Don Juan

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

An unfinished epic satire in ottava rima by Lord Byron, published 1819–24.

Don Juan, a young gentleman of Seville, in consequence of an intrigue with Donna Julia, is sent abroad by his mother at the age of 16. His ship is wrecked and the passengers take to the long‐boat. After many tribulations, Juan is cast up on a Greek island. He is restored to life by Haidée, the daughter of a Greek pirate, and the pair fall in love. The father, who is supposed dead, returns, finds the lovers together, and captures the fighting Juan, who is put in chains in one of the pirate's ships. He is then sold as a slave in Constantinople to a sultana who has fallen in love with him. He arouses her jealousy and is threatened with death, but escapes to the Russian army, which is besieging Ismail. Because of his gallant conduct he is sent with dispatches to St Petersburg, where he attracts the favour of the Empress Catherine, who sends him on a political mission to England. The last cantos (the ‘English cantos’) are taken up with a satirical description of social conditions in England and with the love affairs of Juan. The outspoken wit and satire are especially directed at hypocrisy in all its forms, at social and sexual conventions, and at sentimentality. There are many attacks on the objects of Byron's scorn: Southey, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Wellington, Lord Londonderry, and many others.

Don Juan himself is a charming, handsome young man, who delights in succumbing to beautiful women, but his character is little more than the connecting thread in a long social comedy.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Lord Byron (1788—1824) poet

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.