Heartache and Music. 2 – The vanity of possession and the Don Giovanni Syndrome
[His predominant pleasure is to taste them all…]
After having killed The Commendatore in a duel (future “Stone Guest”) Don Giovanni is on the run.
But along the way, with his servant Leporello, he soon begins to talk about is new conquests again and of a lady who has stolen his heart.
“I am in love with the most charming creature / She returns my devotion / I saw her, I address’d her / She is to meet me in the arbour to-night (…)” While he is speaking he sees a woman alone in the distance, who has fallen prey to discouragement and rage towards the man who has deceived and ditched her.
“Ah who will ever tell me / where that villain is, / the one with my humiliation I loved, / the one who betrayed me? / Ah, if I find again that cruel one / And to me he does not return, / I want to destroy him!, / I want to rip out his heart”
Fierce words, repeated threats (“I want to rip out his heart”, She is not joking!)
Thinking that she is the Lady he is waiting for (the woman is covered by a veil and it is nightfall), Don Giovanni approaches her gallantly, as a consoler (“in the same way he consoled one thousand eight hundred others”, Leporello whispers). But when Don Giovanni realises, recognised by her, that she is Donna Elvira, the woman already seduced and abandoned by him some days before and who is now looking for him despaired by love, he runs off leaving his greatly embarrassed servant to deal with the woman and to try to placate her fatal rage.
Leporello who in the Opera represents a kind of good ‘bourgeois’ conscience, a weak Super-Ego (a little like Jiminy Cricket in “Pinocchio”), he had shyly criticised his master’s libertinage
First promise that this time you’ll not punish me.
I promise on my honour,
That is, provided the Commandant’s not mentioned.
No one listens?
Of course not.
No one’s approaching?
Then I can speak out freely,
Safe from your anger?
Then at once I’ll begin:
Well, my much valued master,
The life that you are leading, is that of a rascal.
Fool, how dare you? This shall teach you…
The same Don Giovanni, running away from the scene, had begged his servant to tell Donna Elvira the truth (“Yes, yes, tell her everything!”). Given the circumstances, Leporello cannot do other than reveal to her the true nature of his master and the infinite number of his female conquests all around the world (a sort of reference list): 640 in Italy, 231 in Germany, 100 in France, 91 in Turkey and 1003 in Spain ( in total 2065!).
LEPORELLO (Don Giovanni’s servant; speaking to Donna Elvira, the last woman betrayed by his master) (pulls out a list from his pocket) (Cava di tasca una lista)
Look here now, see this not too small volume,
‘Tis almost full of the names, of his fair ones;
Town and village, distant countries, yes, foreign nations,
Can witness bear to his infatuations.
Pretty lady, here’s a list I would show you,
Of the fair ones my master has courted,
Here you’ll find them all duly assorted,
In my writing, will’t please you to look,
Here is Italy, six hundred and forty,
France is down for five hundred and twenty,
Only two hundred the Rhineland supplied him,
But mark the climax, Spain has already one thousand and three,
Here are Countesses in plenty.
Waitingmaids, nineteen or twenty.
Rustic beauties, Marchionesses,
Ev’ry grade his pow’r confesses.
Here are courtly dames and maidens,
Young and handsome, old and plain.
Is a maiden fair and slender,
He will praise her for modest sweetness,
Then the dark ones are so tender!
Lintwhite tresses shew discreetness;
When ’tis cold he likes her portly,
In the summer, slim and courtly,
Tall and haughty, ne’er she alarms him,
If she’s tiny, no less she charms him.
Ripe duennas he engages,
That their names may grace these pages,
But what most he’s bent on winning,
Is of youth the sweet beginning,
Poor or wealthy, wan or healthy,
Stately dame or modest beauty,
He to win them makes his duty,
And you know it, not in vain
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From a “Novel in Search of an Author”:
“I can’t help thinking of other women, even when I’m completely embraced.
