>Moliere’s Don Juan


To read this play as anything more than a moral lesson is tempting, though improper. What is to be examined, instead, is its incorporation of genres and themes; its use of wit, paradox, and repartee. The comedy of manners, the morality play, and the opera buffa all funciton together to create a character who is comical in his naivete. We wait for his hypocrisy to be condemned to hellfire and damnation, and ultimately, are rewarded.

But Sganarelle’s question at the end of the play (“But who will pay my wages?) when lamenting the loss of his master suggests that the harm has already been done. Dona Elvira turns to the convent, her family never exacts revenge, and Sganarelle is left to brave the world without hiding behind his master.  The remaining characters are urged closer to God through Don Juan’s damnation.

In the 17th century, Louis XIV’s Paris had seen the influence of the church wane, and the possibility for social satire emerge. Here is where Moliere’s true genius shines, for as Don Juan says, “It’s only commonsense to take advantages of the weaknesses of mankind, and adjust one’s behavior to fit in with the vices of one’s age.” Moliere’s ability to condemn the traits most prevalent in an age (namely, hypocrisy and pretentiousness) is worthy of emulation. My question is what are the vices inherent in post postmodernism?

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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