Liverpool University Press

The notion taken up in this essay concerns urban spaces in Celestina, and is intended as a complement to previous studies by Lida de Malkiel (1966), Russell (1989), Botta (1994, 2001), Rank (1993) and others that attempt to guide readers of Celestina in visualizing, via the imagination, its urban environment by enlarging upon the spare mentions of physical settings, against – or in – which the dialogue-action of the work unfolds.1 In terms of the houses that provide the settings for most of the dialogue-actions, only one of the 14 speaking characters in the work does not live in the houses prominently featured in the text. In Calisto's house also dwell Sempronio, Pármeno, Sosia and Tristán (a household of five). In Pleberio's house, the dwellers include Alisa, Melibea and Lucrecia (a household of four). Additionally there are household watchmen and defenders who – although they never appear or speak – abide there.2 And Pleberio owns, surely, a second dwelling in the outskirts of the city, one in which the opening scene of the play is developed ( Botta 2001). Of this house in the orchard, more will be said later.

Celestina has also lived in two (or more; see below) houses, the one she lives in now, with Elicia (a household of two), and one she formerly occupied while the neighbour of Pleberio and his family. Indeed, Celestina – born in this city (I, 142),3 once married (I, 109), and later establishing her own houses of [End Page 133] prostitution – surely occupied more houses than these two (see below). Finally, Areúsa lives in her own house, as does her former beau, the rufián, Centurio.4 All of the dialogue-action of Celestina takes place in the five houses pertaining to Calisto, Pleberio, Celestina, Areúsa and Centurio, and in the streets and alleyways connecting them.5

Indeed the home in Celestina as image, as metaphor and as symbol of the ideologically paranoid world of the work has previously been amply explored and embellished (Ellis 1981, Gerli 1997). In this study, my purpose is not only to sharpen the focus on details of the houses we do remember – and the passageways that connect them – but also to 'locate' the invisible houses, houses that, at least in part, reflect the influence of Alan Deyermond's perceptive account (1997) of the 'invisible characters' present – but often not seen or even remembered – in the dialogue-action of Celestina. Thus, as we proceed, we will have occasion to populate Celestina's composite city6 with many more houses than these, some former homes, others present ones, but a considerable number of them belonging to 'invisible characters'.7

The houses where the dialogue-action transpires

These houses, I believe, are six in number. Five are urban and one is suburban or rural. The opening scene of Act I takes place, according to the 'argumento' added by the printer, 'entrando Calisto una huerta empos dun falcon suyo …' (I, 85, emphasis added). Although the ensuing dialogue between the future lovers invokes no specific locale,8 the printer-reader evidently took his cue from Parmeno's later statement, 'Señor, porque perderse el otro día el neblí fue causa de tu entrada en la huerta de Melibea …' (II, 134–35, emphasis added), setting the work's initial dialogue outside the city, as Calisto hunts near to Pleberio's [End Page 134] orchard, 'huerta' ('¿Para quién planté árboles?', XXI, 337). He has with him one of his falcons which, having escaped into the huerta, causes Calisto to enter in pursuit with no need of servants or ladders (there are no walls here to be scaled, as will be necessary later, in Pleberio's urban huerto).9 In this suburban milieu, Melibea feels free to wander in the orchard near her father's rural dwelling, unattended by guardians (Alisa) or maid–companions (Lucrecia) who, nonetheless, must be near, but indoors. Such a chance meeting with a young man on a hunting foray would be utterly impossible in Melibea's urban environment.

