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Theme of Love in Don Juan
Theme of Love in Don Juan
Love is a dominant theme in Don Juan. Byron has established his own ideas of love and marriage widely and comprehensively in Don Juan, the long narrative poem.
He needed the support and the society of women; he liked to be admired and petted and comforted by them. He found that with them he could unburden his troubles.
Unlike Plato, Byron does not give emphasis on the spiritual love. Plato always gives emphasis on the spiritual love where there is little emphasis on physical contact. Byron's view of love is not in keeping with that of George Bernard Shaw who castigates the romantic notion of love. Shaw tells in his play Arms and the Man that marriage is not the combination of high-flown desires and romantic passion, but a contract which is a means of bringing into being a better generation. We can see a different type of love in Don Juan. Here the hero seduces women and makes advances indiscriminately. The hero does not hesitate even to establish a physical relationship with an almost mother-like woman, named Julia.
Byron's personal experience of life is not a happy one. His scandalous relationship with his half sister, his marriage with and separation from Anna Isabella Milbanke, are significant incidents in his life. His wife was prim, spoilt, mathematical and wealthy. The sexual attention of his nurse, when he was only nine years old, made a permanent impression on his. The marriage and separation of his parents also influenced him to a great extent. On the other hand, his attractive and mysterious personality, his love affairs helped him make keen observations on womanhood.
Byron's attitude to love is the direct outcome of his personal bitter experience in conjugal life. His own experience of unhappy marriage confirmed that love and marriage are incompatible. He also thinks that love does not have the rules same as that of camp, court and grove.
According to Byron, first love is light and thoughtless and unreal in both its animal and its sentimental aspect.
To highlight the superiority of first and passionate love, Byron has given a long description of various sweet things to focus on the emotion of love. E.g. the hum of bees, the voice of girls, of birds, the lisp of children and their words are sweet. Glittering gold is sweet to the misers, first born child is sweet in the father. But to Byron, first and passionate love is sweeter than all other things. He says,
"But sweeter still than this, than these, than all
Is first and passionate love."
According to Byron, women are more aggressive than men. Donna Inez intentionally does not separate Juan and Julia, because she finds her own happiness in destroying Julia's reputation and even her marriage. Using Juan as a tool, she succeeds in separating Julia from Alfonso through divorce and getting her locked up in a convent. In Canto X, we learn from Inez's letter to Juan that Inez in married and Juan has already a little brother. The suggestion is that she married Don Alfonso. The jealous hypocrisy of Inez and Alfonso in clearly sketched here. Byron also shows pity for the sad lot of women in many passages. Women, Byron thinks, can really love but once and that love is invariably betrayed.
Donna Inez and Don Jose represent an unhappy marriage where the wife and husband cannot adjust mentally with each other. There is a whisper among the relatives around that Don Jose has a mistress or two. The illicit love of her husband contaminates her.
She is plagued by infidelity so that now she does not hesitate to establish a secret relationship with her former lover, Don Alfonso, the present husband of Julia. Here Byron likes to say that if Inez and Alfonso were united earlier, there would have been a possibility of happiness as they loved each other.
Another unhappy marriage is also criticized by Byron. Don Alfonso and Donna Julia's relationship is also poisonous because of their unequal age. Alfonso is a man of fifty and Julia is only twenty three. He cannot satisfy Julia. Julia is also unhappy with Alfonso. So, she decides so surrender herself to Juan who is only sixteen. The fall for each other so passionately that one night Juan is discovered in the bed chamber of Julia by her husband Alfonso. Juan has to escape leaving is only dress. Through this bed chamber episode, Byron criticizes the social bondage of marriage cannot bring peace without the proper combination of age and mentality.
But Byron has also appreciated Julia in several ways. She has invested the heart of Julia with sincere love for Juan. Her caressing of Juan in his childhood is praiseworthy. Moreover, in the long letter written by Julia to Juan from the convent draws our sympathetic attention. In this letter, she has proved her sincere love for Juan. She has lost the state, station, heaven, and her esteem for the sake of her love for Juan. In spite of losing everything she could not forges that sweet memory. She says:
"I love, I love you, for this love have lost
State, station, heaven, mankind's my own esteem,
And yet cannot regret what it hath cost,
So dear is still the memory of that dream"
According to Bernard Beatty, a famous critic, she produces a famous aphorism that is never quoted as though it were said in Byron's own voice but it belongs to her:
"Man's love is of man's life a thing apart,
'Tis woman's whole existence,"
Byron has revolted against the social barriers regarding marriage. To him loveless marriage is nothing but a hearth of fire which burns the couple forever. In the first Canto of Don Juan, he is very much critical and satirical in his attitude. He also advocates that marriage without love cannot be sustained for long. The so called socially sanctioned marriage cannot bring peace in the conjugal life.
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