Byronic Hero

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"No one knows what it's like
To feel these feelings
Like I do
And I blame you"

The Who, "Behind Blue Eyes"

The Byronic Hero is a type of character (an Anti-Hero, an Anti-Villain, or Just a Villain) popularized by the works of Lord Byron, whose protagonists often embodied this archetype, though they existed before him.[1] Byronic Heroes are charismatic characters with strong passions and ideals, but who are nonetheless deeply flawed individuals who may act in ways which are socially reprehensible, and whose internal conflicts are heavily romanticized. Some of their attitudes and actions may be considered immoral, and their bad actions may be as numerous as those which are heroic, but never are they evil for evil's sake. Also, they have a large tendency to be Jerkass Woobies.

The following traits are very characteristic of Byronic Heroes and may be helpful in identifying them:

  • Are usually male and considered very attractive physically, possessing a great deal of charisma, sophistication, and intelligence, as well as emotional sensitivity, which may translate into moodiness.
  • Is intensely introspective and may be described as dark and brooding. He dwells on the pains or perceived injustices of his life, often to the point of over-indulgence. May muse philosophically on the circumstances that brought him to this point, including personal failings.
  • Is cynical and jaded, often due to a mysterious Dark and Troubled Past, which, if uncovered, will reveal a significant loss, or a crime or mistake committed which still haunts him.
  • He is extremely passionate, with strong personal beliefs which are usually in conflict with the values of the status quo. He sees his own values and passions as above or better than those of others, manifesting as arrogance or a martyr-like attitude.
  • His intense drive and determination to live out his philosophy without regard to others' philosophies produces conflict, and may result in a tragic end, should he fail, or revolution, should he succeed. This rebellion against the rules or values of the society he finds himself in, as well as a disrespect for rank/privilege,[2] often leads to social isolation, rejection, or exile.

Vampires are often written as this kind of character, as a way to romanticize an otherwise disturbing creature. Lord Byron himself was the inspiration for one of the first pieces of vampire literature, The Vampyre, by John William Polidori, Byron's personal physician. Oftentimes, to highlight their signature brooding aura, a Byronic Hero will be compared with creatures that have dark, supernatural connotations, with demons, ghosts, and of course, vampires, all being popular choices. Love Tropes are often involved with this character, but almost always in a very cynical, existential way. Don't hold your breath waiting for The Power of Love to redeem him.

The Byronic Hero has a tendency to be The Unfettered, rejecting the morals imposed by society to accomplish his goals, and may overlap with the Ubermensch, who shares the Byronic Hero's sense of rebellion and superiority. Similarly, a particularly villainous Byronic Hero may be a Noble Demon, as the two follow their desires without care for others, but nonetheless have no interest in outright villainy or evil, and may perform good actions if it suits them to do so. More overlapping tropes include the Well-Intentioned Extremist, who, like the Byronic Hero, may do immoral or villainous acts in the name of some higher cause which would otherwise be a positive goal, as well as the Lovable Rogue, who shares the Byronic Hero's charisma, likability, and tendency to break the law.

They are quite often a Draco in Leather Pants, often in-universe as well, due to the magnetic All Girls Want Bad Boys appeal of this character. Frequently, a large part of their characterization involves and Awesome Ego, Manipulative Bastard, Deadpan Snarker, and Tall, Dark and Snarky. A great number will also be Rebellious Spirits.

The Byronic Hero is closely related, but not to be confused with, a Tragic Hero or a Tragic Villain. Tragic Heroes suffer from a specific sin in particular, which is treated as their Tragic Flaw, and are often well-intentioned or otherwise blameless. While both characters may ultimately be defeated by their flaws, the Tragic Heroes and Tragic Villains tend to suffer more for them in the end, and include an Aesop. However, it's not unheard of to see characters who are both Byronic and Tragic heroes.

Byronic Hero may also overlap with Nominal Hero, a character who fights for good despite their lack of heroic intent, or Unscrupulous Hero, a hero who enjoys kicking dogs despite having one or more morally admirable goals.

Totally unrelated to Kari Byron. Or any series with a Bionic Hero.

Examples of Byronic heroes include:

