in the play. The characters lack any comprehension of the notion of sin, instead maintaining a skeptical belief in fate and fortune as determiners of destiny. No god judges the consequences of the character´s actions, no god listens to Melibea´s last wishes nor Pleberio´s curses; two monologues that posses all the strength of a Greek tragedy and all the contemporary essence of a Heiner Müller. La Celestina represents a moment of freedom, of laicism, of great historical change and transformation in which the characters dedicate themselves to living only for the moment, for the here and now. Because of this, over the years La Celestina found itself denounced by the Spanish Inquisition and branded ´atheistic, nihilistic and materialistic´ by the Franco regime.

That the characters appear dominated by the present, by the daily rush and impatience for life and for living intensely and determinedly in the moment is what makes the play so relevant to a modern day audience. The characters all face constant dilemmas and dangerous crossroads which transmit to the spectator a constant dramatical tension and element of surprise. Seven major conflicts are examined, all of which are very diverse and serve to add to the richness and value of this incomparable piece of Spanish literature.

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