Versions of Don Juan
A comparative analysis research paper of Moliere's Don Juan, the play The Libertine, which is Thomas Shadwell's Don Juan and Max Frisch's Don Juan play reveals important similarities that contribute to the interpretation of the character of Don Juan as an archetype. At the same time, each playwright offers unique elements of characterization and action that, as a whole, lend themselves to varied interpretations. Although Moliere is first to establish Don Juan as the model of self-absorbed, cavalier and licentious Spanish masculinity, Shadwell and Frisch both confirm and enlarge his archetypal character to reflect elements of their respective time periods.
With Moliere’s version of Don Juan as a framework for comparison, an examination of Shadwell and Frisch’s plays demonstrates that the two subsequent plays considerably altered the archetypical characterization of Don Juan presented in the original. This may be explained by the periods or locations in which they were conceived and ultimately performed as well as the social context in which the Don Juan archetype was perceived.
For example, Shadwell’s version of the play was conceived in largely the same period as Moliere’s however from an English approach to comedic theater rather than the French, which may explain the exaggerated use of language rather than actions to emphasize the stereotypical nature of Spanish male aristocracy. The fact that both Moliere’s and Shadwell’s versions of the play are more extreme may be explained by the fact that both French and English comedic theater were characteristically marked by such exaggerated handling of stereotypes.
Frisch’s version of the play was conceived almost three centuries later, which may explain his handling of the stereotype. The term stereotype is submitted in that both Moliere’s and Shadwell’s characterization of Don Juan are assumed to be based on an historical figure and they applied his typecast origin and behavior to their plays. The ultimate result however was to establish an archetype that would be extended throughout the next three centuries and would no longer be confined to stereotype.
The affirmation of Don Juan as archetype delivered by Frisch in his play is mild in comparison to Moliere’s and Shadwell’s plays. A reasonable explanation for the disparity could be that the centuries of time between the plays may have served to moderate the severity of the Don Juan archetype. At the same time it could be explained by the fact that its abhorrent connotation was minimized by centuries of use to describe men who exhibited similar characteristics. Despite, the differences, the Don Juan archetype has survived the three versions of the play and the centuries that spanned them.