The closet drama embodies Lord Byron’s literary genius as he employs unique yet equally strategic literary techniques to develop the conflicts in the plot. The key characters in the drama are Manfred and Astarte. Living in the Bernese Alps, Manfred is a perturbed Faustian noble. Astarte on the other hand is a mysterious dead woman. Despite being dead and absent from the fictional society, she plays an active role in the plot as she influences Manfred’s behaviors and attitudes. Artistically, Lord Byron presents the two key characters in distinct stories with Manfred coming out as an allegory of logic while Astarte is a typical myth.
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Manfred comes out as a Byronic Hero. A Byronic hero is an antihero identifies by specific features including arrogance, rebellious personality, antisocial in nature and living in exile. Manfred withdraws himself from the society thus validating the concept of an exile. Despite his withdrawn attitude, arrogance and even rebellious nature, Manfred embodies logic. His behaviors and attitudes are practical and understandable. Apparently, Manfred fell in love with his sister. Their love ended tragically thus causing him immense psychological pain and regret. The pain in this context is understandable. Any normal human would mourn the death of their loved ones. Seeking to escape the reality is a common psychological reaction to the pain.
His logical reaction to the pain is to seek guidance of individuals who can understand his problem and alleviate his pain. He thus summons the seven nature spirits who include Mountain, Star, Wind, Air, Ocean, Earth, and Night. Manfred understands his problem and knows a possible solution. He thus asks for forgetfulness, “Oblivion, self-oblivion– Can ye not wring from out the hidden realms Ye offer so profusely what I ask?” (Act 1, 140). When the spirits fail to cure his condition, Manfred lives a logical life characterized by accountability. He spends most of him time looking for a possible cure. He engages witches and spirits. Manfred comes out as a realist. He pursues his beliefs. Towards the end of the drama, Manfred refuses to repent and neither does he resist death. Repentance is a mystical development with immense spiritual relation. Manfred assumes responsibility for his mistakes and dies boldly, “whate’er I may have been, or am, doth rest between Heaven and myself; I shall not choose a mortal To be my mediator. Have I sinn’d Against your ordinances? prove and punish!” (Act 3, 50).
Astarte, on the other hand, comes out as a myth. She is a mysterious character who is not present in the plot but controls the actions of others. She is a powerful supernatural being without distinct features. The author does not provide adequate description of the creature. In the first act for example, the author does not reveal Astarte. She exists only in the memory of Manfred who is not willing to open up about her. Astarte’s absence from Manfred’s society thus makes her a myth. She exists as a story in Manfred’s head. She could be a hoax. Probably Manfred was never in love with her and that the Byronic hero probably never led to her death. The mystery surrounding her existences and even death thus qualify her as a myth.
Summarily, the plot portrays Manfred as a reasonable individual who seeks solutions for his problems while resisting the allure of evil and shortcuts. He resists the temptations from the beautiful witch and refuses to repent features that demonstrate his integrity. Astarte on the other hand is a scantily described figure shrouded in mystery thus her mythical outlook.
- Byron, Gordon. Manfred: A dramatic poem. London: John Murray, 1819. Print.