Dom Juan

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Title page for Dom Juan ou le Festin de pierre – the censored version – with illustration of the statue at the feast. From posthumous works of Molière, 1682.
The title page of Le festin de pierre, also known as Dom Juan, the play by Molière, published in Amsterdam in 1683. This is the first publication of the uncensored edition.

Dom Juan or The Feast with the Statue (French: Dom Juan ou le Festin de pierre or simply Le Festin de pierre) is a French play, a comedy in five acts, written by Molière, and based on the legend of Don Juan. The title of Molière’s play is also commonly expressed as Don Juan, a spelling that began in the seventeenth century.[1] Molière's characters Dom Juan and Sganarelle are the French counterparts to the Spanish Don Juan and Catalinón, characters who are also found in Mozart's Italian opera Don Giovanni as Don Giovanni and Leporello. Dom Juan is the last part in Molière's hypocrisy trilogy, which also includes The School for Wives and Tartuffe. It was first performed on 15 February 1665 in the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, with Molière playing the role of Sganarelle.[2]

The play was originally written in prose, and was withdrawn after 15 performances after attacks by Molière's critics, who considered he was offending religion and the king by eulogizing a libertine. The play was a costly failure. Sganarelle, Dom Juan's valet, is the only character who speaks up for religion, but his particular brand of superstitious Catholicism is used more as a comic device than as a foil to his master's free-thinking. As a result, Molière was ordered to delete a certain number of scenes and lines which, according to his censors, made a mockery of their faith.

The play was published in a heavily censored version for the first time in 1682. It was part of an eight-volume edition, edited by La Grange and Vivot, that contained almost all of Molière’s plays. The parts of Dom Juan that offended the censors were pasted over with strips of paper glued into almost all of the copies. This version was in prose, instead of the also censored version by Thomas Corneille (brother of Pierre Corneille) which Corneille had versified. Nearly a century and a half later, in 1813, a full and restored text was published in France. And then in 1847 the play was added to the repertoire of the Comédie-Française. In the twentieth century the play is performed often and has garnered great critical attention and admiration. An uncensored version appeared in Amsterdam in 1683.[3][4][5]

Molière drew his inspiration from the main character of a work by Tirso de Molina called El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra. However, the characters from the two plays differ in several aspects. Molière's Dom Juan clearly states that he is an atheist, but the Don Juan of Tirso de Molina's original play is a Catholic who believes that he can repent of his evil deeds many years later before he dies. However, his death comes sooner than expected and he finds that his attempts to repent and confess his sins are ineffective. In both plays the main character is condemned to Hell.

Characters and premiere cast[edit]

Character[6] Premiere cast,[7] 15 February 1665
Dom Juan, son of Dom Louis La Grange
Sganarelle, servant to Dom Juan Molière
Donna Elvira, wife of Dom Juan Mademoiselle Du Parc
Guzman, gentleman-usher to Donna Elvira
Dom Carlos, brother to Donna Elvira
Dom Alonzo, brother to Donna Elvira
Dom Louis, father to Dom Juan Louis Bejart
Charlotte, peasant, fiancée to Pierrot Mademoiselle de Brie
Mathurine, a peasant Mademoiselle Molière
Pierrot, a peasant André Hubert
The Statue of the Commander
Violette, servant to Dom Juan
Ragotin, servant to Dom Juan
Monsieur Dimanche, a tradesman Du Croisy (Philibert Gassot)
La Ramée, a swashbuckler De Brie (Edmé Villequin)
A Ghost


The story of this play follows the last two days in the life of a young courtier, Dom Juan Tenorio, a libertine, a seducer of women and an atheist. He is accompanied throughout the play by his valet, Sganarelle, a truculent, superstitious, cowardly, greedy fellow who engages with his master in intellectual debates. The unrepentant Don Juan will not escape the vengeance of Heaven, and he is ultimately punished. The various settings are all in Sicily.

Act I[edit]

In the garden of the palace, after a few words of appreciation for snuff tobacco, Sganarelle speaks with Gusman, who is the squire to Donna Elvire. Her primary concern is the abrupt departure of her new husband. Sganarelle, not without pride, paints for Gusman a terrible portrait of Don Juan as a fickle, cynical, disbeliever, who should not be trusted by any woman. Gusman exits and Dom Juan enters and jousts with Sganarelle on the topic of marriage and amorous inconstancy, before revealing that he has fallen in love and has his sight set on someone new — a young, rustic bride-to-be. Donna Elvire then enters to challenge him to explain the reasons for his departure. His response leaves her angered.

