Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 308

Zorilla's Don Juan Tenorio overlays the Don Juan legend (and its previous literary and musical versions) with several themes characteristic of the Romantic period. Don Juan begins as the cynical seducer we expect him to be but, at a central point in the play, becomes overwhelmed by the purity of one of his intended conquests, Doña Ines. Doña Ines is the daughter of the Commander of Seville, Don Gonzalo. Don Juan kills both Gonzalo and a rival of his, Don Luis, over a previous conquest. In previous versions of the story, the ghost of the Commander drags Don Juan down to hell as punishment for his crimes. In Zorilla's treatment, however, Don Juan is saved in the end by the intervention of the woman he loved, Ines.

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The Romantic theme of man as rebel, as an independent agent defying the laws of man and God and essentially creating his own value system, is at the heart of the play. Zorilla's Don Juan is another version of Goethe's Faust and Byron's Manfred (more so than of Byron's own Don Juan, interestingly). He is an outsider, envied by other men, such as Don Luis, who has made a wager with Don Juan over which of them can be the more successful seducer. But another theme emerges: that of a man's redemption and salvation by a woman. This, too, is an extension of a theme of Goethe in his Faust. The theme of man as outsider, as rebel, occurs again and again in nineteenth-century literature. The thrust of this idea is one which attempts to both transcend traditional religious beliefs and substitute a newer version of religion in which man takes on the attributes of the divine. Don Juan, like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, is represented simultaneously as both evil and admirable, illustrating an ambivalence typical in Romantic thinking.

Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 175

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