Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

Loyal versus Disloyal Servants

There is a strong divide in the novel between loyal and disloyal servants. On the one side, Pármeno and Lucrecia are both loyal servants to their masters. Pármeno tries to dissuade Calisto from engaging with Celestina, warning him about her double-dealing ways. Lucrecia tries to warn Melibea not to get involved with Celestina, warning her that Celestina is a manipulator. They work against Celestina, blocking her progress, and Celestina has to work double-time to prevent them from derailing her plans. Celestina wins them over, however, by playing to their weaknesses—Pármeno’s desire for Areúsa and Lucrecia’s desire for a husband—because she is such an acute observer of human psychology. On the other side, the disloyal servant Sempronio is the one who sets the plot in motion when he realizes his master is weak and can be easily manipulated. The plot begins because of a disruption in the natural order of society, a disloyal servant acting against his master, and shows how the novel itself is a commentary on the shifting codes of fifteenth-century Spain as it moved out of the medieval era and into the Renaissance.

Love as an Illness

In La Celestina, love is portrayed as an illness to be cured. The author uses the language of maladies and cures to describe the characters’ views of love and the ways it negatively affects them. When Sempronio realizes Calisto has fallen in love, he tells him he knows what “ails” Calisto. Calisto himself describes his love for Melibea as a thing that has “tortured” his “tongue and senses.” Melibea describes herself as having a “fatal wound” in her heart to her father Pleberio right before she commits suicide. Love is described as something that afflicts the heart and senses, deranging the sufferer or “patient” beyond reason and order. In this way, the novel depicts the profoundly altering effects of love and its ability to cause reckless damage to a person’s mind, body, and soul.

Rich Clothing

Celestina repeatedly refers to skirts and cloaks throughout the novel. When she overhears Calisto praising her, she gleefully proclaims to Sempronio that all his praise will result in new skirts for her. She also refers to her fraying cloak to guilt Calisto into buying her a new one. Celestina, an old woman, mourns her youth and the glamour she had, and rich clothing is a way for her to reconnect with her vitality. The first thing she asks for from Calisto is a cloak, and she promises to buy Sempronio and Pármeno new scarlet breeches if she ever finds the gold chain she received from Calisto that she claims is lost. Areúsa replies to Sempronio’s defense of Calisto preferring a woman of his rank to “riding [the] skirts of ancestors” and argues that a person’s actions, not their clothing, make a person beautiful and honorable. Clothing appears throughout the novel to show the difference in the classes and as a stand-in for the characters’ goals and aspirations.