“Les Fourberies de Scapin” (Part One)

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Les Fourberies de Scapin

Terence lived from c. 195/185 – c. 159? BCE and
Plautus from c. 254 – 184 BCE

Legend has it that Molière’s grandfather took him to see the Italians, and we know that Molière’s only teacher was Scaramouche (Scaramuccia). Therefore, despite links with Terence and Plautus and their source, Greek New Comedy, the plays of Menander chiefly, Molière was also inspired by his French contemporaries: Cyrano de Bergerac (Le Pédant joué), Jean Rotrou (La Sœur), and others.

Molière’s Les Fourberies de Scapin premièred at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, on 24 May 1671. It was not as successful as expected when it was first performed, but it became and remained a popular play after Molière’s death, on 17 February 1673. Molière used many registres (levels), so Boileau wrote that he could no longer recognize the author of the Misanthrope in Les Fourberies de Scapin.

Dans ce sac ridicule où Scapin s’enveloppe,
Je ne reconnais plus l’auteur du Misanthrope
Art poétique, chant III, v. 395-400.
Toutmolière.net, Notice

The Plot

  • reversal
  • doublings
  • lazzi
  • anagnorisis

However, do not expect a clear barbon-berne-blondin plot, a straightforward “all’s well that ends well.” When this comedy begins, one of the two young couples has married without seeking the approval of the pater familias. Such approval will be sought and the young couples helper will be Scapin. Moreover, the play is a series of lazzi, tricks played by Scapin.

Our dramatis personæ is

ARGANTE, father to OCTAVE and ZERBINETTE.
GÉRONTE, father to LÉANDRE and HYACINTHA.
OCTAVE, son to ARGANTE, and lover to HYACINTHA.
LÉANDRE, son to GÉRONTE, and lover to ZERBINETTE.
ZERBINETTE, daughter to ARGANTE, believed to be a gypsy girl.
HYACINTHA, daughter to GÉRONTE.
SCAPIN, servant to LÉANDRE.
SILVESTRE, servant to OCTAVE.
NÉRINE, nurse to HYACINTHA.
CARLE, a trickster.
TWO PORTERS.

The scene is at NAPLES.

Doublings

  • two fathers: Argante and Géronte,
  • two sons: Octave and Léandre,
  • two ingénues: Zerbinette1 and Hyacinthe2
  • Scapin (servant to Léandre)
  • Sylvestre (servant to Octave)

1 Argante’s daughter
2 Géronte’s daughter

Ironically, Argante wants his son Octave to marry Hyacinthe. As for Géronte, he wants his son Léandre to marry Zerbinette, Argante’s daughter. We may expect recognition scenes (anagnorisis). 

ACT ONE

In Act One, Scene One, we learn that Octave’s father has returned from a trip and that his plans are for Octave to marry Géronte’s daughter. In the meantime, Octave has married Hyacinthe, a poor girl.

In Scene Two, Octave tells Scapin that he is desperate. Scapin isn’t.

À vous dire la vérité, il y a peu de choses qui me soient impossibles, quand je m’en veux mêler. J’ai sans doute reçu du Ciel un génie assez beau pour toutes les fabriques de ces gentillesses d’esprit, de ces galanteries ingénieuses à qui le vulgaire ignorant donne le nom de fourberies ; et je puis dire sans vanité, qu’on n’a guère vu d’homme qui fût plus habile ouvrier de ressorts et d’intrigues ; qui ait acquis plus de gloire que moi dans ce noble métier : mais, ma foi, le mérite est trop maltraité aujourd’hui, et j’ai renoncé à toutes choses depuis certain chagrin d’une affaire qui m’arriva.
Scapin à Octave  (I. ii)
To tell you the truth, there are few things impossible to me when I once set about them. Heaven has bestowed on me a fair enough share of genius for the making up of all those neat strokes of mother wit, for all those ingenious gallantries to which the ignorant and vulgar give the name of impostures; and I can boast, without vanity, that there have been very few men more skillful than I in expedients and intrigues, and who have acquired a greater reputation in the noble profession. But, to tell the truth, merit is too ill rewarded nowadays, and I have given up everything of the kind since the trouble I had through a certain affair which happened to me.
Scapin to Octave (I. 3)

In Scene Three, Hyacinthe says she fears losing Octave:

J’ai ouï dire, Octave, que votre sexe aime moins longtemps que le nôtre, et que les ardeurs que les hommes font voir, sont des feux qui s’éteignent aussi facilement qu’ils naissent.
Hyacinthe à Octave (I. iii)
[I have heard say, Octave, that your sex does not love so long as ours, and that the ardour men show is a fire which dies out as easily as it is kindled.
Hyacinthe to Octave (I. 3)

In Scene Three/Four, Scapin wants Octave to prepare for “firmness’
In Scene Three/Five, Octave runs off and Scapin says: “Leave it to me.”

Reason, Destiny, Age and Fear

In Scene Four/Six, Argante enters. He knows about Octave’s marriage and is angry. Scapin does not disagree. He too was angry, but he submitted to reason. As for Octave, he is young. Wouldn’t Argan have done the same in earlier years? Finally, Hyacinthe’s family expected him to respect Hyacinthe’s reputation:

Si fait, j’y ai d’abord été, moi, lorsque j’ai su la chose, et je me suis intéressé pour vous, jusqu’à quereller votre fils. (…) Mais quoi, je me suis rendu à la raison, et j’ai considéré que dans le fond, il n’a pas tant de tort qu’on pourrait croire.
Scapin à Argante (I. iv)
[Quite so. I was angry myself when I first heard it; and I so far felt interested in your behalf that I rated your son well. (…) But what of that? I submitted to reason, and considered that, after all, he had done nothing so dreadful.]
Scapin to Argante (I. 6)

Ah, ah, voici une raison la plus belle du monde. On n’a plus qu’à commettre tous les crimes imaginables, tromper, voler, assassiner, et dire pour excuse, qu’on y a été poussé par sa destinée.
Argante à Scapin (I. iv)
Oh, oh! You give me there a fine reason. One has nothing better to do now than to commit the greatest crime imaginable—to cheat, steal, and murder—and give for an excuse that we were urged to it by destiny.
Argante à Scapin (I. 6)

Voulez-vous qu’il soit aussi sage que vous ? Les jeunes gens sont jeunes, et n’ont pas toute la prudence qu’il leur faudrait, pour ne rien faire que de raisonnable[.]
Scapin à Argante (I. iv)
[Do you expect him to be as wise as you are? Can you put an old head on young shoulders, and expect young people to have all the prudence necessary to do nothing but what is reasonable?] (I. 6)

Eussiez-vous voulu qu’il se fût laissé tuer ? Il vaut mieux encore être marié, qu’être mort.
Scapin à Argante (I. iv)
[Would you have him suffer them to murder him?] It is still better to be married than to be dead.]
Scapin to Argante (I. 6)

Sylvestre, Octave’s valet, adds that Octave was married against his wish.

A Father’s Love

We are then treated to a lovely dialogue Argante says he will use punitive measures, against his son, i. e. break the contract and disinherit him. Scapin responds that he will not because he loves his son.

ARGANTE. Hoy. Voici qui est plaisant. Je ne déshériterai pas mon fils.
SCAPIN. Non, vous dis-je.
ARGANTE. Qui m’en empêchera ?
SCAPIN. Vous-même.
ARGANTE. Moi ?
SCAPIN. Oui. Vous n’aurez pas ce cœur-là.
Argante et Scapin (I. iv, pp. 14-15)
[ARG. Well! This is really too much! I shall not disinherit my son!
SCA. No, I tell you.
ARG. Who will hinder me?
SCA. You yourself.
ARG. I?
SCA. Yes; you will never have the heart to do it.]
Argante and Scapin (I. 6)

In Scene Five/Seven, Scapin enlists Sylvestre’s support. He knows how to disguise a face and a voice.

ACT TWO

  1. Géronte tells Argante that his son may not be innocent. Scapin talked.
  2. Argante meditates.
  3. Léandre is angry at Scapin. They nearly fight. Léandre has a sword. Octave intervenes.
  4. Gypsies capture Zerbinette. She must be bought back.
  5. Scapin will seek help from Hyacinthe’s ‘brother’ Sylvestre. He does not want Argante to go to court.

DETAILS AND CONTINUATION

In Scene One, Géronte and Argante are together. Géronte suggests to Argante that his son Léandre may not be innocent. Scapin spoke.

Cela veut dire, Seigneur Géronte, qu’il ne faut pas être si prompt à condamner la conduite des autres; et que ceux qui veulent gloser, doivent bien regarder chez eux, s’il n’y a rien qui cloche.
Argante à Géronte (II. i, pp. 17-18)
[I mean, Mr. Géronte, that we should never be so ready to blame the conduct of others, and that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.]
Argante to Géronte (II. 1)

Votre Scapin, dans mon dépit, ne m’a dit la chose qu’en gros; et vous pourrez de lui, ou de quelque autre, être instruit du détail. Pour moi, je vais vite consulter un avocat, et aviser des biais que j’ai à prendre. Jusqu’au revoir.
Argante à Géronte (II. i, p. 18)
[Your servant Scapin, in his vexation, only told me the thing roughly, and you can learn all the particulars from him or from some one else. For my part, I will at once go to my solicitor, and see what steps I can take in the matter. Good-bye.]
Argante to Géronte (II. 1)

In Scene Two, Géronte meditates. What could his son have done?

In Scene Three, Léandre who is delighted to see his father, learns that Scapin has spoken about him.

Géronte. Scapin pourtant a dit de vos nouvelles.
Léandre. Scapin!
(II. ii, p.19)
Géronte. And yet Scapin has told me all about you.
Léandre. Scapin!
(II. 3)

In Scene Three/Four, Léandre feels betrayed by Scapin.

Me trahir de cette manière! Un coquin, qui doit par cent raisons être le premier à cacher les choses que je lui confie, est le premier à les aller découvrir à mon père. Ah! je jure le Ciel que cette trahison ne demeurera pas impunie.
Léandre à Octave ([I.iii, p. 20)
[To betray me after that fashion! A rascal who for so many reasons should be the first to keep secret what I trust him with! To go and tell everything to my father! Ah! I swear by all that is dear to me not to let such villainy go unpunished.]
Léandre to Octave (I. 4)

Léandre picks up a sword.

Léandre. Ah, ah, vous voilà. Je suis ravi de vous trouver, Monsieur le coquin.
Scapin. Monsieur, votre serviteur. C’est trop d’honneur que vous me faites.
Léandre (en mettant l’épée à la main.)  Vous faites le méchant plaisant. Ah! je vous apprendrai…
Scapin (se mettant à genoux.) Monsieur.
Octave (se mettant entre-deux, pour empêcher Léandre de le frapper.) Ah, Léandre. Non, Octave, ne me retenez point, je vous prie.
Léandre et Scapin (1.iii, p. 20)

Léandre. Ah, ah! here you are, you rascal!
Scapin. Sir, your servant; you do me too much honour.
Léandre. (drawing his sword). You are setting me at defiance, I believe…Ah! I will teach you how….
Scapin. (falling on his knees). Sir!
Octave. (stepping between them). Ah! Léandre.
Léandre. No, Octave, do not keep me back.
Scapin to Léandre. Eh! Sir.
Léandre and Scapin (II. 5)

Les fourberies de Scapin par Moreau le Jeune

Les Fourberies de Scapin par Moreau le Jeune  (théâtre-documentation.com)

Les fourberies de Scapin par Ed. Héd. (1)

Les Fourberies de Scapin par Edmond Hédouin (théâtre-documentation.com

Zerbinette enlevée, captured

In Scene Four/Six, Carle tells that Zerbinette has been captured. A ransom is needed within two hours.

