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El burlador de Sevilla (1616-1625), Tirso de Molina

English title: The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest
Notable variations on Spanish title: El burlador de Sevilla y el convidado de piedra
Date written: sometime between 1616 and 1625
First publication date: 1630
First production date: 1625
Keywords: morality > honour, morality > crime, morality > punishment, morality > judgement, morality > justice-revenge, morality > vice-virtue, family > marriage, ideology > honour, love > lust, ideology > religion and faith
Genre and type: tragicomedy
Title information

There is some dispute about the authorship of this play, as one version (1630) is attributed to Tirso de Molina, but a variant of the play, Tan largo me lo fiáis, was attributed to Calderón (an attribution no one acknowledges); most critics suggest the author to be Tirso de Molina.


Don Juan, whose story has been adapted by Molière, Mozart and so many others, has become the universally-recognisable figure of seduction. His first appearance, in El burlador de Sevilla, is set in the mid-fourteenth century in Naples.


Over the course of the play, the hero (or villain, depending on how you look at it) seduces four women. Two are noble ladies, Isabela and Ana, and the other two are a fisherwoman, Tisbea, and a peasant, Aminta. Don Juan’s first victim is Isabela. The play opens with a lovers’ tryst in the dark as Isabela is trying to see the face of the man she believes to be her lover, Don Octavio. She is caught out when her Octavio turns out to be Don Juan impersonating him. She calls for help, and the King wants the matter dealt with quietly; if there is going to be a scandal, he wants it hushed up. The king turns the matter over to Don Pedro, the uncle of Don Juan, who has no intention of arresting his nephew or punishing him for ruining the poor Isabela, but instead suggests a way for him to escape.

When the King returns, Pedro lies to him. He tells the King that it was indeed Octavio who Isabela was with, and the King confines Isabela to a tower until the time when Octavio can restore her honour by marrying her. Isabela accepts this as a reasonable way to carry out her plans to marry Octavio, and goes willingly. Despite the King’s summons, Octavio instead departs for Spain, believing that Isabela has been caught with another lover and does not wish to marry her if that is the case. Pedro, who was supposed to arrest him, instead helps him escape from the situation through the garden.

The location now shifts to the seaside at Tarragona for the fisherwoman Tisbea’s famous soliloquy. Here, Tisbea claims to have rejected offers of love from every fisherman, preferring her solitary life of freedom. At the end of her soliloquy, she spies a man drowning just offshore, and she cries to the fishermen for help. Don Juan is rescued, and he finds himself in the arms of Tisbea. The smooth-talking Don Juan falls instantly for his rescuer; and as he praises her beauty and promises devotion to her, Tisbea invokes the name of God, tying his water and fire imagery to her prayer that he’s telling the truth.

In Seville, King Alonso of Castile promises Don Gonzalo a good marriage for his daughter, as a reward for Gonzalo’s successes in battle. After he describes the city of Lisbon, the King offers to marry Ana to Don Juan. Gonzalo agrees to the match and goes to tell her.

The scene soon returns to Tisbea at the seaside. Don Juan is plotting to ‘enjoy’ Tisbea, and he sets up his trick. His servant, portentously, warns him: if you carry on in this way, there will be serious consequences. Don Juan replies with his catchphrase which he repeats throughout the play: ‘¡Qué largo me lo fiáis!’ (‘I’ve got all the time in the world!’ or ‘I don’t have to think about that just yet!’). Once Don Juan is alone with Tisbea, he promises to be her husband, and Tisbea is prudently cautious, as she recognises their difference in rank. Yet Don Juan takes advantage of her, with her full consent, promising to become her husband, but then, he’s gone. Tisbea laments that she’s laughed in the face of love, and is now the butt of the joke.

In the second act Isabela is promised in marriage to Don Juan when the King is informed that it was he who seduced her, and Ana’s engagement is transferred to Octavio. But a friend of Don Juan’s, the Marquis de la Mota, is in love with Ana, and Juan arranges for him to visit her through the use of notes and disguises, and takes Mota’s place, seducing her. When Ana’s father (Gonzalo) comes out, Don Juan argues with him, they fight, and Juan kills Gonzalo. Mota is arrested for Gonzalo’s death because Juan had been dressed as Mota to trick Ana when he fled the scene of the crime.

