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an anonymous tragicomedy, a translation of Fernando de Rojas's Spanish original “La Celestina”

About the Play

A play called “the tragical Comedie of Calistus” is mentioned in Anthony Munday’s anti-theatrical work A Second and Third Blast of Retreat from Plays and Theaters. Based on the title and Munday’s description of the plot, this is an otherwise unknown translation or adaptation of Fernando de Rojas’ groundbreaking Spanish pocket drama, La Celestina.

La Celestina influenced English writers througout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Two pre-1700 versions of Rojas’ work survive: the anonymous interlude The Beauty and Good Properties of Women, usually dated to around 1530, and James Mabbe’s The Spanish Bawd, first printed in 1631. Another lost version, called Celestina, appears in the Stationers’ Register for October of 1598.

References from Secondary Sources

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

    CALISTUS. A tragi-comedy mentioned in a Second and Third Blast of Retrait from Plaies and Theatres, 1580, “wherein the baudress, Scelestina, inflamed the maiden Melibea with her sorceries.” This is supposed by Mr. Collier to be the same play as the Beauty and Good Properties of Women, printed about 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 considers the 1580 and 1598 sources to refer to the 1530 interlude, rather than to independent plays on the same popular subject.

  • Anthony Munday (attr.), A Second and Third Blast (1580)

    The nature of their Comedies are, for the most part, after one manner of nature, like the tragical Comedie of Calistus; where the bawdresse Scelestina inflamed the maiden Melibeia with her sorceries. Do wee not vse in these discourses to counterfet witchcraft, charmed drinkes, & amorous potions, thereby to drawe the affections of men, & to stir them vp unto lust, to like euen those whome of them-selues they abhor. The ensamples whereof stirre up the ignorant multitude to seeke by such unlawful meanes the loue, & goodwil of others.