Comment on Byron's portrayal of the Chamois Hunter and/or the Abbot in Manfred.  What generalizations can you make about Byron's attitudes toward the “common man” and religious authority?...

Comment on Byron's portrayal of the Chamois Hunter and/or the Abbot in Manfred.  What generalizations can you make about Byron's attitudes toward the “common man” and religious authority?  Does Byron present any surprises in his portrayal of either?

Asked on by crgibson52

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The Chamois Hunter is portrayed as a conscientious man, a humble hunter who simply wants to make sure Manfred does not hurt or kill himself. The hunter offers him wine and Manfred hallucinates that it looks like his blood. The hunter still tries to help and suggests that Manfred might find comfort in the Church and prayer. Here, Manfred is a bit condescending, telling the hunter that prayer and patience might work for people like him (the common man), but will not work for Manfred himself. "I am not of thine order." This might mean something to do with class but could also mean that Manfred, an intellectual magician, is a different kind of individual, the Romantic brooder - nothing to do with class.

Manfred does not want to find solace in some outside force, whether that be God, the Church, etc. He recognizes that the hunter can find solace in such things and concedes the fact. This is not necessarily an attack on the common man seeking comfort in the Church; it says more about Manfred who, actually in an ethical statement, if he can not forget his sin - he would rather suffer the guilt himself than have it assuaged by a religious rite. 

In the end, Manfred would not change places with the hunter because he "would not wrong thee." He will bear the burden of his own sin. The portrayal of the chamois hunter is tinged with a hint of condescension but overall, he is portrayed as simple, humble, generous, and in touch with nature. Manfred respects him enough not to give him the burden of his own sin. From Manfred's reactions, one can conclude that this is not a rejection of common, religious people; but there is a rejection of religious authority. 

Even with the Abbot, Manfred is respectful. Perhaps the most telling lines that describe Manfred's will to deal with his own sin occurs in the section with the Abbot: 

I hear thee. This is my reply; whate'er

I may have been, or am, doth rest between

Heaven and myself.--I shall not choose a mortal

To be my mediator. (3.iii.52-55)

Manfred is determined to deal with his sin internally; thus it is between his own mind and the spiritual world - namely, his own soul. Even when he summons the witch to help him, he will not accept her help with the condition that he becomes beholden to her. This is somewhat existential of Manfred - by refusing the help and/or authority of a mediator (sans a wish for forgetfulness to be bestowed upon him), he accepts responsibility for his sin and thereby, his guilt. This can be viewed as a rejection of church authority and a rejection that the church could or should have to power to forgive sins. But it is also a statement about existential responsibility, responsibility of the self. This existentialist move (a term which did not exist at the time the poem/play was written - 1816-17) is more surprising than Byron's fair treatment of the hunter and the abbot or the rejection of religious (and any other) moral authority. 

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