Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 489
George Gordon, Lord Byron
George Gordon, Lord Byron, a famous English Romantic poet, flamboyant society figure, and sexual rebel. Fiery, cynical, passionate, and candid, Byron confronts his daughter, Ada, on the day of her death and attempts to justify his life to her. As a boy, he is a moody, fat, clubfooted poseur. He is introduced to sex at the age of nine by his nurse; as a young man, he has become an internationally acclaimed poet, a superb athlete, and a notorious sexual veteran who has bedded practically everything presented to him but whose most passionate love affair has been with his half sister Augusta Leigh. Exiled for his scandalous behavior once it no longer suits the public fancy, he lives with the Countess Guiccioli, then with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. He finally flees to Greece, where he dies in the fight for Greek independence. Throughout his recital of his life and loves, Byron remains contemptuous of public opinion, insisting that society is basely hypocritical. He emerges as a heroic figure, genuinely hurt but proud and clear-sighted about the demands made on an artist by his public. His defiance raises questions about the emotional and artistic costs of fame and about the boundaries between the artist’s work and his life.
Ada, the Countess of Lovelace, a mathematician and designer of a calculating machine, the Analytical Engine. She is Byron’s daughter by Annabella Millbanke. Thirty-six years old and dying of cancer, Ada cannot finish her will without confronting the father she never knew but whose infamous life nevertheless seems linked to hers. She conjures up Byron’s ghost and demands that he justify his life and paternal neglect. Coolly logical, scientifically skeptical, and something of a reasoning machine herself, Ada discovers in the course of her accusations and Byron’s explanations that she is in fact very much her father’s daughter: the same rebellious spirit animates them both. Each has achieved much, suffered much, been misunderstood and disgraced, and lived with self-exile and self-loathing. Both will be dead at the age of thirty-six.
Annabella Millbanke, Ada’s mother and later a formidable bluestocking. A logical and direct provincial girl with mathematical interests, she first charms Byron with her candor, but once married, she is unable to endure what she claims are Byron’s perversities, and she demands a separation and custody of their child. She fuels the gossip about Byron’s gambling, incest, sodomy, and homosexuality that leads to his eventual exile from England.
Lady Byron, Byron’s mother, a coarse, boozy, unstable woman who both indulges and attacks her son.
Chorus of Men and Women
Chorus of Men and Women, the voices of society that at first overwhelm Byron with rhapsodic adulation, celebrating his scandalous behavior with offers of wine, dinners, and themselves, but later turn vengeful, insisting on his expulsion from their midst as a pervert and criminal.
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