Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 60
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Shadwell's libertines, including Don John, have chosen to submit to the new master of "Infallible
Nature" (25). Interestingly, Don John and his fellow libertines cannot successfully subvert or
defy social institutions because they must act within the framework of these institutions they
reject. What Don Jon fails to comprehend, however, is that power "is not something that is
acquired, seized, or shared, something that one holds onto or allows to slip away; power is
exercised from innumerable points, in the interplay of nonegalitarian and mobile relations"
(Foucault 94). In fact, Don Antonio even admits that they all will follow "[their] own strong
Reason" (The Libertine 25). This willingness to submit to any authority-a social one or one
created and imposed upon them by Don John-demonstrates a self-critique of libertinism. In
choosing to allow anyone or anything to guide them, Don John and his friends ultimately become
inadequate rebels and faulty interpreters of Hobbesian philosophy. Aaron Jaffe argues, "Don
John twists Hobbes' rejection of private conscience into a rejection of universal standards of
morality and law, producing instead a kind of amoral relativism" (Jaffe 59). This "amoral
relativism" enables Don John not only to justify his behavior but also to persuade the Dons to
join him in defacing-literally and figuratively-social institutions. Shadwell's Don John and
his fellow libertines, in their insatiable need to destroy all forms of institutional authority,
implicitly endorse an extreme form of Hobbesianism.
Unlike Rochester's libertine poetic persona in A Satyr against Mankind, Don John's
interpretation of Hobbes's theory does not give credence to conventional reason or "right
reason." Instead, Don John advocates a philosophy in which men live according to sense and
instinct and serve only nature and themselves. Anthony Kaufman argues that Shadwell's
libertines "parrot" sentiments about endorsing "right reason." (Kaufman 247). Don John is
mocking "right reason" and satirizing it. He instructs his followers and libertine counterparts:
Here’s what’s next.
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Smith, Victoria. Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell, dissertation, May 2008; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc6051/m1/66/?q=rochester: accessed January 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .