Don Juan is a long, digressive satiric poem by Lord Byron, based on the legend of Don Juan, which Byron reverses, portraying Juan not as a womaniser but someone easily seduced by women. It is a variation on the epic form. Unlike the more tortured early romantic works by Byron, exemplified by Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Don Juan has a more humorous, satirical bent. Modern critics generally consider it to be Byron's masterpiece. Byron completed 16 cantos, leaving an unfinished 17th canto before his death in 1824. Byron claimed that he had no ideas in his mind as to what would happen in subsequent cantos as he wrote his work.
Don Juan has won great praise from the great. Sir Walter Scott maintained that its creator "has embraced every topic of human life." Percy Shelley said, "This poem carries with it at once the stamp of originality and defiance of imitation. Nothing has ever been written like it in English..."
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George Gordon Byron was born on January 22, 1788 and he inherited the barony in 1798. He went to school in Dulwich, and then in 1801 to Harrow. In 1805 he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, later gaining a reputation in London for his startling good looks and extravagant behavior. His first collection of poems, Hours of Idleness (1807), was not well received, but with the publication of the first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812) he became famous overnight and increased this fame with a series of wildly popular ‘Eastern Tales’. In 1815 he married the heiress Annabella Milbanke, but they were separated after a year. Byron shocked society by the rumored relationship with his half-sister, Augusta, and in 1816 he left England forever. He eventually settled in Italy, where he lived for some time with Teresa, Contessa Guiccioli. He supported Italian revolutionary movements and in 1823 he left for Greece to fight in its struggle for independence, but he contracted a fever and died at Missolonghi in 1824.
Byron’s contemporary popularity was based first on Childe Harold and the ‘Tales’, and then on Don Juan (1819-24), his most sophisticated and accomplished writing. He was one of the strongest exemplars of the Romantic movement, and the Byronic hero was a prototype widely imitated in European and American literature.
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