Too Mad to Marry: Byron, Rousseau, Othello, and Stendhal’s Octave de Malivert

Octave de Malivert, the Romantically despondent and rebellious protagonist of Stendhal’s first novel, Armance (1827), has obvious affinities with the heroes of Byron’s Romantic verse tales but exhibits more numerous, more profound affinities with Byron the man. This article investigates the latter affinities—and occasionally, where relevant, the former—particularly insofar as they serve to define the nature of Octave’s relations with the woman he tragically loves, marries, and loses, Armance de Zohiloff.The article argues that Octave is psychologically identified with Byron and, through him, with Rousseau and Othello in being afflicted by a form of Romantic madness that involves, among other things, passionate, unreasonable unhappiness, social maladjustment, resistance to love, sexual jealousy, self-incrimination, intense remorse, and a consuming need for expiation. These traits render Octave incapable of success or happiness in love and doom him to a Byronically fatal marriage and a Byronically premature—but redemptive—death. Keywords: Byronism, Romanticism, Rousseauism, Source Study, Textual Analysis, Shakespeare

Rosa, George M.
Volume 2011-12 Spring-Summer; 40.(3-4): 239-255