Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Does death render fate obsolete? Discuss.

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From the school of existentialism comes the view that there is a cosmic arbitrary force from whose grip no one dares to escape. Therefore even when danger is apparent, one is unable to choose the path of escape from ultimate destruction. This is evident in the case of Melibea when she says to her father in Aucto 0 “porque cuando el Corazon esta embargado de passion, estan cerrados los oydos al consejo. Y en tal tiempo las fructousas palabras, en lugar de amansar, acrecientan la sana”(p). Rojas seems to be acknowledging the arbitrary concept of fate, as he comments on the nature of the human predicament of the characters in La Celestina.

Death being governed by fate renders the characters helpless but to pursue its path. Although Calisto is repeatedly warned by Parmeno of the dangers of indulging his passions, he curses his servant and rushes into destruction proclaiming, “que todo es ygual”. He also shouts at Sempronio “No quiero consejo, ni esperarte mas rezones, que mas abvias y enciendes las llamas que me consumen”. (p.0). And as if unconsciously beckoning death Calisto sings, “En gran peligro me veo. En mi muerte no hay tardanza”. Even Melibea who seems to have defied death by taking her life leaves us to question if she really had a choice. Or is it fate that distorts her mind to sound counsel, “estan cerrados los ojos al consejo”(p), and instils within her such great pain, that she desires not to live, thereby capturing her through deception? Rajas is asking us to question to what extent do we have choices? Or is it that even our decisions are predetermined? He also makes it clear that fate can so cripple the faculties of the characters that fearful death can seem to be the only logical choice.

Athough the characters are aware that death is a constant reality, “como todos seamos humanos nacidos para morir”, they fear it even as they become cognisant that they could die before fulfilling their desires. Cel quote. This fills them with anxiety. Parmeno and Sempronio become so anxious to get their portion of the reward from celestina that they cannot wait until day; nor do they really consider the deadly result of killing Celestina. This impatience is also seen in Calisto who can hardly wait for Celestina to come with news from Melibea; and Melibea who cannot wait for Calisto to come and quench her surging passions. Therefore the realisation that death is looming propels the characters to pursue their desires, which at the same time blind them to reason and logic.

Moreover, the predicament of the characters becomes even more intense as they only realise how truly happy they are, only after their moment of happiness has passed.

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No es tiempo de yo vivir! Como no goce mas del gozo? Como tuve en tan poco la Gloria que entre mis manos tuve? O ingrates morales! Jamas conoceis vuestros bienes sino cuando de ellos careceis! P

Therefore Rajas is asking us to what extent can we really grasp happiness when it seems so evasive; never consciously in our hands, until it is so quickly replaced by sadness? Melibea proclaims this idea when she says “O la mas de las tristes, tristes, tan poco tiempo poseydo el plazer, tan presto venido el dolor!” (8). Furthermore, Parmeno laments, not just “the fleeting nature of human pleasure [but] the bitter price we have to pay soon afterwards for that stolen bliss”. (Lal Narinesingh). The characters can thus be seen as being constantly taunted by life with happiness that is so ephemeral. This develops within them a sense of despondency, leaving them frustrated and bitter. Rojas thus makes it clear that life is so unfair that it instils within man the desire to achieve, and attain happiness, but numbs his faculties so he is not cognisant of happiness until it is pass “Oh bien y gozo mundane, que mientras eres posseydo, eres menospresiado y jamaas te conscientes conocer hasta que te perdimos! (p8)

The stoics of the Golden Age Period believed human love should be shunned as it was wreaked with problems; one should therefore love God instead. However the characters in La Celestina do the opposite, by becoming entrenched in passionate human love. It is this passion that seems to blind them, rendering them helpless to make sound rational decisions. Therefore Sempronio and Parmeno, apart from the desire for riches, and as in Parmeno’s case, being corrupted by his master, are drawn to Celestina and her evil scheme based on the sexual favour she provides them through Areusa and Elicia. Calisto also, who should have been a example of courty love, becomes a parade of the same; being obsessed with Love instead of Melibea, his lovers. It is therefore this love that leads to his indirect destruction, however the indirect destruction of Melibea who possesses true romantic love. It becomes obvious therefore that destruction and grief visit not only the characters who indulge in only sexual passions, but also those who have true romantic love; even Christian love, as in the case of Pleberio and Alisa. Pleberio exclaims to ‘God’ “Prometes mucho, nada no cumples”.(p). These acts by this arbitrary force seem senseless, as on the one hand they cripple the characters to react to impending doom, while at the same time making them fully aware of the chaotic and sad state they are in. We are led to consider if the characters should be indicted for pursuing lust, as those who subscribe to its tenets, and those who do not, meet the same fate.

Chaos in the society of La Celestina, which further exemplifies the morbid and illogical state of affairs, is also reflected in the value system portrayed in the work. The characters become naturally selfish; as they are only interested in the benefits they can derive from their actions. Celestina only woos Melibea for Calisto because of financial benefits. So selfish is Calisto that instead of expressing sympathy for Celestina’s death, and trying to save his servants (Sempronio and Parmeno) from being killed, he thinks of leaving the town, fearing that his honour be questioned “Pues yo bien santi mi honrra;pluguiera a dios que fuera yo ellos y perdiera la vida y no la honra”. (p80). Even Melibea, in committing suicide can be seen to be captured by selfishness as she becomes so concerned about her love for Calisto and the pain that she is experiencing from the loss, that she does not truly take into consideration the pain and anguish which she will cause her parents, especially her father who has worked all his life to secure for her a future. It is therefore evident that these characters are so engrossed in their own passions, and it is this that causes them to become egotistical or selfish.

However, one is forced to question if Rojas expects his characters to behave any differently, that is, to do what is morally correct in an unjust society that renders good for evil and evil for good. Parmeno realises his master discredits his loyalty and love, for the selfish and treacherous behaviour of Sempronio. He laments his sorry state by exclaiming “O desdichado de mi!; por ser leal padezco mal. Otros se gana por malos, yo me pierdo por bueno. El mundo es tal;”(p17). It is this anguish caused by the awareness of the great injustice that exists that force him not to do what is morally correct, but what he needs to survive; in other to embrace evil. Moreover Areusa has closed her eyes to social blunder to accept her state as prostitutes, as she realises that riches and honour are given to those who do not deserve it, and denied those, like herself, who do. Therefore she becomes impermeable to the moral counsels of the society to ensure her survival.

Rojas is showing us that in a fatalistic society, as that of La Celestina, man has no effective choice. Forces that control even his decisions constantly bombard him. Hence reason and religion, which are based on moral principles, become useless. So it does seem plausible as Maria Rosa Lida suggests that to ask or require the characters to pursue reasonable choices in such a chaotic, unjust and unreasonable world is unfair. They are victims and prisoners of this hostile world that distorts their minds, fills them with overwhelming passions and makes them fatalistic.

Passion not only refers to love but also overwhelming emotional feeling.

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