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Lothario is a male first name which came to connote an unscrupulous seducer of women in The Impertinent Curiosity, a metastory in Don Quixote.
The Novel of The Man Who Was Recklessly Curious
Don Quixote, Part One contains a number of stories which do not directly involve the two main characters, but which are narrated by some of the picaresque figures encountered by Quixote and Sancho during their travels. The longest and best known of these is El Curioso Impertinente (The impertinently curious man), found in Part One, Book Four, chapters 33 - 35. This story, read to a group of travelers at an inn, tells of a Florentine nobleman, Anselmo, who becomes obsessed with testing his wife's fidelity, and talks his close friend Lothario into attempting to seduce her, with disastrous results for all. In Part Two, the author acknowledges the criticism of his digressions in Part One and promises to concentrate the narrative on the central characters (although at one point he laments that his narrative muse has been constrained in this manner).
El Curioso Impertinente summary
Anselmo, for no particular reason, decides to test the fidelity of his wife, Camilla. He asks his friend, Lothario, to seduce her. Lothario thinks this madness but reluctantly agrees and a short time later reports that she was faithful. Anselmo learns that Lothario has lied and attempted no seduction. He makes Lothario promise to try for real and leaves town to make this easier. Lothario tries and Camilla writes letters to her husband telling him and asking him to return; Anselmo makes no reply and does not return. Lothario actually falls in love and Camilla eventually reciprocates and their affair continues once Anselmo returns.
One day, Lothario sees a man leaving Camilla's house and jealously presumes she has found another lover. He tells Anselmo he has at last been successful and arranges a time and place for Anselmo to see the seduction. Before this rendezvous, Lothario learns that the man was actually the lover of Camilla's maid. He and Camilla contrive to deceive Anselmo further: when Anselmo watches them she refuses Lothario, protests her love for her husband and stabs herself lightly in the breast. Reassured of her fidelity, the affair restarts with Anselmo none the wiser.
The maid's lover is discovered by Anselmo. Fearing that the Anselmo will kill her, the maid says she will tell him a secret the next day. Anselmo tells Camilla this is to happen and Camilla expects that her affair is to be revealed. Lothario and Camilla flee that night and the maid flees the next day. Anselmo searches for them in vain before learning from a stranger of his wife's affair. He starts to write the story but dies of grief before he can finish.
Lothario is also a character in the play The Fair Penitent (1703), by Nicholas Rowe, based on the earlier 17th-century play, The Fatal Dowry (which itself drew on Cervantes). In Rowe's play, Lothario is a libertine who seduces and betrays Calista; and its success is arguably the source for the proverbial nature of his name in subsequent English culture - as when Anthony Trollope wrote a century later of "the elegant fluency of a practised Lothario".
An allusion is made to Lothario in William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! when referring to Charles Bon, the proclaimed ladies-man and woman-seducer who is about to marry a woman while already being married.
In the opera Mignon by Ambroise Thomas, Lothario is the elderly father of the heroine and in no way a seducer.
The Frank Sinatra song "Man in the Looking Glass" contains these lines: Where's our young Romeo, the lad who used to sigh? / Who's the middle-aged Lothario with a twinkle in his eye?
- J. a. G. Ardila, The Cervantean Heritage (2009) p. 6-10
- F. Dabhoiwala, The Sexual Revolution (2012) p. 162
- R. Gilmour ed., Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers (2003) p. 286 and 520
- Urgo, Joseph R. Reading Faulkner: glossary and commentary. Absalom, Absalom!. University Press of Mississippi.
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