Philosophical drama “Manfred” - Lord George Gordon Byron

Essays on literary works - 2023

Philosophical drama “Manfred”
Lord George Gordon Byron

The third, "Russoistic" song of "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" returns the hero to nature, against which the action of Byron's first play, the philosophical drama "Manfred", also begun in Switzerland, is played out. To a certain extent, it is similar to Goethe's Faust, although it argues with him. The action is only the finale of a tragic life, the events of which can only be guessed from random phrases. The “summit” nature of the depiction of the conflict in this case is motivated differently than in the classic drama: Byron wraps the hero’s face with a veil of fatal mystery and builds the action in the spirit of romantic fragmentation.

Manfred is one of those to whom much was given and who achieved much, having received power over both people and spirits, but, having received it, did not come close to happiness. His strength, his knowledge became his tragedy. Another "deadly" love is Manfred's for Astarte, a date with which, the deceased, the hero demands from the gods, since he does not even know how to ask from them. Manfred is the final and climactic work. Here, the features of the romantic hero are given the character of a generalization unprecedented in scale, made with the belief that the beautiful and the great will certainly lead to death due to human arrogance and selfishness. There is no way out, there is only an opportunity to go into oblivion.

Byron mythologizes romantic despair, completely subordinating to this idea the image of his hero, who personifies it in the world mystery. Although "Manfred" has a genre subtitle - "dramatic poem", he opens a peculiar cycle of Byron's mysteries, which includes "Cain" ("Cain. A Mystery", 1821), "Earth and Sky" ("Heaven and Earth. A Mystery" , 1821 - only the first part of the planned trilogy was completed). As always, Byron does not allow himself to linger on any one extreme. If "Manfred" is a myth of despair, then "Cain" is of rebellion.

Under the pen of Byron, the story of a man who brought the first death into the world, becoming the murderer of his brother Abel, turns into another story about a modern man, dissatisfied, searching, unable to silently humble himself, even if you need to humble yourself before God. A man strong enough to decide to rebel against both Lucifer and God, but will he have the strength to take full responsibility for his rebellion? Both in the poems and in the mysteries, Byron leaves this question open, alternately depicting the hero as great in his determination. The choice of solution largely depends on the circumstances of his own life: Manfred's despair is in the spirit of Swiss sadness, and Cain's challenge coincides in time with Byron's active participation in the secret activities of the Italian Carbonari. True, even the months spent in 1816 in Switzerland

During this time, Byron met and lived at the Villa Diodati with P.B. Shelley, with whose sister-in-law, Claire Clairmont, he had an affair. In January their daughter Alegra was born (died 1822). In November 1816, Byron moved to Italy, where he first stopped in Venice. Over time, after meeting Teresa Guiccioli, he lived with her in Ravenna (December 1819). Persecuted because of his connections with the Carbonari by the police, in October 1821 he moved to Pisa and, finally, exactly one year later he settled in Genoa. If the second song of "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" was filled with memories of the great past of Greece, then the fourth, last, tells about the past of Ancient Rome and its successor - Italy.