The Byronic Hero

A hero proves his heroism when faced with opposition. He is shrewd,

tough, clear-sighted, experienced, and able to handle adversity in a well

equipped manner. However, unlike most heroes, the Byronic hero does not

receive satisfaction simply from possessing these traits. The Byronic hero

sees himself as an individual who practices non conformity. He is a hero of

consciousness more than a hero of action. These qualities of the Byronic

hero are demonstrated in Lord Byron’s description of Napoleon.

Byron begins his description in Stanza 36. He points out that Napoleon

is “Extreme in all things!” I believe that this trait means that the

Byronic hero is neither to the left nor the right, but eternally caught in

the middle of both worlds.

Stanza 38 goes on to say, “Oh, more or less than man-in high or low,

Battling with nations, flying from the field; Now making monarchs’ necks thy

footstool, now More than they meanest soldier taught to yield; An empire thou

couldest crush, command, rebuild, But govern not thy pettiest passion, nor,

However deeply in men’s spirits skill’d, Look through thine own, nor curb

the lust of war, Nor learn that tempted Fate will leave the loftiest star.”

I believe that Lord Byron is saying that Napoleon can crush any nation, only

to rebuild it again, and he can win any war, and have control over thousands

of men. It is the war within himself that he has no control over, that he is

not able to crush. Lines 339-342 are referring to the war which Napoleon is

having with himself, and his inability to control it. This is a very

important characteristic of the Byronic hero. It creates the line that comes

between other heroes and the Byronic hero.

Stanza 39 is saying that even though those who once praised him now mock

him, Napoleon is not going to go quietly in to the night, so to speak. Line

350 says “He stood unbowed beneath the ills upon him piled.” This line

points out the integrity factor that the Byronic hero possess. All though

those who were once with him are now against him, he is not going to let them

control his fate, instead he stands with his head tall, integrity in place.

This also hints at non conformity. Most heroes would probably have laid with

down and died along with their pride, but once again, Napoleon stood tall,

refusing to go along with the norm.

Another Byronic hero trait is the belief that the very thing that makes

up great is the very thing that will eventually destroy us. This aspect is

demonstrated in Stanza 40, which states, “ Sager than in thy fortunes; for in

them ambition steel’d thee on too far to show That just habitual scorn which

could contemn Men and their thoughts; ‘twas wise to feel, not so To wear it

ever on thy lip and brow, and spurn the instruments thou wert to

use Till they were turn’d unto thine overthrow: ‘Tis but a worthless world

to win or lose; So hath it proved to thee, and all such lot who choose.”

Another trait that the Byronic hero possesses is the problem of being

destroyed by the very thing that makes the hero great. I believe that this

means that you can only go so far to please people. You do all

you can for them and they begin to love you and praise you. One day you wake

up and you find yourself being blamed and punished for the very thing that

got you to the top, by the very people who once were a part of your team.

It’s as if you can’t win for losing.

In conclusion, the Byronic hero is one who ultimately never settles for

less. There is a burning desire within to go against nature and to never

stop, because once you stop your quest, there is nothing left, which goes

against the Byronic hero. The hero knows that there is always that extra

mile to go, never stopping, never being content with self, because once this

happens you have become just like the world.