Byron – A satire on the present abuses of society?
A satire on the present abuses of society. Does Byron have a serious point to make? What criticisms of human nature and society are evident in Canto 1?Don Juan is an elongated, digressive satiric poem by Lord Byron, based on the myth of Don Juan which Byron reverses representing Juan not as a womaniser but someone effortlessly seduced by women. It is a disparity on the epic form. Unlike the more tormenting early romantic works by Byron, Don Juan has a more amusing, sardonic bent.
Modern critics generally regard it to be Byron’s masterpiece. The poem was never completed upon Byron’s death in 1824. Byron managed to complete 16 cantos leaving an unfinished 17th canto before his death. Byron claims that he had no plans in his mind as to what would happen in succeeding cantos as he wrote his work.
Throughout canto 1 it is clear to see that Byron makes many criticisms on society and also people who possess a reputation.In an overview of the canto it is apparent that Byron does make a serious point about many abuses of society. These range from marriage to who we are influenced by and the hypocrites of his time. At the beginning of the canto Byron makes his attitude towards how the heroes of society are easily forgotten after all their efforts and he gives the impression that society sees the heroes as disposable. Byron does criticise this factor however does not appear to have a serious point to make.”Followers of fame, “nine farrow” of that sowFrance, too, had Buonaparte and DumourierRecorded in the Montieur and Courier.
“From this Byron does indicate the individuals who should be remembered and who we should be influenced by. It seems that he is rather angry towards the fact we are influenced by the wrong people and does come across quite strongly on this topic however he doesn’t criticise society for the choices they make on who influences them.”Nelson was once Britannia’s god of war,And still should be so, but the tide is turn’d;There’s no more to be said of Trafalgar,”Here, Byron highlights the fickle talents of society and our abilities to forget important events of our historical events.Byron then goes on to criticise Prince Regent were he declares his true distaste for the ways in which he is unaware about the important figures in society. It seems that he has a dislike for him and he makes it part of his poem to highlight that because he is disgraced at his behaviour and how he was a supporter of the army, yet foolishly forgets the British naval heroes.”At which the naval people are concern’d;Besides, the prince is all for the land-service,Forgetting Duncan, Nelson, Howe and Jervis.
“Byron then moves on from making criticisms and a serious point about individuals to the rituals that are carried out throughout society. It seems that he occupies distaste for marriage and uses a negative tone to describe marriage. He uses the marriage of Donna Inez and Don Jose as a model to his own and displays his antipathy towards his marriage from Don Juan’s parents to his with a negative image. He also presents the marriage of Donna Inez and Don Jose as one of distrusts and neglect with a lot of conflict between them as Donna Inez seemed to be out to get him into trouble.”And let few opportunities escapeOf getting her liege lord into a scrape.
“Byron gives the impression that he has a tongue and cheek attitude toward the marriage of Donna Inez and Don Jose. This is perhaps a declaration of his bitterness toward the failure of his own marriage and his attempt to inform society of the consequences of marriage.”T is pity learned virgins ever wedWith persons of no sort of education,”He then goes on to criticise the hypocrisy of marriage by saying that it makes you lead an unhappy life and that the only way you are to be happy is by your partner being dead rather than divorce.”Don Jose and the Donna Inez ledFor some time an unhappy sort of life.
“The opinion Byron presents towards marriage is harmful and its negative aspect allows him the ability to make a serious point about the unhappy lifestyle that marriage brings to couples and that shows how he believes marriage is there to be criticised. `Byron then moves on to highlight the flaws of human nature. He does this in many ways with the use of his characters and makes the detrimental flaws of society evident. Serious criticism is portrayed by Byron and the ways in which individuals conduct themselves. He sees them all as envious, spiteful, self serving people who are worried about one thing and one thing only, themselves. These characteristics are displayed using the character of Donna Inez who he outwardly criticises as being imposing and demanding.
“Some women use their tongues – she look’d a lecture,Each eye a sermon, and her brow a homily,An all-in-all sufficient self-director…”This serious criticism is furthered when he paints women as cunning and malicious in their attempts to trick men with their crafty ways. This display shows how Byron believes women make life awkward and how both men and women have an interfering nature and we continually meddle in other’s lives.
“Don Jose and his lady quarrell’d – why,Not any of the many could divine,Though several thousand people chose to try…”Byron then furthers his criticism of human nature as envious and jealous. This is done through his use of the character Don Alfonso.
We are immediately introduced to Don Alfonso as a jealous character through his relationship with Donna Julia.”Yet he was jealous, though he did not show it,For jealousy dislikes the world to know it.”It appears that Byron does make serious criticism on jealousy and believes it is yet another fault in human nature which cannot be overcome and every character in society possesses some form of jealousy in their lifetime. Also with the use of Don Alfonso and Donna Julia’s marriage we are induced to the human characteristics of scandal-mongering.”Some people whisper but no doubt they lie,For malice still imputes some private end)”This is demonstrated in the passing on of gossip that Donna Inez was involved in an affair with Don Alfonso before he was married and while she was married.
This is yet again another fatal flaw for human nature which is highlighted and criticised by Byron.Byron then returns to his first task of criticising certain individuals. He refers to the Lakers and makes direct attacks about how they go back on their words due to their stance as a powerful writer. It seems that he does resent these writers for doing so but does not fully condemn them like he did in his Dedication.
“To strife; ‘t is sometimes sweet to have our quarrels,Particularly with a tiresome friend:”He then makes reference to humans as being inheritably sinful. This can be seen an approach to the subject of sin in mankind and is a parade of Byron’s Calvinism upbringing and his belief that he has the authority to denounce others for the way in which they conduct themselves and the many sins they interact in. This is yet another example of Byron’s criticisms in the first canto.”‘T is pity though, in this sublime world, thatPleasure’s a sin, and sometimes sin’s a pleasure;Few mortals know what end they would be at…
“Towards the end of the canto Byron again adopts the preference of his influences and the people who we should be influenced by. This indicates that this is a serious subject for him and he has his own literary preferences whilst he taunts the contemporaries. He wonders why such influential characters are not in today’s society and believes that their influence should be carried through the ages.”Thou shalt believe in Milton, Dryden, Pope;Thou shalt not set up Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey,Because the first is crazed beyond all hope.
..”Overall it can be seen that throughout canto 1 Byron makes many critical comments about certain individuals and it does he appear that he holds a true dislike for them especially Prince Regent. But he is not as directly condemning like he is in his Dedication however the flaws of human nature are increasingly highlighted through this canto and it is ones in which most of us are reluctant too.