Author(s): Jon Nichols*
Byron’s Cain was first published in 1821. It retells the biblical story from the perspective of the first murderer. Byron’s play scandalized nineteenth-century English society due to the author’s divergent ideas about religion and tyranny. As a result, Byron’s drama has generated much discussion based upon its controversial religious and political themes. However, little has been said about the sublime aspects of the play. This paper analyzes Byron’s closet drama Cain utilizing Immanuel Kant’s theories of the sublime. Kant delineates two types of sublime classifications. These were called the dynamic and mathematical sublime. The dynamic sublime occurs when an individual is able to triumph over forces of nature by virtue of relying on his function of human rationality. The mathematical sublime occurs when an individual derives pleasure from witnessing stimuli which reaches near infinity. Byron’s play lends itself to discussions of the sublime due to its unusual themes of space travel, spiritual entities and death.