Beppo: A Venetian Story is a lengthy poem by Lord Byron, written at Venice in 1817. Beppo marks Byron's first attempt at writing in the Italian ottava rima metre, which encouraged his inclination for satiric digression. In this, it is the precursor to Byron's most famous — and generally considered his best — poem, Don Juan.
The poem tells the story of a Venetian lady, Laura, whose husband, Giuseppe (or "Beppo" for short), has been lost at sea for the past three years. According to Venetian customs, and without shedding too many tears, she finally takes on a Cavalier Servente, simply called "the Count". But when the two of them attend the Venetian Carnival, where she is duly admired for her beauty by all the men, she is closely observed by a Turk who turns out to be her missing husband. Beppo explains that he has been captured and enslaved, but was freed by a band of pirates that he joined. Now, with the money he made through his life of piracy, he has returned to be re-baptized and reclaim his wife. Laura returns to Beppo, and he and the Count become "friends".
Analysis and allusions
The poem's main merit lies in its comparison of English and Italian morals, arguing that the English aversion to adultery is mere hypocrisy in light of the probably shocking, but more honest custom of the Cavalier Servente in Italy. Also, it seeks to show that, in comparison to Byron's Oriental Tales of 1813, this looser attitude towards morals may be more beneficial to all participants.
The poem manifests a number of typical Byronic qualities: it is digressive in its structure, for example, and it takes satiric jabs at targets familiar to readers of Byron, such as literary women and other poets (including Robert Southey, who appears as "Botherby"). As he does in major poems like Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Don Juan, Byron mixes fictional elements with elements of autobiography in Beppo.
Reputedly, Lady William Russell was the inspiration for "[one] whose bloom could, after dancing, dare the dawn".
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