Vos Égyptiens sont sur le point de vous enlever Zerbinette; et elle-même, les larmes aux yeux, m’a chargé de venir promptement vous dire, que si dans deux heures vous ne songez à leur porter l’argent qu’ils vous ont demandé pour elle, vous l’allez perdre pour jamais.
Carle (II. iv, p. 23)
[The gypsies are on the point of carrying off Zerbinette. She came herself all in tears to ask me to tell you that, unless you take to them, before two hours are over, the money they have asked you for her, she will be lost to you for ever.]
Carle (II, 6)

Scapin has been insulted, but he will help.  He must get the money from our two fathers.

Je veux tirer cet argent de vos pères. Pour ce qui est du vôtre, la machine est déjà toute trouvée: et quant au vôtre, bien qu’avare au dernier degré, il y faudra moins de façon encore; car vous savez que pour l’esprit, il n’en a pas grâces à Dieu grande provision, et je le livre pour une espèce d’homme à qui l’on fera toujours croire tout ce que l’on voudra. Cela ne vous offense point, il ne tombe entre lui et vous aucun soupçon de ressemblance; et vous savez assez l’opinion de tout le monde, qui veut qu’il ne soit votre père que pour la forme.
Scapin à tous (II. iv, p. 25)
[I must extract this money from your respective fathers’ pockets. (To OCTAVE) As far as yours is concerned, my plan is all ready. (To LÉANDRE) And as for yours, although he is the greatest miser imaginable, we shall find it easier still; for you know that he is not blessed with too much intellect, and I look upon him as a man who will believe anything. This cannot offend you; there is not a suspicion of a resemblance between him and you; and you know what the world thinks, that he is your father only in name.]
Scapin to Léandre and Octave (II. 7)

In Scene Five/Eight, Scapin seeks money from Argante. A ‘brother’ of Hyacinthe will fight.

J’ai donc été trouver le frère de cette fille qui a été épousée. C’est un de ces braves de profession, de ces gens qui sont tous coups d’épée ; qui ne parlent que d’échiner, et ne font non plus de conscience de tuer un homme, que d’avaler un verre de vin. Je l’ai mis sur ce mariage; (…) Enfin je l’ai tant tourné de tous les côtés, qu’il a prêté l’oreille aux propositions que je lui ai faites d’ajuster l’affaire pour quelque somme; et il donnera son consentement à rompre le mariage, pourvu que vous lui donniez de l’argent.
Scapin à Argante ([II. v, p. 27)
[The brother of the young girl whom your son has married. He is one of those fire-eaters, one of those men all sword-thrusts, who speak of nothing but fighting, and who think no more of killing a man than of swallowing a glass of wine. I got him to speak of this marriage; (…) I managed him so that at last he lent a ready ear to the propositions I made to him of arranging the matter amicably for a sum of money. In short, he will give his consent to the marriage being cancelled, provided you pay him well.]
Scapin to Argante (II. 8)

Sylvestre is Octave’s valet in disguise.

I am skipping part of Scene Five/Eight. Scapin pleads with Argante not to go to court.

ACT TWO, SCENE SIX

The following scene, Scene VI, is borrowed from Plautus. Sylvestre, who says to Scapin that he is Hyacinthe’s brother, wants to see Argante and kill him for wishing to annul Octave’s marriage to his sister Hyacinthe. Argante is standing behind, but Scapin insists the person Sylvestre sees is not Argante.

(Sylvestre is not a brother to Hyacinthe but Octave’s valet in disguise. His assistance has been requested. [See II. v, p. 27 ; II. 8]).

Que diable allait-il faire dans cette galère?

In Act Two, Scene Seven, Scapin tells Géronte that his son Léandre is being held for ransom on a Turkish boat.  It is une fourberie, a trick, a lazzi, but Géronte must provide money.

This scene is famous because it is the source of an expression that is still used. As Géronte puts together the money the Turks want, Géronte keeps saying:

Que diable allait-il faire dans cette galère?
[What the deuce did he want to go in that galley for?]

geronte-scapin

Géronte et Scapin  (Gallica)

In Act Two, Scene Eight

Scapin gives back to Octave the money he took from his father Argante. He then gives Léandre the money he needs to purchase Zerbinette.

Conclusion

I must close. We know there will be a recognition scene (anagnorisis). Argante and Géronte do not know their sons have found the very wife they had chosen from them. Hyacinthe has married Octave, but Zerbinette hasn’t married.

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« Le sort me fait souffrir »
Le Poème Harmonique, Vincent Dumestre
L’Humaine comédie, Estienne Moulinié

Scapin (Les fourberies de Scapin) (2)

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27 August 2019
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From Comedy to Fable: the Frog and the Ox

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John Ray [EBook #24108]

La Fontaine: site officiel

A few days ago, I attempted to write a short post on Jean de La Fontaine‘s La Grenouille qui se veut faire aussi grosse que le bœuf (The Frog Who Wished To Be As Big As The Ox). Although the genre and length differ, in both cases, boasting leads to devastating consequences. La Fontaine’s Site officiel no longer provides the text, in French and in English, of La Fontaine’s twelve books of fables. The new site may still be under construction, but it will be mostly for visitors to the Musée. At any rate, I decided to use les moyens du bord, sites such as Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, Wikisource, and other sources. I will update all my posts featuring a fable by La Fontaine.

La Fontaine’s La Grenouille qui se veut faire aussi grosse que le bœuf is one of Æsop’s Fables. It is number 376 in the Perry Index. Now, The Frog and Ox is, in its broadest terms, a fable version of Dom Juan. Fables often have a farcical ending. They tell us to think of the consequences, but wrap the truth in a lie: animals do not speak, yet they do. Animals speak, yet they don’t.

Wikipedia’s entries on La Fontaine’s fables often contain not only a translation, but also images. Gutenberg’s [EBook #24108] was illustrated by John Rae. The fables were translated by W. T. (William Trowbridge) Larned. It is an edition for children and it is beautiful!

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John Ray [EBook #24108]

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John Ray [EBook #24108]

The Frog and the Ox

A Frog had an Ox in her view;
His bulk, to her, appeared ideal.
She, not even as large, all in all, as an egg hitherto,
Envious, stretched, swelled, strained, in her zeal
To match the beast in overall size,
Saying, “Sister, lend me your eyes.

Is this enough? Am I not yet there, in every feature?”
“Nope.” “Then now?” “No way.” “There now, as good as first?”
“You’re not anywhere near.” The diminutive creature
Inflated still more, till she burst.

The world is full of folk who are as far from being sages.
Every city gent would build chateaux like Louis Quatorze;
Every petty prince names ambassadors,
Every marquis wants to have pages.
credit
http://lafontaine.mmlc.northwestern.edu/fables/grenouille_boeuf_en.html

La Grenouille qui se veut faire aussi grosse que le bœuf

Une Grenouille vit un Bœuf
Qui lui sembla de belle taille.
Elle qui n’était pas grosse en tout comme un œuf,
Envieuse s’étend, et s’enfle, et se travaille
Pour égaler l’animal en grosseur,
Disant : « Regardez bien, ma sœur,
Est-ce assez ? dites-moi : n’y suis-je point encore ?
— Nenni. — M’y voici donc ? — Point du tout. — M’y voilà ?
— Vous n’en approchez point. » La chétive pécore
S’enfla si bien qu’elle creva.
Le monde est plein de gens qui ne sont pas plus sages :
Tout Bourgeois veut bâtir comme les grands Seigneurs,
Tout petit Prince a des Ambassadeurs,
Tout Marquis veut avoir des Pages.
credit: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Grenouille_qui_se_veut_faire_aussi_grosse_que_le_b%C5%93uf

 

La Fontaine, Molière, etc.

La Fontaine and Molière were contemporaries and friends, close friends, it would seem. La Fontaine was a pallbearer when Molière was buried under cover of darkness. Comedians were excommunicated. La Grange (Charles Varlet, sieur de la Grange) kept the books, le registre. We know, therefore, what fabric was used to make certain costumes, but we do not know why Jean-Baptiste Poquelin chose the name Molière. There are so many names. Molière did not say much about himself, nor did La Fontaine.

However, Dom Juan boasts, as does La Fontaine’s frog. No frog can be as large as an ox. It therefore bursts as do the bombastic characters of the commedia dell’arte and those of Greek and Latin comedy. The alazṓn of ancient Greece could be a senex iratus, an angry old man, or a miles gloriosus, a boastful character. Dom Juan is a miles gloriosus, un fanfaron.

Molière also depicted his century in a natural fashion, using correct but ordinary French. French is called “la langue de Molière.” As well, Alceste (The Misanthrope) is an atrabilaire amoureux. There were four temperaments or humeurs. When discussing medicine and Molière, I mentioned the four temperaments or humeurs. Philinte is flegmatique. As for Dom Juan, who is “jeune encore” (still young)I believe he would be a sanguine temperament. These words are still used. I was told about the four “temperaments” as a child.

four-temperaments-2

The Four Temperaments (Psychologia.co)

Moreover, these characters, including our boastful frog, are archetypes. The miles gloriosus is an archetype. We associate archetypes with Jungian psychology, but the stock characters of the commedia dell’arte are also archetypes, as is Æsop/La Fontaine’s boastful frog. Literature has its genres, archetypes, themes, motifs, cycles, etc.

However, until André Villiers, Molière was seldom looked upon as a philosopher, or philosophe (thinker). The philosophes of the French Enlightenment discussed individual rights versus collective rights and other subjects. This discourse, freedom mostly,  begins in ancient Greece, if not earlier. Montaigne takes it up. It crosses the seventeenth century in France and elsewhere. It includes le libertinage érudit (Dom Juan). It finds an apex in John Locke (see the Age of Enlightenment), and is finely articulated in the writings of the philosophes of the French Enlightenment, such as Montesquieu and Voltaire, who met in the SalonsRousseau‘s Le Contrat social was published in 1762. Freedom demands that certain freedoms be denied and some restored or instituted.

weisbuch-gravure-donjuan-38x28cm-12

  Dom Juan XII par Claude Weisbuch, circa 1990 (Galerie 125)

Conclusion

It is unlikely that in “Elfland”[1] a husband can abandon his wife. There may not be husbands and wives in Elfland. A small, but boastful frog is not a Dom Juan defying God, the devil according to some critics.[2] However, fables are anthropomorphic. So, boastful frogs are used to depict boastful human beings. Both our frog and Dom Juan pit themselves against the impossible, including Heaven … and burst. Bursting is a motif.

Our next play is Les Fourberies de Scapin (Scapin the Schemer). Scapin is the most ingenuous zanni before Figaro.

____________________
[1] G. K. Chesterton, “The Ethics of Elfland,” Orthodoxy (New York: Dood, Mead and Company, 1943 [1908]), pp. 81-118.
[2] Claude Reichler, La Diabolie: la séduction, la renardie, l’écriture (Paris : Éditions de Minuit, 1979), p. 17.

P. S. Please see David Nicholson’s comment, below. The remains, or what are believed to be the remains, of La Fontaine and Molière are side by side in the Père Lachaise cemetery

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Hank KnoxRameau, La Poule
Le Musée du Château Dufresne, Montréal, QC

© Micheline Walker
23 August 2019
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André Villiers’ Meditation on Molière’s “Dom Juan”

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Pierrot, Charlotte, Dom Juan et Mathurine (Google)

langue20_donjuan_maxi (2)

Don Juan, Zerlina et Donna Elvira par Alexandre-Évariste Fragonard (Google)

My posts on Molière’s Dom Juan overlap. I must apologize. Space is needed when reading Molière’s Dom Juan. There are several layers of meaning. Moreover, Molière’s version of the Don Juan myth differs substantially from other versions.

