Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley, an English Romantic poet. Thin, sallow, sensitive, and neurotic, Bysshe, who passes through his middle and late twenties in the course of the play, champions the cause of workers, though he is the son of an aristocrat. He is a teetotaler and fights for the rights of women, yet he abandons his first wife, Harriet, to prostitution and takes Mary Godwin as his lover. Although he marries Mary after Harriet’s suicide, he is never faithful. He sleeps with Claire and, later, a boatman’s daughter. Bysshe advocates free love but confesses that he does not feel free. His careless actions cause the death of his first wife and of his daughter Clara. In the end, Bysshe drowns in a boating accident.
George Gordon, Lord Byron, a Scottish Romantic poet. Byron is a talented, flamboyant, and rich profligate in his late twenties and early thirties. He is a priapic bisexual who sleeps with all manner of boys, virginal girls, and married women. He suffers from alcoholism and syphilis. Byron domineers over the other characters in the play, especially the hapless Dr. Polidori. He impregnates Claire, then rejects her. He takes their daughter Allegra away from Claire and places the child in a convent, where she dies. Although Byron causes pain in the life of anyone who cares for him, he is nevertheless energetic, charming, and devastatingly attractive.
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