Don Juan - whose origins date back to 17th-century popular legends and the imagination of the Spaniard Tirso de Molina - over time has become one of the most recurring characters in literature, theatre, and music. But who was Don Juan? A compulsive lover? A sinner? A freedom hero? In his endless incarnations the "burlador de Sevilla" was all this and more. Roberto Escobar assesses the many narratives featuring Don Juan - including from the commedia dell'arte, Goldoni, Dumas, Merimée, Balzac, Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Brecht, Brancati, to Saramago - and identifies an alternative profile of the character: neither sinner nor serial womanizer. The story of Don Juan is old and yet always new, the story of men and women who prefer self-interest, desire, dignity, and freedom over the stone-cold arrogance of non-human and anti-human absolutism. Don Juan's most important virtue was his ability to be true to himself.
Roberto Escobar teaches Political Philosophy at the University of Milan.