or, The Interlude of Calisto and Melibea
an anonymous interlude, a translation of Fernando de Rojas's Spanish original “La Celestina”
first published c. 1530
About the Play
This anonymous interlude, printed c. 1530 as The Beauty and Good Properties of Women, is the earliest attested English version of Fernando de Rojas’ groundbreaking Spanish work, La Celestina.
La Celestina tells the story of the lovers Calisto and Melibea, and the go-between Celestina who brings them to their tragic end, in exchange for a tidy profit. William Carew Hazlitt renamed the play to Calisto and Melibea for his 1873 reprint.
To fit this scandalous Spanish original into an English moral interlude, the anonymous author eschews the double tragedy of the Spanish original. Instead, the Good Properties ends with Melibea repenting of her (unconsummated) flirtation with Calisto and begging her father’s forgiveness for her disobedience, as the bawd Celestina is punished for her transgressions.
La Celestina influenced English writers througout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One other pre-1700 version of Rojas’ work survives: James Mabbe’s less bowdlerized The Spanish Bawd, first printed in 1631. Secondary sources refer to two other 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.
- A new conmodye in englysh in maner Of an enterlude ryght elygant & full of craft of rethoryk/wherein is shewd & dyscrybyd as well the bewte & good propertes of women/as theyr vycys & euyll condicions/with a morall conclusion & exhortacyon to vertew
References from Secondary Sources
- Walter Wilson Gregg, A List of English Plays (1900)
A new conmodye in englysh in maner Of an enterlude ryght elygant & full of craft of rethoryk / wherein is shewd & dyscrybyd as well the bewte & good propertes of women / as theyr vycys & euyll condicions / with a morall conclusion & exhortacyon to vertew.
Colophon: Johens rastell me imprimi fecit. Cum priuilegio regali. Fol. B.L. Bodl.
- James O. Halliwell, A Dictionary of Old English Plays (1860)
BEAUTY OF WOMEN. “A new commodye in Englysh in manner of an enterlude ryght elegant and full of craft of rhethoryk, wherein is shew’d and dyscrybyd as well the bewte and good propertes of women, as theyr vycys and evyll condicions, wiht a morall conclusion and exhortacyon to vertew.” Folio. This curious interlude was printed by Rastel about the year 1530.
- William Carew Hazlitt, The Play-Collector's Manual (1892)
Beauty of Women: A new comedy in English in manner of an interlude right elegant and full of craft of rhetoric, wherein is showed and described as well the beauty and good properties of women, as their vices and evil conditions, with a moral conclusion and exhortation to virtue. Folio.
This interlude on the story of Calisto and Meliboea was printed about the year 1530; it was licensed to William Aspley, October 5, 1598. See Celestina. Reprinted from Rastell’s edition in Hazlitt’s Dodsley. The production is quoted in A Second and Third Blast of Retreat from Plaies and Theatres, 1580.
Hazlitt conflates these plays. Given the perennial popularity of the source material, and the large gaps in time, there seems to be little reason to do so.