Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 64
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constraints such as familial duty. Don John "prefers a rape, with a bit of murder and sacrilege
thrown in for spice," writes Warren Chernaik, because he does not have a moral code to which
he subscribes; with the exception of any codes he might choose to follow temporarily and on
impulse for purposes of fulfilling his desire for pleasure (26). Chernaik argues that Shadwell's
"exaggerated portraits" of these libertine characters "call attention to the problems implicit in a
philosophy of life which denies all restraint and sees men as ruled entirely by the tyranny of their
own desires" (Chernaik 27). Don John does not practice self-restraint because it contradicts his
insatiable addiction to power and pleasure.
Shadwell's Don John and his fellow libertines commit murder, rape women, and
vandalize churches (social institutions) simply because they can, not because they wish to prove
a point or make a statement-political, social, or otherwise. Their only motivation, especially in
the case of Don John, is to exert authority and power over others. For example, Don John
proudly admits to murdering his older brother because he "kept a good estate from [Don John]"
(Libertine 26). His motives in killing his brothers are particularly selfish in that he needed the
estate because he "could not Whore and Revel sufficiently without it" (26). Don John possesses
no sense of duty to anyone but himself and defends his actions with his need to follow the ways
of nature and sense and prevent social authority from imposing itself upon him. He simply
wants to follow his base instincts without remaining constant to anything but inconstancy.
Don John lives and acts as what Richard Braverman would call a "parasite" to various
hosts. He chooses to extract pleasure from others, the hosts, with no regard to their feelings,
desires, and needs. Braverman defines the parasitic libertine as someone who "interrupts a
system of social exchange" (Braverman 74). The libertine disrupts this system by focusing on
instantly gratifying his desires, which motivates him constantly to change the definition of
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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/m1/70/?q=rochester: accessed February 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .