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 contr...
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... religious morality.
The assertion of individuality is threatening to society and to God, so these entities declare selfishness and over-individuality as sinful and evil, so they are justified in punishing them. What is defined as evil is really anything that threatens authority, be it the authority of God, a ruler of some kind or the authority of the idea of society itself over individuality.
Byron: The Poetical Works of Lord Byron. The Albion Edition. Frederick Warne and Co: London.
LaCerva, P A: Byron and the Pseudepigrapha: A Reexamination of the Mystery Plays. In Byron Journal, Volume 14
Praz, M, ed. West, P: Metamorphoses of Satan. In Byron, A Collection of Critical Essays. Prentice Hall:New Jersey
Raphael, F: The Byronic Myth. In Byron Journal Volume 12
Vuilamy, C E (1948): Byron. Michael Joseph: London
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