The Classical Treatment of Don Juan in Tirso, Molière, and Mozart: What Cultural Work Does It Perform?


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

The Don Juan story has fascinated Western audiences, at least, for almost four hundred years. There are three famous "classical" treatments-one in Spanish by Tirso de Molina (El Burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra, first performed around 1612), one in French by Molière (Dom Juan; ou, Lefestin de pierre, first performed in 1665), and, of course, an opera in Italian, libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte and music by Mozart (Don Giovanni, first performed in 1787).1 I call these "classical" as opposed to the later Romantic treatments of the figure by Byron, Kierkegaard, Shaw, and Camus, to cite the more famous, who have made out of him a hero of one kind or another. In the classical treatments, however attractive this ultimate transgressor, he is finally put in his place-that is, hell. His defiance is contained, purged.

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