Studies in French and Francophone Culture
Edited By Neil Archer and Andreea Weisl-Shaw
Part 2 From Source to Stage: Adaptation in French Theatre 53
Part 2 From Source to Stage: Adaptation in French Theatre Emilia Wilton-Godberfforde Molière’s Dom Juan: The Trickster Transformed The figure of Dom Juan and his rebellious exploits has attracted the interest of many a writer across the centuries and this enduring fascination is due, no doubt, to the potential this character has to entertain and disturb. The connotations that a ‘Dom Juan’ figure has today, that of a philanderer, who has love af fair after love af fair, has been shaped by the Dom Juan character Molière puts on the stage. Previous versions were less interested in this element of seductive inconstancy and more focused on highlighting his transgressive and irreligious behaviour. Molière’s version of the myth is most interesting for a case study of literary adaptation. Firstly, although his play is not the first French version to be shown to Parisian audiences, his version radically changes facets of the character, and these distinct dimensions met with considerable contro- versy.1 The qualities with which he endows him render him a hypocrite and a promise-breaker in a way that previous versions failed to highlight. Secondly, in choosing to adopt the comic buf foonery of the Italian versions of the play, Molière stresses the amusing quality of deception and subterfuge in a way that the preceding French writers chose to avoid. Despite the numerous works devoted to the subject of the myth of Dom Juan2 and to Molière’s specific text, very few scholars draw attention 1 The...
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