Summary: Act III, Scene 1

Sempronio sees Celestina in the street. He calls to her, making a sarcastic comment about how she moves slowly now that she’s been paid in advance. He warns her that Calisto is impatient, and he worries about angering him. Celestina tells him not to worry; young people in love are always impatient. Still, Sempronio worries that the longer they wait, the more Calisto’s passion for Melibea might fade and ruin their plan. Celestina argues that if she solves Calisto’s problem too quickly, he might think he overpaid for her services. Sempronio asks Celestina what she said to Pármeno back at Calisto’s house. Celestina explains that she and Pármeno’s mother, Claudina, were close friends and that Claudina taught her everything she knows. She quips that if Pármeno were like his mother, he’d have swindled his master clean by now. Furthermore, she says that she has Pármeno’s loyalty secured since she’ll arrange for Areúsa to sleep with him.

Celestina explains she’s confident she can convince Melibea to fall in love with Calisto and even beg for her help. Sempronio warns Celestina that Melibea’s father is noble and powerful and her mother is stern and that Melibea is all they have. Celestina replies that Calisto is willing to pay whatever amount necessary to achieve his goals and that money can get hard things done. Celestina, slightly insulted that Sempronio still doubts her, listens as Sempronio apologizes to soothe her, saying that he’s only seeing potential pitfalls because he lacks experience.

Summary: Act III, Scene 2

Celestina and Sempronio return to Celestina’s house, where Elicia is waiting inside. Celestina speaks to Elicia in code to ensure Sempronio doesn’t realize that Crito, Elicia’s other lover/client, was there earlier. Celestina then tells Elicia to go upstairs and get a list of ingredients she’ll need to make the love potion for Melibea, including a bottle of snake oil, a vial of bat’s blood, and the blood of a male goat and its whiskers. Elicia talks back, but Celestina scolds her, telling her not to show off in front of Sempronio, warning her that he’d prefer her as a counselor over Elicia as a mistress any day. Elicia brings her the ingredients and retreats upstairs with Sempronio to bed.

Celestina uses the ingredients to cast a spell on a spool of thread. She calls upon the devil for his aid, threatening that if he doesn’t help her, she’ll be his enemy and reveal his lies for everyone to hear. In her incantation, she asks the devil to make Melibea open to buying the thread and welcoming her into her home and then to fall in love with Calisto so much that she forsakes her modesty, confesses her love for him, and even offers Celestina a reward for bringing them together. Celestina says if the devil helps, he can use her as he wants. 

Analysis: Act III

Celestina serves a special function in the novel as a go-between among classes. Sempronio cannot achieve his goal of extorting money out of Calisto because he doesn’t have Celestina’s experience, her wisdom, her knowledge of spells, and her access to women. It is Celestina who can travel freely between social worlds to achieve such ends. Celestina, as a procuress, has the means and the know-how to smooth the way for romantic encounters. Celestina is an archetype, an older woman who is used to facilitate an illicit affair, a common literary device used as a foil to reveal the weaknesses of other characters and lead them to their downfall.

In the novel, these go-betweens are necessary to bring the two social worlds together since the worlds hold each other in high suspicion. As Calisto complains to Pármeno, when there is too great a divide between two people, whether it be social or financial, people can’t just communicate with each other, they require a messenger or a go-between. Calisto shares Melibea’s rank—this is not his problem in obtaining her. Calisto could apply for her hand in marriage by using the proper channels and performing the customary acts—courting her and asking her father for her hand in marriage. It shows Calisto’s impetuousness and selfishness that he chooses not to do this. This leads Melibea to realize Calisto probably only wanted to sleep with her. Thus, Calisto’s depraved nature leaves him vulnerable to employing a go-between’s help, an act that leads to his eventual demise. In a way, his death supports the idea that the worlds of the upper class and the lower classes shouldn’t mix. In another way, Calisto’s passing shows the harmfulness the gap in the classes brings upon its people, for the moments Celestina facilitates between Calisto and Melibea are very natural and spirited, however brief.

The theme of women and deceit is demonstrated very clearly with Celestina’s interaction with Elicia when Sempronio visits. Elicia is Sempronio’s lover, so when he arrives and she has another lover there, Celestina comes up with a quick lie to cover up the other lover’s presence. Notably, Celestina refers to him as a girl who she has waiting upstairs for a friar, revealing that all types of men utilize Celestina’s services, including clergymen and other holy men. As Sempronio quipped to Calisto earlier, women are deceitful. But women must lie—to cover up for their male counterparts’ transgressions and weaknesses. Celestina has to lie about Elicia’s lover to keep Sempronio happy and thinking that he has Elicia’s loyalty, a claim he has no right to since she is only his prostitute. The friars must come to her den because they can’t appear to have sexual relationships in their roles as servants of God. Finally, Celestina also has to put herself in danger by going to Melibea’s house to manipulate her to serve Calisto’s impatient desires. Women in the novel are deceitful, but to protect the men and to protect themselves.