The Petrarchan Sources of La Celestina

The Petrarchan Sources of La Celestina

The Petrarchan Sources of La Celestina

The Petrarchan Sources of La Celestina

Excerpt

La Celestina has been recognized in Spain, from the time of its first publication, as one of that country's greatest works of imaginative literature, though its reputation lessened there in the later seventeenth and in the eighteenth centuries. For 150 years it was a European best-seller. Although it is a novel in dialogue, never intended for stage presentation, it has been acted in numerous adaptations during the past sixty years: in 1958 alone, a Spanish version was staged in Paris, and translations in London and Brussels.

The first known edition, entitled Comedia de Calisto y Melibea, appeared in or soon after 1499, and was swiftly followed by others. In 1502 the Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea (an enlarged version) was published, and by 1640 not fewer than eighty editions in Spanish had been produced. Long before this the impression made on readers by the old bawd Celestina had caused her to displace the lovers Calisto and Melibea on the title-page of many editions, and it is she by whose name the book is known today.

This popularity among readers was accompanied by a marked influence on the novelists and dramatists of the Spanish Golden Age, not confined to the numerous direct imitations, but extending also to less obviously derivative works. At the same time, the book's fame spread outside Spain: an Italian translation appeared in 1505 and ran into several editions. This was followed by translations into French (three different versions), German (two versions), Flemish, Hebrew, and Latin. La Celestina had some influence on drama and more on prose fiction in Tudor and Stuart England. John Rastell translated the early part of the work into English verse, equipped it with a happy ending, and published it, c. 1530, as A new cõmodye in englysh in maner of an enterlude, better known from its modern editions as An Interlude of Calisto and Melebea. There may have been a full translation in the sixteenth century: there seems to have been a stage production in the 1570's, possibly of The most famous History of ij Spanesshe lovers which was licensed in 1569-70. A Spanish edition was licensed in 1591, and a printing of The tragicke comedye of Celestina in 1598, though we do not . . .

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