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Byron and Browning: “Don Juan” and “Andrea Del Sarto”

Lord Byron is a romantic poet and Browning is a Victorian poet. Byron is a nihilist and pessimist. Browning, on the other hand, is known for his robust optimism. However, both are very great as poets. Their poems deal with various aspects of love, and their capacity to depict the emotions of love with their original force is unsurpassed. Byron’s biting satire made his works very controversial. A comparison of the Canto 1 of Don Juan and Browning’s “Andrea del Sarto” is the focus of this paper.

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The first canto of Don Juan mainly deals with the background of Juan, his childhood, and the way he experiences the first touch of a woman at sixteen. Byron takes his hero from a past legend. Don Juan belonged to an aristocratic Spanish family. The first line of the poem explains Byron’s frustration at not finding a fitting hero in his own society: “I want a hero: an uncommon want, / I’ll therefore take our ancient friend Don Juan” (Byron). The legendary Juan is a womanizer, but the hero in the poem is shown as being seduced by women. Byron has several reasons for taking this old friend, Juan. He finds in Juan his own alter ego. The poem, therefore, is autobiographical. Putting on the garments of Juan, Byron attacks all the vices in his society, like hypocrisy, avarice, and lust. The poem becomes a criticism of life as a whole, touching the entire European civilization, particularly education, marriage and war. In the first canto, the poet exposes the failed relationship of Juan’s parents and their immoral relationships. It is in such a background that Juan grows up. His mother Dona Inez has an affair with a man named Dona Alfanso and his wife Julia, who is twenty three, takes a liking for the sixteen year old Juan. Women get complete control in the first canto. Not only Juan’s education, but his sexuality is also molded by his mother figures, “the rudiments of Love” (LXXXV). Inez is “a walking calculation”, says the poet (XV1). Therefore, a helpless Juan is presented in the poem.

Similarly, in Robert Browning’s poem, “Andrea del Sarto”, a helpless man is introduced by the poet. Andrea is a painter. He is quite capable of reaching the artistic height of Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci. This Italian painter was the court painter during the days of King Francis in France. As a very successful painter he earned the king’s love and money. The thought of his wife compelled him to leave France and join his beloved and beautiful wife, Lucrezia in Florence. He built a house and thought of living a passionate life with his wife. Unfortunately, he found his wife in love with another man. In the poem Andrea begs his wife to be kind enough to spend at least one evening with him before she joins her lover who is waiting outside his house. He also assures her that he will paint and sell his works to pay her debts which she had accumulated as a result of her relationship with his cousin. In the mean time, he looks at the great works of the master painters and tells her that he could have equaled Raphael or Michelangelo, if he too were lucky to be without a woman.

Both the poets, Byron and Browning, are great in portraying the delicate beauty of a woman. Byron describes Julia, “Her eye (I ‘m very fond of handsome eyes)/ Was large and dark, suppressing half its fire” (Canto. 1, Stanza. XL). In the same way, Browning explains how Andrea is maddened by the beauty of Lucrezia, “My face, my moon, my everybody’s moon, Which everybody looks on and calls his” (Browning). He knows that though Lucrezia is his wife, nobody can resist her charm. She is made for everyone. Probably that is why he is trying to be content with her presence for just one evening. Her nearness has made Andrea extremely passionate. In Don Juan too, Byron depicts what passion a simple female touch can create in a man, here a young boy. “Like what this light touch left on Juan’s heart”, says the poet (Canto. 1, Stanza, LXX1). In both the poems what the readers can find is a sort of helplessness experienced by the male figures when the opposite sex is present closely. When the closeness does not bring gratification to the lover, he experiences a sense of isolation. “He aligns himself with Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky in sensing perhaps a more humanistic existential vision: the notion that man is isolated and, in one sense, leads a meaningless existence”, says Holstad about Byron. This is true of Browning too, but Browning does not end up in frustration. Instead, he says, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp (Browning). He is not cynical like Byron. Andrea is patient enough to make more attempts to convince his wife, even if she decides to leave him at the end.

Byron and Browning take their characters from high society. Byron’s aristocratic women represent the eccentricities of the female society as observed by the poet. Browning enjoys portraying men with criminal tendencies. Both the poets reveal a great part of their self through the characters and events. However, what is absolutely common is the strained marital relationship, which causes changes in emotions and subsequent frustration in life. Browning is too adamant to give up. He asks “Or what’s a heaven for?” (Browning).

Through the works of these two poets English poetry been greatly enriched. Irony is the key to Byron’s poems. “He adopted his own kind of Romantic Irony as a means both to prolong his own centrality and to limit its perils”, says Ian. Browning’s talent is at his best in writing poems in the form of dramatic monologue. Juan and Andreal relive through the poems discussed here. Both the poets have left a unique style in literature.

Reference

Browning, Robert. “Andrea del Sarto”. Web.

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Byron, Lord. Don Juan. Web.

Dennis, Ian. Anthropoetics 13, no. 2 (GATE 2007 issue) Byronic Irony in Don Juan. Web.

Holstad, Scott C. “Byron’s Biography: Don Juan and Byron’s Existential Angst”. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 12). Byron and Browning: “Don Juan” and “Andrea Del Sarto”. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/byron-and-browning-don-juan-and-andrea-del-sarto/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 12). Byron and Browning: “Don Juan” and “Andrea Del Sarto”. https://studycorgi.com/byron-and-browning-don-juan-and-andrea-del-sarto/

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"Byron and Browning: “Don Juan” and “Andrea Del Sarto”." StudyCorgi, 12 Nov. 2021, studycorgi.com/byron-and-browning-don-juan-and-andrea-del-sarto/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Byron and Browning: “Don Juan” and “Andrea Del Sarto”." November 12, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/byron-and-browning-don-juan-and-andrea-del-sarto/.


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StudyCorgi. "Byron and Browning: “Don Juan” and “Andrea Del Sarto”." November 12, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/byron-and-browning-don-juan-and-andrea-del-sarto/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Byron and Browning: “Don Juan” and “Andrea Del Sarto”." November 12, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/byron-and-browning-don-juan-and-andrea-del-sarto/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Byron and Browning: “Don Juan” and “Andrea Del Sarto”'. 12 November.

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