The extract is from the end of the first act of El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra. This play was written, in verse, as was customary in the early Seventeenth Century, by someone as yet not positively identified, known as Tirso de Molina – probably the monk Gabriel Téllez. The historical importance of the work is that it is the inspirationfor all the Don Juans that have appeared since. The play is a religious fantastical drama with moral messages about repentance and the impossibility of escaping divine judgement; what Rogers describes as “a Lenten sermon”. There are also satirical references to temporal justice, contemporary morality and social class.
The extract occurs in Tarragón during the Fourteenth Century. Don Juanthe amoral, aristocratic burlador of the title has just entered the house of Tisbea, a Tarragonese fisherwoman who had saved him from drowning en route from Italy to Spain.
The extract opens with three friends of Tisbea [dressed for a dance] in high spirits, calling in the darkness (a metaphor for evil) [carrying a lantern or torch] to fetch her. Belisa is getting impatient. She isencouraging the others (971, 973) and is impatiently eager to begin the dance (975) Perhaps Corridón, a fisherman is trying to prevent his friend from walking in on a distressing scene. He points out to his colleague, Anfriso that she is occupied with guests. He adds that everyone envies them (because Tisbea has rejected all other approaches from men so far). Anfriso concurs [The tone in which this issaid by Anfriso would convey his distress at being an unrequited suitor] He continues [morosely] that someone eaten up by celos, will be unable to join in the fun. (980) Celos is a pun on jealousy and the pangs of love, both of which are torturing the speaker. [Here Corridón might put a consoling arm around his friend.] The audience know that only Don Juan is with Tisbea and for what purpose. Thisis dramatic irony; what Johnson calls “secret collusion”. Their song humorously echoes a previous scene in which Tisbea boasts of her immunity from love, and small fish are comical metaphors for men (387-406). They mock that she has, without wishing to, “caught” many a man while fishing. Ironically it is she and her immortal soul that are being enmeshed at that very moment offstage. Song wasused by the authors of the Golden Age stage as an auditory treat for the audience, perhaps as relief before a dramatic scene. Here it lulls the audience before the coming outburst.
[Horses hooves and harsh, mocking laughter offstage]
At this point Tisbea bursts onto the stage [I would imagine barefoot, hair in disarray and wearing a nightdress]. In contrast to the haughty Tisbea “de amorexenta” (379), of her opening speech, (375-515) we see a frantic young woman whose self-control has deserted her. She hysterically claims she is on fire (985) and in tears. (988) She wails of fire and the destruction of her cabin. These are both metaphors; the former for emotional torment of her heart and the latter for her honour previously referred to by synonym in the earlier speech (“michoza” (418), “mi edificio” (420)). Troy (a classical reference, surprising in a peasant’s speech) is used as a simile for her heart and soul (represented by her pobre edificio) burned down by passion. Allusions to Troy and the legend of Aeneas and Dido are used throughout the play. Like Tisbea, Dido is abandoned by her lover whom she had saved from the sea. She cannot understand why Love isvictimising her, a simple fisherwoman. There must be something more important to do? (991-4) The humble straw of her home unable to resist Love which could easily destroy rocks (993) is a metaphor for her inability to retain her virginity in the face of such a rigorous assault. (995, 996) She calls on the young villagers for consolation (metaphorically agua) and begs Love for relief because her...