don juan

don juan

[don wahn or, Sp., dawn hwahn for 1, 2; especially for 4 don joo-uhn]

Don Juan is a well-known fictional character who is popularly portrayed as a symbol of the libertine. He originated as a hero-villain of Spanish folk legend, and his fame rapidly spread through the rest of Europe in the 17th century. The story of Don Juan is told and retold throughout many different works of literature. The earliest known version of the tale was a play set in the fourteenth century that was published in Spain around the year 1630 and was written by Tirso De Molina, a Spanish Baroque dramatist, poet and monk.

Over the centuries, Don Juan has evolved into a universally masculine character, as familiar as Don Quixote or Hamlet. He was portrayed as the hero-villain in a plethora of plays, novels and poems. The legend of this enigmatic persona was assured enduring popularity with the publication of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni. Other famous tellings of the tale include a play entitled "The Stone Feast" by Moliere in 1665 and a lengthy poem by Byron entitled "Don Juan'' in 1819.

The legend of Don Juan tells how he seduced a girl of noble family and subsequently killed her father, who had tried to defend her honor. Upon later seeing a commemorative effigy on the father's tomb, he invited it to dine with him. The ghost arrives for dinner as a harbinger of Don Juan's death. In the original Spanish tragedy, Don Juan's likable qualities and attractiveness only serve to intensify the dramatic impact of the catastrophe when Don Juan's enemies gradually drive him to destruction. At the end of the tale, he refuses to repent for his lifestyle or decisions and is subsequently eternally damned.

In the legend, Don Juan is a famous lover and classic scoundrel who has made more than a thousand sexual conquests. He has evolved into the ultimate example of how masculine drive without humility may lead to eventual and complete destruction.

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