University of Kentucky
Central to the characterization of the protagonist of Rojas' La Celestina -«libro», for Cervantes, «divino, si encubriera más lo humano»-72 is her portrayal as a witch or sorceress. Many critics believe that the Trotaconventos of Juan Ruiz's Libro de buen amor is the prototype for Celestina73, but Américo Castro considers Celestina «sin antecedentes y sólo inteligible y convivible para quien se adentra en lo único de su realidad»74, and according to Michael Ruggerio a fundamental aspect of that reality is witchcraft, «[the] element in the portrait that lends originality to Rojas' characterization of Celestina». As Ruggerio says, «Trotaconventos was not a witch, nor did she even use sorcery to attain her ends»75. Although never giving witchcraft and sorcery so central a role, Cervantes, too, repeatedly introduced episodes that exemplify a wide range of magical practices, from the simple use of a love potion to the worship of the devil that, according to Charles Lea, distinguishes a witch from a sorceress76.
Cervantes' inclusion of «magical» activities in his works testifies to the continuing popular appeal of the occult in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.77 In Persiles Cenotia is a witch with many of Celestina's talents, in «El licienciado Vidriera» Tomás is given a tainted sweet by a morisca to try to force him to fall in love, in «La gitanilla», Preciosa facetiously employs «magic» in her work as an entertainer, and in Don Quijote there are frequent burlesque references —56→ to omens and to the use of charms, as well as to enchantments, bewitchings and astrological divination.
At times, Cervantes' characters employ a mixture of magic and religion, similar to that in La Celestina, as in «La ilustre fregona», when Tomás, like Melibea, promises to give Constanza a prayer to get rid of her toothache. Such prayers used for cures were classified as superstitious heretical pacts by some sixteenth-century religious writers78. Pipota, in «Rinconete y Cortadillo» is a Celestinesque figure, and although there is no «magic» per se in the story, her superstitious use of religion does resemble that of Celestina. Most, though not all (e. g., in Persiles) of the instances of witches and witchcraft in Cervantes' works involve deceit or burlesque, and his opinion of the powers of magic over man's free will is clearly expressed in «El licenciado Vidriera» when the narrator comments on the supposedly bewitched membrillo given to Tomás: «... como si hubiese en el mundo yerbas, encantos ni palabras suficientes a forzar el libre albedrío; y así, las que dan estas bebidas o comidas amatorias se llaman veneficios; porque no es otra cosa lo que hacen sino dar veneno a quien las toma...»79. Don Quijote agrees: «Bien sé que no hay hechizos en el mundo que puedan mover y forzar la voluntad, como algunos simples piensan, que es libre nuestro albedrío, y no hay yerba ni encanto que le fuerce» (DQ, I, 22). This principled scepticism would be reason enough, perhaps, for Cervantes never to have involved sorcery or witchcraft in the workings of his plots, and De Lollis emphasized quite rightly that Cervantes included the occult in his works strictly as an artistic technique: «Es vano pedir a Cervantes que llegue a una sistematización en este punto... Su curiosidad era de artista. Su genio realista, con que preludiaba lo mejor del romanticismo, le hacía buscar las expresiones extremas de lo característico, y le atraía hacia lo anómalo... Con los locos van las brujas y los brujos... El poder alucinador del artista busca en la superstición un modo de ampliar los confines de la realidad...»80. Amezúa makes the same point: «había un mundo misterioso, tenebroso, secreto, en el que convivían extrañas y atractivas figuras novelables, brujas y hechiceras, nigrománticos y astrólogos, con prácticas ocultas y juntas nocturnas, que encerraban un positivo valor novelístico, una novedad seductora, para un escritor tan ávido de la vida, como veremos en breve, harían lo demás, fructificando el germen que todas aquellas lecturas habían dejado en su memoria y fantasía» (p. 455).
Anthony Close has asserted convincingly that Cervantes learned important elements of his craft from La Celestina, so it is perhaps not —57→ surprising that there is evidence of this influence in one of Cervantes' most fully developed scenes involving a figure who shares important characteristics with Celestina81. Amezúa noted the striking similarities between the curious scene in «El coloquio de los perros» where Cañizares tells Berganza of his mother Montiela and the corresponding account Celestina gives to Pármeno of his mother's life as a «bruja de mucha fama», but he dismissed any consideration of influence as «coincidencias que se explican, naturalmente, por la similitud de las figuras y analogía de las situaciones que en una y otra novela intervienen y se plantean» (p. 454). I would suggest that beneath the surface similarities lies one of those elements of his craft that Cervantes learned from Rojas.
Early in Act I of La Celestina, Celestina's strong character is revealed when she retorts to Pármeno's accusations and criticism of her questionable oficios: «¡tan puta vieja era tu madre como yo! ¿Por qué me persigues, Parmenico?» (p. 49)82. It is here that she initiates her assault on Pármeno's loyalty to Calisto, humiliating and shaming him by associating herself closely with his mother and with him. She begins by reminding him: «que mil açotes y puñadas te di en este mundo, y otros tantos besos. ¿Acuérdaste quando dormías a mis pies, loquito?» (p. 49). Pármeno recoils at this thought. In Act III, in dialogue with Sempronio, Celestina revels in her awareness of her strategy, saying: «acordéle quien era su madre porque no menospreciase mi oficio; porque queriendo de mí dezir mal, tropeçasse primero en ella» (p. 69).
