Character Analysis Don Juan


At the age of sixteen Don Juan has completed his formal education and is ready to set out on the "grand tour" which, in England, often followed graduation from the university. Byron himself had made a grand tour in the Near East after he received his degree from Cambridge. Juan was the product of an experiment in education which was arranged for him by his mother. He had received instruction from tutors only and had not attended schools. He was taught the classics from expurgated editions and as a consequence had to learn the basic facts of life from experience. He had not been taught "natural history." His education had not prepared him for Donna Julias and Haidées. Since he belonged to the nobility, he was given instruction in the arts of war: riding, fencing, gunnery, and the techniques to be used in assaulting a fortress. His education also included an abundance of religious and moral instruction.

Juan is by nature kind, friendly, impulsive, courteous, courageous, and sensuous. He has all the virtues a boy of sixteen can reasonably be expected to have — except self-control in matters of sex. Sex education had not been a part of his formal instruction. His mother's system was therefore indirectly responsible for his fall from grace in Canto I.

By the time he is twenty-one, in Canto XVI, Juan has lost some of his impulsiveness and naiveté. Experience had been his teacher after he left his home at sixteen or seventeen. He still has all his good qualities, but he has acquired a knowledge of the ways of the world and is able to analyze and judge that world. He is no longer at the mercy of impulse. Heart and head now work together.