Pleberio's urban dwelling is – as befits a successful burgher – large and spacious, well protected by servants and guardians. As Melibea is an only daughter of marriageable age, it is closely supervised and even its garden, 'huerto' – unlike the more rural orchard 'huerta' –, has very high walls.10 It has many rooms, a receiving area ('antesala', X, 239), a central salon accessible from the front of the house, with its many doors ('antepuerta', X, 239) but also through a side passage ('postigo', XVI, 306), used by Lucrecia to interrupt the discussion of Melibea's marriageability. There are, logically, the family bedrooms with windows (XII, 266; XIV, 287; XXI, 340) as well as the rooms where Lucrecia and the household guardians sleep (XII, 263). Adjacent to the house there is the ample garden bower, 'huerto', so propitious for harbouring the several acts of nocturnal seduction, with its gurgling fountain and its tall cypresses in whose shadows the lovers will lie. This 'huerto' is liltingly idealized by Melibea (XIX, 322–23), is vengefully cursed by Elicia (XV, 298), and is revered in memory by Calisto (XIV, 292). The house features a high tower with an overlook towards the river (XX, 330), and behind the huerto passes the street of the 'vicario gordo' (XVII, 312).11 In the general neighbourhood, too, is the house where formerly lived – not more than two years ago – Celestina, a native-born denizen of this city. It is, for a Melibea newly awakened to sensuality, more akin to a huge cage to house her parents' prized possession and only heir. Under the rebellious spell of her fatal attraction for Calisto, Melibea knowingly plans for its breaching and her own loss of -sanctuary.

Of Celestina's present house, we know that it is not owned but rented (XV, 301); it has two storeys, and is not far from Calisto's house, according to Sempronio who brags 'conozco en fin desta vezindad una vieja barbuda …' (I, 103, emphasis added). It has an attic or garret, 'sobrado alto' containing an old chest for loom [End Page 135] shafts, 'lizos', and separate rooms for the storage of her several ointments and salves as well as for other compounds used in her magic (II, 147), an upstairs broom closet (I, 104) and an entry-level dining area with tables and benches (IX, 234). Celestina keeps her doors locked and it is Elicia who closes and opens the door for her (I, 106; III, 146; VII, 209; XI, 254). But it is Celestina who opens the door to her assassins (XII, 268). When Sempronio and Pármeno depart – laden with delicacies from Calisto's pantry – for Celestina's house, they choose to go by a less direct street in order to pass by the church where Celestina is wont to perform her 'devociones' (IX, 222). They doubtless take the other, more direct route in Act XII, when they go in haste and with no small frustration to claim their part of the insincerely promised booty, all now safely hoarded by Celestina.12

We know less about the interior of Calisto's house because so much of the action there takes place either in Calisto's bedchamber 'cámara', where he performs the courtly rituals of bewailing his 'adversa fortuna' (I, 87), or of singing ('trobando está nuestro amo' VIII, 218), or just outside it. It has at least two floors, a stable for his horses and their groom (I, 87; II, 136–37), an area where his hunting birds are maintained (I, 87), a generous larder from which his servants make off with the delicacies for Celestina's board (VIII, 217–18), and storage areas in which a 'laúd' (I, 91), vests (I, 109), gold coins (II, 130), gold chains (XI, 250), and capes, swords and arms, are kept (XII, 256). We know it is not far from where Celestina currently lives.13 His door is kept locked, and even Sempronio must be admitted by Pármeno (I, 114; V, 175).14 The servants can carry wall-scaling (rope) ladders and arms to the rear of Pleberio's house,15 on the street of the fat vicar ('vicario gordo'), by night with speed and efficiency, so that a very great distance is probably not involved.

We also learn that from the second-storey window of Calisto's grander house one can see the more modest dwelling of Areúsa, meaning either it is on the same street or on a street perpendicular to it (XIV, 293). Her house has also two storeys and Celestina enters by night without being admitted, meaning it is not [End Page 136] securely locked. She goes upstairs and commands Pármeno to wait below. The house is ringed by neighbouring houses and Areúsa fears the gossip emanating from them (VII, 205). We know that her bedroom is on the second level (Act VII), and that on the entry level is a receiving room where she entertains Sosia and allows her cousin, Elicia, to be an aural witness to her masterly control of Calisto's stable lad from a curtained-off alcove (XVII, 309).

