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Celestina reprimands Pármeno for working against her and Sempronio. She advises Pármeno to start treating Sempronio as a brother, for friends are worth far more than masters. She also reminds him that he has a huge fortune awaiting him from his father. Celestina begins to reminisce about her days running around with Pármeno’s mother, Claudina, another witch. She says that Claudina was so powerful the devil himself feared her. Pármeno tries to argue that at least his mother regretted her errors, but Celestina angrily counters that Claudina was arrested several times for witchcraft, tortured, and pilloried but still persisted. She tells Pármeno he should revere his mother’s defiance. Pármeno changes the subject, asking Celestina about the woman she promised him, Areúsa.
Areúsa, one of Celestina’s prostitutes, is annoyed that Celestina has come by so late. She complains that she has “woman pains” and wants to be left alone. Celestina claims she has a cure and beckons Pármeno inside. Celestina primes Areúsa by telling her how beautiful she is and how such beauty should be shared. However, Areúsa resists, saying she has a regular client, a man who keeps her well clothed and treats her like a wife, and she doesn’t want to mess that up. Pármeno, acting shy, whispers to Celestina that he’ll do anything, including hand over his father’s fortune, if she gets Areúsa to sleep with him. Celestina makes him swear not to interfere with her and Sempronio anymore as she hands him over to Areúsa, who she has successfully cajoled into sleeping with Pármeno.
Elicia reprimands Celestina for coming home so late, worried that Celestina might hurt herself traveling the streets in the dark. She mentions that a client came by to get her maidenhead restored. Celestina scolds Elicia, saying she should learn the trade since Celestina won’t always be around to take care of her. Elicia says she’d rather enjoy herself now, since she, like most people, will most likely die before growing old.
Pármeno wakes the next morning in Areúsa’s bed, scared Calisto will find out he didn’t report for duty. Areúsa complains she’s still in pain and wants Pármeno to stay and talk with her about it. Pármeno begs off, saying he has to go, but he’ll visit her every day and wants to invite her to lunch later at Celestina’s house.
On his way back to Calisto’s house, Pármeno talks to himself about how overjoyed and grateful he is to Celestina and how he wishes he had someone to share his secret with. He wonders how he’ll ever repay Celestina.
Sempronio jokes about where Pármeno was the night before, asking him if he slept with Melibea. Pármeno says he slept with someone better and, in his joyful mood, proclaims them brothers and embraces Sempronio. Pármeno sends food to Celestina’s saying he’ll just tell Calisto he ate it himself if he notices any food missing. Calisto rises and heads to church to pray for Celestina’s magic to work. When he declares he won’t eat until she succeeds, Sempronio suggests Calisto take some conserve, or fruit in syrup, with him. As Pármeno gives Calisto conserve, Sempronio tells Pármeno that he should grab a few extra jars for their girls, who mean more to them than Calisto.
Sempronio and Pármeno pass by the church on their way to Celestina’s house for lunch. They joke about whether Celestina is inside. Sempronio says she only goes to church when she has no food or is praying for her schemes. Sempronio says no matter how bad Celestina is, they’re all a team.
Celestina, Areúsa, Elicia, Sempronio, and Pármeno sit down to eat. Sempronio asks about Melibea, which sends Elicia into a jealous rage. Areúsa supports Elicia by saying that the only reason women like Melibea are considered beautiful is that they have expensive clothing and cosmetics that alter their appearance. Lucrecia appears to tell Celestina Melibea wants to see her. Areúsa comments that Lucrecia can’t enjoy her youth because she’s too busy being a servant and how female servants are often betrayed by their masters, who undermine their attempts to marry by bad-mouthing them to others. Lucrecia remarks how full Celestina’s house is, but Celestina admits it’s nothing compared to the number of people she used to host years ago. Celestina continues to lament her former privileged state until Sempronio stops her, saying that they’ll only get more depressed.
Celestina’s admonition to Pármeno to honor the alliance he has with Sempronio over the one he has with Calisto, his master, is an important one to the development of the theme of honor in the novel. At this point, it has become clear that Calisto might not be trustworthy or, at the very least, he is predisposed to firing his servants on a whim. At the beginning of the novel, Sempronio worries whether Calisto might even kill him because he’s in such a bad mood over Melibea’s rejection, suggesting that masters don’t care much for their servants’ lives. At the very least, Calisto is self-indulgent and has the endless supply of resources to continue that way, making him a fickle ally. Areúsa’s comment that masters of female servants deliberately block their servants’ chances of getting married by undermining and betraying them only further supports the idea that servants are not respected. Celestina’s advice, then, is very wise and also timely. Pármeno, because he is a young man, has a chance to avoid these pitfalls and carve a strategic path for himself as he grows into a fully mature adult.
Most of the characters in the novel refer to Celestina as “mother” or “aunt,” and that she is. When Elicia welcomes Celestina home late at night, she is genuinely worried about Celestina’s safety. She says that she worries Celestina might fall and hurt herself late at night. Celestina, too, genuinely worries about Elicia. Earlier, she told Elicia that she needed to learn her trade of repairing maidenheads so she can make her way in the world and that a person’s idleness in their younger days only leads to regret and repentance when they are older. Elicia cares for Celestina as a mother and Celestina cares for Elicia as a daughter, demonstrating the types of real bonds that form among thieves and the lower classes. These are the types of bonds Celestina wants Pármeno to form with other members of his class.
Celestina indeed has much advice for her younger counterparts. Pármeno might be able to quote literature and history on a whim, but Celestina’s wisdom is more practical and rings truer. When Pármeno waffles between allying with Celestina and Sempronio or Calisto, he shuffles through several maxims like “he who climbs by foul means falls more quickly than he climbs” and “respect your elders,” not knowing where to settle among them. Pármeno has the learning but not the experience or intelligence to apply it to his situation to any great effect. Instead, he’s easily swayed just by Celestina’s promise of sex with Areúsa, and the matter is closed. Through Pármeno, the author pokes fun at the new modes in the Renaissance to quote Classical literature and philosophy by the upper classes, which Pármeno apes, and how farcical such a habit can be. It can be easily used for pretense and pomp and circumstance rather than real use.
Sempronio and Pármeno may joke that Celestina only goes to church if she needs food or God’s help with her schemes, but Calisto is inside, doing the same thing. Calisto has banished himself to the church, on a hunger strike, praying for his plans with Celestina to work. This highlights one of the major ironies in the novel—the idea that Calisto is asking for God’s help in seduction. At the beginning of the novel, Sempronio warns Calisto that many men have abandoned God for women and that his infatuation is not unique to him. He is only one in a long line of men who have been overcome with desire for a woman. The idea that love can make men turn away from God makes love a sacrilege and something dangerous. The irony grows even more when Celestina comments how the friars love her and always give her food for providing them with such great prostitutes.
Love, then, is a notion that confuses the novel’s characters. No one seems to have a real handle on it. Areúsa wants to stay faithful to her regular client because he treats her like a wife, but any fidelity between them is misguided since she is a prostitute and he likely won’t or even can’t marry her. Calisto is in church pretending to be devout while doing everything he can to seduce Melibea. Sempronio arrogantly thinks he has Elicia all to himself, but she reminds him their love is by no means secure. The love between the characters all has a shade of deception and illusion to it. For all of them, treating love as an ideal is unwise. It is Celestina who understands, at the very least, that love is shifting but that fostering self-reliance and a good, strong network of alliances and friends among one’s own class is rock-solid.