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

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.

Don Juan: A Comedy About Religion

Although Moliere’s famous play Don Juan is considered a comedy, it nonetheless has very strong and serious messages. The play was so scandalous for its time that, in fact, it was banned after only fifteen performances.

The play centers around Don Juan, a manipulating womanizer, and his servant, Sganarelle. Don Juan is a hedonistic atheist, seducing women into “marriage” and abandoning them after he gets bored. Sganarelle secretly does not approve of his master’s lifestyle, and tries to get him to change his ways several times, but to no avail. Sganarelle eventually foresees the demise of Don Juan, but refusing to listen, Don Juan dies horribly and is dragged to Hell for his misdeeds.

Moliere’s play clearly has a serious meaning: we must be moral, pious, God-fearing people, or else we will face punishment and damnation. Don Juan is the ultimate sinner. He breaks laws, ruins women, destroys marriages, and tears families apart. Towards the end of the play, he also adopts a false “religious” front, so he can continue his immoral ways behind a facade. Therefore, he is also a hypocrite, which, perhaps, in Moliere’s opinion, is his greatest sin. Sganarelle is like Don Juan’s faulty conscience. He vehemently opposes Don Juan’s blasphemous ways, but does not have the courage to actually confront him about it.

Written during the seventeenth century, a time when religion practically governed society, the play would seem to be a work that many would appreciate, since Don Juan does “get what he deserves” in the end. However, many were shocked at the boldness with which Moliere treated the subject, and the play was pulled off the stage for being “offensive towards religion.” Despite this, Don Juan teaches a message of morality and faithfulness in religion. The beauty of Moliere’s play is that this strong message is craftily stated in a comedic, clever drama.

The Moral Character (Or Lack Thereof) of Don Juan

I’ve always been interested in the story of Don Juan, and I really enjoyed reading Moliere’s version of this story. Moliere’s clever and humorous take on the tale really highlighted what I was most drawn to about it: the moral character of Don Juan.

While of course we can clearly label Don Juan as a charlatan without morals of any kind, it is in some way a charming quality. Even while we are scandalized, we can’t help but be intrigued by the antics of a perfect rogue. This is especially true when his misadventures fall upon themselves in such comical ways, like when assuring both Charlotte and Mathurine of his undying affection and loyalty, at the same time. Even Sganarelle’s exasperated attempts to lead Don Juan to the path of morality seem lighthearted.

It seems to me that we only truly realize how devious Don Juan is when he decides to live the life of a hypocrite: accusing everyone else of impiety while flagrantly living in sin. As convoluted as it seems, previously to this decision Don Juan was almost noble in his conviction to live immorally. He truly believed, I feel, that it was his right to seduce every beautiful woman he saw. At the same time he also had a clear sense of what was right and wrong, even if he chose only sometimes to act on them, like when he helped Don Carlo when he was outnumbered. Don Juan may have lived by his own rules, but at least it meant that he chose to do good of his own volition, not because he was taught to do so in the name of some higher being. This is why it seems especially wrong when he chooses to live hypocritically, and it leads ultimately to his downfall.

Don Juan–A Connection to Religious Ideas

The play of Don Juan carries a very important message of morality, faithfulness and religious undertones. It is these religious undertones which guide the storyline and allow readers to understand the gravity of Don Juan’s actions.

Don Juan is what we would call in today’s society, a “player”. He knows how to manipulate women and he lifts their hearts up with the idea of marriage and then quickly leaves them as soon as he becomes bored. Don Juan believes uses the excuse that all women should have their beauty appreciated by him and that he should not confine himself to commitment. Throughout the play, Don Juan’s servant, Sganarelle, (who also attempts to teach Don Juan morality) points out that the action of cheating on women and abusing their emotions is a direct violation of the contract between man and the heavens. He tells Don Juan that surely the heavens will become angered and seek revenge against him.

As the play continues, Don Juan performs various selfish actions, most importantly:

-Stealing a country girl away from her fiancee

-Breaking women’s hearts after telling them he is to marry them

-Asking a poor man to beg for money and to swear his allegiance against God

-Lying directly to his father by saying he reformed his ways

-Mistreating his servant and abusing the trust of others.

Don Juan sets himself up on a downward spiral of lies, deceit and manipulation which is immorally correct. His great ability to control situations allows him to escape the consequences of these actions, and he lives his life by destroying the dreams of others. Eventually, Sganarelle, foreshadows the demise of Don Juan after he lies to his father, saying that a talking statue that they saw was a direct indication that the heavens wanted Don Juan to change his ways. Don Juan dismisses these claims and instead goes to eat dinner with the statue. This results in Don Juan being dragged to hell for his actions against the heavens and Sganarelle living without a payment for his services.

The moral of Don Juan is one of morality, faithfulness and religious belief. At the time this was written (1665), religion played an important part in society and women did not have any power unless they were married. By promising marriage to women and then leaving them, Don Juan ruined their lives because a woman’s status was defined through marriage. If a woman was not married, she was not considered powerful in these societies. Don Juan basically teased the women into happiness and then left them. The strong religious beliefs of the time prohibited lies about marriage because marriage was a Christian sacrament to be honored. Any act mocking marriage or acting against it would anger the heavens and thus the offenders were thought to have sinned and would face the consequences. Don Juan highlights the idea of a religious vow being broken and a punishment being enacted. The play ends with educating the reader that they should be faithful, or else they may truly be damned for life (as the women were when they were refused marriage).