Title: Dom Juan or The Feast with the Statue.
Genre: Literature, fiction, plays, humour, satire.
Publication Date: 1665.
Summary: What happens when you've lived only for pleasure, and you finally run out of time? When you've broken every promise, outraged every decency and slept your way through half of Europe - where do you turn as the clock starts to tick towards midnight? Don Juan finds out first hand as he carelessly abandons yet another ruined lady, but this time Heaven joins in the pursuit of her brothers to bring the scoundrel to justice.
My rating: 6/10.
My review: One of the things that I was thinking the whole time I was reading this play is how it felt like you were reading a Shakespeare play with all the stuff he wrote for an educated, noble audience cut out (although it must be noted I do not by any means believe Molière comes anywhere close to Shakespeare in skill). Crude, base, tasteless, absolutely lacking subtlety, this play was a mess. I was especially disappointed because I adore 15th-19th century French lit almost indiscriminately, and often for the exact thing Molière seems to have failed at. Don Juan was too much of a caricature, too one-dimensional, for me to be able believe him. The supernatural effect at the end is rushed and ham-fisted, and really out of left field. As ludicrous and over-the-top as the play is, the fact that he actually plunges down to hell in the end is overboard. The character of Sganarelle is amusing and clever enough to make up for some of the play's short-comings, but not by much. I liked a couple of concepts within the play - the integrity of Dona Elvira's brothers, and the speech of Don Juan's father about how nobility is not the the name, but in deeds, notably. Otherwise, I feel like I have stumbled on the absolute worst possible play to introduce myself to Molière (although for someone of his acclaim, I always reserve a second chance).
♥ SGANARELLE. You say he has married your mistress. He would have done far more than that to gratify his desires. He would have married you, and her dog and cat as well. It costs him nothing to marry. That is the best baited trap he has. He marries right and left. Fine lady, ward, town dweller or country girl, none are too hot or too cold for him.
♥ SGANARELLE. A great gentleman who is really wicked is a terrible thing.
♥ SGANARELLE. Your heart is the greatest nomad that ever was. It likes to be always on the move. It hates to stay in one place for long together. ... I'll tell you quite frankly that I don't think you behave in the right way at all. I think it's very wicked to go loving right and left as you do.
DON JUAN. So you think we should be tied for ever to the first object that takes our fancy, forswear the rest of the world, and have no eyes for anyone else? A nice thing indeed to take seriously to heart such a false point of honour as fidelity; to bury myself for ever in one passionate affair, and to be dead from henceforth to everything that my eyes tell me is worthy of devotion! No, no. Constancy is only fit for idiots. Every pretty woman has the right to attract us, and the mere accident of being seen first should not rob the others of their privilege of subjugating our hearts. Beauty delights me wherever I find it, and I fall a willing slave to the sweet force with which it seeks to bind me. However my heart may be engaged, the love I have for one woman has no power to make me unfair to the rest. My eyes see the merits of each, and pay homage and tribute wherever it is due. If I see an attractive woman, my heart is hers; and, had I ten thousand hearts, I would give them all to a face that was worthy of them. After all, the growth of a passion has infinite charm, and the true pleasure of love is its variety. How deliciously sweet to lay siege to a young heart; to watch one's progress day by day; to overcome by means of vows, tears and groans, the delicate modesty of a soul which sighs its surrender; to break down little by little the weakening resistance, the maidenly scruples that her honour dictates, and bring her at last where we would have her be. But once we have had our way with her, there is no more to wish for. The best is behind us. And so we slumber on, lulled by our love, until a new object appears to reawaken our desire, and lure us on with the charms of a new conquest. There is nothing so sweet as to overcome the resistance of a beautiful woman; and, where they are concerned, I have the ambition of a conqueror, who goes from triumph to triumph, and can never be satisfied. Nothing shall stand in the way of my desire. My heart is big enough to love the whole world; and I could wish, with Alexander, that there were more worlds still, so that I might carry yet further my prowess in love.
♥ DONA ELVIRA. No. I won't hear another word. I blame myself for listening so long already. Only cowards will stay to hear the story of their shame. For a noble heart, to know is to act.
♥ PIERROT. No, you don't love me. And yet I does all I can to make 'ee. I buys 'ee ribbons from every pedlar that comes along, without one word of complaint. I breaks my neck to get blackbirds for 'ee out of the nest. I gets the hurdy-gurdy man to play for 'ee on your birthday. And all the time I'm butting my head against a stone wall. It bean't neither good nor honest not to love folks as love we.
♥ PIERROT. Way or no, when one has a friendship for folks, one allus shows it a little.
