Acts X–XII

Summary: Act X

Melibea regrets rejecting Calisto and worries he’s already fallen for someone else. When Celestina arrives, Melibea plays coy and says she has a pain in her heart, which she attributes to Celestina mentioning Calisto’s name. Celestina, feigning surprise, cries in disbelief that Calisto could affect her so much. Lucrecia scoffs. Celestina has Melibea send Lucrecia away, saying she needs to be alone to cure her pain. When Celestina suggests that Melibea has fallen in love with Calisto, Melibea faints. Celestina offers to help them be together. Melibea says she’ll allow Calisto to see her at midnight. Alisa catches Celestina on her way out. Celestina says she’s there to drop off more thread, but Melibea tells Alisa later Celestina was there to sell face powders. Alisa makes Melibea swear to prevent Celestina from visiting again.

Summary: Act XI, Scene 1

Celestina sees Pármeno and Sempronio on her way home. Sempronio tells her Calisto is inside the church praying for good news. Calisto is ecstatic when Celestina tells him that Melibea is passionately in love with him and invites him to come to her room at midnight. Calisto offers Celestina a small chain as a reward and promises her more if what she says is true. Pármeno makes a snide remark to Sempronio about Celestina’s gift and confides in Calisto that he worries Melibea’s sudden change of heart isn’t true and that she’s deceiving them all. Calisto angrily counters that Melibea isn’t capable of that level of deception because she’s an angel. Celestina agrees and rushes out. Pármeno scoffs at Celestina’s hurry, knowing she just wants to get away with the chain before he and Sempronio try to claim it, too.

Summary: Act XI, Scene 2

When Celestina arrives home, Elicia reprimands her for being out so late. She worries Celestina will fall and hurt herself in the dark. Celestina says Elicia’s just in a bad mood because she was left alone all night and doesn’t like the lack of attention.

Summary: Act XII, Scene 1

Calisto, anxious while waiting to go to Melibea’s house, picks a fight with Sempronio over what time it is. Sempronio suggests they spend their time arming themselves rather than waste time arguing.

Summary: Act XII, Scene 2

Calisto, Sempronio, and Pármeno arrive at Melibea’s house at midnight. Calisto tries to send Pármeno up first to see if the coast is clear, but Pármeno refuses, thinking Calisto just wants to use him as a human shield. Privately, Sempronio reassures Pármeno that they’re out for each other first and that they’ll both run away if they sense any danger. Once outside Melibea’s door, Calisto declares that he is her servant and she is his mistress. At first, Melibea sends him away, but when Calisto becomes upset, she admits she was only testing his loyalty. When Calisto calls to knock down her door, Melibea pleads with him to protect her reputation but to return the next night. Meanwhile, Pármeno and Sempronio hear noises and run to Celestina’s house. Calisto thinks they are chasing someone away for him. The noises wake up Melibea’s parents, but she assures them the noise was just Lucrecia.

Summary: Act XII, Scene 3

Calisto asks Pármeno and Sempronio if they were scared while waiting for him. Sempronio lies, saying they were ready to defend him against any danger. Pármeno considers going to bed, but Sempronio says it would be wiser to head to Celestina’s to collect their part of the chain before she schemes against them.

Summary: Act XII, Scene 4

Celestina asks Pármeno and Sempronio to explain what happened between Calisto and Melibea. Sempronio lies and said they had to fight and that their weapons are now destroyed, suggesting that Celestina give them the chain to pay for them. Celestina argues that he took her promises to share too literally and that the chain is lost. Sempronio calls her greedy, and Pármeno threatens her. Celestina taunts them, saying they keep her poor so she will find them more women, and guilt-trips Pármeno by mentioning his dead mother. When Pármeno threatens her, Celestina tells Elicia to call for the constable and orders them to leave, threatening to reveal their plot to Calisto. Sempronio, enraged, stabs Celestina, killing her. Pármeno and Sempronio try to run, but the constable is at the door and arrests them.

