The Poem

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

When Don Juan is a small boy, his father dies, leaving the boy in the care of his mother, Donna Inez. Donna Inez is a righteous woman who made her husband’s life miserable. She has her son tutored in the arts of fencing, riding, and shooting, and she attempts to rear him in a moral manner. The young Don Juan reads widely in the sermons and lives of the saints, but he does not seem to absorb from his studies the qualities his mother thinks essential.

At sixteen, he is a handsome lad much admired by his mother’s friends. Donna Julia, in particular, often looks pensively at the youth. Donna Julia is just twenty-three and married to a man of fifty. Although she loves her husband, or so she tells herself, she thinks often of young Don Juan. One day, finding herself alone with him, she gives herself to the young man. The young lovers spend long hours together during the summer, and it is not until November that Don Alfonso, her husband, discovers their intrigue. When Don Alfonso finds Don Juan in his wife’s bedroom, he tries to throttle him. Don Juan overcomes Don Alfonso and flees, first to his mother’s home for clothes and money. Then Donna Inez sends him to Cadiz, there to begin a tour of Europe. The good lady prays that the trip will mend his morals.

Before his ship reaches Leghorn, a storm breaks it apart. Don Juan spends many days in a lifeboat without food or water. At last the boat is washed ashore, and Don Juan falls exhausted on the beach and sleeps. When he awakens, he sees bending over him a beautiful girl, who tells him that she is called Haidée and that she is the daughter of the ruler of the island, one of the Cyclades. Her father, Lambro, is a pirate, dealing in jewels and slaves. She knows her father will sell Don Juan to the first trader who comes by, so Haidée hides Don Juan in a cave and sends her maids to wait on him.

When Lambro leaves on another expedition, Haidée takes Don Juan from the cave and they roam together over the island. Haidée gives jewels, fine foods, and wines to Don Juan, for he is the first man she ever knew except for her father and for her servants. Although Don Juan still tries to think of Donna Julia, he cannot resist Haidée. A child of nature and passion, she gives herself to him with complete freedom. Don Juan and Haidée live an idyllic existence until Haidée’s father returns unexpectedly. Don Juan again fights gallantly, but at last he is overcome by the old man’s servants and put aboard a slave ship bound for a distant market. He never sees Haidée again, and he never knows that she dies without giving birth to his child.

The slave ship takes Don Juan to a Turkish market, where he and another prisoner are purchased by a black eunuch and taken to the palace of a sultan. There Don Juan...

(The entire section is 1139 words.)