What is a Byronic Hero?

February 15, 2013

My boo Michael Fassbender makes an excellent Byronic hero.
He's broody.  He's mysterious.  He's hung.  Ladies, we've got ourselves a Byronic hero.

Different from the Alpha Male, he's Batman to Superman, Loki to Thor, and Nigel Tuffnel to David St. Hubbins.  He's the sexy dude in guy-liner with a mysterious past.  He's somewhere in the basement singing "Music of the Night."

Let's set up our prototype.

George Gordon, Lord Byron has a biography that reads like a romance novel. Before he earned fame and fortune as a wildly popular poet of the Romantic Age, Byron was born to a wealthy but tempestuous Scottish aristocratic mother and an English sea captain named "Mad Jack."  He was raised in Scotland by a strict Presbyterian grandmother and inherited his title and wealth when he was ten years old.

George Gordon, Lord Byron.
Self-conscious about his physical deformity (he had a club foot), he excelled at certain sports including horseback riding, boxing, and swimming.  The gossip is that he was handsome as sin and as such, had sex with any available orifice that would have him.  Writes Oliver Harvey in this article from the Sun,
[Byron] claimed to have bedded 200 women in two years in Venice alone — but was also bisexual and had an affair with a teenage Greek boy, Nicolo Giraud.
Why so popular?  Well, there's this.
In 1938 his coffin was exhumed from the family vault at Hucknall Torkard, Notts, his body was examined and it was noted that his manhood showed “quite abnormal development”.
Sounds like the original rock star to me.

The scandal that got him ostracized from polite British society forever was the love affair and child he had with his half sister, Lady Augusta Gregory.  He died in Greece training with troops to fight for independence from Turkey.  His only legitimate daughter was Ada Lovelace, the very first computer programmer and a steampunk vixen of the very highest order.

Besides lovely poems like "She Walks in Beauty" and "Stanzas Written on the Road Between Florence and Pisa," Lord Byron wrote a semi-autobiographical verse travelogue called Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.  In it, the hero exhibits many qualities that define a Byronic Hero:
Arrogant
Cunning and able to adapt
Cynical
Disrespectful of rank and privilege
Emotionally conflicted, bipolar, or moody
Having a distaste for social institutions and norms
Having a troubled past or suffering from an unnamed crime
Intelligent and perceptive
Jaded, world-weary
Mysterious, magnetic and charismatic
Rebellious
Seductive and sexually attractive
Self-critical and introspective
Self-destructive
Socially and sexually dominant
Sophisticated and educated

Byronic heroes from classic literature include Rochester from Jane Eyre, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, and Edmond Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo.  Modern-day Byronic heroes include Magneto from X-Men: First Class, Edward Cullen, and Tyler Durden from Fight Club.

Mmmm.  So many good choices.  I might not find my way back to Clark Kent after this. 

Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden in Fight Club.

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Michael Fassbender as Magneto in X-Men:First Class.

Batman, for sure.