What is the Byronic hero? How is it different from the Romantic Hero?
The idea of a Byronic hero is derived from the works and personage of Lord Byron. It is essentially a subgroup or subtle change from the stereotypical Romantic hero. Lord Byron began his writing career with many characters who followed the prototypical idea of a Byronic hero.
The traditional Romantic hero is often an outcast or is distant from society. They are typically very melancholy, almost dark characters who have a deep sense of self-loathing or regret. Imagine, for instance, Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. He is a well-bred, intelligent, and wealthy man, but he eschews society and company—most prominently at the ball held in town—and prefers to stand alone. He also acts somewhat rudely towards the Bennets and later shows a deep sadness and remorse over his actions. This is a stereotypical Romantic hero. Beyond his cold, dark demeanor, however, he is capable of deep and passionate love.
The Byronic hero, on the other hand, is more brazen. This hero is almost angry at society and is often described as reckless or swashbuckling. He holds within himself anger and pain, as well as the typical darkness and bitterness that other Romantic heroes have, but his has turned him into, above all else, a vengeful man. The Byronic hero is, in a sense, an enemy in the world. The Byronic hero is often well fitted in roles such as a ship’s captain or soldier, because he are fearless, powerful, vengeful, and defiantly strong-willed.
While the difference may seem minute, when they are stretched full and given the breadth often seen in works like those of Byron or his contemporaries, these subtle differences become vast gulfs in their personalities. A Byronic hero will seek revenge and will fight people off but will end up passionately in love. The Romantic hero will more quietly and somberly resolve his internal feelings, which usually involves overcoming a sense of self-loathing, and will win the affections of the woman he loves.
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