Although left unfinished, Don Juan is one of Byron’s masterpieces and one of the best examples of his polemic and satiric taste.
Here the well-known literary character of the libertine Don Juan
becomes the perfect example of a young and polemic byronic anti-hero
[ES1] . His adventures provide the author with many an opportunity to criticize the social and sentimental conventions of the British aristocratic environment.
The Ottava Rima
with its epic taste is often contrasted by the light-heartedness of the tone and the colloquiality of the lexical choices, thus creating a comic effect of “lingustic displacement”.
Besides love conventions and politics, one of the favourite targets of Don Juan’s satire is poetry itself: through his character, Byron doesn’t lose the occasion of expressing his sharp criticism of the great Romantic masters, whom he accuses of having abandoned the ideals and the commitment of their youth.
Read the text
Alfonso closed his speech, and begged her pardon,
Which Julia half whitheld, and then half granted,
And laid conditions, he thought very hard on,
Denying several little things he wanted:
He stood like Adam lingering near his garden,
With useless penitence perplexed and haunted,
Beseeching she no further would refuse,
When, lo! he stumbled o’er a pair of shoes.
A pair of shoes! - what then? not much, if they
Are such as fit with ladie’s feet, but these
(No one can tell how much I grieve to say)
Were masculine; to see them, and to seize,
Was but a moment’s act. - Ah! well-a-day!
My teeth begin to chatter, my veins freeze -
Alfonso first examined well their fashion,
And then flew out into another passion.
He left the room for his relinquished sword,
And Julia instant to the closet flew.
‘Fly, Juan, fly! for Heaven’s sake - not a word -
The door is open - you may yet slip through
The passage you so often have explored -
Here is the garden-key - Fly - fly - Adieu!
Haste - haste! I hear Alfonso’s hurrying feet -
Day has not broke - there’s no one in the street.’
Comprehension and interpretation
Go through the text and work out the following points:
- What is happening?
- How many characters are involved in the scene?
- Who is the protagonist? Is she/he the same person as the narrator?