Study Guide

Don Juan Canto II

By George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron

Canto II

  • Byron opens this canto with a speech about how teachers should be sure to use corporal punishment when trying to teach young people to behave. Maybe this will stop them from growing up to be like Don Juan. Here, Byron repeats his earlier claim that Don Juan would have been better off going to public school than being spoiled by his mother.
  • Don Juan travels to the Spanish town of Cadiz to get on a boat and leave Spain altogether.
  • Juan cries a lot at seeing Spain fade into the distance. It's all very sad and a tad melodramatic.
  • Being a wealthy young man, Don Juan travels with an impressive entourage, which includes a personal valet named Pedro and a tutor named Pedrillo. Sheesh, Byron. You couldn't have given out more distinct names?
  • Of course, a brutal storm tears the ship apart midway through its journey. Don does the smart thing of defending the alcohol room, to make sure people don't get super-drunk out of desperation. Before you know it, Juan and a handful of survivors are floating around on a lifeboat.
  • Juan's valet Pedro tries to make it into the boat, but jumps too short and falls to his death into the raging sea.
  • It's not long before Juan and everyone in the lifeboat has eaten everything they can get their hands on. And that can only mean one thing… Don Juan's pet dog starts looking pretty tasty.
  • Yup, the people eat the dog while Don Juan watches and doesn't have any.
  • It's not long before everyone gets hungry again, so they start eating their clothes and shoes. Finally, they take Don Juan's last letter from Julia and tear it up to draw a name out of a hat. And you guessed it: the person whose name gets drawn is going to be killed and eaten. They draw Pedrillo's name and that's that.
  • The first thing the men do is drink Pedrillo's blood, since they're more thirsty than hungry. Only four men in the boat (including Juan) refuse to participate in the eating. And it's a good call too, because everyone who eats Pedrillo goes crazy and dies. Must've been something they ate…
  • There are two fathers in Don Juan's crew who sit by and watch as their sons waste away and die. Rather than let their sons be eaten though, they throw the bodies into the ocean.
  • Just when things look hopeless, a white bird flies to the boat and perches on a few places. Extra points if you can guess which Biblical reference Byron is making here. (Psst: it's the dove.)
  • Then there's land! Sweet, sweet land.
  • Don Juan and the other survivors swim for the shore. But two of them can't even swim, so they drown. The other dude gets eaten by a shark. So DJ is the sole survivor who makes it to shore. How about that?
  • Juan sinks into the sand of a beach and passes out. He's not sure how long it is before he looks up and sees the face of a beautiful seventeen-year-old girl floating over him. He imagines he must be dreaming.
  • The girl has a personal servant with her, and together they manage to drag Don Juan to recover in a nearby cave. Byron then goes on for a while about how beautiful the girl is.
  • The girl is the daughter of a man who used to be a fisherman in his youth, but now he has gone into the much more lucrative world of slave-trading and pirating.
  • The man's daughter (named Haidée) has chosen to hide Don Juan because she's afraid her father would sell DJ as a slave if he found him.
  • Haidée and her maid Zoe sneak food from her father's house and nurse Don Juan back to health. When Don Juan wakes up, he and Haidée fall in love almost instantly, even though neither can understand the other's language.
  • Haidée sneaks out of her house to pay daily visits to DJ. Then her father takes off for a long sea voyage and Haidée is free to come and go however she likes.
  • Haidée and DJ start taking long walks. It's only a matter of time before they start kissing and making out like the teenagers they are. The speaker hints that they have sex and then makes the necessary remarks about how they'll burn in hell for not being married. Of course, Byron thinks that the only real thing worth following is nature, which is what DJ and Haidée are doing. In this sense, Byron feels as though Nature itself has married his two young lovers.
  • Byron ends Canto II with a defense of DJ and Haidée's love. He pretty much criticizes any reader who'd like to be judgmental toward them.

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