Chapter

‘Why, What Is Virtue If It Needs a Victim?’: Heroic Heroines in Regency Drama

Caroline Franklin

in Byron's Heroines

Published in print September 1992 | ISBN: 9780198112303
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670763 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198112303.003.0007
‘Why, What Is Virtue If It Needs a Victim?’: Heroic Heroines in Regency Drama

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This chapter considers the literary production of Lord Byron's plays in their historical context. The heroines of this popular stage drama were feminine stereotypes similar to those of the Regency verse-tales. Predominant was the damsel in distress. However, the audience was simultaneously reassured of her ‘femininity’ in a play of this genre, by her demonstrable vulnerability to physical danger and sexual attack, and the eventual necessity for male protection. As with the verse-tales, her relationship with her father is at the emotional heart of many plays. Byron's plays show that religion and politics were to be the subject-matter. Byron's republican tragedies, like Fiesco and Don Carlos, feature stoical republican matrons as feminine ideals. Furthermore, in Cain and Heaven and Earth, where the poet attacks the Judaeo-Christian notion of original sin, the heroines preference loyalty in love to obedience to both secular and spiritual patriarchal authority.

Keywords: Lord Byron; heroines; verse-tales; femininity; religion; politics; Fiesco; Don Carlos; plays

Chapter.  5872 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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