Areúsa's house, in turn, seems to be located not far from Centurio's; like hers, his often has an unlocked door (XVIII, 313). The dialogue-action emanates from an entrance area, as Areúsa cares not to enter further than just inside his door (XVIII, 313) and Elicia bids Centurio come to them ('Llégate acá, señor Centurio', XVIII, 314) . We know that Centurio has gained from Areúsa much (cape, sword, buckler, arms, a horse, embroidered expensive shirts, and even a patron; XV, 294) but that he has gambled or frittered it all away. Despite his spirited and boastful talk, we are not surprised to find that his house is a genuine hovel, the most decrepit of Celestina's houses.16

Celestina's three houses

The house that looms largest from a more recent past is the one that Celestina used to occupy 'a las tenerías, cabe el río' (IV, 157).17 This is the same river, of course, that could be seen from the terrace roof ('azotea') of Melibea's tower. Since Celestina claims to have lived in that house for just four years (VI, 189), it cannot be the one she lived in twenty years earlier – described to Lucrecia and the gathered servants in Act IX – when her stable of young prostitutes consisted of a ménage of nine 'pupilas' between fourteen and eighteen years of age (IX, 234). Pármeno must have known the same house, from more than ten years ago,18 when Celestina lived in the neighbourhood of Claudina and Alberto's house (I, 109), her house somewhat distant ('apartada') from the bustling town centre and in a declining state ('medio caída'), at the bend in the river, near the tanneries at the farther edge of town (I, 110 and 120).19 [End Page 137]

One can appreciate that Celestina, in full brothel mode, had to make her living at the outskirts of the city at the height of her profession, then moved somewhat closer in as her circumstances dwindled, living near to Pleberio and Alisa20 for four years and has now lived for two or more in her present home, not far from Calisto's.21 Her present home was close enough to Calisto's to have afforded Sempronio the easy pleasures of Elicia and a strong association with Celestina and her diminished brothel trade. Then, with Celestina assassinated and the rent paid up for the next year, Elicia becomes the new possessor of Celestina's house (XV, 300–01), only to learn that the era of the fame of Celestina's house has, unfortunately for Elicia, died with Celestina (XVII, 307).22 A new era is dawning, one more promising for the likes of Areúsa (XVII, 312).

The 'invisible' houses

Living now in this and other parts of town are diverse folk sketched in the Celestina text. Crito, already mentioned, is one who assuredly lives locally. Cremes, Alisa's brother-in-law, has a house visited twice by Alisa, accompanied by his page boy (IV, 153), perhaps fairly nearby. Celestina mentions (V, 172) the new mistresses of alcahuetería and they will have homes and/or brothels in their keeping. But she also accounts for those mistresses who preceded them.23 She boasts of providing the first merchandise to the young maids who open yarn stalls (III, 141). All these will have homes. There are the houses of the countless young lovers, 'novicios amantes', for whom Celestina has procured 'mochachas' (III, 138). And the many 'moças', 'cuytadillas', 'las más encerradas' and 'encubiertas' (I, 110) she has pawned off on her hundreds of clients over the years add greater density to the houses present in all quarters of the city. [End Page 138]

The young married woman, 'desposada', whose father drops by Celestina's house (VII, 209) may have two homes, her father's and her husband's. So, too, the prebendary, 'racionero', to whom Celestina sells her, must live in a place where he can enjoy her. When Celestina meets on her way to Pleberio's house four acquaintances – three of whom are named Juan – we know that each has a house to go home to (IV, 150). We assume that the fat 'ministro' (I, 106) also has comfortable lodgings somewhere in the city.

On the same street as Pleberio's house, Elicia knows four girls who are much prettier than Melibea and who live in houses there. The gossips whose houses are adjacent to Areúsa's (VII, 205) are also neighbours of Calisto, and may feel they are alert citizens keeping watch over local morality, keen on the comings and goings at Areúsa's house. Celestina also is aware of her neighbours and wishes not to arouse them.24 Areúsás soldier-lover goes off with his captain (VII, 203), suggesting that other young soldiers live in town as well.

There are students of university age, abbot's footmen (I, 110), and stewards ('despenseros', 1, 110; IX, 223), all of whom reside somewhere in town, as must the many dozens of religious men and women who live in 'monasterios de frayles y de monjas' (I, 111). Celestina has devout friars in the town's many monasteries (XIV, 287), and we hear of the 'devotos de templos, monasterios y yglesias' who arise at dawn (XIV, 287). Thus we have members, male and female, associated with the different religious orders established in different quarters of the city, and all of whom Celestina seemingly knows well (past and present).

