In the play “Don Juan Tenorio” by José Zorrilla, Don Juan has won his bet to conquer more women than Don Luis. Don Luis says the only two conquests remaining for Don Juan are to conquer a woman about to take her vows as nun, and an engaged woman. Don Juan accepts the new bet, saying he only needs six days, not the twenty Don Luis suggested:
One day to get them to fall in love,
another to seduce them,
another one to leave them,
two days to replace them,
and a single hour to forget them.
But Don Juan appears to truly fall in love with Inés, his fiancé whose father has prohibited their planned marriage after over hearing the bragging between Don Juan and Don Luis. Don Juan proclaims his love for Inés, that he adores her and feels the slavery of her love.
Oh, my loveliest Inés
mirror and light of vision,
listen without derision,
as you do so, it’s love: yes,
see here at your feet, I confess
all the haughty pride
of this traitorous heart inside
that never thought to yield,
adores you, my life, ah, I feel
the slavery of your love.
A little later Don Juan also tells Inés’s father on his knees at her father’s feet that “I will be your daughter’s slave.” Don Juan is not attempting further fraud, but confesses to both daughter and father that he will be the slave of his beloved. As I discussed last week, we submit ourselves to the slavery of what we are willing to invest our time, money, and emotions in.
But when both Don Luis and Inés’s father reject Don Juan’s attempts to be a good man, he kills them both and flees the country. When he returns to the site of his mansion after being pardoned five years later, it has been torn down and a cemetery built with life size statues of Don Luis, Inés, and her father. The statue of Inés comes to life and explains that Don Juan has only one day left to live, and she has bound her eternity to his to give him another chance. He must choose repentance and salvation or damnation for them both. Later, the ghost of Inés’s father comes to life and tries to drag Don Juan to hell. But he repents and is redeemed by Inés, who reappears and takes him to heaven.
It is a Spanish tradition to perform Zorrilla’s version of Don Juan every year for All Saint’s Day, the first of November. On this day in Spain, families visit the graves of their loved ones. Could it be that the adoption of this play for All Saint’s Day is to reflect the hope that any person, no matter how “bad” they were for the majority of their life, can repent shortly before death and still make it to heaven? Not too long after All Saint’s Day, I was fortunate enough to attend a performance of Don Juan Tenorio, mixed with parts of Mozart’s Don Giovanni and performed by members of the Association of Friends of the Castles. The blend of theater with opera was quite successful and moving.
Back on March 19, 2011, I wrote about the origins of the Don Juan legend. The first known dramatic work of this legend was the “The Seducer/Trickster of Seville,” by Tirso de Molina, written in 1630, more than two hundred years before the Don Juan Tenorio of José Zorrilla, written in 1844. In Tirso de Molina’s earlier version, the ghost of the father of the woman Don Juan has defrauded and dishonored takes Don Juan’s hand, kills him, and drags him to hell. While both Don Juans start out as evil men with no regard for the feelings of the women they seduce, Zorrilla’s Don Juan repents and finds salvation.
Many families have a “black sheep,” that family member who exhibits no Good Love, let alone true love or Better Love. But Don Juan Tenorio’s repentance and confession of love, and travel to heaven with his beloved, does imply that love is eternal. This message makes the theatrical work appropriate for the day most Spanish families reserve to visit the graves of their dead loved ones. The picture above is from the British Cemetery in Madrid, where many who could not be buried in the catholic cemeteries came to rest.