The obsession of the great collector manages to overcome even the erotic impulse and to block it through the count of past and future ‘chicks’ and in the yearning of possessing all the ones living across the globe one day and maybe more.
I, the greatest and most complete collector in history: perhaps one day I will be sitting enthroned on a page of the Bolaffi Catalogue or in some other auction house or maybe just in the Guinness Book of World Records.
I find pleasure only during the courtship and the seduction: and the more she resists me the more I relish the idea that soon or later she will give in. The more the hunt is arduous, the more appetising and the tastier the prey is, and the more the catch is fruit of subtile and refined deceit.
But talking about deceit, please don’t be deceived: I fall in love sincerely.
I feel my heart beat faster, my hands tremble and my limbs melt away as all men and more than all men. In those moments I am the most languid lover that exists on the face of the earth. It is only later that the rapture of deceit is triggered: when the game draws to a conclusion. I remember when I was child sitting in the waiting room of a hairdresser’s: my mother had gone to have her hair done and she had taken me along. In those days there were no, what do you call them nowadays?… babysitters, right? and neither aunties or cousins on that day. I was bored, when I saw a French window that lead to the garden. I went out and saw a little girl, alone, who was much younger than me, playing with the soil: she had curly hair, looked charming and was dressed like a doll, including her revealing little skirt. I asked her if she wanted to play, she smiled at me and agreed, happy and confident. It was as if the company of an older boy had opened who knows which horizons of games and phantasies as well as my protection.
Even her mother who saw us playing together was happy and reassured by my gentle appearance. Oh Yes, dear Sir, because I reaffirm I am a gentleman and I don’t pretend: I am truly a gentleman. And even on that occasion I was a gentle-boy, at least until my mood turned suddenly towards that of a cynical betrayer. I couldn’t continue to watch that naive and happy little face, suddenly I could no longer stand her and I felt the revolt inside me rise, the will to destroy all this.
I wanted revenge of her tenderness, because someone in the darkness of my brief memory had destroyed mine.
I had to repeat that ritual of destruction, punishing myself even before my defenceless playmate. “Tenderness is a deceit – I heard a voice inside me say – and it should be avenged with deceit”. I began to enjoy the thought of what I would soon have done. We played at chase and at the most opportune moment… thud! A perfidious trip-up and, if that weren’t enough, a shove. I wanted to see her cry but above all I waited for the moment in which I could have seen in her eyes the look of astonishment and dismay for being tricked by my tenderness. And so now my hell is here on Earth, every day and even each moment that God commands. There was no need to disturb the Stone Guest in order to bring hell to my door, as if it were a courteous gift for dinner, such as a dessert or the classic bottle of wine. A truly generous and magnanimous act on his behalf, but superfluous. Unfortunately my inferno is continuous and it is in the impossibility of feeling an accomplished pleasure, in the compulsive need to destroy it with the waiting for a new pleasure which again will not be accomplished. Like an insatiable child who only enjoys the long await for his toy of which he will become bored in a few moments and discard in no time at all, destroying it angrily, pushed by the desire to have another one immediately. I don’t feel emotions if not during the wait and I feel only boredom and pain the moment it happens. I only relish my woman during the courtship to which I am condemned eternally. The very moment in which her resistance ceases my excitation disappears. The very moment in which her body gives in, I begin to think of the next one. My uncontrolled pleasure suddenly moves to the idea of having deceived her, her as many others and this impedes me in reaching a climax, when everything, even one’s breathing stops, even only for a moment. Mine is a restless lust and without hope of being calmed. To calm it there is need for the next and I don’t see ‘others’ but only myself in each woman that I court and ‘love’. Many many ‘my-selves’. That omnipotent and subjugating ‘I’, the ‘I’ which keeps me prisoner of the compulsive and continued betrayal. Parodying an old saying, too vulgar for my taste: “Betraying is better than fucking!”. And it can only come to a bad end, as after all I desire with all my strength. But it won’t be as in the novels: the reality will be very different. It will be the husband of one of the many traitors and betrayed who will kill me. This is what the cards have told me. It’s a pity, because hell would have been a heroic end, worthy of being eternalised in Art. Instead, I will even be denied the avenging hand of a woman. And for the self-destruction, so ardently desired, I lack the courage. The rest is fantasy, in other words a dionysiac idealisation of a poor madman. No … on the contrary: of a vain narcissist”
