What’s worse is that Richard is the leader of the group that killed Thomas of Gloucester. Richard plays a very political game. He banishes Henry from England, but he fails to notice that and pay attention to the fact that Henry can still come back and take the kingdom. He does so for only six years because Henry is the people’s champion and he has to satisfy the people by giving Thomas Mowbray a longer sentence. Richard is still in his own world making his own plans. His plan to steal John of Gaunt’s assets to fund for the war, shows how incompetent he is as a king. A good King does not need to steal to have a kingdom run smoothly. If Richard listened to the Duke of York, then Henry might have less of a support system when staging his coup. The Earl of Northumberland, Lord Willoughby, and Lord Ross would not have switched alliances. It’s such a pity that Richard does not listen to the elder’s wise words, possesses qualities that will only hinder the decadence of England and has a narrow scope of what is really going on.
Straight from the beginning of the play, we learn of Don Juan’s philosophy on life, which is basically to love everything (and everyone) that comes his way, and that he has an uncanny ability to make this a reality. This philosophy of freedom may sound appealing, that is, until he reveals that he has married multiple times and once he grows tired of one woman, he moves on to the next one. Act II, Scene IV has a prime example of the man in action, as he convinces both Charlotte and Mathurine–at the same time, mind you–that they are the only one he will marry. While impressive, this shows that Don Juan clearly is not the type to settle down for the long haul.
Another one of Don Juan’s major “bad-boy” traits is his refusal to believe in that which he cannot explain. Throughout the story, Don Juan denies the existence of Heaven and Hell, despite the pleas of his faithful valet. Ever the non-believer, Juan even fails to take the hint that Heaven is trying to warn him to repent when a statue of a man he killed comes to his house for dinner. When a man is so hard-headed as to question a sign as clear as that, he’s clearly the type of guy a girl would want to steer clear of.
What’s more, Don Juan is a bit of a lowlife. Sure, he’ll tell you he loves you and that he will give you the world, but he might have a hard time doing that when he’s in debt to his friend Mr. Dimanche. He may pay the man lip service, but that’s as far as his payment goes, and he uses his smooth talking to constantly quell Dimanche out the door for as long as he can. It seems that Don Juan is not the type to pick up the tab.
On top of that, Don Juan’s father, Don Louis, is ashamed of his son’s life, and only hopes that he will see the error of his ways. So what does Don Juan do? He feigns reform just to get the old man off his back. He may pretend like he’s a changed man, but this is the type of guy who will never change for anyone. He doesn’t own up to his flaws, blaming his hypocrisy on “society,” saying that “hypocrisy is a fashionable vice, and all fashionable vices pass for virtues,” (Act V, Scene II) showing that this is clearly a man who will never learn.
The worst part about Don Juan is that despite all of his flaws, he is an inherently lovable character. His antics delight the reader and his devil-may-care (and indeed he does, as evidenced by the books ending) attitude lends itself to allow a slight overlooking of his flaws. In both his world and to his readers, then, it seems that Don Juan is the Original Player: clearly a despicable dog of a man, but irresistible nonetheless.
I enjoyed Moliere’s play much more than I had anticipated. I found the character Don Juan to be very humorous, clever, and charming. I largely overlooked his corrupt, debauched lifestyle and skewed code of moral conduct as a result of these redeeming qualities. Perhaps to an extent I was another one of his “victims” who he won over with his power of words.
As I was reading this play written in 17th century France, I was amazed by how little human nature changes. I venture to say that Moliere’s Don Juan had real life, womanizer counterparts in New York City, London, Paris, Rome, and Berlin who preexisted him. Mr. John, Monsieur Jean, Don Giovanni, and Herr Johan still walk among us three hundred fifty years after their mentor. Don Juan’s protégés are not restricted to the aforementioned cities; they’re currently all over the world! Much has stayed the same, and I believe human nature has little care for temporal and geographical bounds.
I suppose a main difference between now and then is that in the 17th century, Moliere’s play was banned after fifteen performances, though Don Juan’s conduct is in no way held to the same level of public disgust today. It’s a shame that they missed out on the play. It was hysterical.
Citing Elizabeth’s argument in class today, I don’t necessarily think that Don Juan is a morally-plagued or squalid person. Moliere assigns comedic elements to his disposition, much like he does for most of his characters, such as Gorgibus in The Flying Doctor. What’s interesting about Moliere’s style is that he writes so bombastically and eloquently, while talking about infidelity, death, bodily humor, et cetera, which creates a certain comedic air about his works, particularly Don Juan. I feel like in the two plays I’ve read by Moliere, there is always the cunning, charming, well-spoken character, and his more ignorant, simple and “conformist” sidekick. Moliere has fun with constructing witty repartee and birthing characters who complement each other in humorous ways.
In Act I, I found it hysterical when Sganarelle impugns Don Juan’s impious behavior and Don Juan retorts with this long-winded, almost biblical (ironically, since he contradicts the Bible) monologue in which he justifies his actions of infidelity; Sganarelle believes him! Don Juan’s carefully devised dialog assigns the play a certain comedic element and makes it entertaining to read. Despite the monologues and inflated language, I did not find myself growing bored while reading Don Juan. Moliere has in fact become a playwright in whom I am more interested.
