Byron’s popularity has not always corresponded to his critical appraisal. He stands apart from his fellow Romantic poets— William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats—in his stubborn reverence for the poetic style of Restoration and Augustan writers such as John Dryden and Alexander Pope. Indeed, it was the eighteenth century propensity for wit and satire that was also Byron’s forte. It is ironic, then, that Byron is in many ways considered to represent the epitome of the Romantic figure. Both personally and in many of his dark, tormented Romantic heroes, Byron created a cultural icon that had a significant impact on his society and the literary movement of his time, though it must be noted that, although the Byronic hero is certainly in part autobiographical, it represents only one aspect of a complex personality.
Perhaps the salient characteristic of Byron’s work that assures his label as a consummate Romantic is his creation of the so-called Byronic hero. This character type appears in many variations in Byron’s works but is generally based on such literary characters as Prometheus, John Milton’s Satan, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, and many popular sentimental heroes of the age—and, of course, on Byron himself. Though there are variations on this type—Harold, Cain, Manfred, the Giaour, Lara, Selim, and others—generally, the Byronic hero is a melancholy man of great and noble principles,...
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