Notes on Lord George Byron

Presentation Notes

  • “face of the Romantic era”
  • born noble, but struggled with debt because of his father
  • probably bi
  • fits of rage/madness (?) – irrational behavior
  • byronic hero
    • restless, prideful, revenge/remorse, secret/sinful past VS.
    • educated, sometimes noble, “pure” love for a “gentle” woman, honor, courage, dark/handsome/mysterious, individualism
    • named after Byron but can be traced back before him
      • Milton, Paradise Lost and Shakespeare, Hamlet
    • first seen by Byron in Harold
    • individualism important within the Romantic movement
    • always a physical marker
      • Byron’s club foot, mark of Cain, the wandering Jew
    • element of the Gothic excess
    • Paradise Lost
      • Paradise Regained almost completely forgotten in comparison because of the character of Satan in Paradise Lost
      • Satan closest to, or part of, God
      • articulating individualism/freedom long before the French Revolution
      • this idea that eloquence is Truth


  • Romantic as conversation with the self, importance of the private voice – Byron leaves this and specifically calls out other poets
    • so what makes this poem Romantic? – autonomy of the individual to express
    • extremely dismissive to other poets, devastating
  • stanza I – Southey
    • epic poet (he was racist/imperialist/generally awful so who cares)
  • stanza II – Coleridge
    • “Metaphysics” was very dense but very smart, which makes it clear just how dismissive Byron is being
  • stanza III – Southey
    • having fun with the rhymes throughout, but especially this one
  • stanza IV – Wordsworth
    • “Excursion” was ridiculous
  • stanza V
    • comments on the small group of the Romantics – calls on them to move beyond the Lake District
      • falls apart when looked at closely given that
        • all of them were well-traveled
        • looking at the local creates the universal so Byron was missing the point
  • stanza VI
    • claims that all the Romantics were doing this for the money – despite all of their relative poorness
    • hypocritical given he was born landed and rich
      • reminiscent of Trump – critical but above critique
  • stanza VII
    • “bays” – bay leaves like a laurel, but also as in dog noises
    • praises five people in one line, criticizes others across entire stanzas
  • stanza VIII
    • continuance of the general feeling of the poem
  • stanza XVII – last stanza
    • describes Southey as “Julian”
      • a Roman emperor raised Christian but who returned to the Roman gods
      • essentially calling Southey a turncoat
    • why Southey?
      • never a deep-thinker, very conservative, dull poetry
      • was still poet-laureate, a job that entailed writing poetry for official events so – Boring
      • the weakest Laker poet
  • tone, meter, and rhyme keep it fun despite the biases

“Canto I”

  • clear, direct language
  • heroes – want for a real hero
    • pulls down “hero” to a pantomine
  • starts at the beginning and makes a point to pull attention to it
    • “open with the line” 50 lines in, so not really the “opening”
    • impossibility of starting at the beginning
    • authorial voice and choice obvious
      • like post-modernism
      • Byron saying this is all artificial, to engage with it intellectually
  • Stanza 10
    • mother isn’t sympathetic, cannot be everything she’s praised to be
    • Donna Inez
      • digressing by describing her for so long
      • has no “female faults,” that’s the worst of all
      • CLEARLY about his wife, even name-drops the lawyer who defended her in their divorce
    • cruel, patriarchal, still holds power/has influence/meaning today
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