The humor is similar to that of many sitcoms, with a main male character as a “womanizer,” with his sidekick as the voice of reason. Sganarelle offers many asides during the play, providing humorous bits for the audience to enjoy. He also exists as the source of information about Don Juan and balances out the character. This is often used in television shows for both comedic and dramatic effect.
Gender relations, while much more proper in the era of the play, bear a striking resemblance to the present. As is true in today’s world, women are judged more harshly for having multiple partners, or, in this case, even dating around. Charlotte, for example, is criticized for allowing Don Juan to kiss her hand. It is as though it is the woman’s fault for being attractive rather than the man for not controlling himself. While circumstances are not quite that extreme today, there still is a certain undercurrent of different treatment for similar actions. Therefore, I would argue that Don Juan still holds pertinent to modern times, as it is a tale that both genders can relate to, and even poke fun at.
Yet, one cannot help but love the character of Don Juan.
Perhaps its because his aforementioned eloquent excuses capture us. Perhaps its simply because he is so amusing.
How is it that we are able to look past his obvious flaws? Usually, we forgive characters because of the story behind their mistakes. Maybe the character had a rough past, or maybe the character was abused as a child. However, we know of no such thing in the case of Don Juan. In fact, we know very little about his past. There are no reasons for his awful nature; that’s just the way he is.
In this sense, Don Juan is an unrealistic character. He has such strong characteristics of pride and domination, but he is not dynamic. He does not change through the course of the story and he is a flat character, making it difficult for the reader to relate to him.
This may be the very reason we overlook his flaws. He is not a real person, just a character. We do not take him seriously. He is made up to be amusing; thus we find him so.
On an entirely different side of the story we have Sganarelle, Don Juan’s assistant. Sganarelle fusses and frets over the impiety of Don Juan’s activities. Sganarelle, though in fear of Don Juan’s wrath, gives a light lecture on heaven and the ultimate penalties that Don Juan will eventually have to face for his actions. However, in a strange turn much later on, Sganarelle, upon hearing of Don Juan’s death, cries for only his own situation (and not the loss of his companion’s soul). He cares only for his wages! Therefore, we see that Sganarelle, while hiding under a veil of piety and religious values, was in actuality only concerned with his salary and his own self.
Moliere’s Don Juan brings to discussion many themes and ideas. Infidelity, divorce/remarriage, religion, wealth, honor, and many other concepts are addressed. I enjoyed reading through Don Juan and appreciated its balance of reality and wit. It was almost a shame that people had to die, but the story taught lessons about morality and religion (one could call themselves religious and still be immoral). The play also highlights for us the absurdity of Don Juan’s sort of flighty self-absorbed attitude towards love. He totally disregarded the feelings of others and ultimately paid for it with his life.
I could say that this is a guy thing; we men love to be stubborn. But in being stubborn, can men admit this trait? Perhaps the greatest exemplar of this stubborn-ness, or rather, a very good “bad example” is Moliere’s “Don Juan” character. In his constant conquests for “beauty”, Don Juan destroys lives as he tries to construct his own. In a sense, Don Juan’s tale is Faustian in that his blinding megalomania prevents him from anticipating his self-wrought undoing. Admittedly, this character cannot, in good conscience, be called a role model. However, it is his rationale and psychology that drew me into his fiendish activities. As shown in his treatment of the beggar in the forest and his valet, Don Juan has an innate tendency to prove himself as omni-potent and dominant. In short, Don Juan suffers from a strong God-complex; that is, he believes that his perspective and rationale is infallible.
Perhaps what is ironic about Don Juan’s character is his dependence on people. Although he claims that he is vastly superior and immune to the ethics of common-folk, he ultimately depends on them for his own mental security. Usually, this audience is satisfied through his valet, Sganarelle, whose pious nature and strong morality highlights the demonic nature of Don Juan. Sganarelle, being Don Juan’s valet, can never have the final say in any of his arguments or chidings. As a result, we are made to strongly dislike Don Juan’s nature as he promptly ends arguments if he is not winning them. This openly displays his stubborn nature to accept what can clearly be seen as sound logic and good sense. However, in denying himself of these, we also can see Don Juan as a man who is perhaps destroying himself consciously to destroy a mentally traumatizing image. Or, more reasonably, it is his inability to see the fallibility of his beliefs (the “God-complex”).
On a side note, it’s interesting to note that Don Juan, who claims to be searching for “beauty”, has a narrow view of it. To him, anything that conveys his superiority or is aesthetically pleasing, is beautiful. By doing so, he fails to incorporate true beauty into his life because his hubris blinds the slow suicide that his actions cost him. Eventually, in being so arrogant and hedonistic, Don Juan foolishly overplays his luck. Not only does he taunt his father, he also becomes a “pious man” to satisfy his impious needs. In searching for “beauty”, Don Juan transforms into something more hideous. His ultimate demise is not a moment of tragedy but rather a profound feeling of satisfaction. I felt happy in knowing that a system of karma exists even in Don Juan’s world. I also laughed at Sganarelle who immediately discards his master after many years of strong loyalty over some unpaid wages.
Perhaps in showing us this challenged character, Moliere is trying to suggest that life should not be a self-appointed quest towards a goal, but rather, a nourishing journey of discovery and understanding.
– Jessen T.
I believe that what Don Juan was doing was extremely wrong and that he did deserve to be punished. Not only was he hurting those around him but he was doing it while benefiting from it. He was given fair warning that it was wrong, and he chose to continue on the path of women and lust anyway, but hey, to each his own.