Anime and Manga

  • Guts from Berserk is a notable example of this trope and fits most of the classical traits. He spent the years after the Eclipse wandering from town to town and killing Apostles, largely indifferent to the people he saved and hanging onto his humanity by a thread. However, he eventually starts to return to his original personality after he sees where his obsession with revenge has left him.
  • Manipulative Bastard Lelouch Lamperouge from Code Geass is massively arrogant, generally has no trouble with slaughtering his enemies, is fairly vengeful, and frequently lies to and keeps secrets from his own men, as well as his friends and family. although the universe has screwed him over a couple of times. While Lelouch sincerely wants to make the world a better place, many of his methods are so devious and underhanded and his motives behind his actions are so self-serving that it's impossible to call him any other kind of hero. The director said that he specifically chose Jun Fukuyama to voice Lelouch on the grounds that his voice, along with the character's traits, would make him such that the viewer would side with him no matter what he'd say.
    • Suzaku also counts. Brooding, self-destructive Death Seeker who seeks atonement for killing his father and causing Japan to be enslaved by Britannia. He tries sacrificing himself under the guise of chivalry to both Britannia and supposedly Japan as an excuse to fulfill his death wish, but mostly serves to derail Lelouch's plans before they would otherwise bear maximum results. In season 2, he becomes even worse, descending into Knight Templar territory and conquering EU nations for Schneizel. He eventually joins Lelouch, but not before they're both broken beyond repair.
  • Mello from Death Note.
  • Yu Kanda of D Gray Man.
  • Zelgadis Graywords from Slayers, moreso in the anime than in the novels. His lifelong quest for a cure that could turn his chimeric body back into its former human state fits this trope, and toss in the fact that it was his own great-grandfather that did it
  • Alexander Row of Last Exile is a pretty good example. He's Tall, Dark and Handsome, an officer and captain of his own one-of-a-kind Cool Airship, which he essentially stole from the government and is operating on his own, outside of the law. He is stoic, withdrawn, and brooding (half the time when we see him, he's just sitting in the dark alone), doesn't really listen to a damn thing anyone else tells him, and is driven by revenge and revolution. He's also an expert strategist with a crew that will follow him anywhere. He has a troubled past that is revealed to include a dead wife. The princess is also in love with him, and it's doomed to be unrequited. Oh, and he's a total badass.
  • Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z often fits this trope.
  • Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist and the 2003 anime adaptation's version of Edward Elric.
  • As does Sasuke Uchiha of Naruto.
  • Shinn Asuka from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, whose hate of ORB brings him much suffering.
  • The Celestial Being organization in Mobile Suit Gundam 00. True, they are no saints but what makes them the heroic figures is their sincere awareness of how the world suffers from endless warfare. And they put their effort into ending it by force.
  • Villain Protagonist Edmond Dantes from Gankutsuou is a villainous example of this trope. The main character is the eponymous character from The Count of Monte Cristo, Recycled in Space.
  • Yusuke and Hiei of Yu Yu Hakusho.
  • Gendo Ikari of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Rebuild of Evangelion, as well as Shinji, to a slightly lesser extent.
  • Werner Locksmith from Planetes. A genius engineer and businessman, he is a total sociopath who, by his own words, "can love only spaceships". He truly wants to bring a better life to humanity, but his emotional detachment makes him the epitome of Well-Intentioned Extremist, as he firmly believes that Utopia Justifies the Means.
  • Homura Akemi of Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
    • A more extreme example would be Oriko Mikuni and Kirika Kure from the side-story manga Puella Magi Oriko Magica. Yeah, it's that kind of universe.
  • Sesshomaru and, prior to Character Development, Inuyasha of Inuyasha.
  • The eponymous Haruhi Suzumiya.
  • The eponymous Afro Samurai.
  • Similarly, the eponymous Soul Eater.
  • Similarly, most of the Pandora Hearts cast.
  • Revy and Roberta from Black Lagoon.
  • The passionately loyal and incurably self-destructive Reuental from Legend of Galactic Heroes. Yeah.
  • Joe Yabuki from Ashita no Joe goes through many hardships that concludes in his own death... and he brings almost all of them on himself.
  • Emiya Kiritsugu from Fate/Zero, whom the aforementioned Akemi Homura is based on. When the stake is the chance to stop the Holy Grail War forever—and it's a very slight chance—he doesn't waver to doom some children to gruesome death by a Complete Monster. His heroism is "sacrifice few to save many". In the end, he lost everything he cares for in his life.
    • Another example from the same series is Matou Kariya, who caves in to the vile way of his Complete Monster father so he can save the child of a woman he loves but couldn't marry. This vile way? Implant into his body a hive of magical worms that grant the ability to use magic. If he doesn't, his father will simply implant it to said child and make that child fight in the war. Ultimately he fails to save her and Sakura is doomed to painful years of torture and rape.
  • For a rare take on the trope in a comedy, Yozora Mikazuchi from Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai.
  • From Trigun, Vash the Stampede. A Person of Mass Destruction who wants to be Friend to All Living Things, and obviously has a Texas-sized martyr complex. Also has a band of ruthless killers devoted to make him suffer and to corrupt him. And he is no human at all, and has an über-powered Evil Twin who not only qualifies too as Person of Mass Destruction, but as Omnicidal Maniac. Yay.
  • Grodek Ainoa from Mobile Suit Gundam AGE - Driven by tragic events from his past, a bit brooding, charismatic and with no problem or remorse wrecking all possible rules to achieve his goal.
    • As of the second generation, Flit Asuno has become one, as well.
  • Earl Ciel Phantomhive from Black Butler.

Comic Books

  • Batman is the Ur Example in comics. Except Silver Age Batman.
  • Mr. Freeze, the archetypal Anti-Villain from the DC comics and the 90s cartoon, also qualifies due to his desire to get revenge on evil businessmen.
  • Tony Stark: womanizing, self-destructive, and forever angsting over his past as an arms-dealer.
  • The Punisher in some stories, when not a flat-out Knight Templar.
  • After the Infinity Gauntlet affair and other bids for absolute power, Thanos of Titan often broods on the circumstances that led him to failure and plans his next attempt to take over the universe, destroy it, and/or woo the Anthropomorphic Personification of Death herself.
  • Tara Chace from Queen and Country
  • Another female example: Emma Frost.
  • Lucifer, as presented in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman and in his own series. Morpheus may initially give this impression, but is revealed to be more of a Tragic Hero as the series goes on, especially considering how he dies/kills himself in the end.
  • Like Dracula, Doctor Doom is a villainous example of the Byronic Hero. A poor Roma boy, brilliant in magic and science, carrying a grudge against his old classmate for showing him up as much as for any imagined sabotage, forever hiding his disfigured face. From nothing but a scholarship that ended in expulsion, he was able to conquer his homeland and make it into a technological power, styling himself king rather than merely dictator, and through it all, maintaining a sense of honour that somehow does not get in the way of his Magnificent Bastardry.
  • V of V for Vendetta certainly fills this trope for the comic book, being a dreamer who wishes to bring total anarchy to a corrupt and totalitarian government. In fact Alan Moore specifically wrote V in this style in order to make the reader question whether V was actually the hero or just some lunatic who would rather screw over the whole world then be controlled by his government.
  • Hans von Hammer, the Enemy Ace, fits the archetype rather closely as a charismatic nobleman who hates war, but is very good at it. His ideals are often at odds with those of his country: true when fighting for Imperial Germany in World War I, and even moreso in War In Heaven, where he's fighting for Nazi Germany. And he's always extremely brooding.
  • Some modern interpretations of Lex Luthor; particularly Infinite Crisis Big Bad, Alexander Luthor, Smallville Lex, and, most notably, Superman: Red Son Lex.
  • Dwight and Wallace embody this trope more than any other Sin City protagonist: charming, handsome, dark, mysterious, and violent.
  • In The Metabarons, the titular nobles are Byronic heroes.
  • In most versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Raphael is this, sometimes overlapping with Unscrupulous Hero. Casey Jones is similar, sometimes qualifying for Nominal Hero on occasion.

Fan Works


Classic Literature

  • Satan himself, from Paradise Lost, is, perhaps, the grandfather of this trope.
  • Lord Byron's semi-autobiographical poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage contains one of the earliest Byronic Heroes to be actually named as such.
  • Lord Ruthven of the novella The Vampyre, as well as the Lord Ruthven from a novel by Lady Lamb above, are both based on Byron—they are (like their more famous literary descendant, Count Dracula), however, examples of Byronic villains rather than heroes.
  • Jane Eyre's Love Interest, Mr. Rochester, is decidedly

'Byronic'. A taste for such heroes seems to have run in the Brontë family. * In Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights Villain Protagonist Heathcliff goes to extreme lengths to ruin the lives of both the Linton family and the Earnshaw family as revenge for his lost love Catherine at one point even kidnapping Catherine's daughter, Cathy and Nelly and forcing Cathy to marry his son. He even admits to purposely trying to hurt Catherine, in her deathbed, for betraying him though he still loved her. Admired by millions of people throughout the world, even though he is quite clearly a very evil man.

    • Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights as a Deconstruction of the Gothic genre and of Byronic heroes; actually averted because Heathcliff is genuinely dangerous to those around him and not just misunderstood by society.
  • Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, who one minor female character even nicknames "Lord Ruthven" in reference to his pallor and mannerisms.
  • Dom Claude Frollo from Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a villainous example of the Byronic hero. A compassionate, fatherly person for most of his life, by the time the novel begins, he, while still brilliant, is isolated by his alchemical studies and ultimately doomed by his lust for Esmeralda.
  • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein contains a rather nice Byronic Hero in the eponymous doctor (who is not the monster!).
    • The Monster (or the Creature, as he is more often called in the novel) also qualifies. He is incredibly eloquent, brilliant, and even persuasive in his best moments. He is also filled with characteristically Byronic anguish and despair due to being cut off from humanity as a result of his unnatural birth (or creation, depending on how you look at it). Not to mention that some literary critics have interpreted the Creature as Victor's dark side.
  • Perhaps one of the greatest ironies of literature is that, while the Public Domain Character Don Juan is usually written as a selfish, haughty, shameless womanizer and fits this trope to a tee, Lord Byron's own version of the character doesn't. The eponymous hero of Byron's epic, Don Juan, is not at all villainous or malicious, but easily manipulated and misunderstood.
  • The title character of Alexander Pushkin's Eugene Onegin can be both seen as an example, a parody, and a Deconstruction. On one hand, he fits the mold in his cynical, self-destructive nature, he has more than a little of the Upper Class Twit in him, and is kind of ineffectual compared to similar characters. Lampshaded when Tatiana, Eugene's love interest, visits his library, understands that he has been invokng Romantic tropes when dealing with her, and asks herself: "Isn't he a parody?"
  • Grigoriy Aleksandrovich Pechorin in Mikhail Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time is both a good example and possibly a Deconstruction, being very Genre Savvy and all the more miserable for it. Also, he's not even the protagonist as such and dies "off-screen". The author apparently intended to stretch the idea of the Byronic Hero to its limits:

"You will again tell me that a human being cannot be so wicked, and I will reply that if you can believe in the existence of all the villains of tragedy and romance, why wouldn't believe that there was a Pechorin?".

  • Common in the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky. The protagonist in Crime and Punishment, for example, as well as the narrator of Notes From Underground.
  • In the Horatio Hornblower series, the title character is an honorable, dutiful, and humble man who acts with great courage under fire. However, he's also a brooding, melancholic mess whose humility verges on self-loathing, often shocked that people might care about him. Underneath his stoic facade is a world-class worry wort, and his courage under fire (in spite of his fears) is matched only by his cowardice in matters of the heart. He's also tone-deaf and never gets over his seasickness, much to his humiliation.
  • James Steerforth from David Copperfield could be considered this.
  • Dorian Gray.

Modern Literature

The Count of Monte Cristo set in a future where people can teleport, starts out as this: he lives entirely to take revenge on the ship that declined to rescue him from his own crippled spacecraft (not the crew, mind you, just the ship; he's not that bright) and stops at nothing to do so, including raping perhaps the one completely likable character in the whole book. However, he gradually becomes more of a traditional hero and even a messiah of sorts.

  • Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: Jonathan Strange ends up as one for a while, although he did have a heroic motive. It was Lampshaded with Strange explaining that he picked up some of Lord Byron's style from hanging out with him.
  • Peter David's Sir Apropos of Nothing, who only became a squire because he would be killed otherwise. He loathes long tales of heroic derring-do, and even became a full-fledged villain for a while.
  • Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone.
  • Lord Asriel from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials takes the Byronic Hero to a cosmic scale.
  • Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat. Just to note, where you place him on the sliding scale of Hero->Anti-Hero-> Byronic Hero depends on a) how you interpret Louis's rendition in Interview with the Vampire and b) whether you count the last couple of books Anne Rice wrote before she left planet Earth forever.
  • As per Real Life, Griboyedov is portrayed thusly in The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar. Just look at the page quote.
  • Also, depending on your interpretation, the protagonist in Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick.
  • Irial, although he definitely has redeeming qualities: selflessness and his love for Niall being the most prominent.
  • C.L. Moore's Northwest Smith is an Anti-Hero, but his sidekick Yarol is definitely Byronic. Unlike the ruggedly handsome Smith, Yarol is androgynously, uncannily beautiful, and feminine beauty in its extreme is explicitly stated to denote evil in the universe of the stories. While the reader never learns the details of Yarol's villainy, he willingly participates in human trafficking merely to pay for his space booze.
    • At one point, Yarol's humanity is stripped away and he is transformed into a predatory beast-echo. When he is returned to his original state, it is surprisingly easy and the whole process seems to tax Yarol very little. Smith realizes that this is because Yarol had very little humanity to begin with.
  • White Fang features the eponymous wolfdog as an animal equivalent.
  • In The Secret History, there's Henry Winter, college student, Renaissance Man, and Chessmaster extraordinaire. By the end of the book, he has organized and carried out an ancient Greek Dionysian ritual, killed one man by accident and one on purpose, successfully kept himself and his friends from being arrested, and says that he is finally happy because he can "live without thinking". Most of the school dislikes or hates him, his few friends admire him, and one falls in love with him. He likes dead languages and growing roses. He also kills himself, and the fallout of his various plots arguably ruins his friends' lives.
  • Tyler Durden and, by extension, his alter ego, although the movie exaggerates his Ubermensch qualities.
  • Harry Dresden is an interesting subversion of this, in that the books suggest that much of the magical community sees him as this - at least, the ones who don't know him well personally. Of course, the fact that the books are in first-person, and therefore we get to see his (often hilarious and self-deprecating) inner monologue, tends to take away the 'dark and mysterious' image. That, and his penchant for cracking wise at all of the wrong moments.
    • Kincaid, however, is this trope played straight.
  • Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson and Renton of Trainspotting.
  • Dean Priest of the Emily of New Moon series embodies a number of these character traits. He's well-educated and charismatic, but his disabilities have also made him cynical and bitter, as well as rather self-destructive. He travels often, which makes him a bit of a self-imposed exile. He is a loner. He is self-interested to a degree, but can also be selfless when he wants to be. LM Montgomery also gives him lots of Mr Rochester parallels, who is himself a Byronic Hero.
  • Tyrone Slothrop from Gravity's Rainbow qualifies. Actually, many of Thomas Pynchon's protagonists qualify, come to think of that.
  • Holden Caulfield.
  • Fëanor from The Silmarillion.
  • No one in the Mistborn books is ever entirely sure whether Kelsier is a revenge-obsessed Glory Hound or a Well-Intentioned Extremist Guile Hero, but either way he's brilliant, Badass, and so much larger than life that even his handwriting is legendary.[3]
  • Valraven Palindrake in Chronicles of Magravandias. He takes a step into Villain Protagonist territory for a while when he's possessed, but considering how hard he fights against it, he still comes out of it as heroic as the series allows. Played with in that the reader knows all about his Dark and Troubled Past but his second wife doesn't.
  • Ben Reich, the wealthy cartel owner Anti-Hero protagonist of The Demolished Man.

Live Action TV

  • For a good period of time during the later seasons of Angel, Wesley Wyndam-Price fills the role of the Byronic Hero as a cynical, self-destructive drunkard with a troubled past and horrible crime behind him and only a vast intellect to sustain him.
    • The title character also fits the trope quite well.
  • In Doctor Who, the Doctor qualifies, for his collateral damage count, including the genocide in the Time War to save the universe. However, this is very dependent on the episode and era. The Ninth Doctor fits the trope very closely, as did the First.
  • Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood.
  • Eddie "Fitz" Fitzgerald from Cracker was a Byronic Criminal Psychologist. Best summed up by this conversation:

Thomas: Why do you drink so much?
Fitz: I like it.
Thomas: And smoke so much?
Fitz: I like it.
Thomas: And you gamble as well?
Fitz: Yes, I like it.

  • Dr. Gregory House.
  • Dr. Percival "Perry" Ulysses Cox of Scrubs.
  • Shane McCutcheon of The L Word is a rare and well-done female version.
  • Commander Shran of Star Trek: Enterprise. In fact, all Andorians are walking Romanticism incarnate, praising emotion and the experience of passion, ritualizing the concept of a "duel" to settle differences, housing probably the greatest Art Academy in the United Federation of Planets, and thoroughly disagreeing with Vulcans (Realists and Rationalists).
  • Todd Manning of One Life to Live is kind of a Heel Face Revolving Door version of this, sometimes a villain, other times a hero, but always Byronic.
  • Adam Monroe is the Heroes character most likely to fit this trope. The show's token immortal, he helped save Japan from the feudal warlord Whitebeard four hundred years ago, founded the Company to make a better world for evolved humans, and, in the show's second season, plotted to give his people a second chance through the release of a supervirus. He's cultured, cunning, and a man of many vices.
    • Noah Bennet (HRG) is probably a better fit here. Sure, he's devoted to finding people with abilities to keep them safe (at times, anyway), but he's also partially responsible for Sylar's murdering spree. Not to mention his tendencies to operate in a morally gray fashion at times (particularly while working with The Company).
  • Harlan Judd (Tim Daly) of Eyes may or may not fit this perfectly. Though every episode of the show ended with the MacGuffin back in the hands of its rightful owner and somebody justly facing prison time or worse, Judd's interest is typically only in the former; he frequently admits that he doesn't really care if the kidnapper or thief get caught (unless they piss him off, which they almost invariably do). Daly described the character as "accidentally ethical".
  • Doctor Lightman from Lie to Me is sometimes unusually morally driven to help others to the point of putting himself in danger, but usually is a cocky, often cruel bastard who thinks he is always right. He'll also put others in harm's way if need be, but the end result is usually for the better good. Also, don't date his daughter.
  • Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries, whilst being the primary antagonist.
  • Mark Antony of Rome.
  • Londo Mollari from Babylon 5 is an old, bitter, and cynical republican who dreams of days of bygone glories, and is willing to undergo a Deal with the Devil to see his ideals come to fruition. He spends most of the show's run highlighting and showcasing the darker sides of both the overhanging conflict and Babylon Five itself, and while he is almost as important to the story as Sheridan, Londo's part of it is decisively darker and is won with backstabbing and intrigue. In the end, Londo ends up more of a Tragic Hero when he is forced to pay the piper for his past misdeeds.
  • Edmund Blackadder in his second, third, and fourth incarnations. He might disagree though, as he once described a Byronic hero as someone who goes around Italy in a big shirt, getting laid.
  • "Lucy" Quinn Fabray and Dave Karofsky of Glee.
  • Several of the protagonists of The Wire, most obviously, Jimmy McNulty, who is immensely self-destructive and arrogant, though good-hearted. His fifth season story arc especially shows his Byronic side. Other characters, such as Omar, Michael Lee, Slim Charles, and Nicky Sobotka, have their Byronic qualities as well.
  • Don Draper from Mad Men.
  • As an Expy of Edmond Dantes, Emily Thorne from Revenge.
  • Doctor Gaius Baltar from the 2004 reboot of Battlestar Galactica.
  • Nathan Ford from Leverage.
  • The BBC's Sherlock.
  • Basically every single main character or recurring character from the series Supernatural fits this trope to the letter.
  • Almost everyone has shades of this on The Borgias, but Cesare Borgia is the best example.


Newspaper Comics

Tabletop Games

  • In Exalted, Abyssals and Infernals are the most likely characters to be in this category, though it can happen to the other types as well.
  • Urza of Magic: The Gathering fame.


Video Games

  • Solid Snake in the Metal Gear series and Gabriel Belmont in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow would make good buddies, as they are both Byronic Heroes: they are both willing to commit countless murders in order to achieve their goals - primarily concerned with their own interests rather than the greater good, even though they both have inherent good in them, and do commit themselves to achieving the greater good.
  • Sol Badguy from the Guilty Gear series is often boorish, slovenly, aloof, ill-mannered, far more intelligent and well-informed than his appearance would indicate, and is the perpetrator of one of the most awful crimes in that world: being the co-creator of the Gears. He might be a loose fit (perhaps more fitting as an Anti-Hero) due to his gruff concern for Dizzy, his (albeit rather violent) almost-brotherly relationship with Ky Kiske, and his deceptively high sense of self-sacrifice (in D&D parlance, he's very much Chaotic, but also most likely Good).
    • Ragna The Bloodedge continues this trend in BlazBlue. His down-to-earth nature, snarking, and Surrounded by Idiots attitude ("Why do I always seem to attract the A to Z of mental illness?!") obscures the fact that he has murdered hundreds of thousands of NOL personnel on his path of vengeance against Terumi.
  • Travis Touchdown from No More Heroes seems to fit this trope quite nicely, being a heroic sociopath with more character flaws than an average politician.
    • In the sequel, he steadily develops into a more and more sympathetic character, since he is becoming increasingly uneasy with the assassination game. In the end, he even vows to bring down the UAA permanently for all the lives they have destroyed and ruined.
  • Wylfred from Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume is essentially a petty, grudge-seeking man who blames the death of his sister and his mother's insanity on the fact that his dad was taken by the Valkyrie. He then goes on a plot to kill the Valkyrie.
  • Shadow the Hedgehog - brooding and incredibly insecure.
    • For two games, one of which he spends aimlessly following the people who revived him. Though his current detached and distant personality doesn't wander far from this trope.
  • Magus, or Prince Janus of Zeal, from Chrono Trigger. To elaborate: he unites the demi-humans of Zenan so they can fight the humans of Guardia, resulting in the most violent recorded conflict in that world's history. Most people consider him an Antichrist figure, and the victory of the humans is celebrated centuries after the conflict ended. But Magus' real reason for being the Fiendlord is that he needs the resource to build a portal that would forcefully summon that he can personally destroy the thing that had taken everything from him: his kingdom, his mother, his big sister. It just happens that destroying Lavos will also save the world.
  • Anders in Dragon Age II. By Act III of the storyline, Anders has become bitterly opposed to anyone who opposes freedom of mages, and even becomes a hypocrite if Fenris was enslaved again, as he approves of such actions, topping it all with the destruction of the Chantry and starting a war between mages and templars.
  • Garrus Vakarian in Mass Effect becomes one in the sequel. A Paragon Shepard can begin to pull him out of this, while a Renegade can push him further into it.
  • Atton Rand from Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic: The Sith Lords - a cocky outcast and smooth talker found on a backwater planet in the middle of nowhere by The Exile, his foolishness is a facade for deceptive cunning, and his background is shrouded in mystery. Turns out, he was a force-sensitive Sith Assassin under Revan's command who killed and tortured Jedi. And don't read his thoughts; provided you can get through the Psychic Static.
  • Kratos, from the God of War series.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics, Delita Hyral is pretty much this trope personified, as well as a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Interestingly, his significant loss occurs during the actual game, although in an extended flashback.

Web Comics

  • Bun-Bun from Sluggy Freelance, while normally just a Sociopathic Hero, becomes increasingly Byronic during "Holiday Wars" and "Oceans Unmoving". The only part of the Byronic template that he doesn't fit is the brooding part. If Bun-Bun ever gets in a brooding mood, he just beats someone up instead.
  • Vaarsuvius from The Order of the Stick is an arrogant, condescending Elf Wizard with a taste for ultimate arcane knowledge and power, and is very long-winded and verbose in speech. Though not without a soft spot for teammates, and V is dedicated to stopping the forces of evil. As for a Dark and Troubled Past? Well, we have making a deal with some fiends to gain ultimate arcane power to save Vaarsuvius' family from a vengeful black dragon, which lead to V's mate opting divorce and V committing one of the greatest evil acts in recent history in the genocide of 1/4 of the black dragon population. Vaarsuivius then went on to battle Xykon, but lost due to hubris, managing to narrowly avoid death at his skeletal hands. The reason why Vaarsuvius accepted the deal with the fiends? Being too proud to accept not having enough power, although Vaarsuvius is learning from those mistakes.
  • Byron the Berserker from Guilded Age matches this trope nicely; and his name is evidently chosen for this reason. (His avatar's player references the actual Lord Byron.)

Web Original

  • In the Whateley Universe, Brigand is a classic Byronic Hero, complete with a tragic backstory that he attempts to avenge, despite the way this distances him from society's laws. However, in a superhero world, this makes you a supervillain.
  • Agent Washington in Red vs. Blue. Cynical, bitter, charismatic, tragic backstory, and relentlessly dedicated to getting retribution for the terrible things that have happened to him.

Western Animation

"Is that Byronic?"
"No, Byronic wears a different costume."

  • Chad, from Codename: Kids Next Door. For a while it seemed he was an outright villain, making a Face Heel Turn and joining the Evil Teenagers. But even when he was revealed to be a Fake Defector still working on the KND's behalf, he seemed to fit this Trope more. A lot of his "pretend villainous" actions were pretty careless, like trying to send the Moonbase hurling into the sun with the assumption Numbuh One would avoid being decommissioned and stop it (he did, but it was a Gambit Pileup where even one flaw would have led to disaster). Plus, in "Operation: T.R.E.A.T.Y." he admits that a lot of what he did up to then was out of jealousy towards Numbuh One because the Galactic KND had chosen to recruit Numbuh One instead of him.
  • Sterling Archer from, well Archer. He's the world's greatest spy, but also selfish, narcissitic, vain, and a complete jerk who has committed many crimes against humanity in the name of the greater good.

Real Life

  • Lord Byron himself, of course. He was surrounded by scandal in his own lifetime - womanising, possibly man-ising as well, and rumours of incest with his half-sister to boot.
    • Lord Byron was also something of an admirer of the deposed Napoleon Bonaparte, considering him to be the epitome of a Romantic hero[4]—a persecuted, flawed, and ultimately lonely genius.
  • A whole lot of Russian writers were pretty much Byron fanboys, and gravitated towards this to some extent or another, both in real life and in writing. Griboyedov, Lermontov, and some others come to mind, as well as simple socialites such as Tolstoy-Amerikanets.
  • Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. A sensitive, deeply troubled man who struggled with illness, addiction, and depression.
  • Janis Joplin. A hard drinking, hard living, self-destructive woman with a voice that could melt your heart.
  • Jim Morrison, the iconic, leather-clad poet and baritone singer whose short life was riddled with controversy, and whose self-destructive lifestyle lead to his death at a young age.
  • Ozzy Osbourne, another singer with a controversial lifestyle troubling him personally, but nevertheless shows genuine awareness to the rotten world through his voice.
  • John Lennon. Like Cobain, Morrison and Osbourne, another rock star with a controversial lifestyle. He distinguished himself as the "smart-ass Beatle", stirred up quite a shitstorm with his political activism(most especially his rallying up young people in their opposition to the Vietnam War), apparently had a rocky relationship with his second wife, had a heroin-addiction for a number of years, made no attempt to hide his propensity for mean-spirited put-downs and expressed his cynical worldview through his lyrics both during and after his years as a Beatle. He was also violent and abusive in his younger days, the memories of which tormented him later in life: "I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster."
  • Kanye West. The best example of a Byronic rapper. Arrogant, rebellious, charismatic, moody, outspoken, and deeply troubled. Also one of the unquestioned all-time geniuses of hip-hop, making engrossing, innovative, and meaningful work both as an rapper/lyricist and as a producer (remember, before he released a single album on his own, he was part of the team that produced JayZ The Blueprint). He's constantly saying things that land him in trouble. The best example would be the VMA incident with Taylor Swift. The loss of his mother and multiple other tragic events in his personal life put him on a downward spiral leading up to that incident and in the aftermath, he disappeared from the public eye only to come back a year later with the triumphant album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, where lyrically he is equally both arrogant and self-critical. In almost every interview he has given in the past few years he has challenged social norms and the way society forces people to have low self-esteem.
  • deadmau5 is one for Electronic Dance Music. While he's one of the most iconic artists in the scene, he's also gained a reputation for his arrogant and sour attitude. He tends to speak his mind, which often ends up getting him into beefs on Twitter. He also described himself as a "friendly dickhead" on a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven, the big 'B' himself... where to begin? Not only was he a direct contemporary of Lord Byron himself, but he was also a quintessential Byronic hero, with such defining traits as:
    • Being an emotional wreck and no less than contemplating suicide over losing his hearing (which was apparently incited by the explosive bombing of Vienna by Napoleon Bonaparte). He nevertheless wrote an entire symphony in honor of Le Petit Caporal in 1804, believing him to be the great revolutionary liberator of Europe...then tore that symphony's dedication to shreds upon learning that Napoleon had crowned himself Emperor (screaming "So... he is a tyrant like all the rest!") and re-titled that symphony from "Bounaparte" to the "Heroic Symphony composed to celebrate the memory of a great man." He commented that he "wrote the music for this sad event seventeen years ago," upon learning of Napoleon's death in 1821 (with shades of John Lennon's "Elvis died when he entered the army" comment).
    • He believed fervently in the ideals of the Enlightenment and in the equality of Human Beings (to the point where his Ninth Symphony is a literal Ode to the concept in which "All men become brothers"). And he wept upon being turned around at the conclusion of said Ninth Symphony's premiere, being neither able to hear the music itself nor the audience's thunderous applause.
    • He refused to defer to authority or aristocracy, citing, "There have been a thousand Princes, but there is only one Beethoven." He walked right through a Duke and his entourage, who greeted him casually, while his contemporary literary companion/idol Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Goethe stepped aside and deferred to them with his hat off. Beethoven afterward rebuked the man for whom he only had "the greatest veneration and an inexpressibly deep feeling for your glorious creations," having set 18 of his texts to music (with two more to follow), and who made him so happy that he "would have gone ten times to death for this great man"--by saying, "I waited for you, respect you and admire your work... but you show these people too much esteem".
    • He refused to perform if requested casually (such as at soirees and such) and stopped his performances dead if people didn't pay attention (diva much?). Ultimately, he got an Archduke to decree that the "Usual Rules of Court Etiquette" did not apply to him.
    • He also wore his hair as wild as any member of The Rolling Stones ever did.
  • Michael Jackson had a drive to be the world's top entertainer like nobody had before him. In 1982, he released the biggest album of all time Thriller and wanted his next two albums Bad and Dangerous to top it, but neither of them did. In his prime, Jackson was a lithe, handsome young black man with an amazing voice, even more amazing dance moves, and a dependable hitmaker, penning several #1 hits. Jackson had an almost obsessive desire to help children--a possible result of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father and often donated to charities and opened his ranch/amusement park to inner city kids who couldn't afford Disneyland. However, Jackson's controversial choreography (he often grabbed his crotch), love of juvenilia, penchant for publicity stunts, and addiction to painkillers and plastic surgery, caused many to see him as yet another music industry weirdo, and this dichotomy came to a head when Jackson was accused of molesting a young boy in 1993. From that point forward, he appeared to suffer from severe depression, his lyrics became angrier, and he was increasingly viewed as irrelevant. On the eve of a comeback/farewell tour, he was found dead in his home of an overdose of a drug typically used as a sleeping agent in hospitals.
    • Whether or not Jackson molested children is a matter of dispute, however not only do many people believe it to this day, but it likely put a bad taste in some peoples' mouths whether or not they felt it was true. If the allegations were true, it trumps all other "Byronic" aspects of other Pop/Rock/R&B stars, but if it is false, it would certainly qualify as a tragic downfall of someone who was passionate about helping children, but mired in a lifestyle others saw as suspicious.
    • Jackson's obsession with youth may not have belied his cynicism but was reputed to be very paranoid about his safety, and his Signature Song "Billie Jean" betrayed his cynicism about groupies, by telling a tale about a young woman who claimed that Jackson fathered her son. In his 1995 album History Past Present And Future Book I many of the songs display a cynicism about the media.
  • Branwell Brontë, the brother of the Brontë sisters. An intelligent, passionate young man, he had high aspirations of becoming a famous poet before his life took a downward spiral into alcoholism and drug use, resulting in his early death. It is believed that he inspired several of the violent, brooding characters in his sisters' novels.
  • Vincent van Gogh. Being born exactly one year after the death of his 6-month-old brother and having been given his name, Vincent was constantly reminded of his status as the "second Vincent" by his family's insistence on going to see the first Vincent's grave every Sunday. This led to him developing a very acute sense of alienation and solitude throughout his life. Intensely self-critical and leading an incredibly precarious life, Vincent Van Gogh was made even more Byronic by his extraordinary artistic genius, undying love of humanity and absolute unwillingness to compromise in his art to make money. Suffering from loneliness and mental illness, his gruesome suicide cements his status as one of art's great Byronic painters.
  • Christopher Hitchens. A brilliant, caustic, blunt, and uncompromising author, Hitchens was most well-known for his attacks on organized religion. However, this is far from the only controversy surrounding his political career: he started out as a socialist but broke away from the movement in the 1990s, and even then he described himself as a Marxist until the day he died. He defied liberal expectations again by supporting and (reluctantly) supporting incumbent President George W. Bush, and would later on wholeheartedly support Barack Obama in the 2008 election. ([[Arson, Murder and Jaywalking|And he once said that men are generally funnier than women.]) An alcoholic and a chain smoker, he died in 2011 due to esophageal cancer.
  • The Marquis de Sade. A controversial libertine whose works and philosophy landed him in asylums and prisons for much of his adult life. His works, which explored the dark side of the human experience like no other before him, often featured and provided philosophical arguments for, among other things, murder, rape, incest, parricide, homosexuality, sodomy, abortion, promiscuity, blasphemy (at a time when these were considered taboo), and a number of sexual acts involving extreme degradation and sadistic behavior. Called pornographic, blasphemous, and perverted, his writings were censored and banned for more than a century after his death. Living a life of constant scandal, de Sade was rebellious, hot-tempered, manipulative, and in letters to his wife, often expressed his contempt for what he saw as a society of simpletons. Brilliant, irreverent, and once called "the freest spirit who ever lived," the "Divine Marquis" was the eternal outsider. Notably, he was opposed to the use of capital punishment during the Terror.
  • Hideaki Anno. Among the most influential but at the same time controversial figures in the anime industry, Anno has struggled through multiple episodes of depression, most notably the one in the early 90s, and has had a heavy disdain for the existing status quo of the anime industry at large. His life's work Neon Genesis Evangelion sums him up very accurately.
  • Mari Okada. Among the most prolific anime writers in recent years[when?]. On par with Jun Maeda but also one of the most polarizing. She grew up in a rural town with a single mother (her father cheated on her and ran away) and spent most her early life shut in the house, unable to deal with the pressures of the outside world. Okada's delinquent behavior reached a breaking point during her middle school years when her mother tried to murder her for her conduct but was restrained, driven to tears afterward. At school, Okada was mercilessly bullied, causing her to frequently skip school and confine herself to her house, unable to deal with her anxiety disorder. Her two most notable works, The Anthem of the Heart and Anohana sum her up perfectly.
  • Richard Nixon. Intelligent and charismatic? Check. Cynical? Check. Brooding? Check. Passionate? Check. Intense drive that led to a tragic end? Check. As a complex, deeply flawed, and ultimately lonely man, he fits the role well. Well, except for the physically attractive part.
  • Robert Downey, Jr. A deeply talented, clever, and charismatic man forced into the spotlight from a very young age, who struggled with the incessant attention and later, his own drug issues. For many years, his career seemed to be in an irreversible downward spiral due to his frequent arrests and inability to stay sober. Unlike most of the other Real Life examples, he eventually overcame his self-destructive behavior and has since found his way back onto the path of mainstream success, beginning with his portrayal of Iron Man/Tony Stark (an above-listed Byronic hero).
  • John Kricfalusi. By far one of the, if not the most controversial cartoonists of this generation, John K. is undoubtedly a talented artist, yet possessing very narrow ideas and beliefs on what makes a good cartoon, as shown by the disdain for other well-liked cartoons he expressed on his blog. His high standards led to the Troubled Production of The Ren and Stimpy Show; he was very hard to work with, constantly missed deadlines, and was rarely satisfied with the finished product. Despite how groundbreaking and beloved Ren and Stimpy is, John K. has little success getting work nowadays due to his infamously difficult reputation. (Not to mention the subsequent scandal about grooming underage girls.)
  • Florence Nightingale. Intelligent? Check. Passionate? Check. Moody? Definitely.
  • John Rozanski, best known as TheMysteriousMrEnter. Has Asperger's Syndrome? Check. A Dark and Troubled Past involving Abusive Parents and an apathetic, narrow-minded school system? Check. Struggles with his own passion? Check. Admitting to having difficulties taking criticism? Check. Constantly pursuing and, is surprisingly erudite and insightful? Check. And has made his disdain for society's double standards and biases very clear at several points.
  • Martin Luther. He described himself as "stormy and turbulent", was very cynical (especially when it came to organized religion), rebelled against the Catholic Church, and had enough intelligence and charisma to pull it all off.
  • George S. Patton (AKA "Old Blood and Guts"), Warrior Poet and general in the U.S. Army during WWII, could be considered a Byronic hero: flamboyant, rebellious, courageous, intelligent, charismatic if controversial, and with Blood Knight tendencies which he acknowledged. Patton cursed like nobody's business and had little tolerance for soldiers complaining of "battle fatigue," evidenced by his slapping at least two soldiers suffering from PTSD in front of doctors. He liked to lead from the front lines, was a staunch fatalist and believed he was a warrior in several past lives. He was also terrified of dying and being forgotten by history and survived the war only to die just afterward, in an auto accident at the age of 60.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche could be considered one. An idiosyncratic philosopher out of step with the times, he committed himself to write about art, ethics, culture, and politics in an era he came to regard as superficial, self-satisfied, and slowly losing its foundations as religion was losing its sway in society. Despite going insane in his final years, and with only a small circle of friends who held interest in his work at the time, Nietzsche's ideas and philosophy, while hotly debated in terms of accuracy and merit even now, nevertheless has influenced modern society to a significant extent.
  • Maximilien Robespierre. Almost mono-maniacally dedicated to the People's sovereignty and the defense of the Nation. Sensitive to the point that, before the Revolution, he physically became ill for a week when while serving as a judge, he had to condemn a man to death, and in the early days of the Revolution tried to abolish the death penalty entirely; he would later send even his best friends to the guillotine because he thought it was the right thing to do for France. Nicknamed "the Incorruptible" by his enemies, and not in any kind of ironic fashion. Possibly asexual but more likely suffering from something akin to love-shyness, he was one of the few Revolutionary figures not to be slandered as some kind of sexual deviant, because no one would believe it. He kept with him at all times the works of proto-Romantic Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
  • Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, Robespierre's best friend and fellow member of the Committee of Public Safety was considered during his life by his peers to be an exceptionally talented and prodigious person, who also had a ruthless streak. He was the youngest member of the National Convention and absolutely unknown until 1792, and would die in 1794, and yet in a career less than two years, he had a reputation for being one of the best orators of the Revolution, an incredibly intelligent administrator and organizer, co-authored the Constitution of 1793, and served as The Political Officer for the Army of the Rhine bringing them Back From the Brink, and would also fight alongside his troops in battle and acquit himself well. He was also ruthless known for executing aristocratic generals because of actual and perceived failure, giving speeches denouncing the Girondins, the Hebertists and Dantonists to the guillotine, with his colleague Bertrand Barere noting that, "He had a brain of fire and a heart of ice", and yet displayed undying loyalty to Robespierre, sticking with him even when it wasn't politically expedient, and at the night of Robespierre's downfall, amazed his captors with his total calm and composure in face of death. Historians generally see him as a figure of exceptional potential and ability, with some such as Jules Michelet (who disliked Robespierre) noting that had Saint-Just lived longer, Napoleon might have been averted.
  • R. R. Palmer. This young man is one of the mysteries of the Revolution. He shot briefly across it, his time of prominence lasting less than two years, a flaming personality whose youth had been anything but promising, but whose mature years had he lived to attain them, might conceivably had rocked the world.[context?]
  • Ruhollah Khomeini, former Supreme Leader of Iran, can be seen as a dark example of a modern-era Byronic hero. Among the most influential yet controversial figures in Middle Eastern history, Khomeini was willing to create what he believed was a theocratic utopia, a modern Islamic caliphate, at the cost of the country's status on the world stage. A brooding, emotionally distant and aloof man, a charismatic and almost magnetic speaker, a fervent Islamist and a poet and philosopher to boot, Khomeini was a harsh detractor of the Shah's pro-Western policies, believing him to be a puppet of America (or what he called "the Great Satan"), and after one-too-many criticisms, was exiled from the country for 14 years in the face of execution. Khomeini was a deeply passionate cleric to the point of zealotry, and upon his return and subsequent ascension to power, alienated former allies and purged and sometimes killed his opponents (and anyone he deemed as a threat to the theocratic state he had spent decades fighting for). Khomeini's ideas, as controversial as they are, has nonetheless held a considerable amount of influence in the contemporary Middle East.
  • Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau is a textbook example. A multimillionaire Chick Magnet who was often emotionally distant, intensely driven and passionately devoted to opposing both distinct status for his home province of Quebec and Quebec's separation from Canada, often uncaring of convention and popular opinion (whether support for Quebec nationalism or opposition to the promotion of French elsewhere in Canada), known for a long career as a public intellectual before going into politics and his flamboyant style (everything from wearing ascots and sandals in Parliament when everyone else wore suits to the of a rose in his lapel), Trudeau was passionately loved by some Canadians and passionately hated by others. His legacy is extremely controversial, but his impact on modern Canada is undeniable.
  • Vince McMahon fits this trope to a T. He's shown himself to be: An incredibly driven visionary who's crushed almost all his competitors and helped make wrestling into a cultural phenomenon; an obsessive loner workaholic who sleeps only a few hours a night and structures his entire life around running his company; an obsessive Control Freak who micromanages every aspect of his company, even to the point of directing ring announcers during live shows; a Determinator who does what he wants and doesn't give a damn what his many, many critics have to say about him; a mercurial employer who can vary between being a very awful and a kind very supportive father to his workers; and a rich man who will personally test out safety equipment and repeatedly get into brutal matches despite his advanced age, all to entertain the fans.
  1. The name of the hero is largely good timing as it first came into prominence with writers of Romanticism of the time, like the Brontë sisters.
  2. he often has said rank and privilege himself
  3. Legendarily bad, that is
  4. which is what Byron considered this very trope