Celestina mentions Moors and Jews (VII, 196) and these two minority groups, not unexpectedly, will dwell in specially assigned barrios near the town's peripheries. There are abbots, bishops, sacristans, canons (IX, 235), their squires and servants (IX, 236), confessors (X, 240), the parish priest of San Miguel, the 'mesonero' who serves beer in a tavern in one the city's squares, Mollejas the market gardener ('hortelano', XII, 265), a number of police night patrols ('alguaciles', XII, 264; XIII, 280; XIV, 283), an executioner (XIII, 280; XIV, 291), judges (III, 141; XIV, 289) and other town officials such as a mayor ('alcalde', XIV, 289), an alderman ('regidor', III, 147), and some town criers ('pregonero', XIII, 278, 280). These many officials also occupy houses in town.

There are, as well, the nameless young gentlemen that Pleberio and Alisa envision as suitors for Melibea's hand in marriage (XVI, 302–03), the anonymous acquaintances and family members that may have walked off with Celestinás gold chain (Celestina would not invent such characters did they not exist, XII, 271), and the friends and former household 'criados', relatives and near relatives ('parientes y allegados', XIV, 289) of Calisto, all of whom are part of the citizenry. Pleberio speaks to Alisa, too, reminding her of 'nuestros yguales, nuestros hermanos y parientes en derredor' (XVI, 301), who, less fortunately, now only populate the town's cemeteries ('todos los come ya la tierra').

We must count among the population the field hands and shepherds (XIV, 287) [End Page 139] as well as the many local tradesmen (blacksmiths, carpenters, armourers, tinkers, weavers, wool beaters, hairdressers, farmers, gamblers) mentioned by Pármeno (I, 108–09), without which the city could not carry on its daily commerce. Celestina adds the goldsmith (I, 128). We also meet the 'señoras' who treat their female servants ill; they are seemingly numerous, ensconced behind the doors of their 'ricos palacios' (IX, 232–33) in the better parts of town. The tanneries provide jobs (and homes) for those who produce the local leather. We hear of midwives (VII, 197), surgeons (I, 107; III, 143; XVIII, 316), doctors (IV, 162; V, 172; X, 240, 241; XX, 330) and leeches (I, 122), tailors (VI, 185; VII, 195), armourers (XVIII, 316), street vendors ('buhoneros', IX, 228) and musicians (XVII, 309), among the many professionals who live and make their livelihoods in town.

Traso the lame, mentioned in Act XVIII, has a home that Centurio surely knew and visited. Traso later rounds up a few more fellows from his cohort of friends who might accompany him in the tragic events of Celestina's final night (XVIII, 317–18). Elicia tells us of the (many?) clients who once visited but who no longer come around, staying instead in their homes, for all she knows (XVII, 307). These might include Crito and the anonymous fellow mentioned in Elicia's coded speech to Celestina (III, 146), or those others she openly and spitefully declares to Sempronio (IX, 231).

There are many buildings mentioned that are also easily multiplied. We include churches, of course: Sempronio formerly served at San Miguel,25 Calisto prays at the Magdalena, and Celestina visits them all, but tells her beads in one near her house (IX, 222). We know of the cemeteries that Claudina and Celestina frequented (VII 196) and of others (XVIII, 316), doubtless at the town's perimeter, but there must have existed others for the town's non-Christians. There is a city market (XIII, 277), town squares, 'plaças', for provisions (I, 110) for executions (XIII, 277–78) and the public pillory of offenders like Claudina (VII, 198), and countless 'bodegones' and taverns (III, 143; IV, 159; XIII, 277; XVII, 308) that are likely present in most all the sectors of town.

