Don Juan

Definition

Theater

  • Don Juan Tenorio, the legendary antihero of many plays,poems, stories and operas, is said to have been based on the sonof a noble family in 14th-century Seville. The story goes that hekilled the commandant of Ulloa after seducing his daughter. He thenjokingly invited a statue of the dead man to a feast, at the end of which the sculptured figure indeed arrived to deliver him to hell.

    His name is synonymous with rake, roué, and aristocraticlibertine; in Mozart's opera Don Giovanni (1787; libretto byDa Ponte) the Don's servant claims that his master had "in Italy700 mistresses, in Germany 800 and in Spain 1003." The story first appeared on the stage in Tirso de Molina's El Burlador de Sevilla y Convidado de Piedra in 1630; in this work the Don is presented as a troubled man who knows that his desires are sinful but remains unable to control them. Plays followed by Molière, Corneille, Shadwell, Goldoni, Dumas and Rostand amongst others. George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman is an ironic reworking of the legend in which Don Juan Tenorio becomes the English freethinker Jack Tanner. The character also appears in Tennessee Williams's fantasy play Camino Real (1953). In one of the most recent updatings of the story, Patrick Marber's Don Juan in Soho (2006), the priapic 'DJ' keeps a record of his numerous conquests on a BlackBerry.

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