Characteristics of the Byronic Hero

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Characteristics of the Byronic Hero
The Byronic hero--so named because it evolved primarily due to Lord Byron’s writing in the nineteenth century—is, according to Peter Thorslev, one of the most prominent literary character types of the Romantic period: Romantic heroes represent an important tradition in our literature . . .. In England we have a reinterpreted Paradise Lost, a number of Gothic novels and dramas . . . the heroic romances of the younger Scott, some of the poetry of Shelley, and the works of Byron. In all of these works the Byronic Hero is the one protagonist who in stature and in temperament best represents the [heroic] tradition in England. (Thorslev 189) A Byronic hero exhibits several characteristic traits, and in many ways he can be considered a rebel. The Byronic hero does not possess "heroic virtue" in the usual sense; instead, he has many dark qualities. With regard to his intellectual capacity, self-respect, and hypersensitivity, the Byronic hero is "larger than life," and "with the loss of his titanic passions, his pride, and his certainty of self-identity, he loses also his status as [a traditional] hero" (Thorslev 187). 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. Byron's Manfred, a character who wandered desolate mountaintops, was physically isolated from society, whereas Childe Harold chose to "exile" himself and wander throughout Europe. Although Harold remained physically present in society and among people, he was not by any means "social." Often the Byronic hero is moody by nature or passionate about a particular issue. He also has emotional and intellectual capacities, which are superior to the average man. These heightened abilities force the Byronic hero to be arrogant, confident, abnormally sensitive, and extremely conscious of himself....
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