Don Juan

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Lord Byron’s Don Juan is a satirical poem that offers a seemingly comical and serious outlook of sexuality. In three different sexual relations in three different places, the events that surround Don Juan are both laughable and questionable. From an early affair with Donna Julia, to an innocently, beautiful engagement with Haidee and finally an unfulfilled and avoided relation with the Sultana Gulbeyaz, Don Juan escapes through the clutches of love with shattered innocence, a broken heart and near fatal eroticism. “As Byron’s satiric genius developed, it tended to employ less and less of the traditional axe-swinging of the neoclassic satirists and to approach more and more the mocking and ironic manner of the Italian burlesque poets...Finally, when his satiric genius had fully ripened, Byron found complete expression in serious and social satire” (Trueblood, 19). From an early age, Don Juan was destined to wander through a maze of sexuality. One can see this unfolding by merely looking at his parent’s marriage. Let us first look at Don Juan’s parents, Don Jose and Donna Inez. Byron presents the couple ironically and comically. Donna Inez, “morality’s prim personification ...perfect past all parallel” (Byron, I, 16-17), still is not good enough for Don Jose. A man with a greater concern for women than knowledge, Don Jose is not a particularly admirable father figure. He lacks respect for his wife, and “like a lineal son of Eve, /Went plucking various fruits without her leave” (Byron, I, 18). This allusion to Don Jose being a son of Eve is somewhat accurate and satirical. Like Eve, he is careless and unaware of the consequences of his actions. However, as Eve’s son, the offspring of God’s beautiful creation, Don Jose is given holy qualities. He cannot be blamed for his actions, and for a long time, Donna Inez blinds herself from his wrongdoings and maintains their marital status. Their relationship is practically pointless; a mother and father that wished each other dead, not divorced. The unification of Don Jose and Donna Inez is a comical union. “What men call gallantry, and gods adultery, / Is much more common where the climate’s sultry” (Byron, I, 63). The two reach a point where they cannot stand each other, yet for some reason, they stay together. At the same time, marital disputes and infidelity make for no laughing matter. They were, and continue to be, problems for couples all around the world. Byron depicts Don Jose and Donna Inez at each other’s throats, but still sleeping side by side. To further solidify ironic humour, when their divorce inevitably approaches, Don Jose falls ill and dies. His death right before getting divorced symbolizes the death of marriage. Byron might be poking fun at the fact that more and more marriages end in divorce, and that the fire shared by ‘soul mates’ typically burns out. Despite being an unfaithful and uncaring father, the narrator paradoxically calls Don Jose an honourable man. The death of the father creates increased duties for the mother. Donna Inez decides to enlighten Don Juan with the teachings of art and sciences, but in doing so, neglects teaching him the basic facts of life. Someone uniformed about basic life necessities is at risk of not knowing how to act and react to certain situations. Though Don Juan does not attempt to manipulate those around him, his lack of direction leads him to being a victim of a harsh, unforgiving world.

“Ladies even of the most uneasy virtue / Prefer a spouse whose age is short of thirty” (Byron, I, 61). This is a bold statement from the narrator, but it is certainly the case for Donna Julia, Donna Inez’s friend. She falls for the young and handsome Don Juan when he turns sixteen, though her affection started before then. Donna Julia is seven years older than Don Juan. Her love for the young lad is both comic and paedophilic. Donna Julia unsuccessfully resists temptation, and eventually takes Juan’s innocence and sends him along a...
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