The Trickster of Seville

by Gabriel Téllez
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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 489

The Trickster of Seville is a play written by Spanish playwright Tirso de Molina, which premiered sometime between 1616 and 1630. It is a dramatic reinterpretation of Don Juan, a fictional archetype of the literary figure of the libertine, an individual who philosophically resists all personal restraint.

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The play is split into three acts. In act one, Don Juan makes love to the duchess Isabela in Naples. Isabela turns on the lamp and realizes that he is not her lover, Duke Octavio. A palace official named Don Pedro arrests Don Juan, but he reveals that he is his nephew, causing a change of heart. Don Pedro helps Don Juan escape and announces that the man in the bedroom was Duke Octavio. After Octavio is arrested, he becomes suspicious that Isabela has cheated on him and flees the country. Meanwhile, Don Juan falls immediately in love with a peasant girl who shelters him after finding him unconscious. When Don Juan also flees the country, she despairs and unsuccessfully attempts suicide by jumping into the ocean.

Act two begins in Seville, where Don Juan's father, Don Diego, reveals to the king that Don Juan has violated Isabela. The king retracts his offer of an arranged marriage between Don Juan and Doña Ana, a nobleman's daughter. He also bans him from Spain. When Octavio arrives and pleas for mercy, the king sympathizes and grants him lodging in the castle. Don Juan befriends a man named Marquis de la Mota, who tells him that he is in love with a woman named Doña Ana. Don Diego facetiously sets up a meeting between the two, ostensibly so that Mota can profess his love. However, he derails the meeting, instigating a sword fight in which he kills Doña Ana's father. He gives Mota his cloak so that Mota is accused of the crime. At the act's end, Don Juan meets a woman named Aminta, the soon-to-be bride of Batricio. Batricio is threatened by Don Juan's status but lacks the power to kick him out.

In Act three, Don Juan carries out his plan to marry Aminta. He claims that he took her virginity and that therefore she must marry him. Meanwhile, Isabela runs into the surviving peasant girl Tisbea, and they team up to find Don Juan. The ghost of Doña Ana's father, Gonzalo, invites Don Juan to a graveyard, challenging him to dine on an elaborate meal of scorpions and vipers. When Don Juan is finished, the ghost smites him, and his body vanishes. The play concludes with a scene at the palace where everyone is telling the king about Don Juan's mischief. Catalinón, Don Juan's assistant, runs in and announces that he is dead. All of Don Juan's former lovers are declared widows, freeing them up to find new lovers. Mota decides to marry Ana, Octavio marries Isabela, and the rest are freed from Don Juan's tyranny and return home.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 918

In Naples, Italy, Don Juan Tenorio deceives Isabela by impersonating her lover, Duke Octavio, under the cover of darkness. After Isabela tells Don Juan that she wants to light a lamp, he confesses to her that he is not Duke Octavio. Isabela screams, and Don Juan is apprehended. He is permitted to escape, however, by his uncle Don Pedro Tenorio, the Spanish ambassador.

During a voyage to Spain, Don Juan is shipwrecked on the coast and is rescued by a fisherman’s daughter named Tisbea. When Don Juan regains consciousness in Tisbea’s arms, he begins to conquer this woman of the lower class. He ardently declares his love, discredits arguments regarding the inequality of their social stations and the responsibilities of marriage vows, and finally obtains her consent to his desires by promising to marry her. Don Juan has ordered his servant, Catalinón, to prepare their horses so that they can escape quickly after he has tricked the young woman. Catalinón repeatedly warns his master that he will some day have to face the consequences of his actions, but Don Juan answers him with the refrain, “That is a long way off.” There are also references to fire: the flames of passion and the burning of Tisbea’s hut.

Upon arriving in Seville, Don Juan discovers that the king has arranged his marriage to Doña Ana, the daughter of Commander Don Gonzalo de Ulloa. Doña Ana, however, is already in love with her cousin, the Marqués de la Mota, with whom she schedules a nightly meeting. Don Juan intercepts a letter containing a message for the Marqués de la Mota to meet Doña Ana at eleven o’clock, wearing a colored cape. The deceiver changes the hour of the meeting to midnight, trades capes with Mota, and arrives at Doña Ana’s at eleven o’clock. Although this rendezvous appears to contain the elements of a master deceit, it causes Don Juan’s demise, for Doña Ana becomes aware of the treachery and screams, alerting her father. The commander fights a duel with Don Juan and is killed. Don Juan departs rapidly from Doña Ana’s home and travels to a small village where a peasant woman named Aminta is going to marry a man named Batricio, who thinks that the presence of this nobleman is a bad omen for his wedding.

Batricio laments Don Juan’s prominent position at the wedding festivities. That night, when Aminta is expecting Batricio to come to her bed, Don Juan appears. Employing the same techniques he used previously to deceive Tisbea, he persuades Aminta to give in to his desires. As he has done in the past, Catalinón prepares the horses in advance, and both master and servant escape. As the two come to a church, however, Catalinón disturbs Don Juan—who is still amused about how he tricked the gullible peasant woman—with the information that Octavio has learned the identity of Isabela’s beguiler and Don Juan is obligated to marry her. Moreover, the Marqués de la Mota is advocating Don Juan’s castigation.

At the churchyard, Don Juan and his servant approach Don Gonzalo’s tomb, on which stands a statue of the dead commander. The beguiler read the tomb’s inscription: “Here the most loyal knight waits for the Lord to wreak vengeance upon a traitor.” This inscription insults Don Juan’s honor, and he proceeds to mock the statue by pulling its beard and by inviting it to dine with him so that it can retaliate against him. Don Juan is so absorbed in his response to the inscription’s affront to his honor that he does not remember his sworn oath of fidelity to Aminta, the oath that led her to give in to him. Don Juan had declared that if he fails to keep his promise to Aminta, God should kill him, by means of a dead man, for treachery and deceit.

Don Juan calmly approaches the hour of his supper engagement with the stone guest. The deceiver even continues to use mocking humor, carelessly entertaining his guest with verses that combine the theme of deceit with that of God’s justice being a long time away. In contrast to Don Juan’s demeanor, the stone guest is quiet, but then he requests that Don Juan shake hands to seal his agreement to the statue’s invitation to join him for supper the next evening. This handshake is the first time Don Juan feels intense fear, and his body drips with a cold sweat.

The final meeting for supper takes place in the chapel where the remains of the commander rest. Don Juan and the statue sit down together to a meal of scorpions and snakes, with wine made of gall and vinegar. Don Juan is the guest, so he is obliged to stay and to listen to mysterious voices that announce the theme of divine justice. When Don Juan again shakes hands with the statue, he feels a fire that begins to burn him. He wants to confess to a priest, but God has already condemned him to the eternal fire of hell.

The king, God’s representative on earth, becomes the dispenser of justice. He resolves the marriage problems that Don Juan has created: Octavio marries Isabela, Mota marries Ana, and Batricio marries Aminta. Tisbea, whose cold heart parallels that of the deceiver, is left without a husband.

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