Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Childe Harold, a wandering young man. the term “childe,” in medieval English, denoted a young man of the noble classes, about to enter knighthood. Harold begins the story as a rather desperate young man, engaged mostly in debauchery and drunkenness. He leaves England (“Albion’s land”) in a quest for truth about the world, or at least about himself. He travels by sea to Portugal, Spain, France, and Germany, and finally Greece and Italy. Throughout the journey, he is bewildered about the truth and never quite finds his way. He begins to find his way in Germany, on the banks of the Rhine. There, he finds a young woman with whom he can have a meaningful relationship, but he decides he is unworthy. He then travels to Greece, where he is astounded by natural beauty once again but is appalled by the decadence to which the once great Greeks have fallen. In Rome, he finds a similar situation, and there he dies. Childe Harold is more of a metaphor than a real human being. He represents Lord Byron in some sense, but more important, he represents the fall of humankind from the glory of ancient times to the decadence that Byron perceives has befallen his own generation.
Harold’s page, whose age is unclear. He is useful in the narrative only as the one person Harold seems to care about seriously as he leaves England. Apparently, though this is unclear, he does not accompany Harold on the journey. His major function in the poem is to suggest that Childe Harold, generally a callous individual, can show real love to a boy, even if he has difficulty showing such love to a grown woman.
Julia, Harold’s first love on his travels. Julia is introduced about midway through the poem and is soon gone. She is the first nonsexual love object that Harold encounters, apart from his page. She is described as beautiful, and Harold describes himself as unworthy of her. Her principal task in the narrative is to provide the first platonic love for Harold. Knowing Julia changes him significantly. After he meets Julia, Harold has more to say about the beauties of nature and less to say about the evils of humankind.