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Evil In Byron's Dramas: Manfred, Cain, Heaven And Earth, The Deformed Transformed.

2828 words - 11 pages

The Conception of Evil in Byron's Dramas: Manfred, Cain, Heaven and Earth, The Deformed Transformed.       

    The depictions of and ideas about evil in Byron's dramas Cain, The Deformed Transformed, Heaven and Earth and Manfred are fairly common between the four texts. On the basic level, evil is seen as a force opposite to good, which all humans have the potential for. Only some humans express this potential, and their downfall into evil is often brought about by temptation, usually from a divine being. God punishes evil. This interpretation of evil is problematic, however. Because God administers punishment, evil becomes anything that questions the omnipotence of God. The hint that God himself may have an evil side is a truth that may not be discovered without first questioning, an action that endangers the questioner.



"Evil" is acknowledged as a force separate and opposite from "good". Cain's Lucifer admits the all-encompassing nature of evil in Act II Scene II: "But ignorance of evil doth not save from evil,/ it must still roll on the same,/ A part of all things". Even before Cain has committed murder or seemingly done anything wrong, Lucifer refers to "thy present state of sin - and thou art evil" (Cain Act II Scene II)

Evil, then, is a potential present in everyone, though it is not necessarily acted on in every case, and indeed is not desirable. Cain declares "I thirst for good" and Lucifer's answer shows that this is the normal attitude for men - "And who and what doth not? Who covets evil/ For its own bitter sake? None - nothing! Tis/ The leaven of all life and lifelessness".



Evil seems to be defined in Byron's dramas as selfishness or lack of regard for God. Good, by contrast, equates with subservience. Characters who retain God's faavour, such as Adam and Abel in Cain, Noah in Heaven and Earth and the Abbot in Manfred are those who do not question God's will or actions, even when He appears to be doing something morally ambiguous. The Byronic Hero as exemplified in these dramas by Cain, Arnold, Manfred and Japhet, questions the truth of this assertion, and the questioning itself is a heresy, a sin.


On Cain's return from his experience with Lucifer, he describes to Adah the conclusions he has come to about God and the nature of evil. Simply from these words, not from any sinful deed Cain does, Adah is able to conclude that "Thy guide hath done thee evil" (Cain Act III). His "sin" here is merely questioning why he should suffer for his parent's crimes. Japhet's only sin is to question why the Sons of Cain cannot be saved, yet he is admonished by Noah for this sin - "with thy tongue/ Do God no wrong!/ Live as he wills it - die, when he ordains" (Heaven and Earth Act I Scene III). Noah sees God as so far above and controlling of humanity that for him to change his will "for a mere mortal sorrow" would be "a sin".


Evil has also to do with over-ambition and pride. Cain is...

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