Don Juan Tenorio Summary

Jose Zorrilla

Don Juan Tenorio

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Don Juan Tenorio Summary

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The romantic drama Don Juan Tenorio is Jose Zorrilla’s 1844 stage version of the traditional Spanish story of Don Juan. It was the most popular play in Spain during the nineteenth century. It tells of the youthful nobleman Don Juan. As the story begins, it is carnival season in Seville. Don Juan is not celebrating in the streets where most people are, but rather is in a tavern with Marcos Ciutti, his servant. He is there to meet Don Luis Jejia a fellow nobleman with whom he has a bet about which of the two could do the most harm in a year. The contest involved the conquest of women and the killing of men. This is the night the winner is to be determined.

Don Juan has won the competition with respect to both women and killings. Onlookers ask whether he fears that, one day, he will have to face repercussions due to his actions, but he does not worry about that. His concern is only for the present time. Both Don Juan and Don Luis have taken fiancés since the meeting a year earlier when they made their bet. Don Luis’s intended is Ana de Pantoja and Don Juan’s is Dona Ines de Ulloa. Don Luis, feeling the sting of having lost the bet issues one additional challenge to Don Juan. He points out that the women Don Juan has been with cover all social levels from royalty to commoners, yet his conquests lack one type of woman. He bets him that he cannot win a novice who is on the verge of taking her holy vows. Not only does Don Juan accept the challenge, but he ups the ante by adding that he will also take an engaged woman, with Don Luis’s fiancé in mind. He pledges to complete the tasks within six days.

When Don Juan’s father-in-law-to-be, Don Gonzalo, who is in the tavern while the new bet is being made, hears of it, he tells Don Juan that he is forbidden to marry his daughter. Unfazed, Don Juan tells him he will marry Dona Ines with or without his permission, thus covering part of the bet, as Dona Ines is ready to take her vows. Don Juan takes Dona Ines from the convent where she has been sequestered without seducing her, and takes her to his mansion. There follows a love scene where they seem to sincerely share their love for one another. This is the first time that Don Juan has shown any feelings toward a woman that were not lustful. The other part of the bet finds Don Luis challenging Don Juan to a duel for having seduced Dona Ana. Before the start of the duel, Don Gonzalo arrives with the authorities and accuses Don Juan of seducing his daughter and kidnapping her. Don Juan begs Don Gonzalo to give him Dona Ines’s hand in marriage and pledges his love for her. Neither Don Gonzalo nor Don Luis believes that Don Juan is anything but the cad they had known him to be and accuse him of being a coward. Unable to convince anyone that he is sincere in his attempts to become a just person, he decides to retain his evil ways, shooting Don Gonzalo and stabbing Don Luis. He leaves the country and Dona Ines.

In the second part of the play, Don Juan returns to Seville five years after the events of part one. When he arrives at the place of his father’s mansion, he finds that it has been torn down and a cemetery built on the land where it once stood. He finds statues of Don Gonzalo, Don Luis, and Dona Ines near the tombs. A sculptor is at work when Don Juan gets there and informs him of some of the events that transpired after he left. Don Juan’s father, Don Diego Tenorio disowned Don Juan when he fled, and he used what his son would have inherited from him to construct the memorial to his victims, which he now stands before. Dona Ines, he is told, died of sorrow shortly after he abandoned her. Don Juan shows regret for his actions and prays for forgiveness. At this point, the statue of Dona Ines comes to life, telling him that in one day he will die and must, during that time, figure out what his fate will be.

Dona Ines has made a bargain with God, offering her innocent soul for that of Don Juan. God agrees that their souls should be joined in eternity, leaving Don Juan to choose between his own salvation or damnation for them both. A series of events ensues that find old friends of Don Juan’s visiting and him convincing himself that he never really saw a ghost. Acts of blasphemy follow, including Don Juan inviting the statue of Don Gonzalo to come to dinner that night. Don Juan continues his taunts against the dead and heaven, but things change when Don Gonzalo shows up. The dinner guests faint, and Don Gonzalo reminds Don Juan that he has very little time left. His friends awaken and accuse him of drugging them, while he accuses them of setting up the entire situation.

The play ends with Don Juan back at the cemetery and Don Gonzalo showing him an hourglass representing Don Juan’s life, which has almost run out. He leads Don Juan into Hell and as they approach, Don Juan begs heaven for mercy. Dona Ines then appears as his redemption and together they go to heaven.