Fernando de Rojas
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Fernando de Rojas

Fernando de Rojas was a writer from Spain who is attributed as the author of the famous Spanish work, La Celestina. Although not much is known about his life, he is among the most famous authors in Spain, and his legacy lives on today in the form of this great work.

Biography of Fernando de Rojas

Little is known of the life and times of Fernando de Rojas. It is thought that he was born in the La Puebla de Montalbán near Toledo around the year 1470. His family were converted Jews, who had been forced to say that they were Christians due to the Spanish Inquisition. However his family was suspected of continuing their religious practices. In fact, Fernando himself often helped out his family members who had been persecuted for being Jewish. There are documents that tell us that De Rojas appeared in front of the Inquisition as a defendant too.

We know that he attended university in Salamanca, where he studied Law. We know this because Fernando de Rojas included this fact in the letter he wrote that appears at the beginning of his works. After a six year period he graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Law around 1497 and went on to write his well known pieces. The first work that he wrote was Comedy of Calixto and Melibea, the amount of acts was later increased and the name was changed into the Tragicomedy of Calixto and Melibea.

His most memorable piece of work was created at the beginning of the Spanish literary Renaissance and was called La Celestina, a story of a tragic love affair that was published anonymously. He wrote this when he was in his twenties, barely older than the main character of the story, Calisto, who was 23. Although the work was written anonymously, it has since been attributed to him thanks to the breaking of the code that Fernando de Rojas left as a clue to the true author in the second edition which was published in 1500.

It is believed that he then settled in the town of Talavera de la Reina, where some historians believe that he was the Mayor, and where he also got married and had many children. Fernando de Rojas died in 1541 in the same town, sometime between the 3rd and 8th of April. He was originally buried at the Madre de Dios convent of Talavera de la Reina, but 80 years later his remains were transferred to the Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor de Talavera. His will has been conserved and has given historians an insight into the wonderfully abundant library. According to this document, he left his books on Law to his son, who had also become a lawyer, and the rest of the non-specialized books to his wife. Curiously, in the inventory of the books in his library, there is only one copy of La Celestina listed, however by the time there had been at least 32 editions of the work!

La Celestina

La Celestina by Fernando de Rojas has often been described as one of the greatest literary works of Spain, and is often used as a reference point between the end of the medieval literature period and the start of the renaissance period in Spain. The work is often said to be a novel, however in actual fact, it is a series of conversations which resemble a play. As such, many theatre directors have tried to bring La Celestina to the stage, but the length and complexity of these conversations make it difficult.

The characters are the most interesting part of La Celestina as they are deep and full of experience. De Rojas portrays them as true human beings with a deep internal character; a style that is far apart from the usual character types used in medieval literature.

When the book was published in the 15th century, it was considered to be a written critique of the servants working for the low nobility, warning us of their tricks and lies. But as the story develops, it becomes clear that it is more a bitter criticism of human nature and the miseries it produces. Many people believe that this pessimism and lack of hope comes from Fernando de Rojas own experience as a persecuted converted Jew in Spain.

Memorable Works by Fernando de Rojas

  • Tragicomedy of Calixto and Melibea (Also known as La Celestina)
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