Don Juan

Don Juan

Legendary Spaniard, lawless and libertine
Country: Spain

The Biography of Don Juan

Don Juan, also known as Don Juan Tenorio, is a legendary Spanish figure who has become synonymous with words like "heartbreaker," "seducer," "womanizer," and "rake." The first legend about him was written by the Spanish playwright Tirso de Molina. His play "The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest," set in the 14th century, was published in Spain around 1630. Don Juan has been portrayed in various ways throughout history, as a rapist, a romantic, a skeptic, a pessimist, and an idealist. He has appeared in around 150 works. The character of Don Juan is often considered a prototype of Don Juan Tenorio, a member of the aristocratic Seville family. The original play about Don Juan was written in accordance with the beliefs and ideals of the Golden Age, but over time, cultural changes influenced its portrayal. Tirso de Molina wrote "The Trickster of Seville" to teach a life lesson. He saw many people who wanted to live as they pleased, indulging in sin and vice, sincerely believing that they would go unpunished. These "fools" believed that as long as they repented before death approached, they would secure a ticket to the Kingdom of Heaven. In his play, Tirso implies that even someone like Don Juan, who is associated with the devil himself, "the man without a name," and a shape-shifter, had to pay for his actions and that death makes everyone equal. Some changes in the various myths about Don Juan did not critically affect the underlying idea of the great seducer. Starting with Tirso's work, Don Juan is portrayed as a wealthy, captivating libertine who has devoted his entire life to seducing women of all ages and social statuses. He finds more pleasure in the process of seduction and the struggle for a woman's submission than in physical intimacy itself.

Using the phrase "You promise me too long a time" ("Tan largo me lo fiáis"), Don Juan hints that he is still too young, and death is still far away, so he has plenty of time to repent for his sins. In many early legends, Don Juan's life is filled with violence and gambling. He even becomes a murderer when he kills Don Gonzalo, the father of the woman he seduced, Doña Ana.

In Tirso's original play, intended as a "religious parable against Don Juan's sinful ways," the seducer does not receive forgiveness from God. In Lorenzo Da Ponte's libretto for "Don Giovanni," the seducer constantly refuses to repent, despite the opportunities presented to him according to his status. The Spanish poet José de Espronceda creates an image of a freethinker who willingly descends into hell and death, while Don Juan in José Zorrilla's version repents and receives absolution.

The French writer and philosopher Albert Camus wrote: "I have never seen a more interesting character on stage than this combination of cruelty and lust." Protestant theologian Søren Kierkegaard considered the best version of Don Juan to be Mozart's. Charles Rosen, as he himself stated, felt the "seductive physical power" of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's music, which connected 18th-century promiscuity, political fervor, and the emerging romanticism.

In his novel "Casanova's Chinese Restaurant," English writer Anthony Powell juxtaposes the character of Don Juan, who "simply enjoys power" and "obviously does not know what sensuality is," with the character of Casanova, who "undoubtedly experienced sensual moments." The first three decades of the 20th century in Spain were marked by cultural passions surrounding the figure of Don Juan, arguably unmatched by any other period in history. One of the most provocative statements made during this time was by endocrinologist Gregorio Marañón. He claimed that Don Juan should be seen as a person with distorted psychosexual development.

During the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, the character of Don Juan served as a metaphor for the flu virus.

In a religious context, Don Juan is portrayed as a person who either receives forgiveness from above or fails to erase his sins with a simple act of repentance. The seducer also touches upon concepts such as "male honor" and "female purity." Don Juan's opinions are influenced by his "low views" on the position of women in society. In his eyes, women are devalued and become just another number on his list.

The Trickster of Seville has been compared to the Devil himself for his ability to manipulate people, particularly his skill in flattering speeches and shapeshifting. However, over time, Don Juan's sharp character traits have gradually been replaced by more appealing qualities.

The immoral adventurer who has lost his predatory appearance likely would not have gained such popularity if the legend about him had not taken on a more charming form. Presented as a dreamer in Alfred de Musset's play, Don Juan spends his entire life searching for the "perfect woman." The concept of the "ideal woman" is divinely imbued in him. This time, Don Juan loves genuinely, but his aspirations compel him to move from one passion to another. None of them matches his ideal, and he can never find true happiness.

In developing the character of Don Juan, Austrian Romantic poet Nikolaus Lenau endowed the seductive lover with sensuality bordering on pathology. The rake is on the verge of turning into a neurotic. Don Juan is tormented by a longing for a woman who would satisfy his desire to possess all women. He realizes the limited capabilities of the human body and pursues spiritual eroticism. However, there is nothing lascivious in his thirst.

In this incarnation, the Don Juan inclined to elegiac moods can only touch the world through sensuality. According to him, God is the source of all things, the generating force permeating the entire universe. When Don Juan engages in an intimate relationship with a woman, he begins to feel like a part of this force.

Other authors, referring to Don Juan's struggle against social conventions, preferred to see him either as an atheist or as a disseminator of anticlerical ideas.

In the world of cinema, Albert Capellani was one of the first to introduce audiences to Don Juan. This happened as early as 1908. In the French comedy "Men Only Think About That" (Les Hommes ne pensent qu'à ça) in 1954, Don Juan is resurrected in the 20th century to teach shy and timid Alfred, played by Jean Bellanger, how to win women's hearts.

In 2003, Andrzej Seweryn played the lead role in the French film adaptation of Molière's play "Don Juan, or The Stone Banquet" (Dom Juan ou le Festin de pierre).

The pathological desire of a man to engage in sexual activities with different partners, the male equivalent of female nymphomania, is called "Donjuanism" or "Don Juan syndrome."