The Byronic hero is a character type often associated with the English Romantic poet Lord Byron, but with roots extending back to Hamlet. Byronic heroes are arrogant, intelligent, educated outcasts, who somehow balance their cynicism and self-destructive tendencies with a mysterious magnetism and attraction, particularly for heroines. This type was adopted enthusiastically into the Gothic aesthetic, where characters such as Manfred in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764) and Montoni in Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) could manifest their brooding discontent in truly horrifying ways.
Eino Railo suggests the origins of the Byronic hero type date back to Shakespeare, and underwent a long crystallization process on the way to Byron himself. For Railo, four authors contributed the basic elements of the Byronic hero's genome: Shakespeare (Hamlet), Walpole (Manfred), Radcliffe (Montoni), and Godwin (Gabor). These are the crucible from which the brooding lovers of Sir Walter Scott emerged, followed closely by the quintessential Byronic hero of Lord Byron himself.
Courtesy of Wendy Fall, Marquette University
See also: hero
Source: Railo, Eino. The Haunted Castle; a Study of the Elements of English Romanticism. New York, Humanities Press, 1964. Print.
The Affecting History of the Duchess of C**** Who Was Confined Nine Years in a Horrid Dungeon, Under Ground, Where Light Never Entered, a Straw Bed Being Her Only Resting Place, and Bread and Water Her Only Support, Conveyed by Means of a Turning-Box, by Her Inhuman Husband; Whom She Saw but Once During Her Long Imprisonment, Though Suffering by Hunger, Thirst, and Cold, the Most Severe Hardships, But Fortunately She Was at Last Discovered, and Released from the Dungeon, By Her Parents. [Transcript], Stéphanie Félicité Genlis