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Shadwell's Don Juan

Whatever influenced Moliere’s play and characterization of Don Juan, the 17th century Shadwell reveals the same archetypal character and in his preface to the play, submits that it was derived from a play famous all over Spain Italy and France.  However, Shadwell’s play is an intensified version of Moliere’s play in that his Don Juan (Don John), although just as narcissistic and hypocritical as Morliere’s Don Juan, exhibits even more contemptible traits in speech and behavior.

Shadwell's Don Juan

Shadwell’s Don Juan is the archetype of English pageantry in literature as he exhibits the motif of an Elizabethan tragedy. As Moliere’s Don Juan exhibited Spanish masculinity, Shadwell’s expressed the sadistic elements of pleasure encompassing brutal crimes and is called to terms with folly through divine justice. The brutal raping of nuns, the slashing of the throat of his father all serve as examples of the tragedy that Shadwell illustrates as Don John’s moral damnation. This is much like the elements of tragedy in Shakespearean literature, however, unlike the characters in nearly all of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Don Juan fails to recognize his tragic downfall and rather boasts of his sadism as part of his nature.

Clearly, as a libertine and unrestrained by convention or morality, Shadwell’s Don Juan is just as licentious and impious as the character in the other versions examined.  An examination of the list of the play’s characters reveals his propensity for infidelity by the number of wives he has, all of whom come together as do the numerous love interest’s of Frisch’s Don Juan to challenge the archetypal cad.  Moliere’s Don Juan is only similarly challenged by two jealous peasant girls.

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