These two scenes are a prelude to the scene in Act VII of the struggle between Pármeno's sense of values and his pride. It is through the dialogue in this scene that we see Pármeno weaken in his loyalty and lose his sense of right and wrong, succumbing to his passions and surrendering his will to the all-powerful Celestina.
Celestina begins with seemingly sincere praise of Pármeno's mother Claudina with a «tear in her eye» at the mention of Claudina's name, since, as she reminds him, she was Celestina's best and closest friend, confidante and colleague. She informs Pármeno that Claudina was closer to her than a sister. She tells him of Claudina's brujerías, practiced, according to Celestina, «sin pena ni temor» (p. 118), stressing the fact that she had no remorse for these acts. This is Celestina's first assault on Pármeno's pride, and many more will follow before she has successfully won him to her side. She goes on to explain that Claudina «se andava a medianoche de cimenterio en cimenterio, buscando aparejos», and carefully associates herself with —58→ Pármeno's mother in phrases such as: «para nuestro oficio» (p. 118). Claudina had no prejudices in the graveyards, for as Celestina explains (to further humiliate Pármeno): «Ni dexaba cristianos, ni moros, ni judíos, cuyos enterramientos no visitava», and with a sardonic note adds, «De día los acechava, de noche los desenterrava» (p. 118). She completes the black painting (one easily conjures up one of Goya's Caprichos depicting just such a scene): «Siete dientes quitó a un ahorcado con unas tenaçicas de pelaçejas, mientra yo le descalcé los çapatos» (p. 118). She boasts that Claudina «entrava en un cerco, mejor que yo y con más esfuerço...; los mesmos diablos la havian miedo» (p.118), explaining that Claudina was so powerful «que aun tenía los demonios atemorizados y espantados... con las crudas bozes que les dava. Assí era ella dellos conoscida como tú en tu casa; tumbando venían unos sobre otros a su llamado. No le osavan dezir mentira, según la fuerça con que los apremiava» (p. 118). At this point Pármeno expresses his feelings of degradation and bitterness, and admits in an aside: «o la medre Dios mas esta vieja, que ella me da plazer con estos loores de sus palabras» (p. 118).
Celestina, however, continues to badger him, emphasizing that Claudina had no equal in her profession; she was truly «la prima de nuestro oficio..., de todo el mundo conoscida y querida; assí de cavalleros como clérigos, casados, viejos, moços y niños... moças y donzellas...» (p. 119). The implications here are obvious. Celestina is making Pármeno pay dearly for having called her a puta and hechicera falsa in Act I.
But her deeper purpose is to drag Pármeno down to her level through a kind of guilt by association. Pármeno tries vainly to preserve some scrap of dignity, and after reminding Celestina of her punishments by the Inquisition, he responds to Celestina's acclaim of his mother's activities: «Verdad es, pero del pecado lo peor es la perseverancia...» (p. 119). Pármeno will come to regret the remark which provokes this vindictive aside from Celestina: «¿A las verdades nos andamos? Pues espera, que yo te tocaré donde te duela» (p. 119). She then informs him that she went to prison with his mother, and she revels in giving the details of Claudina's most debasing public punishments by the Inquisition. Addressing Pármeno as «Hijo», she reports «que la prendieron quatro vezes a tu madre... y aun la una le levantaron que era bruxa, porque la hallaron de noche con unas candelillas cogiendo tierra de una encruzijada, y la tovieron medio día en una escalera en la plaça, puesto como racadero, pintado en cabeça...» (pp. 119-20). Celestina delights in mocking Pármeno's —59→ mother, and hence Pármeno himself. She remarks with irony Claudina's punishment: «Algo han de sofrir los hombres en este triste mundo para sustentar sus vidas y honrras» (p. 120). Then with renewed vigor she triumphantly concludes by revealing what for Pármeno will be a bitter irony: «y mira que tan poco lo tuvo con su buen seso, que ni por esso dexo dende adelante de usar mejor su oficio. Esto ha venido por lo que dezías de perseverar en lo que una vez se yerra» (p. 120), thus explicitly denying the difference Pármeno had sought to establish between his mother and Celestina.
