Don Juan | Study Guide

Lord Byron

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Don Juan | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram



Lord Byron prefaces the poem with a dedication in which he references his fellow poets William Wordsworth (1770–1850) and Robert Southey (1774–1843). He does not believe that they are good poets and insists that history will judge them accordingly. He dedicates the poem to Southey.

Canto 1

Don Juan is born in Seville, Spain. His parents are Don José and Donna Inez. She raises him in a strict fashion, hoping that Juan will not become a womanizing, sinful man like Don José. Juan grows into a handsome, charming young man but he falls in love with his mother's friend Donna Julia. Their affair is exposed by her husband Don Alfonso who fights Juan and then sends Julia to a nunnery. Juan's mother sends him to Italy to escape the scandal.

Canto 2

Juan's ship sails for Italy but a storm sinks the boat. The surviving crew members resort to cannibalism to survive. Everyone but Juan dies and he eventually washes up on the shore of a mysterious island. Juan is found and nursed back to health by a young woman named Haidée. Her father Lambro is a fearsome pirate who sells slaves, so she must keep Juan hidden.

Canto 3

Haidée and Juan fall in love. They move into her father's house when he departs on a voyage and throw lavish parties to celebrate. They believe that Lambro is dead because he has been away for an extended period of time.

Canto 4

Lambro returns from his voyage and he is enraged by his daughter's behavior. He attacks Juan and sells him into slavery. Haidée is so shocked that she falls ill and dies. Juan is taken to Turkey.

Canto 5

Juan is bought from a Turkish slave market by Baba the eunuch servant of Gulbeyaz. She is a wife of the Sultan and she has Juan taken to her palace and dressed as a woman to hide him from the Sultan. She is attracted to Juan but he remains sad about the loss of Haidée.

Canto 6

Juan is in disguise as a woman and must sleep in the women's quarters at Gulbeyaz's palace. Gulbeyaz finds out that he was forced to sleep beside a young woman and demands that he be executed.

Canto 7

Juan, fellow slave John Johnson, and two women have escaped from Gulbeyaz's palace and find themselves swept up in a battle between the Turkish and Russian armies.

Canto 8

The battle against the Turkish army takes place. Juan rescues an orphaned Turkish girl named Leila, is praised for his bravery, and is then sent to deliver a message about the victory to Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia.

Canto 9

Catherine likes Juan and makes him an important figure at her court.

Canto 10

Juan likes life in Russia but he becomes ill due to the cold weather. Catherine appoints him as a special ambassador and sends him to England as her representative. He travels across Europe.

Canto 11

Juan is just as popular in England as he was in Russia. He becomes wealthy and respected. Stories of his prior adventures precede him and he lives a carefree life.

Canto 12

Juan finds a guardian for Leila and takes care of his affairs in England.

Canto 13

Juan meets Lord Henry Amundeville and his wife Lady Adeline Amundeville. They become friends and Juan is invited to spend time with many other guests at the Amundevilles's country home.

Canto 14

Lady Adeline Amundeville and Juan become close. She decides to try to find him a wife to protect him from the scandalous attention of women like Duchess Fitz-Fulke. Lady Adeline does not want to think about her own marriage which is not as successful as it should be.

Canto 15

Lady Adeline and Juan think about prospective wives. His first choice is Aurora Raby. Aurora is a rich, young Catholic orphan and he believes she would be an excellent choice. Lady Adeline is less sure. Juan tries to talk to Aurora but she seems to ignore him. This coldness only makes him more interested in her.

Canto 16

Juan spends an anxious night alone with his thoughts. He is unable to sleep so he wanders around the large country house. He is shocked by the sight of a monk walking through the hallways. He fears that he has seen a ghost. At breakfast the next day Juan is pale and scared. His hosts tell him the story of a ghostly monk who lives in their home. His spirits pick up when he talks to Aurora at dinner but the ghost returns that same night. Juan feels more confident so he reaches out to grab the ghost. He realizes that the ghostly monk is a person, revealed to be Duchess Fitz-Fulke.

Canto 17

Juan and Duchess Fitz-Fulke appear at breakfast together and both of them appear as though they have been awake all night.

Don Juan Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action


1 Don Juan is raised in a sheltered and strict home.

Rising Action

2 Don Juan has a romantic affair with his mother's friend.

3 Don Juan's ship is wrecked and the other passengers die.

4 Haidée finds Don Juan and falls in love with him.

5 Don Juan and Haidée celebrate their love with a party.

6 Haidée dies and Juan is sold into slavery by her father.

7 Don Juan is purchased by the sultana Gulbeyaz.

8 Don Juan escapes Gulbeyaz's royal palace.

9 Don Juan is part of a great Russian military victory.

10 Don Juan becomes a favorite at the Russian court.


11 Catherine the Great sends Don Juan to England.

Falling Action

12 Don Juan befriends Lady Adeline Amundeville.

13 Lady Adeline tries to arrange a marriage for Don Juan.

14 Don Juan sees a ghost and learns about the Black Friar.


15 Don Juan discovers that Duchess Fitz-Fulke is the ghost.

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