Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 353
The full title of the play is El Burlador de Sevilla y Convidado de Piedra (The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest).It is the first significant literary version of the Don Juan legend.
In the story, Don Juan Tenorio is a young Spanish nobleman, a reckless libertine whose method is to trick a woman by disguising himself as her husband or betrothed in order to gain entry to her room and then carry out a seduction or rape. He attempts this with Doña Ana and then kills her father, Don Gonzalo, when he arrives to defend her. Later, at the church where Gonzalo is buried, Don Juan and his servant Catalinón come across the statue of Gonzalo over his tomb. Juan jestingly invites the statue to dinner, and the statue comes to life and accepts the invitation (hence, the "Stone Guest"). When the Statue later requests that Don Juan come as his guest to dinner, Don Juan accepts and returns to the church, and the Statue drags him down to hell to pay for his crimes.
When Tirso de Molina (born Gabriel Téllez) wrote the play in the early 1600s, it was a clear-cut story of sin and punishment. In the course of the tale, Don Juan seduces or rapes four women: Doña Isabel; Doña Ana; a young fisherwoman named Thisbe; and a peasant woman, Aminta, on her wedding day. There is also a (somewhat veiled) theme of the general corruption of the upper classes and of the political machinations at the Castilian court, but these are secondary to the religious theme that sin and crime will be punished in the next life.
It was only in later versions of the basic story, beginning with Mozart's opera in the late eighteenth century, that writers and commentators began to see more modern, existentialist themes emerging. In these, Don Juan is a hero, antihero, or hero-villain, and the tale is seen as a parable of man's destiny in an ambiguous world. However, it is doubtful that anything but a straightforward religious message was intended by Tirso de Molina.