Analysis: Acts X–XII 

Melibea, just like Calisto, willingly puts her life in Celestina’s hands despite knowing about her reputation. Calisto is warned by Pármeno about Celestina’s reputation in a lengthy monologue about her life as a witch, prostitute, and scammer. Melibea knows about Celestina before she even steps foot in her door from the women around her. When Celestina first goes to her, Celestina is hardly able to get a word out about Calisto before Melibea casts her out, saying she knows all about her and she won’t be deceived into destroying her reputation for a cad like Calisto. Now, Melibea is begging for Celestina’s help to connect to him. Whether Melibea’s change of heart is due to Celestina’s magic spell or her own self-deception about how much she desired Calisto in the first place, both Calisto’s and Melibea’s interactions show how easily the rich can be manipulated by the poor.

As Pármeno predicted earlier, Celestina would be in the driver’s seat if she received her rewards in the form of clothing or object rather than cash. Cash can be divided easily, while objects cannot. Calisto offers the chain casually—it’s not worth that much to him and it’s not a big deal to give it to her. The chain is all he has on him when Celestina gives him the good news about Melibea in the church. For Sempronio, Pármeno, and Celestina, the chain is a big deal. It represents a chance at a rise in status, or at least a new wardrobe to impress others. The chain, if it were divided, would be worthless. Celestina, then, holds the sole claim to the reward.

Pármeno’s perceptions grow sharper throughout the novel. In the beginning, he isn’t so cynical, believing that good will always win out in the end, but by the end of the novel, his eyes are wide open. When Calisto asks him to go up first to check on Melibea, any remaining notions that Pármeno may have had that being loyal to one’s master is a virtue worth pursuing are firmly dashed. Pármeno rightly recognizes that Calisto was only using him as a human shield and that Pármeno’s life to Calisto is essentially worthless. This event also confirms that Calisto truly is a selfish, self-indulgent man with virtually no altruism. He’s willing to put everyone else’s life at risk except his own. Celestina’s warnings to Pármeno earlier to put his trust in her and Sempronio over Calisto are finally proven true.

Finally, however, the chain trumps them all. When Sempronio insists that Celestina hand over the chain, all bets are off, and their loyalties are on the line. Celestina has met her match in Sempronio. He’s equally conniving and equally sharp. He comes up with a ruse that their weapons are destroyed to ferret the chain from her. Celestina has a ready reply, that Calisto should pay for the weapons since they were destroyed in his service, but it isn’t enough. Backed into a corner, she tries another excuse—that the chain is lost. Sempronio finally calls her to task and becomes the novel’s arguable antagonist. At times it may seem like it’s Celestina, for all her conniving ways and her disappointing attempt to cut her co-conspirators out of the deal, but Sempronio’s hardline terms seem overly harsh. The reader has grown to sympathize with Celestina, and her arguments that life is simply much harder for an older poor woman are proven true several times over the novel. Elicia’s crying over the woman’s body, revealed later, adds to the scene’s pathos.

The chain proves that greed will undo any alliance among those living so close to the edge of survival. “Honor among thieves” is a useful maxim to live by among those in the lower classes, but only to a point. Nature, as is often the case, will win out over social bonds and ideals of virtue, whomever they apply to, rich or poor. The survival instinct will win out. Also, just as Celestina says earlier, the rich always have to be fearful of those around them, who are always ready to snatch their wealth. Similarly, the poor have a difficult life, having to fight for every ounce of their survival and being forced to have their wits about them at every turn. Celestina’s wits are sharpened by age and experience, but she is weary and just wants Sempronio and Pármeno to sympathize with her plight as an old procuress. Unfortunately, Celestina’s wealth lasts for only a few moments. Sempronio and Pármeno, two young men she’s taken on as surrogate children, are there to snatch it from her, right as she gets it. She is finally undone by her greed and desperate circumstances. In the end, no one gets the chain, and everyone gets killed. The loyalty between them is completely lost to their selfishness.