Juan then travels through the countryside on his way to Lebrija, where he deceives the peasant woman, Aminta, ruining her wedding to Batricio. Juan manages to convince her that her new husband no longer wants her, and promising marriage, he seduces and abandons her.

Fearing her damaged reputation, Isabela travels to Seville, passing through Tarragona on the way, where she meets Tisbea. Although Isabela is initially upset, she sympathises with Tisbea and the two journey towards Seville together, vowing revenge on Don Juan.

Don Juan and his servant pass through a church, and they see the grave site of Don Gonzalo, whom Juan killed. His lavish headstone, complete with a statue of Gonzalo, contains a plaque in which he vows revenge on the traitor who killed him. Seeing this, Juan mocks him and invites the statue to come to dinner that night at his house, where he can have his revenge. That night at dinner, Juan and his servant hear a knock at the door, and Gonzalo’s statue appears; he has come to dinner as he was invited. He asks Juan to come the following night to dine with him, and they shake hands. Meanwhile the King arranges the marriages of the dishonoured women in order to salvage their honour.

At the end of the play, Don Juan, who had consistently claimed that he had ‘all the time in the world’ to make amends for his terrible behaviour, becomes the object of a trick. He is deceived by the statue of Don Gonzalo, who leads him to his death without time to confess and be forgiven for his sins. Don Juan goes to Gonzalo’s house for dinner, and Gonzalo shakes his hand again. But this time Gonzalo’s hand contains a fire which mortally burns Juan, and he falls dead. In the context of the seventeenth-century Catholic Church, this means Juan is going directly to hell, as he will not have time to ask for forgiveness.


The source for the iconic Don Juan figure is widely disputed, as a figure who deceives women in sexual exploits and has minimal respect for other men is an old character type popular in folklore and myth. One of these manifestations is the Italian drama Leonzio, ovvero la terrible vendetta di un morto, performed in 1615, in which a duplicitous Count invites a skull to dinner, and the Count’s dead grandfather comes back to accept the invitation, crush the skull and drag the Count down to Hell (Tirso de Molina 1986: xxi). As for contemporary sources of inspiration for this Don Juan, however, some scholars put forth Don Pedro Téllez Girón, the Duke of Osuna, who lived from 1579 to 1624. He was an infamous womaniser and swindler, and the proximity of his estate to Don Juan’s Seville makes him a strong contender as the inspirational figure (Tirso de Molina 1986: xxi). Work has also been done by Menéndez Pelayo and Menéndez Pidal on ballads that feature a young man out looking for girls who kicks a skull in his path and invites it to dinner; Edwards provides a translation of one of these ballads in the introduction to his translation of the play (Tirso de Molina 1986: xxii-iv). Harold G. Jones collects a series of adages which could prove to be the source of the line that recurs throughout the play, ‘Tan largo me lo fiáis’ (often translated as something like, ‘I’ve got all the time in the world!’. He looks at two proverbs:

‘The first is a traditional anecdote about two cloth merchants, in which the buyer takes advantage of a foolish seller willing to extend unlimited credit. The second, derived from the first, presents a thief or thieves who plan to steal only half of the cloth owned by the victim, who is not a merchant. When the latter complains and says they will pay in the other world, they respond that in that case they will take all of the cloth, since the victim is offering such good terms. […] The second motif always involves theft, an ineffectual warning, a mocking retort, and further loss to the victim.’ (Jones 1998: 32-3).

Jones theorises that the play’s source could additionally be one of the songs in the play which turns on the central recurring motif in the play; in the song it is repeated as ‘¡qué largo me lo fiáis!’ (Jones 1998: 34-5).

