UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A Critical study of Byron's Cain Jones, Lindsay Maxwell


This thesis is a critical study of Lord Byron's poetic drama, Cain. Most critics in the past have seen the work as a personal statement of religious skepticism on the part of Lord Byron, and hence as an out-and-out attack on traditional, Christian doctrine. With this preconception in mind, they have concerned themselves with pointing out attitudes and ideas in the play which may be said to be antithetical to the Christian world view, and they have then assessed the play simply in these terms. It is the contention of this paper that this presupposition has led the critics away from the realm of meaning intended by Lord Byron, and that a proper understanding of the play can only arise from a full, critical study of the central issue with which this "metaphysical" drama is concerned. The method followed is to analyse the differences in form, structure and argument between two accounts of this story - that found in the Bible, and Byron's poetic drama - on the assumption that such radical changes as we shall note are essential to the conveyance of Byron's peculiar meaning, and that a study of them must reveal the proper coherence and unity of Byron's work. We shall see that Cain is not a mere recounting of this story, but rather that it is a reconceptualization of the predicament facing Adam and Eve and the first family, structured so as to focus upon the human situation, so chat in the work Byron is not concerned with religious values, but with human values; not concerned to advance or refute traditional, religious concepts, but to reveal his insights into the common, human predicament.

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