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Definition: Don Juan from Collins English Dictionary


1 a legendary Spanish nobleman and philanderer: hero of many poems, plays, and operas, including treatments by de Molina, Molière, Goldoni, Mozart, Byron, and Shaw

2 a successful seducer of women

Summary Article: Don Juan
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Character of Spanish legend, Don Juan Tenorio, supposed to have lived in the 14th century and notorious for his debauchery. Tirso de Molina, Molière, Mozart, Byron, and George Bernard Shaw have featured the legend in their works.

The prototype is found in the Spanish play El burlador de Sevilla y convidado (1630), attributed to Tirso de Molina. The story is that Don Juan, of the noble Tenorio family, is an abandoned profligate living in the days of Pedro the Cruel in Seville. When Ulloa thwarts Don Juan's schemes to seduce his daughter, he is stabbed by the dissolute lover. An atheist, Don Juan mockingly challenges a stone image of his victim to a banquet in his tomb. The outraged Ulloa comes to life, accepts, and then carries his murderer off to hell.

Mozart's music to Da Ponte's libretto in the opera Don Giovanni (1787) gave inspiration for Prosper Merimée's novel Les Ames du purgatoire, Alexandre Dumas's Don Juan de Marana, Honoré de Balzac's Elixir d'une longue vie, and Byron's poem Don Juan. Henry Purcell, who used Thomas Shadwell's play The Libertine (1676), was the first to write a musical setting; C W Gluck's ballet music (1761) is still played. Carlo Goldoni, Molière, José de Espronceda, Gustave Flaubert, Landau, and Paul Heyse have all coloured the legend, but of all later writers Zorilla, whose Don Juan Tenorio (1844) has come to be regarded as a national work, may justly claim the distinction of having cast the story into its most popular form.


Byron, George Gordon: From Don Juan

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