For instance, we do not see Dom Juan seducing women time and again and marrying them. We see a Dom Juan who has abandoned a loving wife, Elvira. The deal Dom Carlos and Dom Alonse, Elvire’s brothers, propose cannot be faulted.  Dom Juan has saved Dom Carlos and met Don Alonse. Both have assessed the problem and are ready to devise a way of restoring their sister’s honour. Dom Juan must return home to his wife. Society has its rules.

Freedom is not a free-for-all, or unlimited. One’s freedom stops where the freedom of others begins. This is the principle that allows human beings to live together in an orderly fashion, or safely. A driver stops at the red light. If he or she doesn’t, the consequences could be devastating. Similarly, love has its rules. André Villiers writes that:

“Love serves in effect as a chopping board for questions regarding the excellence of nature and the freedom of man. Many other developments are possible, but the relations between man and woman, which aliments [feeds] the most incendiary literature, pose in themselves the whole problem of individual freedom and social pressures. The behavior of a man in love points to his inclination and the value he places on it, to the limits he assigns to it and those imposed on him. This is the most pressing of concerns, the one that in the absolute is translated by defeat, and in practice, by all the compromises of everyday morality and the liberties taken in marriage.”[1]

The obligations, stopping at the red light, society has created are not based on religious beliefs.

“The limits imposed on the free exercise of our natural rights are not prejudices or religious beliefs, but the duties ‘necessary for human survival,’ as Locke was to say later on—the rights of Society. There is no other rule of virtue. However, this moral principle is equally valid for the inspiration of a love of humanity.”[2]

In the 17th century, France had yet to enter its “age of enlightenment,” but as peasants became bourgeois, buying offices, they had to devise rules that would allow them to live in freedom, protected, however paradoxical this may seem.

Molière was not harsh on his characters, but he knew there were societal covenants.

“Molière clearly saw the reciprocal relationship between spiritual problems on one side, and social and moral problems on the other. The pretext of a fable [the Dom Juan myth] allowed him to seize the subject in its most vital spot [marriage].”[3]

At no point does Molière admonish his libertin, the womanizer, except through Sganarelle’s words that are nonsense, but true. Womanizing is not freedom, but libertinage érudit was a fruitful meditation on the co-existence of the individual and society, societies that would be increasingly diverse.

Molière was conscious of his obligations. He had to house and feed his comedians and their families. La Grange (who played Dom Juan) kept a registre: earnings, expenses, the fabric and making of costumes, renovations to theaters and the daily life of Molière’s comedians. La Grange entered the troupe in 1659 and, after Molière’s death, he worked on publishing the complete works. That registre kiis a gift to posterity. Molière’s troupe was a “just society.” Molière’s health worried him considerably. There were people who counted on his writing comedies. They made a living as comedians. Having La Grange on board was a blessing.

“Dom Juan is not a dispensation from rules of conduct, nor is it a course in practical morality; but the wealth of ideas that its five acts suggest is considerable. It is a play that offers us ample material for meditation that is not limited to the problem of a particular period, and that leaves us marveling over so unique a work.[4]

I read, but do not own a copy of VilliersLe Dom Juan de Molière, un problème de mise en scène (a problem of staging), 1947. I was in Vancouver, Paris, and Toronto. So, I borrowed books or read them in a library, which is what students do. It is still available. Great!

Beth Adler translated the above, and Jacques Guicharnaud included Villiers’ comments in his Collection of Critical Essays. The chapter madame Adler translated is entitled: L’Essence profonde du drame. In Guicharnaud’s book, the title of this chapter is “Molière Revisited” (pp. 79 – 89).

My favourite words in Villiers’ excerpt are Molière “made a metaphysical shudder go across the stage.” Two and two make four, but there is an unquantifiable dimension to the life of human beings. Sganarelle tells Gusman that he can’t understand why Dom Juan does not believe in the loup-garou (the werewolf) (Act One, Scene One). Molière is incredibly funny, even in farcical tragi-comédies.

In short, Molière’s Dom Juan is about an atheist who abandoned his wife, Done Elvire, was given every opportunity to mend his ways, but seized none. The beggar (le pauvre) is acceptably uncompromising, but Dom Juan isn’t. His behaviour is a transgression of social norms and stems from hubris. The death of the Commandeur may be looked upon as Dom Juan’s original sin. Therefore, when he refuses to return to Done Elvire, the Statue takes his hand and throws him in a fiery abyss. Those who boast… burst.

I could not include André Villiers’ comments in Part Three. Villiers’ chapter is a cogent meditation on Dom Juan.

Don Juan2

Dom Juan par François Boucher (dessin) (wikipedia)

You may have noticed that I now make more mistakes than before. Sometimes, I misspell words, and must correct posts after they are published. My posts overlap and I repeat myself. Life inflicted damages. But writing posts on Molière forces me to reread each play very carefully.

I am very grateful to all who read my posts despite delays and some editing.

RELATED ARTICLES

Sources and Resources

____________________

[1] André Villiers in Jacques Guicharnaud, Molière, a Collection of Critical Essays (Prentice-Hall, New Jersey, 1964), p. 87.
[2] Guicharnaud, Loc. cit.
[3] Guicharnaud, Op. cit., pp. 86-87.
[4] Guicharnaud, Op. cit., p. 89.

Don Giovanni – Festival di Spoleto – “Don Giovanni a cenar teco…”

The Shipwreck of Don Juan by Eugène Delacroix

The Shipwreck of Don Juan by Eugène Delacroix, 1840 (wikiart.org)

© Micheline Walker
19 August 2019
WordPress

Reading “Dom Juan” (Part Three)

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File:Alexandre-Évariste Fragonard - Don Juan and the Statute of the Commander - WGA8046.jpg

Dom Juan et la statue du Commandeur par Alexandre-Évariste Fragonard (théâtre-documentation.com)

Our dramatis personæ is:

DON JUAN, son of Don Louis
SGANARELLE, valet of Don Juan
DONNA ELVIRA, wife of Don Juan
GUSMAN, horseman (écuyer) to Elvira
DON CARLOS, brother of Elvira
DON ALONSE, brother of Elvira
CHARLOTTE, peasant-girl
MATHURINE, peasant-girl
PIERROT, peasant
THE STATUE OF THE COMMANDER
LA VIOLETTE, a lackey of Don Juan
RAGOTIN, a lackey of Don Juan
M. DIMANCHE, merchant
LA RAMÉE, swordsman (spadassin)
ENTOURAGE OF DON JUAN
ENTOURAGE OF DON CARLOS AND DON ALONSE
A GHOST

Set in Sicily

We left Dom Juan wishing his father were dead, which so shocked Sganarelle that he spoke “nonsense,” yet told the truth. He could not speak directly because Dom Juan did not want to hear about “le Ciel,” Heaven. Sganarelle wrapped the truth into a lie. His speech is eloquence (IV. v, p. 56).

ACT THREE

  • The beggar
  • Two and two makes four
  • Dom Juan to the rescue
  • The Mausoleum
  • Liberty in love

The Beggar

Earlier (III. ii), Dom Juan had given a beggar a Louis d’or, asking him to swear.  The Poor Man didn’t swear; he would rather starve. So, Dom Juan left him the Louis d’or “pour l’amour de l’humanité” (for the love of mankind).

Two and two makes four

In my last post, I wrote that Dom Juan’s belief is:

Je crois que deux et deux sont quatre, Sganarelle, et que quatre et quatre sont huit.
Dom Juan à Sganarelle (III. i, p. 36)
[I believe that two and two makes four, Sganarelle, and that four and four makes eight.]
Dom Juan to Sganarelle (III. 1, p. 31)

Dom Juan to the rescue

In the following scene (III. iv), Dom Juan saves Dom Carlos from attackers, not knowing he is Elvire’s brother:

La partie est trop inégale, et je ne dois pas souffrir cette lâcheté
Dom Juan à Sganarelle (III. ii, p. 39)
[One man attacked by three? The match is too lopsided, and I cannot allow such baseness.]
Dom Juan to Sganarelle (III. 2, p. 34)

Dom Juan saves Dom Carlos’ life, incurring a debt. However, when his brother, Dom Alonse, joigns him, Dom Carlos learns that he was saved by the family’s “mortal enemy.”

Ô Ciel, que vois-je ici? Quoi, mon frère, vous voilà avec notre ennemi mortel?
Dom Alonse (III. iii, p. 42)
O, Heavens! What am I seeing? What? My brother, you are here with our mortal enemy?
Dom Alonse (III. 3, p. 36)

For the two brothers, having Dom Juan at arm’s length is a perfect opportunity to avenge their offended sister. But Dom Carlos postpones the moment they will avenge Done Elvire, Dom Juan’s abandoned wife. Dom Juan likes Dom Carlos who is indebted to Dom Juan.

Il est assez honnête homme, il en a bien usé, et j’ai regret d’avoir démêlé avec lui.
Dom Juan à Sganarelle (III. v, p. 45)
[He seems quite honorable, he used me well, and I am sorry now to be mixed up in this affair with him.]
Dom Juan to Sganarelle (III. 5, p. 39)

Il vous serait aisé de pacifier toutes choses.
Sganarelle à Dom Juan (III. v, p. 45)
[Sir, it would be easy enough for you to make peace.]
Sganarelle to Dom Juan (III. 5, p. 39)

Although he has killed the Commandeur and abandoned his wife, Done Elvire, Dom Juan’s life could be spared, Molière has situated the duel before the curtain rises. So, the death of the Commandeur remains a serious issue, but… Sganarelle is “all-too-human” valet.[1] He fears. But Dom Juan, his master, is a Grand Seigneur.

Et n’y craignez-vous rien, Monsieur, de la mort de ce commandeur que vous tuâtes il y a six mois?
Sganarelle à Dom Juan (I. ii, p. 9)
But do you fear nothing, Sir, from the death of the commander that you killed here six months ago?
Sganarelle to Don Juan (I. 2, p. 7)

J’ai eu ma grâce de cette affaire.
Dom Juan à Sganarelle (I. ii, p. 9)
[I had my right in this affair.]
Dom Juan to Sganarelle (I. 2, p. 8)
Oui, mais cette grâce n’éteint pas peut-être le ressentiment des parents et des amis, et…
Dom Juan à Sganarelle (I. ii, p. 9)
[Yes, but your right did not perhaps vanquish the resentment of his family and friends, and…]
Dom Juan à Sganarelle (I. 2, p. 8)

The courts may have cleared Dom Juan of wrongdoing, but the Commandeur had a family. When one thinks that “two and two makes four,” one excludes elements that cannot be quantified. Don Juan believes he was cleared, so he washes his hand. Fatal error!