The list goes on and becomes more indefinite. There are, for example, the poor folk who, without Calisto, will no longer receive alms (XX, 333), the workmen Pleberio employs in his shipbuilding enterprises, his tower constructing and orchard planting, with their caretakers and managers (XXI, 337), the anonymous knights, 'caballeros', that hover in the background of the main dialogue-action (VII, 197; IX, 235; XX, 333), the sources of Melibea's knowledge of Celestina's skill (X, 239), and, of course, all those other members of the urban tribes not verbally conjured in the dialogue-action but who logically populated towns like this one. And with them we conclude our reckoning of Celestina's 'invisible characters' and their dwellings distributed about the city. [End Page 140]


But with these houses that the vast number of our 'invisible' characters inhabit, mentioned in one context or another in the dialogue-actions of the text, we can see emerging from them – and from the principal houses in or near which the main actions take place – a teeming urban environment with its full panoply of functionaries – secular and divine, well-to-do and marginal, male and female, young and old – made up of members of all social classes and engaged in a remarkable number of professions.

If the author of Celestina was capable of devising a many-faceted but simple story such as the one which unfolds in the manuscript and printed versions of the Comedia and the Tragicomedia of Calisto and Melibea, he as surely wished it to unfold within a plausible, realistic urban backdrop capable of foregrounding it. He accomplishes both, giving us the much-celebrated story and its speaking characters, but also succeeding in suggesting, in the dialogue-action, the larger place that contains it: the town, its river, its outskirts, its living quarters, its barrios and its cemeteries, its social divisions and its ethnic mix, its several neighbourhoods, its network of criss-crossing, unpaved, muddy streets, its markets, squares, police, magistrates, churches, taverns and shops, its daily sounds and its nightly silences. And all of it is there, alive and dynamic, palpably swirling about the houses of Pleberio, Calisto, Celestina, Areúsa and Centurio.

The city where Celestina was born and raised and moved from one abode to another – maintaining a register of all the newborn girls so that she might account for those who escape her net (III, 141) – is, admittedly, a fictional city. But it is as real as it is ideal, as solid and as traversable as it is also archetypical. And as we have seen, it amounts to as genuine a representation of a 15th-century town as we might successfully recreate from independent historical documents. Without diluting the sharp definition given to the principal players in his urban tragedy, the author allows them to create, as they engage each other in dialogue, the throbbing-with-life city they inhabit.

Joseph T. Snow
Michigan State University

Works Cited

Botta, Patrizia, 1994. 'Itinerarios urbanos en la Celestina de Fernando de Rojas', Celestinesca, 18.2: 113-31.
———, 2001. 'Las (¿dos?) casas de Melibea', in Tras los pasos de 'La Celestina', ed. P. Botta et al. (Kassell: Reichenberger), 157-82.
Criado de Val, Manuel, 1960. Teoría de Castilla la Nueva (Madrid: Gredos).
Deyermond, Alan, 1997. 'How many sisters had Celestina? The function of the invisible characters', Celestinesca, 21: 15-29.
Ellis, Deborah, 1981. '"Adiós, paredes": the image of the home in Celestina', Celestinesca, 5.1: 1-17.
Fabiani, Anita, 2004. 'Las funciones diegéticas del espacio en La Celestina', in Literatura y transgresión. En homenaje al profesor Manuel Ferrer Chivite, ed. F. Sierra Martínez (Amsterdam-New York: Rodopi), 129-49.
Garci-Gómez, Miguel, 1985. 'El sueño de Calisto', Celestinesca, 9.1: 11-22.
Gerli, Michael, 1997. 'Precincts of contention: urban places and the ideology of space in Celestina', Celestinesca, 21: 65-77. [End Page 141]
Lida de Malkiel, María Rosa, 1966. 'El ambiente concreto en La Celestina: fragmentos de un capítulo no aprovechado para La originalidad de "La Celestina"', in Estudios dedicados a James Homer Herriott (Madison: Univ. Wisconsin Press), 145-64.
Menéndez Pelayo, Marcelino, 1943. Orígenes de la novela. Edición Nacional de las Obras Completas de MMP, 2a ed. (Madrid: CSIC), III.
Rank, Jerry R., 1993. '"O cruel juez, y que mal pago me has dado …": or Calisto's urban network', in Fernando de Rojas and 'Celestina': Approaching the Fifth Centenary, ed. I. A. Corfis and J. T. Snow (Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies), 155-64.
Riquer, Martín de, 1957. 'Fernando de Rojas y el primer acto de La Celestina', Revista de filología española, 41: 373-95.
Rojas, Fernando de, 1988. La Celestina, ed. Dorothy Sherman Severin, Letras Hispánicas, 4 (Madrid: Cátedra).
Russell, Peter E., 1989. 'Why did Celestina move house?', in The Age of the Catholic Monarchs 1474-1516 (Bulletin of Hispanic Studies special issue In Memoriam Keith Whinnom, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press), 155-61. [End Page 142]


