George Gordon Byron: The Prisoner of Chillon

(1363 words)

The Prisoner of Chillon is a poem which explores the effects of the denial of physical freedom. It is also an investigation into whether intellect and imagination can ever compensate for or alleviate the loss of freedom. While Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley were living in Switzerland, they visited the Castle of Chillon on the shores of Lake Geneva in June 1816. After touring the Castle and its dungeons (which had been used to hold political prisoners), Byron was inspired to write a monologue based on the history of Francois Bonnivard, a Swiss patriot who was imprisoned in Chillon from 1530-1536.  

The poem is prefaced by a “Sonnet on Chillon” which celebrates the “Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind!…

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O'Connell, Mary. "The Prisoner of Chillon". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 19 October 2010
[, accessed 08 October 2015.]

Related Groups

  1. English Romanticism