♥ SGANARELLE. What do you believe in?
DON JUAN. What do I believe?
DON JUAN. I believe that two and two make four, Sganarelle, and four and four make eight.
SGANARELLE. That's a fine thing to believe! What fine articles of faith! Your religion then is nothing but arithmetic. Some people do have queer ideas in their heads, and those that have been educated are often the silliest.
♥ DON CARLOS. My dear brother, we are perfectly justified in avenging our honour; but let us lay all anger aside, and proceed with moderation. Let our temper be under control, our determination free from ferocity; and let us show that we are governed by reason, and not by the heady rashness of blind fury.
♥ DON LOUIS. What baseness! Are you not ashamed to dishonour your family in this way? You have lost even the right to be proud of your descent, so little is your conduct worthy of a nobleman. Do you think it is enough to bear the name and the escutcheon, or that noble blood can confer honour on a man who lives in infamy? No, no. Birth is of no account unless accompanied by nobility of character. The measure of our share in our ancestors' renown is the measure of our efforts to resemble them; and the very lustre of their achievements, in whose reflected glory we shine, obliges us, by following in the same paths of virtue, to return the honour we have received; or we proclaim ourselves no true descendants of them. You may no longer claim the consideration due in noble birth. Your ancestors cast you out. The fame of their great deeds, which should have brought you credit, is a beacon in whose light your dishonour shows the blacker. A gentleman who lives an evil life is a freak of nature. Virtue is the true title to nobility. I judge of a man, not by who he is, but by what he does; and I would have more respect for the son of a street-porter who was an honest man, than for the son of an emperor who lived like you.
♥ DON JUAN. There are many others who do the same; who use this same mask to deceive the world. ... There's no longer any disgrace in it. Hypocrisy has become a fashionable vice, and all such vices pass for virtues. The mask of a good man is the best mask to wear. At no time could the profession of a hypocrite be carried on more advantageously than today. That sort of imposture is always respected; and, even if it is found out, no one dare say anything against it. All other vices come under censure, and everyone is free to rail against them; but hypocrisy is privileged and enjoys special immunity. No one dare open his mouth. By this kind of deceit, one forms a solid pact with all others of the same persuasion. If one is attacked, the rest rush to his defence at once; and even those who act in good faith, and are known to be genuinely religious, are always the dupes of the others. They fall head foremost into the hypocrites' trap, and blindly back them up in everything they do. Do you think I don't know hundreds of others who have glossed over in this way the debauchery of their youth; made themselves a shield out of the cloak of religion; and, under its cover, have continued to be the greatest scoundrels living? Even if you see through them, and know them for what they are, they still enjoy credit in the eyes of the world; and whatever ill they do is easily put right by hanging their head, groaning deeply and casting a pious glance up to heaven. It is in this safe harbour that I mean to take refuge, and set my affairs in order. I shall not give up my favourite sins, but I shall engage in them in secret; and take my pleasures without making such a noise about it. Then, if I am found out, the whole cabal will take up the cudgels without my stirring a limb, and defend me against all and sundry. That is the only way I can do whatever I like with no risk of being called to account for it. I shall set up as a censor of other people's actions, think the worst of everybody; and have no good opinion of anyone but myself. If anyone offends me, be it ever so slightly, I shall never forgive him, and have a secret grudge against him for ever after. I shall appoint myself the avenger of Heaven; and, under this convenient pretext, I shall harass my enemies, accuse them of impiety, and let loose upon them a whole horde of crazy zealots, who, without the least knowledge of the matter, will preach against them in public; cover them with abuse, and consign them to perdition by their own private authority. It's only commonsense to take advantage of the weaknesses of mankind, and adjust one's behaviour to fit in with the vices of one's age.
♥ SGANARELLE. As that author, whose name I've forgotten, said very wisely: Man in this world is like a bird on a bough. The bough is attached to the tree. Whoever keeps hold of the tree is guided by good principles. Good principles are better than fine words. Fine words are spoken at Court. At Court there are courtiers. Courtiers follow the fashion. The fashion is a product of fancy. Fancy is a faculty of the spirit. The spirit is the course of life. Life ends in death. Death makes us think of heaven. Heaven is above the earth. The earth is not the sea. The sea is subject to storms. Storms are dangerous to ships. Ships need a good pilot. A good pilot is prudent. Prudence is not found in the young. The young owe obedience to the old. The old love riches. Riches make rich men. Rich men are not poor. The poor know necessity. Necessity knows no law. Whoever knows no law lives like a brute beast. Q.E.D.: you'll be damned for ever.