How the Golden Age of Spain is Reflected in La Celestina

Right after getting her menses, the young Spanish woman was considered an eligible bachelorette ready to be married off. Of course, it depended upon certain elements being fulfilled first. First of all, the dowry was a necessary evil. But before she could even think of getting married to a certain gentleman, there would have to be a time of courtship. Usually, in Spain, there was a period of about a year or so where the man would court the young lady he was interested in marrying. Before that would happen, however, there were various things that went on in a young single woman’s life that dictated whether or not she would be successful in becoming a noblewoman, or a married woman. First of all, a woman’s gaze was considered to be enough to bring shivers down a man’s back. For a woman to maintain eye contact with a man was considered a bit scandalous, since women were to avert their eyes from anyone and were to avoid looking anyone straight in the eye. To look a man in the eye required a certain kind of boldness and daring that was not often found in most Spanish women, simply out of respect and tradition. Secondly, another element upon which everything hinged was an honor, as well as a woman’s virginity. Virginity was considered sacred and the keystone of the virtuous woman’s arsenal. Whoever was a woman’s suitor was measured by the virtuousness of his beloved: Thirdly, young women were not allowed to go out of the house, for any reason, unless they were accompanied by a duenna, who was an elderly woman serving as governess and companion to the younger ladies in a Spanish or Portuguese family. (M-W 2009, 1) Usually, but not always, a slave or a servant accompanied these two women as well. But the companion was very important. Otherwise, young women were never let out of the house on their own. It was considered improper at the time: So, as much as a young woman may have wanted to go outside and explore the world, itwas thusly forbidden from her by the virtue of having to stay home, cloistered within the house, as a symbol of her purity.