Short summary - Manfred - George Gordon Byron (Noel)

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Short summary - Manfred
George Gordon Byron (Noel)

The philosophical tragedy «Manfred», which became the debut of Byron the playwright, is perhaps the most profound and significant (along with the mystery «Cain», 1821) of the poet’s works in the dialogical genre, and not without reason is considered the apotheosis of Byron pessimism. The writer’s painful experience of discord with British society, ultimately prompting him to exile voluntarily, an inevitably deepening crisis in personal relations, in which he himself was sometimes inclined to perceive something fatally predetermined - all this left an indelible imprint of «world sorrow» on the dramatic poem ( skeptical of the achievements of contemporary English theater, Byron more than once emphasized that he wrote it for reading), in which the most vigilant of contemporaries - not excluding the most whom the Germans saw as a romantic analogue of Goethe's Faust.

The unpredictable author of Childe Harold, Giaur and Jewish Melodies has never been so grimly majestic, so cosmic in his contempt for the philistine destiny of the majority, and at the same time so merciless to the few chosen, whose indomitability and eternal search condemned them to lifelong solitude; its images have never so resembled, by their alienated scale, the sky-high heights and inaccessible ridges of the Bernese Alps, against which the "Manfred" was created and against which its action unfolds. More precisely, the ending of an unusually broadly sketched conflict, because in a dramatic poem, covering essentially the last day of the protagonist's existence (it chronologically «hangs» somewhere between the 15th and 18th centuries), the role is more important than anywhere else in Byron background and subtext. For the author - and, therefore,


The poem opens, like Goethe's Faust, by summing up the preliminary - and disappointing - results of a long and stormy lived life, not only in the face of an impending demise, but in the face of a hopelessly dull, not sanctified by a lofty goal and endlessly lonely existence.

Science, philosophy, all the secrets of the
Wonderful and all earthly wisdom -
I have known everything, and have comprehended everything in my mind:
What is the use?

This is how the anacoret-warlock, who has frightened in the values of intelligence, thinks, frightening servants and commoners with his unsociable way of life. The only thing the proud feudal lord and endowed with mysterious knowledge of the transcendent hermit who is tired of looking and disappointed is the only thing that is the end, oblivion. Desperate to find it, he calls the spirits of various elements: ether, mountains, seas, earthly depths, winds and storms, darkness and night - and asks to give him oblivion. «Oblivion is unknown to the immortal,» one of the spirits answers; they are powerless. Then Manfred asks one of them, disembodied, to take that visible image, "which is more decent for him." And the seventh spirit - the spirit of Destiny - appears to him in the guise of a beautiful woman. Having recognized the dear traits of a lost lover forever, Manfred falls unconscious.

Lonely wandering along the mountain cliffs in the vicinity of the highest mountain Jungfrau, with which many ominous beliefs are associated, he is met by a chamois hunter - he is met at a moment when Manfred, sentenced to eternal living, is trying in vain to commit suicide by throwing himself off a cliff. They enter into conversation; the hunter brings him to his hut. But the guest is gloomy and taciturn, and his interlocutor soon realizes that Manfred’s affliction, his thirst for death, is by no means of a physical nature. He does not deny: «Do you think that our life depends / On time? Rather - from ourselves, / Life for me is an immense desert, / Barren and wild coast, / Wherever the waves moan ... "

When leaving, he takes with him the source of the insatiable torment tormenting him. Only a fairy of the Alps - one of the host of "invisible rulers", whose dazzling image he manages to conjure by standing above a waterfall in an alpine valley, can he entrust his sad confession ...

From a youth alienating people, he was looking for a quenching in nature, «in the fight against the waves of noisy mountain rivers / Ile with the furious surf of the ocean»; attracted by the spirit of discovery, he penetrated into the treasured secrets, "that they knew only in antiquity." Fully armed with esoteric knowledge, he managed to penetrate the secrets of invisible worlds and gained power over spirits. But all these spiritual treasures are nothing without a single comrade-in-arms who shared his labors and vigil, sleepless, of Astarte, a friend, beloved by him and by him. Dreaming at least for a moment again to see his lover, he asks the Alps fairy for help.

