What makes a man, who just lived for 36 years, a cultural hero even after a hundred and ninety years after his death? What is a human being, whose traits are now adjectives for similar people around the world? What makes a man, who was crippled on one foot, travel the whole of Europe, and make history? What makes a man, that when he raises his pen to write, raises the eyebrows of an entire country?
George Gordon Noel Byron was a poet, in an era of poetry called the Romantic Movement. He is regarded as one of the greatest British poets and remains widely read and influential.
One breathtaking poem by Lord Byron that I recently read is called ‘She Walks in Beauty’. It’s amazing how he describes the beauty of a woman, in such an amazing way.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face.
According to biographers, Lord Byron developed the archetype of the BYRONIC HERO in response to his boredom with traditional heroic and Romantic literary characters. He is also well known for his notorious and scandalous life, being celebrated for his numerous love affairs, his indifference to society, his supposedly incestuous relationship with his half sister, rumours of marital violence, rumours of homosexual affairs with a 14 year old kid, adultery with actresses, the possibility of him having a child at age 19, his love for swimming great distances, his ruthless condescendence towards humans, but love towards animals, his self imposed exile and a nation-mourned untimely death.
Lady Caroline Lamb, with whom he had a much hyped love affair which awed the English people of that time, called him ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’, his most famous epitaph yet.
What caught my attention of this amazing man is his entire persona, and his attitude towards life. Agreed that it was indeed a sinful one, but he lived life exactly how he wanted to. His life is now a pattern, who everybody impersonates one way or the other. He lived and died a man of ultimate individual liberty – and made it known the world over. He was lonely and socially-rogue, hated civilization, but had numerous love affairs. That’s the irony behind the trait of the ‘Byronic Hero’.
What exactly is it?
Essentially, people who have traits like Lord Byron are called Byronic heroes. Simple. Since now, this topic is a part of the curriculum in the university studies of philosophy and poetry around the world; it was no tough grind to find a really detailed, amplified description.
- A Byronic Hero doesn’t have any heroic virtue, but has many dark qualities, which makes him famous as a rebel, an agitator.
- He is usually isolated from society. It does not matter whether this social separation is imposed upon him by some external force (like the government) or is a self-imposed ostracism.
- Often the Byronic hero is moody by nature or passionate about a particular issue, may be political, or personal.
- 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.
To summarize, ‘Byronic Hero” is not just one trait, but a series of traits put together.
Lord Byron was considered as being intelligent, cunning, ruthless, arrogant, depressive, prone to violence, self-aware, emotionally and intellectually tortured, traumatized, highly emotional, self-serving, spiritually doubtful, prone to bursts of anger, decidedly prone to substance abuse, often reckless or suicidal, dedicated to perusing matters of justice over matters of legality, known to have self-destructive impulses, and more than that, a seductive and a greatly appealing, playboy poet.
I’ll give you some examples, if you really can’t relate to anybody in our era, being like that.
- Batman, then, can be understood as a perfect example of a modern day Byronic Hero. He is highly intelligent, cynical, self-destructive, haunted, traumatized, and tends to rebel against authority, but hence at the end of the day, does what he thinks is right.
- V in V for Vendetta is such another example. He is this mysterious, nihilistic man in a mask, who believes that violence is good, when used for a good reason. In his own words, quote: “Behind this mask there is more than just flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea… and ideas are bulletproof.”
We have a cloud of more examples, including Dr. House from the TV show House, Max Payne, Superman, Spiderman, Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean), Darth Vader (Star Wars) and Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw). Now when you think about them, they are really Byronic Heroes. They are private, cunning, over-venturesome, imprudent and cagey but in the very inside, genuine human beings.
For more about Lord Byron: http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/04/13/reviews/970413.13castlet.html