The Spanish Bawd, represented in Celestina

or, Calisto and Melibea

or, Celestina

a tragicomedy, a translation of Fernando de Rojas's Spanish original “La Celestina”, by James Mabbe

first published 1631


About the Play

Fernando de Rojas’ La Celestina is a landmark work of medieval Spanish literature. James Mabbe’s translation, The Spanish Bawd, is more faithful to de Rojas’ scandalous source material than the only surviving earlier edition, the circa 1530 interlude The Beauty and Good Properties of Women.

Like its source, The Spanish Bawd, while written in dialogue, was not primarily intended for the stage, but as a “closet drama” for private reading or private performance. The work was published under the pseudonym “Don Diego Puede-ser.”

In addition to The Beauty and Good Properties of Women, secondary sources refer to two lost versions: Calistus is condemned in Anthony Munday’s 1580 anti-theater pamphlet A Second and Third Blast of Retreat from Plays and Theaters, and Celestina appears in the Stationers’ Register for October of 1598.


Known Editions

  • The Spanish Bawd represented in Celestina, or The Tragicke-Comedy of Calisto and Melibea. Wherein is contained, besides the pleasantnesse and sweetenesse of the stile, many Philosophical Sentences, and profitable Instructions necessary for the younger sort shewing the deceits and subtilties housed in the bosomes of false servants and cunny-catching bawds. London. Printed by J.B. and are to be sold by Robert Allot at the Signe of the Beare in Pauls Church-yard. 1631


References from Secondary Sources

  • Walter Wilson Gregg, A List of English Plays (1900)

    MABBE, James. (1572-1642?)

    *The Spanish Bawd, represented in Celestina, or the Tragicke-Comedy of Calisto and Melibea. J.B. sold by Robert Allit. 1631. Fol.

    Published under the pseudonym of “Don Diego Puede-ser,” which name appears at the end of the dedicatory epistle. Translated from the Spanish of Ferdinando de Rojas. B.M. (162. m. 32). T.C.C.

  • James O. Halliwell, A Dictionary of Old English Plays (1860)

    THE SPANISH BAWD, represented in Celestina; or, the Tragicke Comedy of Calisto and Melibea; wherein is contained, besides the Pleasantness and Sweetnesse of the Stile, many philosophical Sentences, and profitable Instructions necessary for the younger Sort: Shewing the Deceits and Subtilties housed in the Bosomes of false Servants and Cunny-catching Bawds. Fol. 1631. This play is the longest that was ever published, consisting of twenty-one acts. It was written originally in Spanish, by El Bachiler Fernanda de Roxas de la Puebla de Montalvan, whose name is discoverable by the beginning of every line in an acrostic or copy of verses prefixed to the work. The translator also, James Mabbe, pretends to be a Spaniard, and has taken on himself the disguised name of Don Diego Puedeser. The scene lies in Spain.

  • William Carew Hazlitt, The Play-Collector's Manual (1892)

    The Spanish Bawd represented in Celestina: Or, the Tragi-Comedy of Calisto and Melibea: Wherein is contained, besides the Pleasantness and Sweetness of the Style, many philosophical Sentences and profitable Instructions necessary for the younger sort: Shewing the Deceits and Subtilties housed in teh Bosoms of false Servants and Coney-catching Bawds. Folio, 1631. Translated by Don Diego Psuedeser [James Mabbe]. The scene, Spain.

    This play is the longest that was ever published, consisting of twenty-one acts. It was written originally in Spanish, by Fernanda de Roxas de la Puebla de Montalvan, whose name is discoverable by the beginning of every line in an acrostic or copy of verses prefixed to the work. Compare Beauty of Women.