What Are the Characteristics of a Byronic Hero?

The Byronic hero is characterized as being arrogant, violent, reckless, seductive, traumatized and self-serving. Developed by 19th-century poet Lord Byron, this type of character rejects social norms and exists as a form of antihero, or a protagonist lacking conventional heroic qualities.

Romantic writer Lord Byron was frustrated with the types of heroes found in traditional and Romantic stories. Through creating the Byronic hero, he aimed to make heroes more accessible and psychologically complex. The Byronic hero is similar to the Romantic hero in that he is imperfect and often isolated from society, but Byron’s version is much more extreme. Literary scholars believe that the first example of this type of hero was Childe Harold, the main character in Byron’s poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.”

Byronic heroes are known for their intelligence, cynicism and self-awareness. They are usually emotionally or intellectually tortured. Two of the most famous examples are Heathcliff in Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” and Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Ian Fleming’s James Bond and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby can also be considered Byronic heroes.

This type of character remains popular in contemporary literature and entertainment. Since the development of the Byronic hero, the classic, idealized hero has become less common.