1. 'Sólo cuando la acción lo requiere, la atención del lector es dirigida hacia algún detalle de una plaza, de una calle o de una iglesia, introducido de repente en el texto por uno de los protagonistas. Del contexto dialógico aflora así este retículo de calles, el conglomerado de edificios y trayectos obligados que conforman la geografía celestinesca …' (Fabiani 2004: 130). I hope to utilize this dialogic context to visualize even better the urban spaces of Celestina.

2. Pármeno, speaking to Sempronio of Calisto's plan to break down the door that impedes the physical contact of their master and Melibea, says: '… quiere quebrar las puertas, y no avrá dado el primer golpe quando sea sentido y tomado por los criados de su padre, que duermen cerca' (Severin 1989: XII, 263, emphasis added).

3. I cite throughout by act and page from the edition of Dorothy Sherman Severin (1988).

4. Centurio's house is the only one of the six houses new to the interpolated acts of the 21-act Tragicomedia. The others are all present in the 16-act Comedia. Some of the actions in the interpolated acts are staged in the houses of Pleberio, Areúsa and Celestina-Elicia.

5. The only speaker in the work not included in the above tally of houses is Crito, a client of Elicia's, who speaks but four words en off in Act I. The reader can logically assume that Crito occupies one of the 'invisible' houses in the city, even if it is not mentioned.

6. Criado de Val calls Celestina's city an 'arquetipo' (1960: 248) while, earlier, Menéndez Pelayo claimed that it was 'una ciudad ideal, con reminiscencias de las que [el autor] tenía más presentes' (1943: 281). I subscribe wholly to both of these views.

7. Deyermond terms these characters important in varying degrees 'because of their frequency' and because 'they introduce not only glimpses of the past lives of the speaking characters but also many other characters. These characters both in Act I and in the later acts give an impression of historical solidity and of social and family context for Celestina's main characters' (1997: 26). The houses we discuss further enlarge upon this social and family context.

8. The indeterminate nature of the place of this meeting in the dialogue – and not taking into account the 'argumento' of Act I – allowed Martín de Riquer (1957), basing his judgment on lexical clues, to posit that this scene transpires in one of the urban churches. Garci Gómez (1985) believes that the scene is but one of Calisto's dreams. I find neither of these options acceptable.

9. The earliest woodcuts feature the 'huerta' as an accessible rural orchard, a hawk, a horse, with the two protagonists, as Botta points out, quite distinct from the 'huerto' depicted in the later acts (Botta 2001).

10. Calisto says: 'Quiero hazer adereçar a Sosia y Tristanico; yrán conmigo este tan sperado camino; llevarán scalas, que son [muy] altas las paredes' (XIII, 282); and Sosia concurs: 'Arrima essa scala, Tristán, que éste es el mejor lugar, aunque alto' (XIV, 284).

11. Gerli, mentioning this tower, states that 'the inventory of ships, trees and towers [Pleberio] invokes in his valedictory [XXI, 337] are objects on the landscape that are simultaneously his but now devoid of purpose' (1997: 74, emphasis added). This notion adds to the pictorial aspects the reader is free to develop as part of what the town possesses and not only as abstract statements about wealth and power.

12. Elicia accurately reports to Areúsa: 'Pues como Calisto (…) dio a la desdichada de mi tía una cadena de oro, y como sea de tal calidad aquel metal, que mientras más bevemos dello, más sed nos pone (…) quando se vido tan rica, alçóse con su ganancia y no quiso dar parte a Sempronio ni a Pármeno dello, lo qual avía quedado entre ellos que partiesen lo que Calisto diesse' (XV, 296–97). Did Elicia learn of these details from Celestina, or from Sempronio?

