It is impossible to underestimate the significance of the Enlightenment Era for all the spheres of human life. Its effects on them were conditional upon the drastic change in people’s perceptions resulting from the intellectual and scientific progress of humanity. These improvements indicated not only the change in the habits of people but also the need to readjust to the new circumstances from the perspective of mentality. Since the previously working mechanisms of society were inapplicable to the emerged situation, they were to be reconsidered for the benefit of all citizens. Therefore, the Enlightenment affected all the essential fields, such as business, religion, politics, or education, and this impact can be traced through assessing Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni, with regard to the trends of the time.
What Was the Enlightenment?
The period under consideration brought innovation to the European culture, and it was connected to the development of scientific, philosophical, and social thought. The unity of important figures of the Enlightenment in their descriptions of these events confirmed the inevitability of the change. In fact, this era, the 16th and 17th centuries were marked by the successes of thinkers and scientists in explaining reality and exploring the natural world. They managed to provide the grounds for further progress in the context of social unrest in European countries and emphasized the importance of their work in ensuring the prosperity of all people. As a result, the latter’s discontent with the representatives of noble families and the rigid limits set by class turned into the movement, in which the achievements of actual explorers were emphasized.
In turn, the fact of belonging to nobility was widely criticized and, therefore, devalued. From that moment on, the focus was on destroying unjustified privileges, including the ones of the monarchy and the Catholic church with its political power. This occasion allowed characterizing the age as the turning point in the history of Europe, which provided all citizens with opportunities for self-growth and, consequently, an increase in the number of important discoveries.
The Influence of the Enlightenment on Europe
The effects of the philosophy of the Enlightenment can be seen in all the essential areas of societal life. First, the age of reason led to the shifts in the political aspect. It is reflected by the provision of significant opportunities for all people with regard to their liberty. For example, the rights to property and other natural freedoms were not guaranteed in the old order, and the change was the government’s responsibility to address these problems. Second, the interference of religious figures in politics, which was a common practice, became unacceptable when citizens started to doubt the existence of God. This shift in perceptions limited the power of the Catholic church in corresponding matters.
Third, the thinkers highlighted the importance of education for transmitting their ideas, and their works contributed to the provision of this opportunity to everyone. It was connected to the fact that, from their point of view, all minds were equal, and this right should not be seen as a privilege of nobility. Fourth, business affairs were influenced by the Enlightenment because the discoveries led to widening trade routes and the progress in commerce, which shaped the modern economy. Thus, the reformation of all spheres of human life was the principal characteristic of the age.
The Influence of the Enlightenment on Mozart’s Opera, Don Giovanni
The rejection of the idea of class limitations was especially despised by Mozart, and this fact is clearly reflected in his opera, Don Giovanni. The depiction of the protagonist as a hero opposed to the regulations of the church and rigid social class corresponds to the Enlightenment philosophical thought. According to Kant, the value was placed on the need ” to think for oneself, to employ and rely on one’s own intellectual capacities in determining what to believe and how to act” (“Enlightenment (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)”). This is exactly what the main character is doing throughout the narrative. He refuses to share the perception of sex outside of marriage as a mortal sin and neglects the code of honor, which states that a young man should not fight an older man. Hence, the fact that he participates in the duel and kills Donna Anna’s father contributes to this image of an ideal person of the time. Therefore, it can be concluded that Don Giovanni consistently follows the pattern set by the time, which demonstrates the vices of nobility and extols common people.
To summarize, the Enlightenment is the period also known as the age of reason, which was characterized by the dominant importance of science and philosophy in contrast to the previously valued societal norms. It rejected the old ideals connected to the significance of nobility, the monarchy, and the Catholic church while instilling the belief in the power of individuals. The impact of this time is explicitly seen in business, religion, politics, and education since common people received more opportunities for self-development in these areas and specific guarantees of their rights. It is also reflected in Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni because the composer shared the philosophy of the Enlightenment and was familiar with the struggles of citizens. Being one of the underrated figures due to his descent, he ascribed the qualities he valued most to this character and depicted the evil side of nobility.
“Enlightenment (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2017, Web.