Liberty in love

Our pèlerins are then visited by Done Elvire who wishes Dom Juan could lie to her, and return to her. Would that urgent business had taken him. One could say that she pardons lies, but that is questionable. She has been abandoned and a loving wife just might roll back reality not to have been abandoned. But Dom Juan loves “liberty in love:”

Oui, mais ma passion est usée pour Done Elvire, et l’engagement ne compatit point avec mon humeur. J’aime la liberté en amour, tu le sais, et je ne saurais me résoudre à renfermer mon cœur entre quatre murailles. Je te l’ai dit vingt fois, j’ai une pente naturelle à me laisser aller à tout ce qui m’attire. Mon cœur est à toutes les belles, et c’est à elles à le prendre tour à tour, et à le garder tant qu’elles le pourront.
Dom Juan à Sganarelle (III. v, p. 45)
[Yes; but my passion for Elvira is spent, and such jessies do not suit my humor. I love liberty in love, as you know, and I could not resign myself to enclosing my heart between four walls. I have told you twenty times, I have a natural inclination to let myself veer towards everything that attracts me. My heart belongs to all the beauties, and it is up to each of them in turn to assume it and to keep it as long as they can.]
Dom Juan to Sganarelle (III. 5, p. 39)

The Mausoleum

In Act Three Scene Four  Dom Juan and Sganarelle inadvertently enter the Commender’s burial ground. Sganarelle tries to pull Dom Juan away:

Monsieur, n’allez point là.
Sganarelle à Dom Juan (III. iv, p. 46)
[Sir, you shouldn’t go there.]
Sganarelle to Dom Juan (III. 4, p. 40)

Cela n’est pas civil, d’aller voir un homme que vous avez tué.
Sganarelle à Dom Juan (III. v, p. 46)
It would not be civil to go see a man that you’ve killed.
Sganarelle à Dom Juan (III. 4, p. 40)

But Dom Juan thinks it a civilité to approach the Commender’s coffin. In fact, the coffin opens and reveals a beautiful mausoleum and the Statue of the Commender. Sganarelle marvels effusively as Dom Juan assesses matters:

Ah, que cela est beau! les belles statues! le beau marbre! les beaux piliers! Ah, que cela est beau, qu’en dites-vous, Monsieur?
Sganarelle à Dom Juan (III. iv, p. 46)
[Ah! So beautiful! Beautiful statues! Beautiful marble! Beautiful pillars! Ah, it’s so beautiful! What do you say about it, Sir?]
Sganarelle to Dom Juan (III. 4, p. 40)

Qu’on ne peut voir aller plus loin l’ambition d’un homme mort, et ce que je trouve admirable, c’est qu’un homme qui s’est passé durant sa vie d’une assez simple demeure, en veuille avoir une si magnifique pour quand il n’en a plus que faire.
Dom Juan à Sganarelle (III. v, p. 46)
[That one cannot see the ambition of a dead man go any farther than this: and what I find most amazing is that a man who occupied, during his life, a simple enough abode, would want such a magnificent one for when he has nothing left to do.]
Dom Juan à Sganarelle (III. 5, p. 40)

At this point the statue comes alive. It bends its head and Dom Juan quite boldly asks Sganarelle to invite the Statue to supper.

Il aurait tort, et ce serait mal recevoir l’honneur que je lui fais. Demande-lui s’il veut venir souper avec moi.
Dom Juan à Sganarelle (III. v, p. 46)
[And he would be wrong; and it would be to receive but poorly the honor that I do him. Ask him if he would like to dine with me.]
Dom Juan to Sganarelle (III. 5, p. 40)

 

Costume de Don Juan

Don Juan. Costume de M. Geffroy (d’après Devéria) (théâtre-documentation.com)

ACT FOUR:  Civilités

  • Monsieur Dimanche
  • Dom Louis
  • Done Elvire

Monsieur Dimanche

Dom Juan uses civility (faisant de grandes civilités) to send away monsieur Dimanche (Sunday), his creditor. Form as substance …

Dom Louis

In Scene Four, Dom Juan listens to his father who would like his son to convert. Dom Juan is a womanizer who has left his wife.

Dom Juan does not respond. Instead, he invites his father to sit down so he would be more comfortable. Dom Louis leaves and as we know, as soon as he is out of hearing, Dom Louis wishes him dead.

Dom Juan has asked his valet never to remonstrate if “le Ciel” is a factor. But Sganarelle wraps the truth into a lie. He speaks obliquely.

Done Elvire

Dom Juan is then visited by a changed Done Elvire. She is veiled and preparing to go to a retraite, perhaps a convent, and wishes to pull out Dom Juan from a precipice. He must repent. But she goes on to say how much she has loved him:

Je vous ai aimé avec une tendresse extrême, rien au monde ne m’a été si cher que vous, j’ai oublié mon devoir pour vous, j’ai fait toutes choses pour vous, et toute la récompense que je vous en demande, c’est de corriger votre vie, et de prévenir votre perte. Sauvez-vous, je vous prie, ou pour l’amour de vous, ou pour l’amour de moi.
Done Elvire à Dom Juan (IV. vi, p. 58)
[I loved you, Don Juan, with extreme tenderness, and nothing in the world was dearer to me than you. For you, I abandoned my duty, for you, I did everything; and all the recompense that I ask of you, is to correct your life, and avert your eternal loss. Save yourself, I beg you, either from love of yourself, or for love of me.]
Done Elvire to Dom Juan (IV. 6, p. 51)

As Elvira speaks, Sganarelle cries:

Tu pleures, je pense.
Dom Juan (IV. vi, p. 70)
You’re crying, I believe.
Dom Juan (IV. 6, p. 51)

We can also hear Sganarelle say “pauvre femme” and “cœur de tigre” (heart of a tiger). Unbelievably, Dom Juan is charmed. He invites Elvire to spend the night in his home. She refuses. One suspects that Elvire has said more than she wanted.

Sais-tu bien que j’ai encore senti quelque peu d’émotion pour elle, que j’ai trouvé de l’agrément dans cette nouveauté bizarre, et que son habit négligé, son air languissant et ses larmes ont réveillé en moi quelques petits restes d’un feu éteint? 
Dom Juan à Sganarelle (IV. vii, p. 59)
[You know I think I felt a little glimmer of emotion for her, and even found something rather pleasurable in this new extravagance. Her careless clothes, languishing air and tears seemed to reawaken in me a few embers of a doused fire.]
Dom Juan to Sganarelle (IV. 7, p. 52)

The Statue has come for supper and invites Dom Juan to join “it” for supper the following day. Dom Juan accepts the Statue’s invitation saying that he will be accompanied by Sganarelle.

ACT FIVE

James Doolittle writes that “for Dom Juan the excellence of humanity consists in a man’s realization of his manhood by functioning fully as a man, not as an angel, not as a beast, not in passive potentiality, but in active fact. He must have the aspiration, the will, the knowledge, and the courage actively to prove himself superior to the rest of nature, as well as to whatever conventional opposition he may encounter which it does. This is what the Poor Man [the beggar] does, and Dom Juan wishes to function in like manner.”[2]

Let us keep the above in mind and continue reading.

At the very beginning of Act Five, Dom Juan makes his father believe that he has converted. Dom Louis can’t wait to tell his wife. Sganarelle wonders why Dom Juan does not yield the statue? It moves and speaks:

Vous ne vous rendez pas à la surprenante merveille de cette statue mouvante et parlante?

Dom Juan is perplexed:

Il y a bien quelque chose là-dedans que je ne comprends pas, mais quoi que ce puisse être, cela n’est pas capable, ni de convaincre mon esprit, ni d’ébranler mon âme, et si j’ai dit que je voulais corriger ma conduite, et me jeter dans un train de vie exemplaire, c’est un dessein que j’ai formé par pure politique, un stratagème utile, une grimace nécessaire, où je veux me contraindre pour ménager un père dont j’ai besoin, et me mettre à couvert du côté des hommes de cent fâcheuses aventures qui pourraient m’arriver. Je veux bien, Sganarelle, t’en faire confidence, et je suis bien aise d’avoir un témoin du fond de mon âme et des véritables motifs qui m’obligent à faire les choses.
Dom Juan à Sganarelle (V. ii, pp. 63-64)
[I admit there was something in it that I don’t understand; but it was still not powerful enough to either convince my mind or shake my soul; and if you heard me say that I would amend my conduct and embark on an exemplary life, it was a design formed out of pure policy, a useful stratagem, a necessary grimace that I adopted in order to manage a father of whom I have need, and to protect myself, in the eyes of men, from a hundred irritating adventures which might arise. But I am really glad, which might arise. But I am really glad, Sganarelle, that I can confide in you, and I am happy that my soul has a witness to the real motives which oblige me to do the things I do.]
Dom Juan to Sganarelle (V. 2, pp. 56-57)

The fact that the statue moved is something Dom Juan cannot understand. His response is to become a hypocrite so he will be protected. He is so pleased Sganarelle can understand. But Sganarelle cannot understand. Don Juan does not believe in God, yet would feign devotion:

Quoi? vous ne croyez rien du tout, et vous voulez cependant vous ériger en homme de bien?
Sganarelle à Dom (V. ii. p. 64)
[What? Though you don’t believe in anything at all, you would take the pose of a pious man?]
Sganarelle to Dom Juan (V. 2, p. 57)

Sganarelle is furious and will now remonstrate, without wrapping the truth into a lie:

Ô Ciel! qu’entends-je ici? Il ne vous manquait plus que d’être hypocrite pour vous achever de tout point, et voilà le comble des abominations. Monsieur, cette dernière-ci m’emporte, et je ne puis m’empêcher de parler. Faites-moi tout ce qu’il vous plaira, battez-moi, assommez-moi de coups, tuez-moi, si vous voulez, il faut que je décharge mon cœur, et qu’en valet fidèle je vous dise ce que je dois. Sachez, Monsieur, que tant va la cruche à l’eau, qu’enfin elle se brise; …
Sganarelle (V. ii, p. 65)
[Heavens! Am I hearing this? All you lacked before to perfect your arsenal was this hypocrisy! And presto! Here it is: the acme of abominations. Sir, this latest manner is just insufferable and I can no longer bite my tongue. Do to me what you will, beat me, knock me senseless, kill me, if you wish: but I must air out my heart, and as a faithful valet I must tell you what I should. Know, Sir, that the more times a jug goes to the well, at last it will break; …]
Sganarelle (V. 2, p. 58)

Dom Carlos and Dom Alonse return. They are ready to overlook Dom Juan’s escapade, but cannot let their sister become a recluse. Dom Juan must return to his wife. Our seducer switches to false piety to get rid of them. The society of the play has been fooled! Has it? No, the society of the play has doubled itself. The statue, the infinite, takes Dom Juan by the hand and throws him into a fiery abyss. He does not resist. He knew. He always knew …

Except for giving the beggar a Louis d’or and saving Dom Carlos, what has Dom Juan done that would allow him to claim superiority. Why should the statue, the infinite, be honoured to have supper with him?

A hero, he isn’t. We are told that he has “seduced” several women and forced fathers to fight duels they could not win, Dom Juan being much younger, stronger, and the superior swordsman.

He falls in love with Charlotte and promises marriage, only to turn his attention to what may be a lovelier face: Mathurine.

Jean Rousset has called him “un homme de vent,” a man of wind.[3] He will go the way the wind blows.

But Dom Juan, who so wishes to break barriers, is not belittled by Molière. What a fine opportunity to use machines.

Dom Juan is a five-act play, as in “grandes comédies,” but the plot formula used by Molière is that of the farce: trompeur trompé, the deceiver deceived.

Don Juan2

Dom Juan par François Boucher (théâtre-documentation.com)

RELATED ARTICLES

Sources and Resources

____________________
[1] W. G. Moore, Molière: a New Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956 [1949]), p. 96.
[2] James Doolittle, The Humanity of Molière’s Dom Juan in Jacques Guicharnaud, Molière, A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, N.J. : Prentice-Hall, 1964), p. 101.
[3] Jean Rousset, L’Intérieur et l’extérieur : Essais sur la poésie et sur le théâtre au XVIIsiècle (Paris : Librairie José Corti, 1968), p. 138.

 

Love to everyone 💕
I apologize for the delay.

Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Là ci darem la mano

Rodney Gilfry – Don Giovanni
Liliana Nikiteanu – Zerlina

800px-Don_Juan_and_the_statue_of_the_Commander_mg_0119

Alexandre-Évariste Fragonard (commons.wikimedia.org)

© Micheline Walker
16 August 2019
WordPress

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading “Dom Juan” (Part Two)

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Sganarelle par Dugazon (théâtre-documentions.com) (BnF)

Our dramatis personæ is:

DON JUAN, son of Don Louis
SGANARELLE, valet of Don Juan
DONNA ELVIRA, wife of Don Juan
GUSMAN, horseman (écuyer) to Elvira
DON CARLOS, brother of Elvira
DON ALONSE, brother of Elvira
CHARLOTTE, peasant-girl
MATHURINE, peasant-girl
PIERROT, peasant
THE STATUE OF THE COMMANDER
LA VIOLETTE, a lackey of Don Juan
RAGOTIN, a lackey of Don Juan
M. DIMANCHE, merchant
LA RAMÉE, swordsman (spadassin)
ENTOURAGE OF DON JUAN
ENTOURAGE OF DON CARLOS AND DON ALONSE
A GHOST

Set in Sicily

Dom Juan and Sganarelle

At the end of my first reading of Molière‘s Dom Juan (Part One), I quoted Sganarelle, Dom Juan’s valet, a role played by Molière. La Grange played the role of Dom Juan.

When Sganarelle hears Dom Juan say that he wishes his father, Dom Louis, were dead, he is indignant, but Dom Juan does not allow him to speak about “le Ciel,” heaven. Sganarelle’s living depends on Dom Juan. So, when Dom Juan dies, he thinks of his wages: Mes gages ! mes gages ! mes gages ! (My pay! My pay! My pay! ) (Sganarelle I. vi; I. 6). However, although Dom Juan will not accept remonstrances, Sganarelle manages to wrap the truth inside a lie. Such a response demonstrates ingenuity.

Will Moore writes that Dom Juan is “master” and Sganarelle, “man,” and that exchanges between master and man are: 

… a dialogue on humanity. The master is inhuman in his scorn of others. The man is all too human. [1]

Man says:

Oui, Monsieur, vous avez tort d’avoir souffert ce qu’il vous a dit, et vous le deviez mettre dehors par les épaules. A-t-on jamais rien vu de plus impertinent? Un père venir faire des remontrances à son fils, et lui dire de corriger ses actions, de se ressouvenir de sa naissance, de mener une vie d’honnête homme, et cent autres sottises de pareille nature. Cela se peut-il souffrir à un homme comme vous, qui savez comme il faut vivre? J’admire votre patience, et si j’avais été en votre place, je l’aurais envoyé promener. Ô complaisance maudite,à quoi me réduis-tu ?
Sganarelle à Dom Juan (IV. v,  pp. 56- 57)
[Yes, Sir, you are wrong to have suffered what he said to you and you should have thrown him out on his ear. Has anyone ever seen such impertinence? For a father to come and reproach his son, to tell him to correct his actions, to remember his birth, to lead the life of an honorable man, and a hundred others stupidities of a like nature! That it should be borne by a man like you, who knows how one must live! I marvel at your patience; and f I had been in your place, I would have sent him packing. O evil complicity! To what have you reduced me?]
Sganarelle to Dom Juan (IV. 5, p. 50)

We meet Sganarelle in Act One, Scene One. Dom Juan is out of hearing, so Sganarelle  tells Guzman that his master is forever marrying. He also points to the dichotomy in Dom Juan himself. Dom Juan un grand seigneur, méchant homme.Act One, Scene One also allows Molière to tell about Dom Juan’s numerous marriages.

Molière’s plots are as simple as possible. When the curtain rises, Dom Juan has abandoned Done Elvire, whom he took away from a convent and we are told that six months earlier he killed the Commandeur. Molière’s Dom Juan does not contain a seduction scene nor a duel, which is consistent with bienséances (étiquette), a rule in seventeenth-century theater.

However, the play ends with the death of Dom Juan. The statue of the Commandeur  comes alive at the end of Act Three. The Commandeur, is the stone guest. Dom Juan invites him to dinner the following day and, to Sganarelle’s horror, the statue comes to dinner and invites Dom Juan to dine with him the following day, which is when the Commandeur takes his hand and throws him into a fiery abyss. In Act One, Scene Two, Sganarelle asks Dom Juan whether he fears revenge on the part of the Commandeur. Dom Juan doesn’t, but Sganarelle believes friends and relatives might be angry. In Act One, Scene Three, Done Elvire visits Dom Juan. Dom Juan will not go home to his wife. She will therefore focus on revenge. 

For the most part, I will skip Act Two (summary), the scene where Dom Juan nearly drowns, but is saved by Pierrot and falls in love with two peasant-girls: Charlotte and Mathurine, promising each one that he will marry her. Pierrot loves Charlotte. This scene contains a comedic element. Dom Juan runs from girl to girl whispering to each that she’s the one. At the end of Act Two, La Ramée warns that twelve horsemen are looking for Dom Juan.

Don Juan par Ed. Héd. (1)

Pierrot, Charlotte, Dom Juan et Mathurine par Edmond Hédouin (théâtre-documentions.com) BnF

Master and Man

However, I would like to contrast “master” and “man,” or master’s religion and man’s religion.

In Act Three, Scene One, Dom Juan says:

Je crois que deux et deux sont quatre, Sganarelle, et que quatre et quatre sont huit.
Dom Juan à Sganarelle (III. i, p. 36)
[I believe that two and two makes four, Sganarelle, and that four and four makes eight.]
Dom Juan to Sganarelle (III. 1, p. 31)

Dom Juan is an atheist, but Sganarelle believes in God and marvels at what the human body can do:

Mon raisonnement est qu’il y a quelque chose d’admirable dans l’homme, quoi que vous puissiez dire, que tous les savants ne sauraient expliquer. Cela n’est-il pas merveilleux que me voilà ici, et que j’aie quelque chose dans la tête qui pense cent choses différentes en un moment, et fait de mon corps tout ce qu’elle veut? Je veux frapper des mains, hausser le bras, lever les yeux au ciel, baisser la tête, remuer les pieds, aller à droit, à gauche, en avant, en arrière, tourner…
Il se laisse tomber en tournant.
Sganarelle à Dom Juan (III. i, pp. 36-37)
[Well, my argument is that there is something admirable in man, no matter what you might say, which all the learned men cannot explain. Is it not a marvel that I am here, and that I have something in my head which makes me think a hundred different things at once, and that can make my body do what it would? That I can clap my hands, raise my arms, lift my eyes to Heaven, lower my head, move my feet, go to the right, go to the left, forwards, backwards, turn …
He falls while turning.
Sganarelle to Dom Juan (III. 1, p. 32)

Pascal wrote that there were two entries to the soul: the mathematical and the intuitive mind [EBook # 18269]). L’esprit de finesse does not exclude l’esprit de géométrie (mathematical). On the contrary. Sganarelle is uneducated, but it turns out that he is right and that Dom Juan is wrong. Molière is true to the legend in which a statue, the Stone Guest, kills Dom Juan. Valets are not necessarily inferior to their master. Even the humble can sense what they cannot formulate. Sganarelle runs out of words and wishes Dom Juan had stopped him.

Oh dame, interrompez-moi donc si vous voulez, je ne saurais disputer si l’on ne m’interrompt, vous vous taisez exprès, et me laissez parler par belle malice.
Sganarelle à Dom Juan (III. i, p. 36)
[Oh! Damn, interrupt me, if you please: I cannot argue with you if you don’t interrupt me: and you’re being silent as a stump out of deliberate malice.]
Sganarelle to Dom Juan (III, 1, p. 32)

In Act Three, Scene Two, Dom Juan and Sganarelle meet a beggar. The beggar gives them directions, but he is poor and needs money. Dom Juan asks him to swear. The poor man refuses the money, but Dom Juan leaves a Louis d’or behind pour l’amour de l’humanité, for the love of humanity. (III. ii. p. 32)

In Act Three, Scene Three, Dom Juan saves Dom Carlos, Done Elvire’s sister, whom he doesn’t know. In Scene Four, Done Elvire’s other brother, Dom Alonse, enters and recognizes Dom Juan. Dom Carlos succeeds in delaying the revenge. In Act One, Guzman was surprised that a man of Dom Juan’s rank would leave a wife he married despite l’obstacle sacré of a convent.

These two scenes soften Molière portrayal of Dom Juan, but in Scene Five, as our pélerins continue walking in the direction of the city, they inadvertently reach the commandeur‘s monument. Dom Juan asked Sganarelle to invite the commandeur for supper the next day. Dom Juan remains defiant. In fact, this seems bravura, but it could also be mindlessness, insouciance, or perhaps a sense that one cannot escape one’s fate. Why else would Dom Juan silence Sganarelle? He may well feel guilty, but the consequences are unavoidable, by Dom Juan’s own mathematical standards: “two and two makes four.”

Which takes us to an essay by James Doolittle on the “humanity” of Molière’s Dom Juan and a reference to Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

We close here. There will be a third and final part.

RELATED ARTICLES

Sources and Resources

Molière plays featuring Sganarelle are:

Le Médecin volant (The Flying Doctor) (1659)
Sganarelle, ou le Cocu imaginaire (The Imaginary Cuckold) (1660)
L’École des maris (The School for Husbands) (1661)
Le Mariage forcé (1664)
Dom Juan (1665)

____________________
[1] W. G. Moore, Molière, a New Criticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956 [1949]), p. 96.

Love to everyone 💕

A. VIVALDI: «Filiae maestae Jerusalem» RV 638
[II.Sileant Zephyri],
Ph.Jaroussky/Ensemble Artaserse

© Micheline Walker
11 August 2019
WordPress

A Delay

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Dugazon dans Sgnanarelle du Festin de pierre

Sganarelle par Dugazon (théâtre-documention.com)

Above is an image of Sganarelle praising tobacco. Molière‘s Dom Juan is an obscure play. As the curtain lifts, Sganarelle,  Dom Juan’s valet, is praising tobacco. A critic called this praise of tobacco an encomium, but a paradoxical encomium. I believe I found this information in a book or article by Patrick Dandrey.

I read several books on Molière before entering a sabbatical I would devote to writing my book on Molière. It didn’t happen. The Chair of my department called me in and asked me to prepare two new courses in areas I was not familiar with. I could not say no because I feared him.

When I returned to work, I realized that during my absence, no one upgraded the language lab component. It took me two months to upgrade it. So, my workload triggered a serious episode of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. I was vulnerable and accepted to move to Sherbrooke. That was a mistake. One should not make serious decisions when one is unwell.

However, here I am preparing my final will. My mind took me back to what had been my home: Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

My University eliminated me, using a ruse, because of an illness I could manage, given normal circumstances. I can work on a full-time basis, if assigned a normal load of courses. What my university did to me was very wrong.

Beware of wills.

So, we are returning to Dom Juan and specifically to the relationship between Dom Juan, the character, played by La Grange, and Sganarelle, Molière’s role.

