Don Juan

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Don Juan in Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, a painting by Max Slevogt

Don Juan (Spanish), Don Giovanni (Italian) is a legendary, fictional libertine whose story has been told many times by many authors. El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra (The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest) by Tirso de Molina is a play set in the fourteenth century that was published in Spain around 1630. Evidence suggests it is the first written version of the Don Juan legend. Among the best-known works about this character today are Molière's play Dom Juan ou le Festin de pierre (1665), Byron's epic poem Don Juan (1821), José de Espronceda's poem El estudiante de Salamanca (1840) and José Zorrilla's play Don Juan Tenorio (1844). Along with Zorrilla's work (still performed every year on November 2nd throughout the Spanish-speaking world), arguably the best-known version is Don Giovanni, an opera composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, first performed in Prague in 1787 (with Giacomo Casanova probably in the audience) and itself the source of inspiration for works by E. T. A. Hoffmann, Alexander Pushkin, Søren Kierkegaard, George Bernard Shaw and Albert Camus.

Don Juan is used synonymously for "womanizer", especially in Spanish slang, and is often used in reference to hypersexuality. This is evident in William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

Don Juan legend[edit]

Although the various iterations of the Don Juan myth show some variation, the basic storyline remains the same. Starting with Tirso's work, Don Juan is portrayed as a wealthy, seductive libertine who devotes his life to seducing women, taking great pride in his ability to seduce women of all ages and stations in life. His life is also punctuated with violence and gambling, and in many interpretations (Tirso, Espronceda, Zorrilla), he kills Don Gonzalo, the father of a girl he has seduced, Doña Ana. This leads to the famous last supper scene, whereby Don Juan invites the dead father to dinner. The ending depends on which version of the legend one is reading. Tirso's original play was meant as religious parable against Don Juan's sinful ways, and ends with his death, having been denied salvation by God. Other authors and playwrights would interpret the ending in their own fashion. Espronceda's Don Felix walks into hell and to his death of his own volition, whereas Zorrilla's Don Juan asks for, and receives, a divine pardon. The figure of Don Juan has inspired many modern interpretations.

Pronunciation[edit]

In Castilian Spanish, Don Juan is pronounced [doŋˈxwan]. The usual English pronunciation is /ˌdɒnˈwɑːn/, with two syllables and a silent "J". However, in Byron's epic poem it rhymes with ruin and true one, indicating that it was intended to have the trisyllabic spelling pronunciation /ˌdɒnˈən/. This would have been characteristic of his English literary predecessors who often deliberately imposed partisan English pronunciations on Spanish names, such as Don Quixote /ˌdɒnˈkwɪksət/.

Chronology of works derived from the story of Don Juan[edit]

Seventeenth century[edit]

Eighteenth century[edit]

Nineteenth century[edit]

Twentieth century[edit]

Twenty-first century[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Apocryphal Tales, Karel Čapek.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]