Who was the greatest lover? Casanova or Don Juan? Many people may wonder what was the difference between these two, whose names have become synonymous with seduction and passion? The difference is simply between life and myth. Casanova was an actual man whose life sprawled across the eighteenth century as he enjoyed life and women throughout Europe. He was not just a lover, but also a diplomat, a courtier, a writer, a prisoner, and much more. His life is as interesting for his meetings with Catherine the Great and Rousseau, as much as for his seductions. His massive multi-volume “History of My Life,” which I cannot claim to have done more than taste, recounts all of his adventures, but in the end it is still the chronicle of one man’s life. A real life is always limited by the confines and mortality of any human life. In the case of Don Juan, we do not know if he even existed? Or whether he was born from the head of Tirso de Molina, the playwright monk, who gave us our first extent story about Don Juan Tenorio. Even at the time the play was written, there were rumors that it was based on an actual man, and indeed it was an age of Don Juans, so Tirso had many real life galanteadores (seducers) to model his character on. But Don Juan is not just a man or even just a fictional character.
Don Juan is a myth, or as Jung would have described him, an archetype. The seducer is an aspect of our psyche. I would argue not just the male psyche, but of the human psyche. We can silence these archetypes or ignore them, but we do so at our peril. If we understand them, explore them, strike up a conversation with them, we are much less likely to be dragooned by them and find ourselves waking up in a strange bed with a strange person. So Casanova is a fascinating man, whose life intrigues and informs us in the way that all lives fully lived can. But Don Juan is a myth through which we can explore our own lives and understand the very heart of passion.