Act II[edit]

In the countryside a peasant, Pierrot, speaking in a rustic vernacular, tells Charlotte, his bride, the adventurous story of how he rescued Dom Juan and Sganarelle who had both fallen in the lake when their boat capsized. Pierrot then exits to go “wet his whistle”. Dom Juan and Sganarelle appear, and Dom Juan then tells Charlotte he is in love with her and he persuades her to marry him. As he is about to kiss her hand a thousand times, Pierrot, returns and intervenes. Mathurine then appears — she is yet another woman Don Juan has promised to marry. Two fiancées, and they both want an explanation. Don Juan manages to inveigle his way out of this trouble, leaving both women to believe that all is well. A man enters with the news that Dom Juan is in danger — twelve men on horseback are looking for him. Dom Juan says to Sganarelle that they should exchange clothes with each other. Sganarelle says, “Not likely,” and they hurry off.

Act III[edit]

Dom Juan enters dressed in a “country costume” and Sganarelle is dressed as a doctor. They are lost in a forest, when they encounter a man in rags. They ask him for directions. Learning that the poor man is religious and rather devout, Dom Juan test his faith by offering him a gold piece to utter blaspheme, which he refuses to do. Then Dom Juan sees a gentleman being attacked by three robbers, so he draws his sword and come to the rescue. The man turns out to be Dom Carlos, the brother of Donna Elvire. Dom Carlos explains that he and his brother, Dom Alonso, have been hunting for Dom Juan in order to seek revenge for the seduction of their sister. Dom Juan indicates that he knows this man, Dom Juan, and that he is a kind of friend. Dom Alonso enters and recognizes Dom Juan. He wants to get revenge on the spot, but Dom Carlos, in gratitude to Dom Juan for saving his life, convinces his brother to postpone the revenge until later. The brothers exit. Moving along, Dom Juan and Sganarelle find themselves at the tomb of the commander — a man that was recently killed by Don Juan. Don Juan orders Sganarelle to invite the statue of the commander to dinner. The statue nods its head.

Act IV[edit]

Dom Juan, in his apartment, wants to sit down to dinner, but is prevented by a series of unannounced visitors. First is creditor, Monsieur Dimanch, who is put off with many compliments and Dom Juan’s sudden exit. Sganarelle is left to usher the man away. Then comes Dom Louis, who is Dom Juan’s father, who scolds his son and then leaves in contempt. Donna Elvira enters. She is no longer furious, but now comes in a spirit of love, with a desire to warn her husband against "heaven's wrath”. She attempts in vain to get him to repent, then leaves. Dom Juan and Sganarelle finally sit down at the table, when the statue of the Commander appears. He won't sit down or eat, but invites Dom Juan to sup with him the following day.

Act V[edit]

In the countryside, near the city. Dom Juan tells his father Heaven has changed him. He has renounced his wicked ways. Dom Louis leaves, wild with happiness. Sganarelle, is also delighted with this news. Dom Juan immediately tells Sganarelle he meant none of it. He then speaks at length and with passion in praise of hypocrisy. Dom Carlos appears, and a duel appears to be inevitable. A spector in the form of a veiled woman appears as a spirit offering a last chance to repent. Dom Juan flails at it with his sword, and refuses to repent. The statue of the Commander enters proclaiming that the wages of sin is death. Dom Juan cries out that he is burning. Next comes thunder and lightening. The earth opens up, swallowing Dom Juan, followed by flames. Left alone, Sganarelle, seeing that his master is gone, bewails the loss of his wages.[8][9]


  1. ^ [1] Molière. Le festin de pierre. Wetstein, Amsterdam. (1683)
  2. ^ Molière. Don Juan and Other Plays. Oxford University Press (1998) ISBN 9780192835512
  3. ^ Jaques, Brigitte. Jouvet, Louis. Edney, David, translator. Brigitte Jacques and Louis Jouvet's 'Elvira' and Molière's 'Don Juan': Two French Plays. University Press of America (2003) ISBN 9780761824756
  4. ^ Gaines, James F. The Molière Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group (2002) ISBN 9780313312557 page 161
  5. ^ Molière. Wilbur, Richard, translator. Don Juan. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2001) ISBN 9780547538822 page vii
  6. ^ English character names are from Henri Van Laun (1885). The Dramatic Works of Molière, vol. 3, p. 99. Edinburgh: William Patterson.
  7. ^ Molière (1857). Oeuvres de Molière, avec des notes de tous les commentateurs], vol. 1, p. 449. Librarie de Firmin-Didot et Cie. Additional information from James F. Gaines (2002). The Molière Encyclopedia. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313312557.
  8. ^ Fort, Alice B. and Kates, Herbert S. Dom Juan or The Stone Death. Minute History of the Drama. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. p. 47. Nov 27, 2007.
  9. ^ Molière. Six Prose Comedies of Molière. Oxford University Press (1968)

External links[edit]