Byron's Shakespearean Imitations

Title: Byron's Shakespearean Imitations
Authors: Barber, Benjamin
Date: 2016
Abstract: Though Byron is known for his provocative denials of the importance of Shakespeare, his public derogations of the early modern playwright are in fact a pose that hides the respect he had for the playwright’s powerful poetic vision, a regard which is recorded most comprehensively in the Shakespearean references of Don Juan. Byron imitated Shakespeare by repeating and adapting the older poet’s observations on the imitative nature of desire and the structure of emulous ambition as a source of violence. His appropriations make his work part of the modern shift away from earlier European societies, wherein ritual means of mitigating desire’s potentially inimical impact on human communities were supplemented with an increased reliance on market mechanisms to defer the effects of emulation and resentment. Finding himself among the first modern celebrities, Byron deploys Shakespeare’s representations of desire to trace the processes that produced the arc of his own fame and notoriety. Drawing on his deep knowledge of Shakespeare, Byron’s poetic vision—in its observations on the contagious nature of desire—exhibits elements of Shakespeare’s own vivid depictions of imitation as a key conduit for his characters’ cupidity, ambitions, and violence. Exploring how he plays with and integrates these representations into his letters, journals, poetry, and plays, my dissertation investigates Byron’s intuitions on the nature of human desire by focusing on his engagement with one of literature’s greatest observers of human behaviour, Shakespeare.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -