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Don Juan

Related: seduction - Byronic hero - men - fictional character

Female counterpart: femme fatale

Another erotic novel attributed to Guillaume Apollinaire was The Exploits of a Young Don Juan (Les exploits d'un jeune Don Juan), in which the 15-year-old hero fathers three children with various members of his entourage, including his aunt. The book was made into a movie by Gianfranco Mingozzi (see poster) in 1987.

After the Death of Don Juan (1939) - Sylvia Townsend Warner
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Don Juan is a legendary fictional libertine, whose story has been told many times by different authors. The name is sometimes used figuratively, as a synonym for "seducer". The best known version of this tale is probably Mozart's 1787 Don Giovanni opera.

The Don Juan legend

The legend says that Don Juan seduced, raped or killed a young girl of noble family, and killed her father. Later, he came across a statue of the father in a cemetery and impiously invited it home to dine with him, an invitation which the statue gladly accepted. The ghost of the father arrived for dinner as the harbinger of Don Juan's death. The Statue asked to shake Don Juan's hand, and when he extended his arm, he was dragged away to Hell.

Most authorities agree that the first recorded tale of Don Juan is El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra (The Playboy of Seville and Guest of Stone) by Tirso de Molina. Dates vary for the first publication of this, from 1620 to 1635, depending upon the source, although it appeared in Spain as early as 1615. In it, Don Juan is an unrepentant womanizer who seduces women by disguising himself as their actual lovers, or by promising marriage. He leaves a trail of broken hearts and angry husbands and fathers behind him, finally slaying a certain Don Gonzalo. When later he is invited to dinner in the cathedral by Don Gonzalo's ghost, he accepts, not wanting to appear a coward.

Depending upon the particular rendition of the legend, Don Juan's character may be presented in one of two perspectives, or somewhere in between: According to some, Don Juan was a simple, lustful womanizer, a cruel seducer who simply gets sex wherever he can. Others, however, see Don Juan as a man who genuinely loves every woman he seduces, and it is his gift to see the true beauty and intrinsic value which exist within every woman. The early versions of the legend always portray him in the former light.

Other Don Juan literature

Another more recent version of the legend of Don Juan is that presented in José Zorilla's (1817-1893) "Don Juan Tenorio" (1844). The version is formatted as a play in which Don Juan is depicted quite villainously. The action starts off with Don Juan meeting with his old friend Don Luis and the two men recounting their conquests and vile deeds of the last year. In terms of the number of murders and of conquests (i.e. seductions), Don Juan out-scores his friend Don Luis. Outdone, Don Luis replies that his friend has never had a woman pure of soul, planting in Don Juan a new tantalizing desire to sleep with a woman of God. Also, Don Juan informs his friend Don Luis that he plans to seduce his future wife. Don Juan manages to seduce both his friend's wife and Doņa Ines. Incensed, Doņa Ines's father and Don Luis come to try and avenge their lost pride, but Don Juan kills them both, though Don Juan begs them not to attack, for he claims that Doņa Ines has shown him the true way. Don Juan gets a little nervous when he is visited by the ghosts of Doņa Ines and her father, and the book concludes with a very interesting scene of a veritable tug of war between Doņa Ines and her father, with the daughter eventually winning and pulling Don Juan up into Heaven.

In Aleksandr Blok's poetic depiction, the statue is only mentioned as a fearful approaching figure, while a deceased Donna Anna ("Anna, Anna, is it sweet to sleep in the grave? Is it sweet to dream unearthly dreams") is waiting to return to him in the fast-approaching hour of his death.

In the novel "La Gitanilla" (the she-gipsy) by Miguel de Cervantes, the character who falls in love with the Gitanilla is named Don Juan de Cárcamo, possibly related with the popular legend.

A play called Don Juan (Don Giovanni Tenorio, ossia Il Disoluto) was written in 1736 by Carlo Goldoni, famous Italian comic playwright.

In the novel The Phantom of the Opera, the name of the opera written by the Phantom is "Don Juan Triumphant."

The famous Romantic Lord Byron wrote an epic version of Don Juan that is considered to be his masterpiece. It was left unfinished upon his death, but portrays Don Juan as the innocent victim of a repressive Catholic upbringing who unwittingly stumbles into love time and time again. In Canto II, for example,he is washed up shipwrecked on an island and is rescued by the beautiful daughter of a Greek pirate, who nurses him back to health: a love relationship develops. When her father returns from his journey, however, he is angry and sells Juan into slavery, where he is bought by a Sultan's wife for her pleasure. Byron's don Juan is less the seducer than the victim of women's desire and his unfortunate circumstances. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Juan [Oct 2006]

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