In Don Juan, a satirical poem by Lord Byron, Byron uses the well-known character of Don Juan in reverse: instead of a womanizer, he is passive, pursued instead of pursuing. Byron allows Don Juan to take on many of his own thoughts and viewpoints, and the result is a thinly veiled attack on society and politics, which Byron was cautioned against publishing by friends. Against the backdrop of a man who encounters many adventures, Byron demonstrates what he sees as the wrongs in the world. In an article titled “An introduction to Don Juan,” Dr Stephanie Forward points to Byron’s depiction of war:
. . . the glow
Of burning streets, like moonlight on the water,
Was imaged back in blood, the sea of slaughter. (canto VIII, stanza 122)
The Poetry Foundation also notes Don Juan’s satirical take on “War, tyranny, and the retense and corruption in society”:
So much for Nature:-by way of variety,
Now back to thy great joys, Civilization!
And the sweet consequence of large society,
War, Pestilence, the despot’s desolation,
The kingly scourge, the Lust of Notoriety,
The millions slain by soldiers for their ration.
Further on, Forward writes, “For example, in stanza 22 of Canto I the narrator pokes fun at intellectual women (known as ‘bluestockings’). The stanza ends: “Oh ye lords of ladies intellectual, / Inform us truly, have they not hen-peck’d you all?”
Even with the sometimes biting words chosen by Byron, the general tone of the poem is upbeat, optimistic. Its comedic value makes it approachable to the masses, which makes it more likely to be digested and, hopefully, learned from.