Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

Melibea’s Girdle

Melibea’s girdle functions as a contradictory symbol for both Calisto’s carnal desire and Melibea’s innocence and virtue. When Melibea sends Calisto the girdle, it is an innocent act. It has been purported to have touched holy relics in Rome and Jerusalem, and Celestina pretends Calisto needs it to heal a toothache. When Calisto receives the girdle, he doesn’t cherish it as a relic but instead fondles it like it were Melibea herself. Calisto perverts the garment into something sexual. This represents their connection later, when Melibea pleads unsuccessfully with Calisto to accept her love without destroying her virtue. The garment becomes a symbol of love itself, something that is both holy and earthly. When Calisto mistakes the girdle for Melibea herself, it parallels every young lover’s mistake in treating sexuality as the entirety of love itself, a concept that is far more complex, as the novel shows.

The Gold Chain

When Calisto gives Celestina the gold chain as a reward, it is a casual act. It’s the only item of value he has on his person at the time and not worth much to him. To Celestina, Sempronio, and Pármeno, however, it is very valuable. The gold chain symbolizes the differences in perception between the social classes. Furthermore, the chain cannot be divided like currency. Celestina can’t share the chain because cutting it up would strip it of its value. Celestina has promised that she’ll share the rewards with Sempronio and Pármeno but can’t. The chain also symbolizes greed, since Celestina refuses to hand it over to them, and they kill her over it. Celestina herself had warned that the rich have problems too, since their wealth makes them targets and even their children wait eagerly for them to die so they can inherit their wealth. In an ironic turn of fate, Celestina’s warning applies to her in the brief moment she’s wealthy.

The Ladder

The ladder used twice by Calisto to scale Melibea’s wall and enter her room becomes a symbol for both Calisto’s and Melibea’s destruction. The ladder represents Calisto and Melibea’s secret agreement to meet in her bedroom behind her father’s back. As Melibea agrees to the use of the ladder, it represents the way by which Calisto can scale past Melibea’s defenses both metaphorically and literally. Their meeting is forbidden, and symbolically as well, as they first meet in a garden, echoing Adam and Eve’s transgressions in the Bible. By ascending the ladder, Calisto can gain access to Melibea without going through a rigorous courting process through her father. Melibea later jumps from the tower, tracing the path Calisto previously climbed in reverse. In her heartache, Melibea falls to her death to meet with Calisto in the afterworld. Like the other characters in the novel, Calisto and Melibea rise and fall in status through devious means and, for a brief moment, feel what it’s like to be outside their norms.