The month of February features prominently Valentine’s Day, which is all about love, an unfathomable feeling often portrayed by Cupid, a winged boy with a bow and arrows.
According to a popular tale, a mythical nobleman from Seville, Spain, handed the following presentation card to females: “I am Don Juan Tenorio, the most outstanding lover of all this vast territory.” To examine whether this aristocrat could represent love alongside the chunky boy Cupid we turned to the French and Spaniards due to their reputation as intense love connoisseurs.
Georges Gendarme de Bevotte says: “Don Juan has no other goal in life than to love. To love is his vocation. He reduces all his actions and thoughts to love … Don Juan seeks happiness in love, which is an end common to all males … Don Juanism is that form of love that feeds solely on change… Don Juanism is so profoundly human and so widespread since love is after all the essential law of life … Don Juaniasm is an innate instinct, primitively normal … Don Juanism is inherent in human nature: the ancients knew it as much as the moderns, and the non-European civilizations do not ignore it at all.”
Another Frenchman, Michel Foucault, in his monumental “History of Sexuality,” on the contrary, describes Don Juan’s prestige as “the great violator of the rules of marriage – stealer of wives, seducer of virgins, the shame of families, as an insult to husbands and fathers,” thus, a perversion and degeneration of love.
To add to the controversy, Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset proclaims Don Juan as a hero. Ortega says: “I declare that I know of no more certain trait to distinguish a moral man from a frivolous man than that of being capable to give his life for something or not. That effort, in which the man takes himself, by weight, wholly entirety, and is ready to throw his existence beyond death, is what makes a man a hero. This life that delivers itself, that overcomes and defeats itself, is the sacrifice incompatible with selfishness… The courageous man is willing to give his life for something. But for what something? Paradoxical nature of ours! The man is ready to shed his life precisely for something that is capable to fill it. This is what we call the Ideal… The most certain anonymous fame that those authors have symbolically concentrated in Don Juan is the mysterious gift of wooing women, which, in varying doses, is distributed in all males.”
Francisco Agustín interprets his compatriot. Agustín says: “For Ortega, Don Juan is a moral man [or hero] by the mere fact that death is constantly around him… Don Juan is ready at any moment to gamble his life.” Agustín adds: “But here it is that man carries in himself a ready docility to instinct. If you take into account that in the deepness of every man lies what Torres del Hoyo has with aptness called the ‘pride of wooing,’ it is easy to foresee that the series of Don Juanes, dispossessed in more or less quantity of their primary qualities, is endless and, therefore, their artistic reflection in literature. But in turn, the ‘pride of wooing’ does not imply forcefully a Don Juanes degeneration of instinct. It may occur, as in Don Quixote, the ‘pride of wooing’ one singular woman. As Kierkegaard says, ‘the art resides not in seducing a girl, but instead in finding a worthy one of being seduced.” Agustín goes on to say: “Paul Bourget divides men into three classes: the ‘excluded’, those who will never be loved; the ‘temporary’, who, due to special
circumstances, have loved some time; and the ‘Lovers’ – like that, with a capital letter- who have been, are and will be loved.
The first two groups are clearly differentiated. Indeed, there are a good number of ‘excluded’, that is, of men who through timidity, egotistical and excessive analysis of the ‘self,’ or through intellectual misogyny, seem doomed to an almost absolute unawareness of what love and its pleasures are. Likewise, there exists another group of men who loved more or less intensely, but concluded frustrated for a lasting love… The third group remains: that of the ‘Lovers,’ of those who make love the constant object of their life, that of the ladies’ man. In which group will the future Don Juan recruit himself? Initially, it seems there is no room for any doubt: in the third one.”
Final question: Would all these opinions be enough to convince a female to go on a Valentine’s Day date with Don Juan Tenorio himself?
About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary fields (in the fiction and non-fiction genres).