13. It seems ironic, perhaps, that Celestina has moved from Melibea's neighbourhood to Calisto's. She was living even further off when, in her practice as midwife 23 years earlier, she helped deliver Calisto (IV, 167).

14. Curiously, it is Sempronio to whom Calisto, moments later, will say, when he goes to fetch the hundred gold coins for Celestina: 'Pues ven conmigo; trae las llaves' (I, 117). The house keys referred to here cannot include that of the main entrance.

15. The rope ladders in question were used not only to scale the high walls from the outside but also to descend into the huerto as well. Melibea says: 'O mi señor, no saltes de tan alto, que me moriré en verlo; baxa, baxa poco a poco por el scala; no vengas con tanta pressura' (XIV, 284).

16. Centurio's description of his house reflects well his poverty of spirit and degraded sense of morals: 'En una casa vivo qual ves, que rodará el majadero por toda ella sin que tropiece. Las alhajas que tengo es el axuar de la frontera; un jarro desbocado, un assador sin punta, la cama en que me acuesto está armada sobre aros de broqueles, un rimero de malla rota por colchones, una talega de dados por almohada, que aunque quiera dar collación, no tengo qué empeñar sino esta capa harpada que traygo acuestas' (XVIII, 314). In this instance, the house reflects the inhabitant, perhaps better than all the others. It may be an antecedent of the house of Lazarillo's third master, the proud but cowardly 'nobleman'.

17. Indeed, many houses are created in the text not only in the actual city but in the city's past as well, giving it a temporal dimension – aided by memory – often overlooked.

18. Pármeno has been absent from town for more than nine years, serving – at a minimum – the friars of Guadalupe (XII, 264) for that long.

19. Additional proof that this may be so is what Celestina claims in Act VII: 'Si tú tovieras memoria, hijo Pármeno, del passado amor que te tuve, la primera posada que tomaste venido nuevamente a esta ciudad, havía de ser la mía' (193, emphasis added). Thus, not long after Claudina and Alberto took up residence in this new place, Claudina gave over her young son to work in the house (and there was work to be done, with so many clients and 'pupilas') of her close friend and professional colleague, Celestina. Even so, we remember that Celestina looked up to Claudina as the first among equals ('la prima de nuestro officio', VII, 197).

20. Alisa calls Celestina 'vezina honrrada' and remembers her – speaking ironically, perhaps – as a fine person, 'buena pieça', and as someone to whom she dispensed charity: 'algo me verná a pedir' (IV, 152–53). Against this memory, Celestina's subsequent claim to Calisto may sin by exaggeration: 'mejor me conosce su madre que a sus mismas manos' (VI, 189).

21. Assuming that the house of Celestina remembered by Melibea was by the tanneries, near the river (IV, 157), once she had moved from this mixed neighbourhood to a new house in the more segregated periphery (again?), but still at the end of the 'vezindad' where Calisto's house stands (I, 103), it affords us a better notion of the physical relationships of the four houses.

22. Celestina could state with evident pride: 'Quien no supiere mi nombre y mi casa, tenle por estrangero' (III, 142). The indolent Elicia – who claims to hate the profession – here remorsefully learns that she cannot inherit Celestina's name, house, or fame ('poco se visita mi casa, poco se passea por mi calle […] y lo que peor siento, que ni blanca ni presente veo entrar por mi puerta', XVII, 307). Celestina, ironically, had premonitions of this state of affairs (XI, 209–10).

23. For example, referring to her great reverence for Claudina, Celestina exclaims: 'Aquella gracia de mi comadre [Claudina], no la alcançávamos todas' (VII, 197, emphasis added), and these women also had homes and/or brothels. The city has, in fact, always been well supplied with go-betweens.

24. Just before she is assassinated, Celestina commands Sempronio: 'Vete con Dios de mi casa, tú, y essotro [Pármeno] no dé vozes; no allegue la vezindad' (XII, 274, emphasis added).

25. It would be easy to deduce that Sempronio's service might have been as an altar boy first, the jobs as gardener's assistant and the tavern helper following after. There is no proof that he, like Celestina and Calisto, was born locally, but the implications are strong.

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