“I find pleasure only during the courtship and the seduction”
In this passage there is all the genesis of Don Juanism, contrarily to what is believed Don Giovanni is an orgasmic impotent, meaning for the reasons that I will explain to you, he is incapable of deeply enjoying a sexual-affective relation; therefore a perennially unsatisfied subject in which the libido is regressed to the previous phases of development, above all to the sadistic-anal phase, in which the dominium of the object counts more than anything else, in the same way that money counts for a miser and the faeces for a child. A sadistic possession, even more satisfying if it is imbued with the sufferance of the object (the more the catch is fruit of subtile and refined deceit)
The impression of hyper-sexuality could be due to the same factors which produce hypo-sexuality. Deprived of a real satisfaction due to their numerous inhibitions or unconscious repressions, many neurotics repeatedly force themselves in vain, to discharge that sexuality which they are incapable of satisfying through a genital activity. In this way they give the impression of being very vigorous genitally but in reality they suffer from pseudo-orgasmia which does not minimally discharge the libido accumulation.
If neurotics tend to brag about the number of times they can perform the sexual act it should not be to difficult to realise that the apparent plus is actually a minus. We need to remember something basilar which may seem obvious: a normal person loses his desire once satisfied. If I have eaten well, I am satisfied and I have exhausted the pressure to eat. A neurotic person suffers from the incapability of satisfying himself: he is “orgasmically impotent” and can therefore only deceive himself in trying to reach satisfaction by repeating the sexual act. The incapability of reaching a genuine final pleasure presses many neurotics to accentuate the preliminary pleasure mechanisms for the very purpose of the insufficiency of their orgasmic function. (An exaggerated insistence on the preliminary pleasure is usually determined by an erotic-anal fixation as the postponement of the pleasure discharge is a characteristic of the anal retention: some children voluntarily retain their faeces so much so that we can speak about anal masturbation). It is due to the archaic nature of the typical Don Giovanni ’s Oedipus complex if he has so little interest in the personality of his objects. He has not overcome the preliminary archaic phases of love. His sexual activities are characterised by an intimate sentiment of inferiority, which he tends to fight carrying the proof of his own erotic ‘success’: a true counter-phobic investment. In the same way that some people who are scared of the void take up parachuting or others who are claustrophobic take up speleology, Don Giovanni try to exorcise the enormous unconscious fear that he nurtures for the woman-mother who he loves and hates in a paralysing ambivalence. After possessing a woman he no longer has any interest for her, firstly because she has not been able to offer him that distention that he so desires and secondly because his narcissistic need requires proof of his ability to excite women. Nymphomania that is the female pseudo-hypersexuality is based on an analogue psychological structure. Women who are nymphomaniacs are often totally frigid, or at least they do not regularly or readily climax. The fact that sexual intercourse can excite them but cannot satisfy them, creates the desire to reach the unreachable satisfaction renewing and increasing the attempts either through experimenting with different men or in different circumstances. In the same way for Don Giovanni, the psychoanalysis shows that the condition depends on a marked narcissistic attitude, the intense fear of losing the love, and a corresponding pre-genital and sadistic inclination of all his sexual life. The attitude towards the object is typically ambivalent because, in a conscious or unconscious manner, it is considered as the responsible part for the missed satisfaction. The sadistic attitude is evident in the attempt of forcing the partner, through violence, to give complete sexual satisfaction and hence the possibility of restoring self-esteem. This attitude can combine itself with that of the female revenge due to the female castration complex: the nymphomaniac passion often satisfies the fantasised desire to emasculate men.
Quirino Zangrilli and Alberto Scerrati ©
Translated by Linda De Nardo
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