Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Acclaimed by many scholars as having created the first Don Juan in European literature, Tirso de Molina received the honor of accompanying the vicar general to Santo Domingo by way of Seville. Tirso had resided in Toledo, where, under the influence of Lope de Vega Carpio, the creator of the Spanish comedia or play, he began to compose theatrical works. Tirso, a Mercederian priest elected to several important positions in the order, prepared himself for writing plays by attending literary academies and participating in poetic competitions. Tirso showed his genius by composing more than three hundred plays—both highly animated and serious comedias.

The Trickster of Seville, derived from a libertine story and a Castilian ballad featuring the figure of a stone guest, portrays the theological theme that God punishes blasphemy. Tirso’s stylistic procedure involves varying Don Juan’s multiple seductions of women by showing the action in the middle of the episodes and then modifying the settings and types of victims. The quantity of seductions provides the rapid pace of the play, and the pace is further supported by the lively dialogue of the verse form, which is varied according to the speaker. The episodic structure of repeated seductions, culminating in Don Juan’s encounter with the stone guest, is unified by warnings of tragedy in previous scenes through continual allusions to the finality of death, the judgment of God, and the flames of hell. Don Gonzalo’s death resulting from his attempt to avenge his daughter’s lost honor in a duel with the trickster introduces the prime unifying element of the play: the statue erected on Don Gonzalo’s tomb that becomes the vehicle of Don Juan’s condemnation to hell.

Another unifying factor is Don Juan’s gracioso, or servant, who emphasizes the theme of procrastination that characterizes the deceiver. Instead of mimicking his master’s ideas as a typical gracioso would, he cautions Don Juan not to delay his preparation for the Judgment Day. Although the fearful Catalinón underscores Don Juan’s courage at the arrival of the stone guest, Catalinón assures the statue that he can trust his master’s word as a gentleman, and that Don Juan’s dishonesty extends...

(The entire section is 931 words.)