Don Juan Essay, Research Paper
In order to grasp the full meaning of Lord Byron?s ?Don Juan?, the style, the
speaker, the listener, and the literal and underlying meaning of the poem must be
analyzed. ?Don Juan? is a mock epic that vividly narrates the exploits of the infamous
character of the title. This poem is considered Lord Byron?s (a.k.a George Gordon)
masterpiece and placed Byron on the list of one of the great poets of the Romantic Period.
Byron?s style is different of that of any other nineteenth century poets. In ?Don
Juan?, Byron evolves a form that best fits his subject. The style used in ?Don Juan? is
personal and subjective, but the themes are universal (Boyd 109). Byron uses language
that expresses a full range of emotions which lends to ?Don Juan?s? amazing tone and
tremendous energy. This tone and the energy also come from Byron?s complete
understanding of the spoken language (Bottrall 108). In his poetry, especially in ?Don
Juan?, Lord Byron demonstrates the rhythmic ideals of colloquial English through the
devices he employs. ? The huddled speed of question and answer, parenthesis, court
gossip, innuendo, thrust, and repartee, is breath-taking? (Bottrall 109). Byron sticks with
a common ABABABCC rhyme scheme throughout ?Don Juan? along with the normal
word-order, and yet the rhythms of everyday speech are also introduced and meshed with
all of the intricate stanza work. This produces a frantic energy in the poem that alleviates
the potency of the story. The way that Lord Byron fits form to subject in ?Don Juan?
adds immensely to the enjoyment of the poem an many levels.
?Don Juan? is told from the perspective of the main character, Don Juan. He is a
classic ?Byronic hero?, characterized by his moods passion, and dark sexual allure (Keith
87). ?Don Juan? is considered by most to be autobiographical, though none of the love
scenes are strictly so. Byron approaches many subjects through Don Juan?s exploits and
handles them all ?playfully on the surface, but with an underlying seriousness? (Boyd 109).
Through his main character, Lord Byron explains the confusion and loss of reputation in
his life brought on by love affairs (Boyd 112). He also condemns the hypocrisy of
society?s and individual?s ideals of love and especially marriage. In accordance with his
beliefs on these ideals, Byron proceeds to make Juan out to be a hero in every respect of
his life except in his relations with women, giving the listener a peephole in which Byron is
revealing a bit of himself. Byron explains or excuses the behavior in his own life by
writing about Don Juan. He says,
? This is how the human being is evolved whom the
world ignorantly dubs a Don Juan. Hypocrisy, violence, and vicious
self-indulgence in individuals combine with an unnatural civilization to ruin the
pristine beauty and purity of the human heart? (Boyd 112).
In most literature containing references to Don Juan he is portrayed as deceitful and
immoral, but in Byron?s ?Don Juan? he is shown to be an innocent, beautiful, and
charming young man whose way with women leads to many sticky situations. The
ingenuity of this poem is the lapses in the story in which Lord Byron has interjected his
own reflections on the subject. In this way Byron both separates himself from Juan and
simply displays their similarities.
Lord Byron wrote ?Don Juan? in a period of literary history when conservatism
ruled. Public tastes were controlled by groups such as the Society for Suppression of
Vice, and many writers and publishers feared prosecution for immoral material. In fact the
first two cantos of ?Don Juan? were in jeopardy of being edited out of the poem because
of their content. In this atmosphere, Byron wrote his most risqu? poems in response to
and possibly because of the increasing conservatism. ?Don Juan? is a satire of the political
and social problems during the Romantic Age and clearly is a release from the prudish,
censored works of the time. It is a direct plea to an audience of readers to discern the
truth of his words and statements on life in his mixture of sexual and adventure themes.
The literal and underlying meaning of ?Don Juan? are, in instances, both clearly
stated and ambiguously interchanged. Though Byron?s preoccupation is with all things
romantic, he writes of politics, religion, metaphysics, history, and nature. He uses a
plethora of themes to reiterate his main theme of Nature vs. Civilization. The best
summary of the themes of ?Don Juan? is found at the end of Canto VII , ? Love – Tempest
- Travel – War? (Byron 109). Byron wrote a poem with deep literal meaning in the form
of a light-hearted, adventuresome, sex-laden tale to attract an audience whose ignorance
overrode their ability to grasp the severity of the problems in their lives. In this sense,
Lord Byron succeeds in capturing the truth in human nature and was left with a poem that
has been enjoyed through the ages.