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
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)
(Bold characters are mine.)
- Dom Juan condemned
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Dom Juan withdrawn from the stage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.
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:
- Cicognini‘s Il Convitato di pietra and
- Giliberto’s play on Don Juan (1652), the text of which is lost.
(See toutmolière‘s Notice to Dom Juan.)
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.
- 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 Giovanni‘s 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:
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.
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)
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
Love to everyone 💕
© Micheline Walker
6 August 2019