Love to everyone 💕

Michel Lambert
“Ma bergère est tendre et fidelle,” air sérieux
Stephan van Dyck
Musica Favola Ensemble

© Micheline Walker
10 August 2019
WordPress

 

Reading “Dom Juan” (Part One)

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Max_Slevogt_-_Der_Sänger_Francisco_d'Andrade_als_Don_Giovanni_in_Mozarts_Oper_-_Google_Art_Project (2)

Portrait of Francisco D’Andrade in the title role of Don Giovanni by Max Slevogt, 1912 (Wiki2.org)

Our dramatis personæ is

DON JUAN, son of Don Louis (Don Juan Tenorio)
SGANARELLE, valet of Don Juan
DONNA ELVIRA, wife of Don Juan
GUSMAN, horseman to Elvira
DON CARLOS, brother of Elvira
DON ALONSE, brother of Elvira
DON LOUIS, father of Don Juan
BEGGAR
CHARLOTTE, peasant-girl
MATHURINE, peasant-girl
PIERROT, peasant (in love with Charlotte
THE STATUE OF THE COMMANDER
LA VIOLETTE, a lackey (un laquais) of Don Juan
RAGOTIN, a lackey of Don Juan
M. DIMANCHE, merchant
LA RAMÉE, swordsman (un spadassin)
ENTOURAGE OF DON JUAN
ENTOURAGE OF DON CARLOS AND DON ALONSE
A GHOST (un spectre)

Dom Juan

(Bold characters are mine.)

  • Introduction
  • Dom Juan condemned
  • Sources

Introduction

I keep finding versions of Tirso de Molina’s The Trickster of Seville or the Stone Guest, the first Don Juan. However, this post is about Molière’s Dom Juan, a play in five acts and in prose, first performed on 15 February 1665 at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal. It was written rapidly and premiered less than a year after Molière’s Tartuffe (May 1664). Tartuffe, was first performed during Les Plaisirs de l’Isle enchantée, but it was condemned by the parti /cabale des dévots, not the once powerful Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement. la Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement had ceased to be active, faux dévots remained. In fact, secret societies were abolished in 1660. 

Dom Juan withdrawn from the stage

Dom Juan ou le Festin de Pierre  was very successful, financially and otherwise, which did not prevent Louis from asking Molière to withdraw his play after 15 performances. Louis XIV may have been advised to ask Molière to withdraw Dom Juan by the archbishop of Paris (24 March  1664 – 1 January 1671) and his Louis XIV’s former tutor, Hardouin de Péréfixe de Beaumont (1606-1671). Hardouin de Péréfixe was a friend of Louis XIV and, to my knowledge, he was not an enemy of Molière.

Sources

Molière‘s Dom Juan is based on the legend of Don Juan, as told by Spanish baroque dramatist Tirso de Molina, the author of  El Burlador de Sevilla y convidado de Piedra (The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest). The Stone Guest is a statue of a Commandeur whom Don Juan killed when he attempted to avenge his dishonoured family. The Commandeur or Governor’s daughter, Doña Ana, was seduced by Don Juan.

It is unlikely that Molière’s was familiar with Tirso de Molina‘s El Burlador de Sevilla y convidado de Piedra (The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest). Molière borrowed from French contemporaries :

  • Dorimon(d)’s Le Festin de pierre ou le Fils criminel [the criminal son] (1559) and the
  • Sieur de Villiers’ plagiarized Le Festin de pierre ou le Fils criminel (1661).

Villiers was known as Philipin. He was an actor at l’Hôtel de Bourgogne, Paris’ finest theatrical venue. Dorimond and Philipin wrote tragi-comédies, a blend of comedic and tragedic elements. Versions of the Don Juan legend are often called a dramma giocoso, an Italian designation for comedies that are not altogether comedic. (See Dramma giocoso, Wiki2.org.)  It seems, in fact that Le Festin de pierre ou le Fils criminel (Dorimond and Villiers) would have Italian sources:

So, Molière’s Dom Juan would be rooted in Italian comedy, which brings to mind Mozart’s Don Giovanni (K. 527), composed on a libretto written by Mozart’s Italian librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte. All versions of the Don Juan myth are rooted in Tirso de Molina’s Trickster of Seville, the Stone Guest (1625), but although these versions constitute a network, they may differ from country to country, and Lorenzo Da Ponte was an Italian librettist.

Dom Juan

  • Leporello’s “catalogo and “l’épouseur à toutes mains.
  • Rights and justice: a world upside down
  • Woman and God: a doubling
  • Sganarelle and Dom Juan: reproaches

There are similarities between Dom Juan and Don Giovanni. For instance, Leporello’s “catalogo,” i.e. quantity, is Sganarelle’s “l’épouseur à toutes mains,” (every hand’s groom) Don Giovanni and Dom Juan accumulate seductions, promising marriage. In Act One, Scene 1, when Gusman, Done Elvire’s horseman, speaks with Sganarelle, Molière’s role, Sganarelle says the following:

Tu me dis qu’il a épousé ta maîtresse, crois qu’il aurait plus fait pour sa passion, et qu’avec elle il aurait encore épousé toi, son chien, et son chat. Un mariage ne lui coûte rien à contracter, il ne se sert point d’autres pièges pour attraper les belles, et c’est un épouseur à toutes mains[.]
Sganarelle à Gusman (I. i, p. 3)
[You tell me that he has married your mistress: believe too that he will do much more for his passion than this, and that he would also marry you, your dog and your cat.  A marriage costs him nothing to contract; he uses no other traps for the lovelies, and blithely marries on all sides.]
Sganarelle to Guzman (I. 1, p. 3)

In fact, Molière’s Dom Juan piles up his conquests. He compares himself to Alexander the Great:

Enfin, il n’est rien de si doux, que de triompher de la résistance d’une belle personne; et j’ai sur ce sujet l’ambition des conquérants, qui volent perpétuellement de victoire en victoire, et ne peuvent se résoudre à borner leurs souhaits. Il n’est rien qui puisse arrêter l’impétuosité de mes désirs, je me sens un cœur à aimer toute la terre; et comme Alexandre, je souhaiterais qu’il y eût d’autres mondes, pour y pouvoir étendre mes conquêtes amoureuses.
Dom Juan à Sganarelle (I. ii, pp. 6-7)
[There is nothing so sweet as to triumph over the resistance of a beautiful woman, and in this matter I have the ambition of conquerors, who march perpetually from victory to victory, and know no limits to their wishes. There is nothing that can halt the impetuosity of my desires: I have a heart to love all the world; and like Alexander, I wish that there were other worlds, so I could march in and make my amorous conquests there as well.]
Dom Juan to Sganarelle (I. 2, p. 6)

For Molière’s Dom Juan, satisfaction is yet another conquest. It is not to be found in genuine love and in sexual gratification, which may also characterize Don Giovannis protagonist, Don Juan. If Dom Juan has left Done Elvire, his wife, it is because he has tired of her. He must seduce other women:

Mais lorsqu’on en est maître une fois, il n’y a plus rien à dire, ni rien à souhaiter, tout le beau de la passion est fini, et nous nous endormons dans la tranquillité d’un tel amour; si quelque objet nouveau ne vient réveiller nos désirs, et présenter à notre cœur les charmes attrayants d’une conquête à faire.
Don Juan à Sganarelle (I. ii, p. 6)
[But let us be master once, nothing more is left to say or to wish; the beautiful part of passion is done, and we would sink into the tranquility of such a love, if some new object did not come to awaken our desires, and present to our heart the alluring charms of another conquest.]
Dom Juan to Sganarelle (I. 2, p. 6)

Rights and justice: a world upside down

Moreover, in Dom Juan’s world, women have a right to be “conquered” by him in the name of justice. In this respect, what Dom Juan calls justice are a series of transgressions at two levels, societal and sacred. When Dom Juan claims women have a right to him, he turns societal norms upside down. Not only does Dom Juan wish to go from victory to victory, but all women have a right to be “conquered,” which is arrogant, but a comedic element. Molière was writing a comedy and comedies are Saturnalian.

… la constance n’est bonne que pour des ridicules, toutes les belles ont droit de nous charmer, et l’avantage d’être rencontrée la première, ne doit point dérober aux autres les justes prétentions qu’elles ont toutes sur nos cœurs.
(…)
[No, no: constancy is only suitable for buffoons: all beautiful women have the right to charm us, and the advantage of being seen first should not steal from the others the just claims they have on our hearts.
(…)
j’ai beau être engagé, l’amour que j’ai pour une belle, n’engage point mon âme à faire injustice aux autres; je conserve des yeux pour voir le mérite de toutes, et rends à chacune les hommages, et les tributs où la nature nous oblige.
Dom Juan à Sganarelle (I. ii, p. 6)
[I would be bound in vain; and the love I have for one beautiful woman does not oblige my soul to commit an injustice against the rest; I reserve the right of my eyes to see the merit of all, and to render to each the tributes obliged by nature.]
Dom Juan to Sganarelle (I. 2, p. 5)

This is an upside-down view of social norms and conventional morality. It is also sinful, l’oubli du Ciel, and defies reason. Guzman is Done Elvire’s horseman (écuyer). Done Elvire and her brothers, Dom Carlos and Dom Alonse, will never persuade Dom Juan to return home to his wife. At the end of Act Two, La Ramée, a swordsman, tells Dom Juan that:

Douze hommes à cheval vous cherchent, qui doivent arriver ici dans un moment,
je ne sais pas par quel moyen ils peuvent vous avoir suivi, j’ai j’ai appris cette nouvelle d’un paysan qu’ils ont interrogé, et auquel ils vous dépeint. L’affaire presse, et le plus tôt que vous pourrez sortir d’ici, sera le meilleur.
La Ramée à Dom Juan (II. v, pp. 31-32)
[Twelve men on horseback are looking for you and might arrive here at any moment. I don’t know how they have followed you; but I learned of it from a peasant they had questioned. Time presses, and the sooner you leave the better.]
La Ramée to Dom Juan (II. 5, p. 28)

Society and God: a doubling

Twelve horsemen may be seeking Dom Juan, but he will not go back home. Done Elvire’s party, her brothers Dom Carlos, Dom Alonse and his men, may find Dom Juan, but he will defy both the society of the play and God: the “sacred obstacle of a convent,” (“l’obstacle sacré d’un couvent”) (I. i, p. 2). He will feign devotion and speak as though he and God were on a nearly equal footing.

Guzman wonders why Dom Juan would be unfaithful to his wife. He so wanted to marry Done Elvire that she left a convent.

Quoi, ce départ si peu prévu, serait une infidélité de Dom Juan? Il pourrait faire cette injure aux chastes feux de Done Elvire?
Gusman à Sganarelle
Non, c’est qu’il est jeune encore, et qu’il n’a pas le courage.
Sganarelle à Gusman
Un homme de sa qualité ferait une action si lâche?
Gusman à Sganarelle
Eh oui; sa qualité! La raison en est belle, et c’est par là qu’il s’empêcherait des choses
Sganarelle… (I. i, p. 2).

[What? Could it be that this unforeseen departure is due to an infidelity on the part of Don Juan? Could he be capable of such an injury to Donna Elvira’s chaste fires?
Guzman to Sganarelle
[No, but he is still young, and does not have the heart ….]
Sganarelle to Guzman
Could a man of his quality commit an action so vile?
Guzman to Sganarelle
Oh, yes, his quality! That’s vain reasoning, for it’s by this quality that he holds himself above all things.]
Sganarelle to Guzman (I. 1, pp. 2-3)

The society of the play cannot convince Dom Juan that there would be safety in living honourably. When Dom Juan puts on the masque of the faux dévot, when he feigns devotion, Done Elvire’s brothers are powerless. Dom Juan is an aristocrat who uses marriage, a sacrament, to sin. As Sganarelle points out:

il faut que le courroux du Ciel l’accable quelque jour[.]
Sganarelle à Gusman (I. i, p. 4)
[It’s enough that the wrath of Heaven will overtake him some day; ]
Sganarelle to Guzman(I. 1, p. 3)

Sganarelle and Dom Juan: reproaches

Yes, Dom Juan is too young, he uses his rank to seduce women, and he has no obvious love for God. In fact, it has been suggested that the legendary Don Juan waits too long before saying an Act of Contrition. (See Dom Juan, Wiki2.org.) An Act of Contrition will free a sinner of sinfulness. But Molière’s Dom Juan does not repent. However, when Sganarelle tells Juan that he disapproves of his marrying woman after woman. But he invites Sganarelle to express an opinion on his behaviour. Dom Juan, he will not allow reproaches. He is defiant until the very end, but he is pushed into hell. Sganarelle tells him that he is make fun, or mocking Heaven, which bothers Dom Juan. Dom Juan is incorrigibly bombastic. He is truly too young and he doesn’t have a heart.

