Act II 

Summary: Act II

Calisto worries about giving Celestina so much gold. He asks Sempronio and Pármeno if he made a mistake. Sempronio reassures him, saying that he spent the money for an honorable purpose, that it’s a virtue to spend one’s money and help others, and that his money is in good hands. Calisto, still uneasy, tells Sempronio he wants him to find Celestina and check up on her. He tells Sempronio that the more she loiters, the more he suffers, and she doesn’t realize how much agony he is in. Calisto acknowledges that he’s ill and can’t speak properly for himself, so Sempronio must speak on his behalf. Sempronio explains that he worries about leaving Calisto alone in such an emotionally fragile state and wishes to stay. Calisto calls Sempronio an idiot for not knowing that crying reduces the pain of sadness. Sempronio tells Calisto he’s just wallowing in his misery, that the mind can convince itself of anything and he should focus on being happy instead. Calisto, now fully incensed, orders Sempronio to send for Pármeno to sit with him instead.

When Pármeno arrives, Sempronio leaves to find Celestina. Calisto anxiously asks Pármeno for more information about Celestina to quell his fears about her. Pármeno is shocked and disgusted by Calisto’s emotionally indulgent state. He tells Calisto his money would have been better spent on buying Melibea gifts than on buying Celestina’s favors, adding that Calisto was foolish to put his fate in Celestina’s hands. Pármeno says Calisto is now Celestina’s captive as he has entrusted his secrets to her and she is a known scam artist. Calisto thinks Pármeno is jealous of Celestina and that the more Pármeno insults Celestina, the more Calisto trusts her. Furthermore, Calisto says he has no choice: He needs someone of lesser rank to serve as a go-between to give Melibea his message.

Still looking for Pármeno’s approval, Calisto asks Pármeno if he agrees with his reasoning, and Pármeno comments to himself that Calisto should ask for the devil’s approval in this type of matter, not his. Pármeno tells Calisto he’s only trying to help him and that he’d rather speak up and endure insults now than regret being quiet later. Calisto says that if Pármeno knew the pain he was in, he’d understand. Angry and frustrated, Calisto tells Pármeno he’s a bad friend and sends for Sempronio again. He orders Pármeno to send for a horse before he leaves so he can ride by Melibea’s house. Pármeno, bitter his loyalty is unappreciated, regrets his position. He realizes that society doesn’t honor loyalty the way he does, so he must make decisions moving forward as everyone else would. Still, he hopes that Celestina doesn’t swindle his master. 

Analysis: Act II

Calisto’s wealth allows him to impulsively give money and gifts to Celestina without giving the cost much thought. Someone more scrupulous or wise in deal-making might have asked for collateral or have done some sort of background check on Celestina first. But Calisto, in his rush to get his hands on Melibea, gives Celestina a pocketful of gold right away and then questions whether it was a good idea after the fact. His excessive wealth and privilege, not to mention his inexperienced youth, make it easy for him to spend thoughtlessly, something that will cause conflict later for the other characters when he impulsively hands over the chain to Celestina. Calisto’s relationship with money is different than those of Sempronio and Celestina, who have no money and view all situations by what they can gain from them financially. Here, again, the class differences affect the way characters perceive situations around them.

Moreover, Calisto’s wealth allows him to indulge himself in romantic notions of love and overdramatic, histrionic responses and behavior. Continuing on the theme of love as an illness, Calisto implores Sempronio to go check on Celestina because he’s too “sick” to speak clearly. Sempronio thinks Calisto is pathetic. Sempronio and Celestina do not indulge themselves in these behaviors because they don’t have the luxury to. They have been long disabused of these romantic notions of love because they live closer to nature, literally and figuratively; they operate on the streets and don’t belong to the noble class, which is more strictly held to medieval Christian ideals of honor, chivalry, and chastity. They are dealers in love, rather than subjects of love, and operate on a more natural playing field. Sempronio finds love in Celestina’s prostitutes, and Celestina deals in women’s bodies, including her own when she was younger, as a means to survival. Calisto’s and Celestina and Sempronio’s different class statuses color the way they view love and their relationship to love.

Pármeno finds himself somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, he worries honorably about holding up medieval codes of honor and chivalry as Calisto’s faithful servant. He warns Calisto about Celestina and tries to stop Calisto from engaging with her. Pármeno advises Calisto that his money is better spent buying gifts for Melibea and says that Calisto has made himself Celestina’s captive by giving up his secrets to her and that, moreover, he has opened himself up to more misfortune. A devout moralist, Pármeno warns Calisto that bad events tend to follow each other. Calisto, in return, warns Pármeno that the dumbest thing a person can do is think themselves wise and spurns his advice. Pármeno is left bitter, bewailing the fact that this is how society now runs: Traitors are believed, and those who are loyal are seen as fools. Pármeno resolves to change his ways and simply act like the others. Pármeno is a man caught between two worlds—the old and the new—and chooses to remain a pawn in the current tides of change rather than an agent of his own life.