The Don Juan of legend and of the earlier literary treatments that predate Romanticism, when contrasted with Byron’s quite different treatment of the character, can be discussed in terms of these special features regarding individualism and non-conformity.
The original Don Juan figure is a rebel, flouting society’s values and religion, and was punished for it. The message was basically that crime doesn’t pay: especially the crimes of seduction, rape, and murder. Yet even in the pre-1800 versions of the story, Don Juan is an ambiguous figure, seen by those writers and composers who portrayed him as not merely a villain but an anti-hero, making a statement about man’s self-assertion in an unjust and hypocritical world.
This is the core of the character that Byron develops in his epic poem into a completely transformed figure. The original story line is discarded in favor of one in which Don Juan begins as an innocent youth who seduced by an “older” woman and sent out into the...
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