The Spanish Romantic drama Don Juan Tenorio rebelled against rigid neoclassicism, with its principal theme of religious salvation through love. However, many of the themes in Don Juan Tenorio are focused on societal critiques of the time period. An analysis of the Don Juan character is complicated by the necessity to define the works of feminism in the play. There are certain characteristics of the figure that give him his identity like his physical attractiveness and seductive power; his audacity; and how he flaunts the societal norms while at the same time reinforcing the patriarchal definition of male and female roles.
The story presents a lot of opportunities for the female perspective. The best way to discuss the feministic role in Don Juan Tenorio is to focus on two main aspects: the women seduced by Don Juan and their critiques of feminism.
Don Juan, has an original identity of a “cheater” of women who gains their favors through temptation and deception.
However, he has become synonymous with the supreme lover. He is the smooth-talking macho seducer that women find irresistible. He is not only exceptionally handsome, but his gift with words is a powerful, almost like a magical weapon, especially with his most famous victim Dona Ines. Don Juan doesn’t force his attentions on Dona Ines or other women. He gradually breaks down their resistance to him and his words.
Don Juan’s power depended on the cultural context that gave rise to the concept of men as the active force in sexual encounters and women as the passive keepers of the family honor.
That is why the women that Don Juan seeks to seduce are those who present the most challenge within the norms of society. For example, young innocent virgins, nuns, fianc?es, and wives of other men. Even more than sexual lust, Don Juan succeeds at the ultimate goal. The women he seduces are overpowered by emotions of love and adoration. That explains the repeated use of the word “victims” to refer to the women who fall under Don Juan’s spell. The theme of innocence is embodied in the character of Dona Ines. Don Juan, makes fun of tradition in society until he meets Ines, whom he steals from her convent out of spite. Something about Ines, perhaps her innocence or her obvious adoration of him, mysteriously changes him, or perhaps he sees his only hope of salvation through her. She is barely seventeen and has spent her entire life living in a convent. She makes choices based on that innocence, such as immediately wanting to leave Don Juan’s and return to her father’s house after she is kidnapped. Dona Ines is so pure of spirit that God allows her to bargain her soul to try to save Don Juan. At the end, Dona Ines’s statue functions as a symbol of her life on Earth. She was something beautiful and then she was gone because of Don Juan’s actions. The element of deception and dishonor makes no sense in a society that defines men as always sexually available. Even when societal norms require that women refrain from the realization of their sexual desires, this is construed as a battle to control their natural instincts.
Women critics and their analysis of Don Juan. While the Don Juan figure has been subjected to analysis by critics since the seventeenth century, the twentieth century has seen a renewed interest in the figure on the part of female critics. In the past many critics often are primarily concerned with Don Juan’s masculinity and his flaunting of anything that stands in the way of his achieving his goal. However, the feminist critics concentrate on his psychology: his narcissistic egotism and the eroticism his attitude represents. It is also important to point out the absence of the mother figure in Don Juan which is seen as taboo at the time. By depriving him of an alternative view of reality that is consistent with the female principle, he acts unknowingly within the constraints of his Father’s rules. Don Juan is an ambiguous character who at the same time both violates and upholds the patriarchal and religious morality of Christianity at the same time.
One might wonder whether the twenty first century might actually signal the failure of the Don Juan story. The social context in which Don Juan flourished has changed dramatically, at least in Europe and most of North America. Women’s affirmation of their sexual rights, their biological liberation through contraceptives and legalized abortion. The struggle of third world women to achieve equity, and the questioning of marriage as a possible institution have certainly changed the context in which Don Juan weaves his spell.