See Also:

McKay, Dorothy. 1943. The Double Invitation in the Legend of Don Juan. Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press

Weinstein, Leo. 1959. The Metamorphoses of Don Juan. Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press

Critical response

Tirso de Molina’s El burlador de Sevilla is one of the most frequently taught and studied plays of the Spanish Golden Age, and one of the plays which does not suffer from a lack of critical attention. Its sources have been debated, its moralistic ending analysed, its anti-hero deconstructed. Over the years Don Juan’s female victims have been looked at with an increasingly critical eye, as their partial complicity in their seduction is questioned. But this should not detract from the moral decrepitude of the male members of the society depicted in this play; as Thacker writes, ‘The moral poison in society has reached the top and Don Juan exploits society’s failings […] he is what any individual can become without strong education of a moral and social nature’ (2007: 67).

  • Molina, Tirso de. 1986. The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest / El burlador de Sevilla y el convidado de piedra, ed. and trans. Gwynne Edwards [bilingual edition in English and Spanish]. Warminster, Aris and Phillips

  • Molina, Tirso de. 1996. El burlador de Sevilla, ed. Alfredo Rodríguez López-Vázquez. Madrid, Cátedra

    Although this edition attributes the play to Tirso de Molina, the editor (Alfredo Rodríguez López-Vázquez) is not convinced.

  • Molina, Tirso de. 2003. El burlador de Sevilla, ed. R. John McCaw. Newark, DE, Cervantes & Co.

    See Online Resource [Accessed July 2010]

  • Tirso de Molina. 1997. El burlador de Sevilla; Marta la piadosa, ed. Antonio Prieto. Madrid, Biblioteca Nueva

  • Molina, Tirso de. 1630. Doze comedias nuevas de Lope de Vega Carpio y otros autores. Segunda Parte. Barcelona, Gerónimo Margarit

Useful readings and websites
  • Arellano, Ignacio, et. al. 2004. Tirso de Molina en la Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico. Cuadernos de Teatro Clásico, 18. Madrid, Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico (in Spanish)

  • Casalduero, Joaquín. 1938. Contribución al estudio del tema de don Juan en el teatro español. Northampton, USA, Smith College, Departments of Modern Languages of Smith College (in Spanish)

  • Fischer, Susan L. 2009. ‘Tirso and the Restaging of Eschatology: El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra (The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest)’. In Reading Performance: Spanish Golden Age Theatre and Shakespeare on the Modern Stage, pp. 117-33. Woodbridge, Tamesis

  • Jones, Harold G. 1998. ‘A “New” Source of Tirso’s El burlador de Sevilla’. In Tirso’s Don Juan: The Metamorphosis of a Theme, eds. Josep M. Sola-Solé and George E. Gingras, pp. 32-44. Washington, DC, The Catholic University of America Press

  • MacKay, Dorothy. 1943. The Double Invitation in the Legend of Don Juan. Stanford University, CA, Stanford University Press

  • Oliva, César, et. al. 2004. Seis caminos hacia el mito de Don Juan. Cuadernos de Teatro Clásico, 19. Madrid, Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico (in Spanish)

  • Rogers, Daniel. 1977. Tirso de Molina, El burlador de Sevilla. Critical Guides to Spanish Texts. London, Grant and Cutler

  • Sola-Solé, Josep M. and George E. Gingras, eds. 1998. Tirso’s Don Juan: The Metamorphosis of a Theme. Washington, DC, The Catholic University of America Press

  • Thacker, Jonathan. 2007. ‘Cervantes, Tirso de Molina, and The First Generation’. In A Companion to Golden Age Theatre, pp. 56-91. Woodbridge, Tamesis

  • Wade, Gerald E. 1966. ‘The Character of Don Juan of El burlador de Sevilla’, in Hispanic Studies in Honor of Nicholson B. Adams, eds. J. E. Keller and K. L. Selig, pp. 167-78. Chapel Hill, North Carolina

  • Winter, David W. 1975. The Don Juan Legend. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press (translation of Otto Rank’s Don Juan Gestalt (1932)).

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Entry written by Kathleen Jeffs. Last updated on 10 March 2011.

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