What are the major characteristics of the Byronic Hero as found in Childe Harold?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In many ways, the ultimate Byronic hero is Byron himself, or at leats Byron as he imagined himself.

Byron `woke up and found himself famous`after the appearance in 1812 of the first 2 parts of Childe Harolde. The story of a young aristocrat travelling around Europe follows the conventions of the picaresque, or romance, in which the interest of the reader is not on  plot but on revelation of the protagonist in a series of losely connected actions.

The Byronic hero is, of course, handsome (Byron, with a tendency to corpulence, had to go on diets of potatoes and vinegar to maintain his `Byronic` appearance), often in a dark, mysterious, almost effeminate manner. His clothing is dashing and dramatic, but often unconventional, as are his manners. He is (rather like what would now be called a Goth) normally disappointed in love and therefore cynical about love and marriage, alternating between cynical melancholia and seduction. There is always a tragedy in his background. He is usually an aristocrat, but often of suspect birth or heritage, with a rebellious streak, skilled in the arts and with some athletic prowess, but not a tradition hearty English sporting man of the huntin`shootin`fishin variety. He is often dissolute, with recourse to alcohol and more exotic stimulants, but not the count `two bottle squire`. He is a solitary figure in the midst of high society.