The “Mischief-Making Monkey:” Byron’s Don Juan as Carnival
Journal Title:NETSOL: New Trends in Social and Liberal Sciences
This paper analyzes George Gordon Byron’s Don Juan (1819) in light of Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories of the carnival and carnivalesque in literature. The carnivalesque as a form of humor can be seen in Don Juan; first by Byron reconfiguring the legend of Don Juan and transforming him into a mock hero, inverting gender roles, which is evident in Don Juan’s cross dressing, parodying the epic and its conventions, and using obscene and abusive language as well as elements of the grotesque. This paper emphasizes the comic vision of Byron, suggesting reading the sentimental and tragic elements of Don Juan in this light. It also correlates between the instances of multiculturalism in Don Juan with the universal egalitarian nature of the carnival as it considers the instability of both the narrator/storyteller and Don Juan, who wore different masks as if in a masquerade. The implications of reading Don Juan as carnival discourages readers from looking for a stable identity for both the speaker and Don Juan, as a degree of artifice is imposed on the text, suggesting that different social situations involve a degree of acting and role-playing, yet the comical roles in the text are seditious as they bolster droll dissidents, who attempt to destabilize society through mockery.