A synopsis of the play by Molière

This document was originally published in Minute History of the Drama. Alice B. Fort & Herbert S. Kates. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. p. 47.

DON JUAN was produced at the Palais Royal, Paris, February 15, 1665, with Molière playing the part of Sganarelle.

DON JUAN is a graceless brigand of hearts, the despair of his servant, Sganarelle, and of his upright father who must repeatedly rescue him from some scrape. Don Juan's favorite method of procedure is to go through a secret mock marriage. This satisfies the girl yet leaves him legally free when he tires of her charms. His latest conquest is the beautiful Elvire whom he has enticed from a convent to "marry" him.

Now, in spite of Sganarelle's protests and warnings of Heaven's wrath, Don Juan has abandoned Elvire and is plotting to carry off the fiancée of a friend. With this purpose master and man embark in a small boat on the lake where the engaged couple have planned to go sailing. During a sudden squall, the small boat is overturned and both would have perished except for their timely rescue by a peasant. Scarcely are Don Juan's fancy clothes dried, before he is again at his lovemaking . . . this time proposing marriage to each of two peasant girls who fall to quarreling as to which of them will be favored. Sganarelle, sotto voice, informs them that his master will actually marry neither one.

At this point word reaches Don Juan that Elvire's brothers have sworn to kill him. Disguised beyond recognition, master and man set out to return to the city. On the way Don Juan rescues a stranger from robbers only to discover that he has saved the life of one of Elvire's brothers. Because of his vow of gratitude before he learns Don Juan's identity the stranger spares Don Juan's life for the nonce.

Once more on their way, Don Juan and Sganarelle come to the tomb of the Commandant who had been a recent victim. As a joke, Don Juan insists that Sganarelle must invite the statue to dinner. Sganarelle is frankly frightened and Don Juan is somewhat taken aback when the statue nods its acceptance and Sganarelle is terrified when at the dinner hour it actually appears. It is, the servant points out, a sign of Heaven's just wrath.

Heaven's wrath, however, does not concern Don Juan. It is his earthly troubles that decide him to pretend a conversion to religion. This hypocrisy proves the last straw for a long suffering Heaven. In the midst of his hypocritical cantings there is a great peal of thunder and Don Juan is swallowed up in a flaming abyss, leaving Sganarelle to remark:

"By his death everyone gets satisfaction. Heaven offended, laws violated, girls led astray, families dishonored, relatives outraged, wives ruined, husbands driven to despair, they all are satisfied. I am the only unlucky one. My wages, my wages, my wages!"

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