Characteristics of the Byronic Hero
The Byronic hero--so named because the character evolved primarily due to Lord Byron's writing in the late 18th and early 19th century, which fused existing characteristics into a single literary character--is one of the most prominent literary character types of the Romantic period.
Romantic heroes represent an important tradition in British literature. In England, Milton's Paradise Lost (reinterpreted), a number of Gothic novels and dramas, the heroic romances of Sir Walter Scott , some of the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the works of Lord Byron, all contain a protagonist who is a Byronic hero.
A Byronic hero exhibits several characteristic traits:
1. He is a rebel
2. The Byronic hero does not possess "heroic virtue" in the usual sense; instead, he has many dark qualities
3. He has emotional
capacities that are superior to the average man
. These heightened abilities force the Byronic hero to be arrogant
, abnormally sensitive
, and extremely conscious of himself.
4. Typically he has some sort of dark secret
(in Jane Eyre
, for example, Rochester's wife is hidden in the attic).
5. He is usually isolated from society as a wanderer
or is in exile
of some kind. It does not matter whether this social separation is imposed upon him by some external force or is self-imposed (think of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights
6. Often the Byronic hero is moody
by nature or passionate
about a particular issue.
Due to these characteristics, the Byronic hero is often a figure of repulsion, as well as fascination.
A perfect way to sum up the Byronic hero: "beautiful but damned".