En ce cas, Monsieur, je vous dirai franchement que je n’approuve point votre méthode, et que je trouve fort vilain d’aimer de tous côtés comme vous faites.
Sganarelle à Dom Juan (I. iii. p. 6)
[In that case, Sir, I would say honestly that I do not approve at all of your habits, and that I find it deplorable to love on all sides as you do.]
Sganarelle to Dom Juan  (I. 3, p. 5)

Ma foi, Monsieur, j’ai toujours ouï dire, que c’est une méchante raillerie, que de se railler du Ciel, et que les libertins ne font jamais une bonne fin.
Sganarelle à Dom Juan (I. iii, p. 8)
Holà, maître sot, vous savez que je vous ai dit que je n’aime pas les faiseurs de remontrances. (I. iii, p. 8)
[My faith! Sir, I’ve always heard it said that it’s an evil mocking to mock Heaven, and that libertines never find a good end.
Sganarelle to Dom Juan (I. 3, p. 7)
Hey! Dr. Dunce Scotus! I’ve made it clear before that I have no love for the makers of reproaches.]
Sganarelle to Dom Juan (I. 3, p. 7)

As Sganarelle points out so aptly: Dom Juan is “jeune encore” (I. i, p. 2), or he is “still young” and he doesn’t have a heart (I. 1, pp. 2-3). He believes his title has bestowed upon himself complete immunity.

La vertu est le premier titre de noblesse.
Dom Louis’ tirade (IV. iv, p.55 ; IV. 5, pp. 49-50)

Sganarelle has listened to Dom Louis, Dom Juan’s father. Dom Louis would like his son to live up to his rank. As soon as his father can no longer hear him, Dom Juan says: 

Eh, mourez le plus tôt que vous pourrez, c’est le mieux que vous puissiez faire. Il faut que chacun ait son tour, et j’enrage de voir des pères qui vivent autant que leurs fils. Il se met dans son fauteuil.
Dom Juan à son père, trop loin pour l’entendre (IV. v, pp. 56-57
[And die as quickly as you can, it’s the least you could do. Every dog should have its day, and it fills me with rage to see fathers who live as long as their sons.]
Dom Juan to his father who is out of hearing distance. (IV. 5, p. 50)

Oui, Monsieur, vous avez tort d’avoir souffert ce qu’il vous a dit, et vous le deviez mettre dehors par les épaules. A-t-on jamais rien vu de plus impertinent? Un père venir faire des remontrances à son fils, et lui dire de corriger ses actions, de se ressouvenir de sa naissance, de mener une vie d’honnête homme, et cent autres sottises de pareille nature. Cela se peut-il souffrir à un homme comme vous, qui savez comme il faut vivre? J’admire votre patience, et si j’avais été en votre place, je l’aurais envoyé promener. Ô complaisance maudite, à quoi me réduis-tu?
Sganarelle à Dom Juan (IV. v, pp. 56-57)
[Yes, Sir, you are wrong to have suffered what he said to you and you should have thrown him out on his ear. Has anyone ever seen such impertinence? For a father to come and reproach his son, to tell him to correct his actions, to remember his birth, to lead the life of an honorable man, and a hundred others stupidities of a like nature! That it should be borne by a man like you, who knows how one must live! I marvel at your patience; and if I had been in your place, I would have sent him packing. O evil complicity! To what have you reduced me?]
Sganarelle to Dom Juan (IV. 5, p. 50)

Conclusion

I am publishing this post without a conclusion. I have to stop working for lack of energy. Part of the conclusion has to do with Molière’s use of the truth to lie, or a lie to tell the truth. We will look at the last quotation of this post.

Sources and Resources

Les XVIIe de Roger Duchêne
Don Juan is a translation by Brett B. Bodemer (2010)
Dom Juan is a toutmolière.net publication

Love to everyone 💕

Michel Lambert
“Vos mespris chaque jour” (Your scorn everyday)
Air sérieux
Stephan van Dyck
Musica Favola Ensemble

Don Juan4 (2)

© Micheline Walker
6 August 2019
WordPress

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don Juan: the “Cycle” & the Traditions

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Portrait of Tirso de Molina

Portrait of Tirso de Molina (Wiki2.org)

DON JUAN: A CYCLE AND TRADITIONS

Variations on a theme by Tirso de Molina

The Cycle
Don Juan belongs to the world. Wikipedia’s entry on Molière’s Dom Juan contains lists. In other words, there are several narratives, plays, poems, music, films, etc. featuring Don Juan, including Mozart’s Don Giovanni, an opera. But Don Juan, the lady-killer and murderer, was created by Spanish baroque dramatist Tirso de Molina (24 March 1579 – 12 March 1648), a monk in the Mercedarian (from mercy) order. On his return from a mission in Santo Domingo (1616-1618), Tirso resided in the Mercedarian monastery in Madrid.

According to Hérodote.net (please scroll down to a text and a video), Molina had read in the Chronique de Séville, that Don Juan, the murderer of Governor Ulloa, whose daughter he seduced, was led to hell by a live statue of the Governor, le commandeur. The body of the governor had been laid to rest in the burial ground of a Franciscan convent. In Dom Juan, a play by Molière, the rake suffers the same fate as Governor Ulloa’s Don Juan. In Molière’s Dom Juan, la statue du Commandeur, invites Dom Juan to dinner, takes his hand, which Dom Juan offers, and leads him to a fiery abyss (toutmolière.notice). 

Donnez-moi la main.
La Statue (V. vi, p. 70)
[Give me your hand.]
The Statue (V. 6, p. 132)

So, Molière’s Dom Juan belongs to a “cycle.”

The myth or legend may precede Tirso de Molina’s play, but former lady-killers would belong to an oral tradition. In the learned (written) tradition, the first Don Juan is the protagonist of Tirso de Molina’s The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest. The play was first performed in 1625 (toutmolière.notice).

Mozart’s Don Giovanni (K 257) (1787), written on a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, and Molière’s Dom Juan (1665) are the most famous versions of the Don Juan legend, but the legend may have different components. For instance, I mentioned, in an earlier post, that Molière’s Dom Juan contains little eroticismin which it differs from Tirso de Molina’s Don Juan, whose lady-killer is driven by his sexual appetite. Moreover, in Molière’s play, the commandeur is killed before the curtain rises and Dom Juan has tired of Done Elvire, his wife, who left a convent, l’obstacle sacré d’un couvent (I. i, p. 3) (the sacred obstacle of a nunnery [I. 1, p. 80]), to marry Dom Juan.

At this point, I will mention Don Juan Tenorio, a play written in 1844, by José Zorrillia. In Zorrillia’s play, Doña Inés de Ulloa has died and a statue of her has been erected. She comes to life again, as do various statues of commandeurs, and leads Dom Juan to heaven. Don Juan Tenorio has a happy ending. Doña Inés has been in purgatory atoning for Don Juan’s murdered victims: Don Luis, Doña Ana’s fiancé, and Don Gonzalo, Doña Ana’s father.

Don Juan Tenorio differs substantially from Molière’s and Mozart’s. But it remains that all versions of Don Juan, including Don Juan Tenorio, are variations on a theme by Tirso the Molina. 

Raimundo Madrazo, María Guerrero in the role of Doña Inés, who has just found a love letter from Don Juan, hidden in the pages of a book.[1]

Raimundo Madrazo‘s María Guerrero in the role of Doña Inés (Don Juan Tenorio) (Wiki2.org) 

Repin_donjuan

The Stone Guest (Pushkin’s), Don Juan and Doña Ana by
Ilya Repin, 1885 (Wikiart.org)

Two Traditions

  • Romantic
  • farcical

Don Juan Tenorio can be described as a romanticized Don Juan. The Don Juan cycle can be broken into traditions, such as the farcical and the Romantic. The Romantic Don Juan reaches beyond the limits of the human condition. This Don Juan has  intimations of immortality, etc. Lord Byron‘s Don Juan is a Romantic Don Juan. (See Don Juan [Lord Byron].)

Molière’s Dom Juan is enigmatic, but it can considered farcical. He is an inferior character who dares believe that all women are entitled to the brief attention he will bestow. Sganarelle tells Dom Gusman (Leporello in Don Giovanni), that Dom Juan is an “épouseur à toutes mains.” He has married so many women that it would take Sganarelle all day to name them:

dame, demoiselle, bourgeoise, paysanne, il ne trouve rien de trop chaud, ni de trop froid pour lui; et si je te disais le nom de toutes celles qu’il a épousées en divers lieux, ce serait un chapitre à durer jusques au soir.
Sganarelle à Don Gusman (I. i, p. 3)
[A lady, gentlewoman, citizen’s daughter, countrywoman; he thinks nothing too hot or too cold for him; and if I were to tell you the names of all those whom he has married in different places, I would not have finished until night.]
Sganarelle to Don Guzman (I. 1, p. 80)

In Leporello’s catalog there would be mille e tre.[1]

Alexander Pushkin also wrote a Romantic Don Juan, His Stone Guest is a poetic  drama based on Mozart’s Don Giovanni. It was part of his “little tragedies.” Pushkin did not mean it for the stage. However, Alexander Dargomyzhsky wrote an opera entitled The Stone Guest, based on Pushkin’s Stone Guest. Although the opera was left unfinished, it is/was Dargomyzhsky‘s most famous work. It was finished by César Cui and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, two of the Five composers. 

However, Molière’s Dom Juan is also the bombastic and a rather étourdi, scatterbrained, character. Dom Juan does not allow Sganarelle, Molière’s role, to reprimand him. He and God can settle issues between one another, which is fine material for a farce. God will not use a needle to deflate Dom Juan, but the Commandeur he has killed will come to life and push him into hell.

Va, va, c’est une affaire entre le Ciel et moi, et nous la démêlerons bien
ensemble, sans que tu t’en mettes en peine.
Dom  Juan to Sganarelle (I. ii, pp. 7-8)
[That’s enough. It’s an issue between Heaven and me, and we get along just fine without you bothering yourself about it.]
Dom Juan to Sganarelle (I. 2, p. 68)

Conclusion

Molière’s Dom Juan was written quickly and was condemned after 15 performances. It is a famous Don Juan, yet part of a cycle of seducers created by Tirso de Molina (1625). Tirso, who wrote approximately 300 plays, some of which were licentious, was at times reprimanded. In fact, he was sent briefly to Salamanca. His Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest, the first Don Juan, was written in the country where casuistry, a form of jurisprudence on moral issues, was developed. Casuistry could justify many sins.

We now turn to Molière Dom Juan which features Sganarelle, our last Sganarelle, Molière’s masque.

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Love to everyone 💕

___________________

[1] In Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni, the list of the mille e tre conquests of the hero, as sung by Leporello, beginning Madamina, il catologo è questo, Delle belle ch’amo il padron mio, produces a great and admirable effect. (Henri van Laun, The Dramatic Works of Molière, vol. 2, p. 81, footnote 5).

