(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Don Juan’s philandering habits filled Sganarelle, his valet, with apprehension that such scandalous behavior could only bring on him the wrath of heaven and an evil end; but Don Juan blatantly affirmed that any love he had for one fair face could not withhold his heart from others, and as for heaven, he was not afraid of divine wrath. His valet knew him for the greatest scoundrel on earth, a man who was ready to woo a fine lady or country lass at any time but who tired of them in rapid succession. Through fear, however, he remained faithful to Don Juan and often applauded his master’s acts, even though he really detested them.

In one of his many affairs Don Juan had killed a Commander. Though officially pardoned, he was believed not entirely free of guilt, and friends and relatives of the dead man sought revenge. They followed Don Juan on one of his philandering journeys to a town where he determined to separate a pair of lovers he had chanced upon and to gratify his passion for the lady. The happy pair had planned a sail on the sea, and he prepared to follow in another vessel manned by villains ready to do his bidding.

Meanwhile, Donna Elvire, whom Don Juan had seduced and carried off from a convent where her brothers, Don Carlos and Don Alonse, had placed her, had got wind of his escapade and followed him. She upbraided him for his desertion. Don Juan refused to admit that he was tired of her, but he wished her to believe that he repented his former madcap behavior in forcing her to marry him against her will. From this sin he would deliver her by allowing her to return to the convent and her former obligations. Elvire, seeing through this deception, threatened him with the anger of an injured woman and declared that heaven would punish him for the wrong he had done her.

Don Juan gave chase to the vessel which carried the object of his most recent infatuation. But his plans were upset when a sudden squall arose and both ships were wrecked. Don Juan was rescued by Pierrot, a country lad, and brought with his men to land. He made immediate love to Charlotte, Pierrot’s sweetheart, and she, overwhelmed by his smooth talk and social bearing, promised to marry him. At that moment Mathurine, another country lass who had caught the philanderer’s fancy, accosted Don Juan, but he cleverly led each girl to think she was his only love and the one he would marry.

When Don Juan heard that his pursuers were closing in on him, he changed clothes with his valet. Sganarelle devised a better disguise. Putting on the attire of a physician, he prescribed remedies at random for ailing country folk, not knowing whether his medicines would kill or cure.

In the wood through which they were traveling, Don Juan and Sganarelle sought to evade their pursuers. They discoursed on heaven, hell, the devil, and another life, Don Juan declaring himself a practical man who held no belief in such stupid and supernatural...

(The entire section is 1207 words.)