Julian and Maddalo: A Conversation

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Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792—1822) poet

Lord Byron (1788—1824) poet

Torquato Tasso (1544—1595) Italian poet

Robert Browning (1812—1889) poet

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A poem partly in dialogue form by P. B. Shelley, published 1824.

Julian (Shelley) and Count Maddalo (Byron) ride and boat through ‘bright Venice’, discussing problems of free will, progress, and religious belief. They visit a ‘Maniac’ (partly based on Tasso and partly on Shelley himself), confined in an island asylum in the Venetian lagoon. His presence, like the uncensored outpourings of the Freudian unconscious, deepens and darkens the terms of the debate: he provides ‘the text of every heart’. A little child, based on Claire Clairmont's baby Allegra, is also introduced to show the powers of innocence and good. This is one of Shelley's most subtle studies of human affections and hopes. It is composed in fluent couplets, with evocations of the deserted Venetian lido and twinkling lagoon. It powerfully influenced Browning's dramatic monologues.

Subjects: Literature.

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