"Fairy. I am powerless over the dead, but if / You swear obedience to me ... »But Manfred, who never bowed his head to anyone, is not capable of it. The fairy disappears. And he, drawn by a bold plan, continues his wanderings along the mountain heights and sky-high halls where the rulers of the invisible dwell.

For a short while we lose sight of Manfred, but then we become witnesses of a meeting on the top of Mount Jungfrau of three parks preparing to appear before the king of all spirits Ahriman. The three ancient deities that control mortal life under Byron's pen are strikingly reminiscent of the three witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth; and in the fact that they tell each other about their business, notes of venomous satire are not too typical for Byron's philosophical works. So, one of them «... married fools, / Restored fallen thrones / And strengthened those close to the fall <...> / <...> turned / Into the wise, stupid madmen, into wise men, / Into oracles so that people worship / Before power them and that none of the mortals / dare to decide the fate of their masters / And hastily talk about freedom ... "Together with the appeared Nemesis, the goddess of retribution,

Praise to the lord of the invisible is interrupted by the unexpectedly appearing Manfred. Spirits urge him to prostrate himself in the dust before the supreme ruler, but in vain: Manfred is rebellious.

The first of the parks introduces dissonance into general indignation, stating that this impudent mortal is not similar to any of his despicable tribe: «His sufferings / are Immortal, like ours; knowledge, will / And his power, since it is compatible / All this with mortal dust, such, / That the dust marvels at him; he strove / Soul away from the world and comprehended / That which only we, the immortals, comprehended: / That there is no happiness in knowledge, that science is / Exchange of some ignorance for others. " Manfred asks Nemesis to call from nonexistence "in the land unburied - Astarte."

A ghost appears, but even the omnipotent Ahriman is not given to make the vision speak. And only in response to the passionate, half-mad monologue-appeal of Manfred responds, pronouncing his name. And then he adds: "In the morning you will leave the earth." And it dissolves in ether.

At the pre-sunset hour, in the old castle, where the unsociable Count Warlock dwells, the abbot of St. Maurice appears. Alarmed by the rumors creeping around the district about the strange and unholy activities that the owner of the castle indulges in, he considers it his duty to urge him to «cleanse himself of filth by repentance / And reconcile with the church and heaven.» «Too late,» he hears a laconic answer. He, Manfred, has no place in the church parish, as well as among any crowd: «I could not curb myself; he who wants / to command must be a slave; / Whoever wants the insignificance to recognize / Him as his ruler, he must / Be able to humble himself before the insignificance, / Penetrate everywhere and keep pace / And be a walking lie. I didn’t want to flock with the herd, at least I could / Be the leader. The lion is alone - me too. » Having cut off the conversation, he hurries to retire,

Meanwhile, the servants, timid in front of the strange gentleman, recall other days: when Astarte was next to the fearless seeker of truths - "the only creature in the world / whom he loved, which, of course, / could not be explained by kinship ..." Their conversation is interrupted by the abbot demanding that he be urgently taken to Manfred.


Meanwhile, Manfred, alone, calmly awaits the fatal moment. The abbot burst into the room and senses the presence of powerful evil spirits. He tries to curse spirits, but in vain. "Spirit. <...> The time has come, mortal, / Humble yourself. Manfred. I knew and know what has arrived. / But not for you, slave, I will give my soul. / Get away from me! I’ll die as I lived - alone. » The proud spirit of Manfred, not bowing to the authority of any authority, remains unbroken. And while the ending of Byron’s play really reminiscent of the Goethe’s Faust finale, one cannot but notice a significant difference between the two great works: angels and Mephistopheles fight for the soul of Faust, while Manfred himself defends the soul of the Byron baptist himself (Immortal Spirit himself the court creates for itself / For good and evil deeds »).

"Old man! Believe me, death is not at all scary! »- he throws the farewell to the abbot.