A King of Inadequate Features

Richard II’s characteristics are the exact qualities for how kings fail and suffer a tragic ending. First of all, Richard is an incompetent king, who is unable to connect with his people. He is too busy in his court with all his attendants, who flatter Richard for personal gains. Richard is also lost in the fashions of his time. Already, a self-centered king not like very much by his people will need to change immediately. Richard disrespects John of Gaunt, Henry Bolingbroke’s father, when he is nearing his death. Richard is actually quite happy about this. When John of Gaunt dies, Richard takes the respected John of Gaunt assets. Richard, actually, has a cruel nature and does not want anyone being close to steal his throne. John of Gaunt even wants to warn Richard about his punishment from God before he dies, and he truly believes that God appoints the king. This is foreshadowing Richard losing his throne. A man so deeply believing that God controls the throne, tries to help Richard in the right direction only further serves as a message to Richard that he has to shape up his act.

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.

Don Juan: That Guy Your Mother Warned You About

Don Juan is a smooth-talking, sly, never-changing womanizer who believes only in his romantic conquests. His love of romance and his lack of morals make him an unsavory character to all but those who catch his eye. Those who do, however, find him intoxicating, despite his myriad moral shortcomings. In short, Don Juan is that guy that your mother warned you about.

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.

-Jon Farrell

Then and Again

Being in a similar boat as Alex, I also accidentally wrote about “East Meets West” instead of Don Juan. Here are my thoughts on the play.

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.

-Robin Cohen

Don Juan – Mistake

Due to confusion over this week’s blog post, I inadvertently wrote about East Meets West for today. But having read Don Juan, and having gotten to know Moliere’s work this semester, I would like to say something about the play.

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.

Don Juan: Relevant to Today?

To be honest, I was less than excited to read Don Juan. I rarely ever enjoy literature that is not contemporary, because I tend to question its relevance to current times. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the play to be not only interesting but relatable to scenarios of today.

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.

-Jacqui Larsen

How We Overlook Don Juan’s Flaws

Don Juan is a disgusting character. He uses women and discards them, breaking their hearts abusively. He does this all for his own pleasure. Then he dares to make eloquent excuses, expressing his reasoning in a way that puts his horrid actions in a positive light. If we were to meet such a man in the real world, we would detest him and say terrible things about him.

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.

Don Juan (or should I say ‘Done’ Juan?)

When I say done, I mean finished. Out. No more. For at the end of Moliere’s play, Don Juan, Juan himself is done for, and all for his own self-absorbed frivolities. An extreme womanizer, Don Juan took pleasure in the conquest of a woman, the breaking down of her strongest defenses until she, succumbed to his guile and charms, agreed to marry him. Once married Don Juan quickly grew bored, leaving the dear dame and riding off to woo and steal away yet another fair lass. Thankfully, Donna Elvire (his latest wife) wises up to his lusty antics, learning of his life as the cheating floozy of a man.

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.

-Cali Paetow

Persephone’s Pomegranate

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.

To Each His Own

Moliere’s Don Juan tells the story of Don Juan, a womanizer who feels that there is nothing wrong with tearing marriages apart and using women until he no longer feels they are satisfying him. While reading, I couldn’t help but relate Don Juan’s character to the majority of humankind. We are all sinners and frequently do things that may seem right in our own minds, but wrong to those around us. It is those individuals who expose us to a different perspective other than our own and encourage us to be less narrow-minded. In the case of Don Juan, both Sganarelle and Elvire try to make Don Juan aware of the fact that what he is doing is very wrong and that he will be punished for his deeds. Sganarelle tells him that “…an evil life brings an evil death” and that he will be punished for mocking Heaven. Elvire also tells him his “…crime shall not remain unpunished” and that Heaven will punish him. Although some people tend to change their ways after they are told they will be punished, Don Juan was set in his beliefs. He continued to do what he enjoyed and ultimately this led to his demise, and he was punished.

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.

Cassanova

When I think of Don Juan, the name that comes into my mind is Cassanova. Cassanova was famed for being a seducer. He was a romantic fool who’s sole desires were women and adventure. However, Don Juan seems to be a radical version of Cassanova, as he not only seems to take pleasure in seducing and marrying every other girl, but he doesn’t seem to heed anyone else’s warnings. For example, when Don Juan’s valet cautions him of his way of life, he doesn’t heed it; when Don Luis cautions him, he neglects it. He becomes so arrogant that he challenges the Heavens by calling statues over for dinner and not find it perplexing when they actually show up. He sealed his fate when he used the idea of being religious and pious as a disguise to cover his true intentions. At this moment, his hubris and his arrogance were explicitly shown, and this is what led to his inevitable doom.