Learn Something New: What is a Lothario and Where did the name originate?

It doesn’t matter how old you get, there is always something new to learn. Sometimes these new things are words or concepts you have heard all your life, but perhaps you never understood. Learn Something New is a series that will highlight some of the things I learn, big and small in the coming days. — Douglas


I have heard the term Lothario used in books, television and movies since I was born, but I never question where the word came from or its origin. Watching Murdoch Mysteries on Netflix the there night (we are working our way through the entire series) the word was used again. That mention, and this blog series, finally drive me to dig a little deeper into the origins of Lothario and how he came to be so remembered throughout history.

As with many themes like tilting at windmills and impossible dreams, Lothario originated in Cervantes novel Don Quixote. It is not part of the main storyline itself, but rather a story that is told by one of the characters. This would make Lothario an eponym — a word derived from a name, changing from referring specifically to the character, Lothario, and gradually applied to any unscrupulous seducer.

Don Quixote, Part One contains stories that do not directly involve the two main characters, but which are narrated by some of the picaresque figures encountered by Quixote and Sancho during their travels. The longest and best known story is El Curioso Impertinente (The Impertinently Curious Man), in Part One, Book Four, chapters 33–35, which is read to a group of travelers at an inn, about a Florentine nobleman, Anselmo, who becomes obsessed with testing his wife’s fidelity, and talks his close friend Lothario to attempt to seduce her. In Part Two, the author acknowledges the criticism of his digressions in Part One and promises to concentrate the narrative on the central characters (although at one point he laments that his narrative muse has been constrained in this manner).

El Curioso Impertinente summary

For no particular reason, Anselmo decides to test the fidelity of his wife, Camilla, and asks his friend, Lothario, to seduce her. Thinking that to be madness, Lothario reluctantly agrees, and soon reports to Anselmo that Camilla is a faithful wife. Anselmo learns that Lothario has lied and attempted no seduction. He makes Lothario promise to try for real and leaves town to make this easier. Lothario tries and Camilla writes letters to her husband telling him and asking him to return; Anselmo makes no reply and does not return. Lothario actually falls in love and Camilla eventually reciprocates and their affair continues once Anselmo returns.

One day, Lothario sees a man leaving Camilla’s house and jealously presumes she has found another lover. He tells Anselmo he has at last been successful and arranges a time and place for Anselmo to see the seduction. Before this rendezvous, Lothario learns that the man was actually the lover of Camilla’s maid. He and Camilla contrive to deceive Anselmo further: when Anselmo watches them she refuses Lothario, protests her love for her husband and stabs herself lightly in the breast. Reassured of her fidelity, the affair restarts with Anselmo none the wiser.

The maid’s lover is discovered by Anselmo. Fearing that Anselmo will kill her, the maid says she will tell him a secret the next day. Anselmo tells Camilla this is to happen and Camilla expects that her affair is to be revealed. Lothario and Camilla flee that night and the maid flees the next day. Anselmo searches for them in vain before learning from a stranger of his wife’s affair. He starts to write the story but dies of grief before he can finish.

Lothario is also a character in the play The Fair Penitent (1703), by Nicholas Rowe, based on the earlier 17th-century play, The Fatal Dowry (which itself drew on Cervantes).[1] In Rowe’s play, Lothario is a libertine who seduces and betrays Calista; and its success is arguably the source for the proverbial nature of his name in subsequent English culture[2] – as when Anthony Trollope wrote a century later of “the elegant fluency of a practised Lothario”.[3] — Wikipedia

More information on Lothario:


Previously on Learn Something New:

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