May 02, 2012
In Don Juan, Lord Byron reverses the gender roles of males and females, portraying Juan not as a womanizer but as someone easily seduced by women. The women in Don Juan are seen as pretty, submissive women whom are sexually attractive even sexually responsive. The men in Don Juan appear to be charming and unaccountable for their irresponsible love affairs based on the rationale that falling in love and lust is their default. Thus the men in Don Juan have no need for brute force or seductive tactics to obtain the women they desire. In 1818 when Don Juan was written it was unheard of for women to be liberated and unconventional. Byron pushed the envelope by transforming the female characters in Don Juan from passive, submissive, gentle women to rebellious, explicit, sexually aggressive women. In” Don Juan”, Donna Inez, Donna Julia, and Haidee are examples of attractive, gentle, dutiful, self sacrificing women who are accepting of their fate to the point of victimization.
In Cantos I of Don Juan, Donna Inez the rigidly virtuous woman is tortured and tormented by her obligation to surrender and remain in an unhappy existence. Donna Inez is a learned woman of the arts and has a keen memory. Although Donna Inez is an educated and sophisticated woman, her husband Don Jose’ has no interest in her or her accomplishments. Don Jose’ possesses a wondering eye to which Donna Inez takes notice. Their marriage became a stagnant burden on the both of them that, Chatman 2
“For some time an unhappy sort of life, Wishing each other, not divorced, but dead; They lived respectably as man and wife”( Byron I.202-204. 1694). Don Jose’ takes Donna Inez for granted and is continuously getting into altercations which in turn instigate quarrels between him and Donna. “She kept a journal, where his faults were noted” (Byron. I. 217. 1694), Donna Inez tries to prove that her husband is mad, maintaining a journal outlying her findings while foraging through his personal belongings as to obtain evidence to use against him in hopes of a divorce.
In Don Juan Byron amends Donna Inez’s burden from discontented wife to over bearing, smothering, and sheltering mother. Donna Inez is seen as a cold and harsh type of woman, although there is evidence that she has not always been so. Don Jose’ died before him and Donna Inez were able to obtain a divorce, “An only son left with an only mother” (Byron. I. 295. 1695). Donna Inez felt as though Don Juan’s “breeding should be strictly moral” (Byron. I. 308. 1696). Byron employs the “natural” role of women based on chastity, marriage, and political power (Franklin, p.17-19). Because Donna Inez takes on the burden of sole provider for her son and shelters him from the worldly views, “Byron undermines the concept of reforming society through endowing women with the role of guardian of morals by suggesting the unalterable dynamics of human sexuality” (Franklin, p.117). As Don Juan, the son of Donna Inez matured into manhood women noticed his transformation, Donna Inez’s refusal to notice the boy’s modification is due to her fear of him becoming unmoral. Due to Juan’s distorted education and upbringing he partakes in a scandalous affair with one of his mother’s companions, Donna Julia. The affair embarrasses his mother and to avoid a scandal Donna Inez ships Jun off to travel to reset Chatman 3
His moral compass. Donna Inez looses individuality first in her obligated duties as a wife and then as a domineering mother falling victim social norms denying he own self discovery.
Donna Julia a shy, inert woman breaks out of her role as submissive wife to not so innocent seductress. Byron’s satiric poem portrays Naïve idealism, self repression, and the outright hypocrisy representing three stages in an Englishwoman’s life (Franklin, p. 117). Donna Julia is an unhappy wife married to Don Alfonso, a middle-aged man incapable...