The play opens in the king’s palace in Naples in the 14th century. It’s nighttime. The duchess, Isabela, has invited her lover, Duke Octavio, to her room but the man with her is in fact Don Juan. When Isabela realises it’s not Don Octavio, she screams for help.
The king arrives, carrying a candlestick. Summing up the situation, he calls for the guards and orders “this man” (l. 26) to be arrested. The guards arrive accompanied by Don Pedro Tenorio, Spanish Ambassador to Naples and Don Juan’s uncle. The king, without ascertaining Don Juan’s identity, orders Don Pedro to punish the intruder and leaves. When Don Juan reveals that he is related to the Spanish ambassador, Don Pedro orders everyone else to leave (l. 46).
Alone with Don Pedro, Don Juan then discloses (l. 54) that he is his (i.e. Don Pedro’s) nephew. Angry, Don Pedro asks for explanations. Don Juan excuses himself saying that he is young, and that since his uncle was young once he should understand. He then admits that he deceived and seduced Isabela by pretending to be Don Octavio (ll. 67-71). Don Pedro cuts him off, and in an aside reveals that this not the first time that Don Juan has deceived women and that his father had sent him from Castile for that reason.
However, instead of punishing Don Juan, Don Pedro lets him escape and advises him to head for Sicily or Milan. As he departs, Don Juan –in an aside— discloses that he is going to return to Spain.
A conversation follows between Don Pedro and the king (ll. 121-57), in which Don Pedro lies, saying that Don Juan escaped over a balcony, defending himself valiantly against the guards. He compounds the lie adding that the deceived woman was Isabela and that she was seduced by Duke Octavio (ll. 146-151).
The king sends for Isabela (l. 138) and accuses her of profaning the palace by her actions. He then orders her to be imprisoned without allowing her to explain or defend herself. At the same time he commands Don Octavio to be arrested.
Don Pedro arrives to apprehend Octavio (l. 250). He again lies, telling Octavio (ll. 292-94) that the king had seen Isabela in the arms of some man and that Isabela had confessed that it was he, Octavio, who had seduced her while promising to marry her.
The bewildered Octavio believes that Isabela has betrayed him but, with the connivance of Don Pedro, escapes and heads for Spain.
Lines 375-696. We move to the coast of Spain, near the town of Tarragona. Tisbea, a fisher girl, appears and in a long, lyrical soliloquy proudly boasts that she is free from the power of love. What’s more, she scorns (ll. 413, 431) the young men who pursue her. She enjoys making them unhappy, and laughs at the envy shown by other girls (because she has many suitors). She identifies one particular suitor, Anfriso, and mocks his faithful attention despite her rejection. All the girls pine for him (l. 459), but she cruelly takes “pleasure in his suffering,” (l. 457) while guarding her honour “in straw/ like a tasty fruit” (ll. 423-24).
Her musings are cut short when she witnesses two men leap from a boat as it is about to sink (ll. 481-84). They are Don Juan and his servant Catalinón. Having saved Catalinón’s life, Don Juan falls unconscious (presumably in the shallow water) and Catalinón then carries him to the shore.
At Tisbea’s request, Catalinón goes for help. Left alone with Don Juan, Tisbea cradles him on her lap. When he comes to, he immediately starts to court her, and –captivated by his bravery and flattery— she falls in love with him. At the same time, she hopes that he is not lying (Plega a Dios que no mintáis: "I hope to God you are not lying" l. 612).
When Catalinón returns with some fishermen (including Anfriso), Tisbea orders them to carry Don Juan to her cottage (l. 673) where she will care for him. Don Juan calls Catalinón to his side and –unaware that Catalinón has already told Tisbea his name (ll....
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