The original version of the world famous Don Juan story as presented by Tirso De Molina is titled The Playboy of Seville and the Stone Guest. The character of Don Juan or DJ is open to multiple interpretations because there are many different aspects to it. Difference versions appear to explore different aspects of DJ which is why many differences are found between the original play introduced by Tirso and later versions like the new play from Shadwell titled The Libertine. This essay seeks to explicate those differences between representations of the DJ character in these two versions from Tirso and Shadwell and justify the claim that such differences are related to the sociocultural context of the time, the development of the storyline, and the evolution of the DJ character in general.
It is worth mentioning here that both plays have a gap of 60 years between them. Such a large gap between the two versions helps to understand the character’s divergence. This is because literature understandably evolves with changing times as writers’ approach transforms in compliance with changing sociocultural ideals. If the DJ character as introduced by Tirso in the first ever version is scrutinized, it becomes apparent that the Spanish dramatist was significantly influenced by the sociocultural ideals of the 17th century which is the time when his play got published.
Much has been written about the metamorphosis of the DJ legend. The revised works like The Libertine seek to popularize views in society which stood in stark contrast to the views advocated by earlier or original authors like Tirso. For example, it is claimed that while the original authors presented the character of DJ in a way that emphasized the reality of a cause-and-effect relationship between actions and their consequences, later authors like Shadwell used DJ to criticize the validity of Christian doctrine (Hermanson). This difference in approach taken by writers to portraying DJ illuminates changing sociocultural context of the time which brought a change in people’s psyche and the DJ character evolved as a result. Such differences are related to the sociocultural context of the time. In the time of Tirso, much emphasis was laid on the validity of Christian dogma because people strictly believed in the relationship between “crime and punishment and virtue and reward” (Hermanson). This is why Tirso appears to concentrate more focus on the indecent and shocking side of DJ to explain how bad deeds lead to bad results. Shadwell’s version also seeks to deliver this message that evil behavior is punished at the end, but belonging to its time it seems to deny the cause-and-effect relationship as in evildoers like DJ, “death brings no remorse or repentance and virtuous behavior brings neither mercy nor justice” (Hermanson).
Concluding, the DJ legend has undergone many transitions in literature, but the original version sits well with norms and ideals of the Spanish Golden Age. As this critically acclaimed story passed down from one generation to another, the DJ character along with other features of the story saw variance to acknowledge cultural, religious, and social changes.
Hermanson, Anne. “Forsaken Justice: Thomas Shadwell’s The Libertine and the Earl of Rochester’s Lucina’s Rape Or the Tragedy of Vallentinian.” Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700 33.1 (2009) : 3-26. Web. 31 May. 2015.