Critical Essays Plan of the Poem


Byron made contradictory statements about his purpose in writing Don Juan. He told his friend Thomas Moore in 1818 that the poem was meant "to be a little quietly facetious upon every thing," and to his publisher John Murray he wrote that in Don Juan he intended only "to giggle and to make giggle" and had no other plan for the poem. Later, in 1820, he wrote Moore: "Don Juan will be known by and bye, for what it is intended, — a Satire on abuses of the present states of Society . . ." His purpose in writing Don Juan can best be deduced from a reading of the poem. It is both quietly facetious on everything and a serious satire on the hypocrisies of high society, the false glory associated with war, man's pursuit of fame, the little devices by which people try to deceive themselves, the human penchant for rationalization, and much else. In Don Juan Byron shows himself to be a humorist in the great tradition; he belongs in the company of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, William Congreve, Richard Sheridan, Henry Fielding, Laurence Sterne, and his contemporary Jane Austen.