John Rastell?


The actual title of this early interlude reads as follows: "A new commodye in engysh in maner Of an enterlude right elegant & full of craft of rethoryk / wherein is shewd & descrybyd as well the bewte & good propertes of women / as s theyr vycys & evyll conditions / with a morall conclusion & exhortacyon to vertew." The text ends "Iohnes rastell me imprimi fecit," with his device; John Rastell was active 1516-1533. On the strength of this and of Rastell's association with other interludes and dialogues, Rastell has been proposed as the author as well as the publisher. Nothing else in the unique surviving copy offers any clue to the work's authorship or date. The play is based on the first four sections of the celebrated Spanish dialogue novel Celestina, published 1499 and widely known across Europe by the early 1520s; a date for the play between 1525 and 1533 seems plausible. There may be an allusion to it in the antitheatrical pamphlet A Second and Third Blast of Retrait from Plaies and Theaters (1580), though W. W. Greg's introductory note to the Malone Society reprint (1908) thinks the reference is more likely to another treatment of the tale, which reveals "the sleights of treacherous servants and the subtile carriages of filthye bawds," entered to William Aspley in S.R. 5 Oct. 1598 (v-vi); if it was printed, no copies survive.

circa 1527–1530

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


Only mentioned. Sempronio reminds Calisto that Adam's love of Eve brought mankind into sin.


Only mentioned. Sempronio says the conqueror of the world is a more truly heroic person than one who merely conquers a woman. Later, Celestina compares Calisto to him.


The insensate wooer of Melebea, Calisto reveals his love to Sempronio, and offers to give the servant a gold chain if he can help in the conquest. Sempronio produces Celestina as the peerless agent in such affairs, and Calisto gives her 100 pieces of gold. He rejects Parmeno's attempt to show him the folly of his ways.


According to Sempronio, the old whore Celestina has aided men in the sexual conquest of more than a thousand maids, wives, and widows. He recruits her to help Calisto obtain the love of Melebea, and she agrees, for a price. She appeals to Melebea's charity, to rescue Calisto from his pain. The girl rebuffs her angrily, but relents when Celestina praises the young man to the skies, and gives the old woman her girdle to deliver to Calisto as a token of her good will.


A "ghost character." Cryto is the secret lover of Sempronio's beloved, Elicea.


Danio is the father of Melebea. He dreams that on her way to a healing bath she is instead driven to the brink of a deadly pit by a prick-eared cur pretending to be a spaniel. His account of the dream shocks her into a recognition of her folly in listening to the blandishments of Celestina. On hearing the story he urges her to beg God for mercy, and finishes the play with a speech on the importance of raising young people to be virtuous, industrious, and obedient.


A "ghost character." Elicea lodges with Celestina, and is loved by Sempronio, but prefers another, Cryto, and beguiles Sempronio with Celestina's help.


Only mentioned. Sempronio reminds Calisto that Adam's love of Eve brought mankind into sin.


Only mentioned. Praising Calisto to Melebea, Celestina compares him to Hector as to strength.


A beautiful maiden, Melebea is made miserable by Calisto's incessant assault on her chastity, but resolves never to yield to him. Initially beguiled by Celestina, she rebuffs the old bawd in fury when urged to appease Calisto's pain by yielding to him, but then relents when Celestina enumerates the young man's virtues, and gives her girdle as a healing token. When she hears her father Danio's account of his dream, however, she is horrified at her folly, and falls to her knees to beg his forgiveness for abandoning, even for a moment, the virtuous ways in which he has educated her.


Only mentioned. Alternative spelling of Nimrod, invoked by Sempronio as a true example of aspiration.


Only mentioned. Nero is adduced by Sempronio as an example of obsessive love, having burned Rome because of "Tapaya" (Poppaea?).


Calisto's moralizing young servant Parmeno scorns Celestina as a whore, a bawd, and a witch, recalling her efforts to seduce him while he was still a child; he resolves to resist her efforts to enlist him in the campaign against Melebea's virtue, and urges Calisto to turn his back on Sempronio and Celestina. When his master remains adamant, however, he decides to abandon the difficult task of remaining virtuous in a fallen world, and turn instead like Sempronio to flattery and obsequiousness as the way to get ahead.


Only mentioned. According to Celestina, Calisto armed is like St. George.


Calisto's witty servant, Sempronio, although he sometimes mocks his master, agrees to the reward of a gold chain if he can help Calisto to achieve Melebea's love, and brings in Celestina to lead the campaign.

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