The poem opens with a wry observation – there are too many “heroes” saturating the literary scene. Byron throws out the mold, seeking an “uncommon” hero. Enter Don Juan, a young Spanish nobleman.

We learn of Don Juan’s youthful passion for Donna Julia, a married woman living next door. Their illicit affair forms the crux of Canto 1. However, the portrayal is unexpected. Don Juan isn’t the cunning seducer; instead, he’s a naive youth easily swayed by Julia’s advances.

Byron employs a technique called “ottava rima,” eight-line stanzas with a specific rhyme scheme. This form, used in classic epics, creates a sense of familiarity, but Byron subverts it with his humor and cynicism.

Social commentary is another key element. The poem mocks societal hypocrisy, particularly regarding female sexuality. Donna Julia is ostracized for her desires, while Don Juan faces little consequence. This double standard becomes a target for Byron’s wit.

Canto 1 ends with the discovery of the affair. Don Juan is whisked away by his outraged mother, leaving a trail of chaos and a hint of adventure to come.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Subversive Hero: Don Juan isn’t the traditional seducer, but a pawn in a game of desire.
  • Satirical Tone: Byron employs humor and wit to critique social norms and literary conventions.
  • Focus on Women: The poem highlights the unfair treatment of women in a patriarchal society.

By upending expectations and injecting humor, Lord Byron sets the stage for a unique and thought-provoking exploration of love, desire, and societal hypocrisy in the remaining cantos of Don Juan.