In «El Coloquio de los perros» Cervantes includes a dialogue between Cañizares and Berganza similar to the one just described in La Celestina. Cañizares praises Berganza's mother for being a talented witch, and this both embarrasses and humiliates Berganza. But an important distinction must be made between these two scenes: Celestina intentionally degrades Pármeno, whereas neither the reader nor Berganza is ever certain as to why Cañizares says what she says. Like Montiela, Cañizares regards Berganza as her «hijo», having been the midwife at his birth, and the same reference to «nuestro oficio» is made. Cañizares' praise of Montiela's talents recalls Celestina's description of Claudina's arts; she praises her as follows: «Verdad es que al ánimo que tu madre tenía de hacer y entrar en un cerco y encerrarse en él con una legión de demonios no le hacía ventaja la misma Camacha... en esto de conficionar las unturas con que las brujas nos untamos, a ninguna de las dos diera ventaja...,» (pp. 337-38). Like Celestina, Cañizares boasts that Montiela exceeded her in her conjurations. She notes that «con conjurar media legión de demonios me contentaba» (p. 338). Throughout this passage, as in Rojas' parallel one, Montiela's fama as one of the most talented witches is stressed. Montiela and her only rival Camacha are renowned as «las dos famosas». Cañizares tells Berganza that Camacha «remediaba... las doncellas...; cubría a las viudas... y descasaba las casadas...» (p. 337). Just as in the case of Pármeno, this praise brings great shame and humiliation to Berganza. Berganza, in his shame and anger, emphatically admits: «Cada cosa destas que la vieja me decía en alabanza de la que decía ser mi madre era una lanzada que me atravesaba el corazón...» (p. 341). Cañizares also makes the point that Montiela persevered to the end in her profession of bruja, and, like Claudina, «al fin se murió bruja» (p. 341), indicating that she would have gone to hell since witches were servants of the devil. Celestina, as a sorceress (hechicera) counted on being saved with her call for confession at her «fall».—60→
In these parallel scenes, the personalities of the Celestinas, the male characters, and their mothers, are revealed through the vivid dialogue. Cañizares' speech has the same effect on Berganza as Celestina's does on Pármeno. She humiliates Berganza through the same guilt-association with his mother used by Celestina, but her praise of Montiela seems sincere, without a plausible motive for the humiliation. Pármeno changes in the course of the dialogue from an assertive person of moral authority, critical of Celestina's ways, to one degraded and controlled. Rojas presents us with a psychological exchange in which Pármeno is no match for Celestina, whose occupation has sharpened her ability to manipulate people. She undermines Pármeno's moral integrity and he finally yields to her power and turns to sin. In fact, he becomes the «hijo» she insists on calling him (and which he hates to recognize in himself). Berganza like Pármeno, is shamed and humiliated, but he does not come under Cañizares' control and no relationship is established.
The episode in La Celestina is vital to the progression of the plot. Pármeno now joins (for a while) Celestina, and together they begin to scheme. The scene in «El Coloquio» affects the plot only in that it reveals, though mysteriously and unsatisfactorily, why the protagonists are able to speak. The similarities between «El Coloquio» and La Celestina suggest the possibility of borrowing. The scene in Cervantes' story has the air of an intercalation arising from his intrinsic interest in witchcraft and in homage to La Celestina.
These parallel scenes seem to corroborate Anthony Close's hypothesis that the «conversational episodes, and more generally, Cervantes's method of presenting character through dialogue, represent a bold importation into prose-fiction of the procedure of drama, particularly La Celestina...» (p. 338). He contends that «a number of characters in Cervantes's fiction can be considered as direct or indirect descendants of characters in La Celestina», and he shows examples of how Cervantes not only repeats character types or traits, but also repeats the situations with which they are associated in La Celestina. He concludes by summarizing Rojas' influence on Cervantes' art of characterization: «Rojas taught Cervantes the difficult art of how to develop character in the detail and on the scale requisite for a long novel. No other Golden-age writer before Cervantes... shows the same grasp of character as conceived on this dimension... The Quixote/Sancho conversations are the most notable example of metamorphosed situation of dialogue from La Celestina, borrowing from there not so much their content as their —61→ form, scale, and manner of development... In Aristotle's Poetics, character is one of the six parts of tragedy, together with plot, diction, thought, spectacle, and melody. In the modern novel, it is the essential part» (p.356). Although Cervantes' re-creation of the Celestina/Pármeno episode may seem hollow, lacking the credible motivation of Rojas' development, his rendition embodies a shift to a more typically Cervantine irony. In Rojas' episode, Celestina is the ironist, «praising» Claudina in order to shame Pármeno, while in «El Coloquio» the irony is in the situation, in the different perspectives of the characters. What is praise for Cañizares is blame for Berganza.
Some of these techniques of character interaction exhibited in the previously discussed scenes are transferable in this way to other situations, as Close's thesis implies. One example is Sancho's rustic praise of Aldonza in «La Arcadia fingida» scene (DQ II, 58), which so infuriates Don Quijote. One might note incidentally that Quevedo may also have seen the potential in Rojas' example: the famous letter from his uncle detailing Pablos' father's «heroic» trip to the scaffold employs the same type of irony (I, 7).
The similarity between Rojas' and Cervantes' episodes suggests more than mere coincidence. Some of the lines in «El Coloquio» copy La Celestina almost verbatim. Beyond the similarities and the witchcraft, what seems most significant is that Cervantes develops a paradigm drawn from La Celestina (blame through ironic praise), but with a significant variation, replacing the intentional irony of a character with the more typically Cervantine ironic juxtaposition of disparate points of view, revealing once again not only the subtlety of Cervantes, but the indirect effect that La Celestina may have had through him on the creation of the modern novel.