Madamina, il cataloguo è questo
Nicolai Ghiaurov (13 September 1929 – 2 June 2004), Bulgarian bass 

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© Micheline Walker
30 July 2019
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Listen, Mr. President

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U. S. President Donald Trump (the grio.com)

Dear Donald,

We’ve had it, and I hope sincerely that you are not reëlected. Millions of Americans and millions of human beings on Planet Earth have to suffer paralyzing and deadly heat waves, while you dismiss “climate change” as “fake news.”

I would also like to speak to you about the fate of women in your country. Do not think for one minute that a woman should always be exposed to unwanted, not to mention yearly, pregnancies. Open planned-parenthood facilities, so women never have to undergo a life-threatening and unwanted abortion. The life of a woman is dear to her, dear to her husband/partner, and dear to her family. Let women be.

As well, tackle doctors. They deserve an excellent salary, but in no way do they need to be very wealthy. They may well be more compassionate than you thought. As well, tackle pharmaceutical companies. This discussion includes everyone. Everyone is part of the equation.

You are lucky to have a fine wife. She’s an immigrant! Will you deport her? In fact, will you deport yourself? Except for Amerindians, North-Americans are immigrants.

By the way, ordinary people do not need guns. If some Americans enjoy target practice, safe facilities are available.

I will not cover other issues, but I am asking you to

  • deal with the very real problem of climate change,
  • to open planned-parenthood clinics,
  • to make health care affordable, preferably free,
  • to stop deporting innocent immigrants,
  • to take guns away from ordinary citizens, and
  • to drive out poverty.

Dear Donald,

The current year is 2019. When will humanity be protected?

If you do not deal with the above-mentioned issues as quickly as possible, Americans, the World and the climate will deal with you.

I should say I rather liked you when you visited the United Kingdom. Melania looked gorgeous. As for the Queen, she is a professional.

Would that I could watch you a little more, but I’m trying to write a book on Molière and providing information to the excellent people who read my posts as a I write the book. I require funding, but I doubt that my university will provide it.

Donald, I had to get this off my chest.

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Donald Trump holding a dove (Duck, duck, gray duck)

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Photo credit: Google

 

© Micheline Walker
24 July 2019
WordPress

Molière’s “L’École des maris,” “The School for Husbands” (The End)

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L’École des maris (théâtre-documentation.com)

“Yes, death seems to me a hundred times less dreadful than this fatal marriage into which I am forced; all that I am doing to escape its horrors should excuse me in the eyes of those who blame me. Time presses; it is night; now, then, let me fearlessly entrust my fate to a lover’s fidelity.” (Isabelle, III. i, p. 33)
Translator Henri van Laun

Oui le trépas [death] cent fois, me semble moins à craindre,
Que cet hymen fatal où l’on veut me contraindre;
Et tout ce que je fais pour en fuir les rigueurs,
Doit trouver quelque grâce auprès de mes censeurs;
Le temps presse, il fait nuit, allons sans crainte aucune,
À la foi d’un amant, commettre ma fortune.
Isabelle (III. i, p. 38)
Molière

L’École des maris

ACT THREE

When Valère and Isabelle leave at the curtain falls on Act Two, Valère has let Isabelle know that he will free within three days, or three days from the moment they part.

Isabelle cannot wait three days. Sganarelle will marry her the next day. What will she do? Once again, a forced marriage justifies the means, but these are not evil means. Isabelle has to lie. Molière’s ladies are very clever.

The Final Ruse

As soon as she hears that Sganarelle will marry her the very next day, Isabelle comes up with her best ruse. She tells Sganarelle that her sister is in love with Valère and that both are locked in her (Isabelle’s) room.

Sganarelle is pleased because he can now show his older brother, Ariste, that he knows best, that he was the better brother. He has raised Isabelle by confining her to a room. He believed that by locking Isabelle in her room, he would raise a virtuous spouse. But Isabelle has learned to despise Sganarelle. He expects Ariste to find Léonor in bed with Valère. No, Léonor is at a ball.

Isabelle runs to Valère’s house, so Sganarelle is perplexed:

Au logis du galant, quelle est son entreprise?
Sganarelle, seul (III. ii, p. 41)
[(Aside). To the gallant’s house! What is her design?]
Sganarelle, alone (III. 2, p. 36)

So, Isabelle frees herself, but although Sganarelle is surprised, his most important concern is to let his brother Ariste know that he has brought up une mondaine who is now in bed with Valère inside Isabelle’s room.

Ah je te promets bien, que je n’ai pas envie,
De te l’ôter l’infâme à ses feux asservie,
Que du don de ta foi je ne suis point jaloux,
Et que si j’en suis cru, tu seras son époux,
Oui, faisons-le surprendre avec cette effrontée,
La mémoire du père, à bon droit respectée;
Jointe au grand intérêt que je prends à la sœur,
Veut que du moins l’on tâche à lui rendre l’honneur;
Holà.
Sganarelle à Isabelle (III. iii, p. 42)
[Oh, I can assure you I do not want to take from you a shameless girl, so blinded by her passion. I am not jealous of your promise to her; if I am to be believed, you shall be her husband. Yes, let us surprise him with this bold creature. The memory of her father, who was justly respected, and the great interest I take in her sister, demand that an attempt, at least, should be made to restore her honour. Hulloa, there!(Knocks at the door of a magistrate).]
Sganarelle (III. 4, p. 36

Sganarelle does knock on the Commissaire‘s door, who happens to be with a notary. How convenient, a contract can be signed that will restore Léonor’s honour. Sganarelle then knocks on his brother’s door (III. v).

Votre Léonor où, je vous prie est-elle?
Sganarelle à Ariste (III. v, p. 44)
[Where is your Léonor, pray?]
Sganarelle to Ariste (III. 6, p. 37)

Pourquoi cette demande? Elle est comme je croi,
Au bal chez son amie.
Ariste à Sganarelle (III. v, p. 44)
[Why this question? She is, as I think, at a friend’s house at a ball.]
Ariste to Sganarelle (III. 6, p. 37)

Sganarelle then tells his brother that Léonor is in bed with Valère.

L’énigme est que son bal est chez Monsieur Valère.
Que de nuit je l’ai vue y conduire ses pas,
Et qu’à l’heure présente elle est entre ses bras.
Sganarelle à Ariste (III. v, p. 45)
[The riddle is that her ball is at Valère’s; that I saw her go to him under cover of night, and that she is at this moment in his arms.]
Sganarelle to Ariste (III. 6, p. 38)

Ariste cannot believe what he has heard. Appearances are deceptive and Ariste would never have forced Léonor into a marriage.

L’apparence qu’ainsi sans m’en faire avertir,
À cet engagement elle eût pu consentir,
Moi qui dans toute chose ai depuis son enfance,
Montré toujours pour elle entière complaisance,
Et qui cent fois ai fait des protestations,
De ne jamais gêner ses inclinations.
Ariste to all (III. v, p. 47)
[Is it likely she could thus have agreed to this engagement without telling me? me! who in everything, from her infancy, ever displayed towards her a complete readiness to please, and who a hundred times protested I would never force her inclinations.]
Ariste to all (III. 8, p. 38)

In Scene Seven, Valère enters the house and tells that he has made a commitment to Isabelle.

Enfin quoi qu’il advienne,
Isabelle a ma foi, j’ai de même la sienne,
Et ne suis point un choix à tout examiner,
Que vous soyez reçus à faire condamner.
Valère à tous (III. vii, p. 48)
[To be brief: whatever be the consequence, Isabella has my solemn promise; I also have hers; if you consider everything, I am not so bad a match that you should blame her.]
Valère to all (III. 8, p. 40)

Sganarelle is so certain that Valère is in bed with Léonor that he signs a contract that makes Valère the husband of the woman who might be in his lodgings. The notary leaves a blank space for the name.

In Scene Eight, Léonor returns from the ball rather disappointed. Ariste wants to know why she has played a trick on him. Sganarelle learns that she wasn’t with Valère, Isabelle was, who, by contract, is now married to Valère.

Ariste is surprised. Why did Léonor not discuss this matter with her? Their friendship goes back to childhood.

Léonor tells Ariste that she would marry him the very next day, if he asked. The discussion is over.

Je ne sais pas sur quoi vous tenez ce discours;
Mais croyez que je suis de même que toujours,
Que rien ne peut pour vous altérer mon estime,
Que toute autre amitié me paraîtrait un crime,
Et que si vous voulez satisfaire mes vœux,
Un saint nœud dès demain nous unira nous deux.
Léonor à Ariste (III. viii, p. 51)
[I know not why you speak to me thus; but believe me, I am as I have ever been; nothing can alter my esteem for you; love for any other man would seem to me
a crime; if you will satisfy my wishes, a holy bond shall unite us tomorrow.]
Léonor to Ariste (III. 9, p. 41)

In the final scene, Isabelle apologizes to Léonor for having used a stratagem that could, temporarily, dishonour her sister. It was despair. Isabelle did not want to be forced into a marriage with Sganarelle. She might have killed herself. In fact, she had found a good man who will marry her and, ironically, Sganarelle himself has signed the marriage contract. Again, in L’École des maris, irony is Molière’s main literary device.

The play ends on the prospect of a double marriage. “Tout est bien qui finit bien.” (“All’s well that end well.”) As for Sganarelle, he is hoisted by his own petard.

L'école des maris par F. Boucher (3)

L’École des maris par François Boucher (théâtre-documention.com)

l'école des maris par Desenne (4)

L’École des maris (Gravure Desenne)(théâtre-documention.com)

Conclusion

The main figure in this play is irony. Sganarelle himself makes it possible for his ward, whom he wishes to marry to meet Valère and to know that he is sufficiently honourable for her to take refuge in his house. But, once again, we have seen the jaloux as is own victim. Molière’s jaloux is his own victim. Sganarelle is Sganarelle’s worst enemy. He signs a contract that will allow Isabelle to marry Valère, which is how Molière expresses an inner drama. It is also interesting to note that Ariste doubts very much that Léonor is in bed with Valère. He is right in trusting her. Léonor may be forty  years younger than Ariste, but he has brought her up gently. He has trusted her. The carte de Tendre proposes different kinds of love. If honnêteté there is, Ariste and Valère qualify. They are also examples of the galant homme, the gentleman.

Italy is the birthplace of refinement. Yet it could be that the Grand Siècle’s main achievement is lhonnête hommeSalons were created in 17th-century France and they endured. Préciosité went too far, which is what Molière mocked. Molière did not mock women. On the contrary. When Isabelle realizes that a lie can be put into the service of a good end, she uses a lie and shows resolve. Isabelle’s life would be taken from her if Sganarelle married her. She would be his possession, his slave. There’s no evil in what she does. Nor does Molière vilify Sganarelle. Sganarelle boasted, which farce does not allow.

Molière mixes plot formulas. In L’École des maris, he uses the “all’s well that ends well,” the traditional happy ending of comedy. However, it is not, at least not immediately, a happy ending for Sganarelle. Ariste deflates a boasting Sganarelle, a farcical element. But ironically, Sganarelle approves of Valère. He finds in him an honnête homme and feels sorry for him, which is good news for Isabelle. She can trust Valère by Sganarelle own standards and testimonial. All the ruses confirm that Valère loves Isabelle. Sganarelle stands between Isabelle and Valère. He is the obstacle to a marriage between the young lovers, while promoting their marriage.  He is the person Valère needed in Sganarelle’s household.

Sganarelle therefore combines several several comedic functions. He is the go-between in a love story, the senex iratus, or blocking character, in the same love storynot to mention the father, albeit a pater familias.

 

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Love to everyone  💕

La Fille au Roi Louis
Claire Lefilliâtre (soprano)
Le Poème harmonique (dir. Vincent Dumestre)

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The Love Letter par Jean-Honoré Fragonard

© Micheline Walker
21 July 2019
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