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 because he's definitely contrary to his mainstream society. A byronic hero is on his own side and has his own set of beliefs which he will not change for anyone. His internal conflicts are heavily romanticized. He ponders and wrestles with his struggles and beliefs. Some are portrayed with a suggestion of dark crimes in their past, but never enough concrete details to establish that they actually kicked the dog. They have a large tendency to be Jerkass Woobies, and might even be a No Respect Guy.
The following traits are very characteristic of Byronic Heroes and may be helpful in identifying them:
Is usually male and is always considered very attractive physically and in terms of personality, possessing a great deal of magnetism and charisma, using these abilities to achieve social and romantic dominance. One mark against him personality wise, however, is a struggle with his own personal integrity.
Is very intelligent, perceptive, sophisticated, educated, cunning and adaptable.
Is emotionally sensitive, which may translate into being emotionally conflicted, bipolar, or moody,
Is intensely self-critical and 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, world-weary, and jaded, often due to a mysteriousDark and Troubled Past, which, if uncovered, may reveal a significant loss, or a crime or mistake committed which still haunts him, or, conversely, that he may be suffering from some unnamed crime against 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. Sometimes, however, he just sees himself as one who must take the long, hard road to do what must be done.
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. Because of this, he is very rebellious, having a distaste for social institutions and norms and is disrespectful of rank and privilege, though he often has said rank and privilege himself. This rebellion often leads to social isolation, rejection, or exile, or to being treated as an outlaw, but he will not compromise, being unavoidably self-destructive.
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.
He has a tendency to be The Unfettered, rejecting the morals imposed by society to accomplish his goals, and may overlap with the Übermensch, 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 being a Manipulative Bastard, a Deadpan Snarker, and/or Tall, Dark and Snarky, perhaps with an Awesome Ego. A great number will also be Rebellious Spirits.
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.
Sometimes, though, the Byronic Hero is not morally questionable, but simply a cerebral quiet or melancholy man who has taken to a life of action and heroism. He may also overlap with Nominal Hero, a character who fights for good despite their lack of heroic intent, or Unscrupulous Hero, a hero who kicks dogs despite having one or more morally admirable goals.
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Anime and Manga
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.
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 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... Although to his credit, he never thinks he is a good person, and actually reveals the full extent of his crimes to the world, and publicly has himself executed for them. He didn't have to do any of that as soon as he became Emperor, but he did anyway, because he knew he deserved no less. 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. He's handsome, passionate, ruthless and VERY rebellious.
Fate/Zero seems to love exploring these kinds of characters.
The protagonist, Emiya Kiritsugu, failed to Shoot the Dog as a child and caused a village to be massacred. He vowed never to let this happen again and dedicated his life to killing the few to save the many. In the process, he had to sacrifice anything resembling normal human emotion. Realizing that this was just stopping minor tragedies instead of solving the fundamental problems of human nature, he agreed to work for the Einzberns so that he could use the Grail to end all warfare forever. During the war, he consistently succeeds while slowly sacrificing everything that made him even slightly happy, ending up the story a broken man who had nothing left.
The primary antagonist, Kotomine Kirei, was a pious man who always worked for the betterment of mankind because it was the right thing to do. However, he took no joy in it and instead began to suffer when he realized what a hollow existence he was. With some prodding from Gilgamesh, he instead embraced his true passion of causing suffering. Again, Kotomine lives through the war, but he's not really any happier than before and a shell of a man.
The third Byronic Hero is Matou Kariya, a man who fled from his corrupt family to escape their evil. In order to protect the daughter of the woman he loved but could not marry, he agreed to reenter the family and participate in the Grail War. While he begins with noble intentions, his grudge against the father of the girl eventually twists him and with some help from Kotomine he destroys everything he cared about. In the end he dies without saving the girl, alone, miserable and deluded.
Edward Elric. As cheery as he may seem, he spends a good amount of time brooding over the terrible things that have happened to him. His Byronic traits are much more emphasized in the 2003 anime, however.
Greed also has elements of this. A greedy but rebellious being, he listens to no one but himself. Not even Father, can make Greed truly obey him. To this end, Greed only acts on his whims without much regard to others. He also shows some charisma as he is able to attract followers, not least thanks to his socializing nature. The Second Greed's conversations with Ling also resemble internal conflict.
Maho Nishizumi of Girls und Panzer is an Aloof Big Sister to Miho who is willing to do whatever it takes to live up to the expectations associated with being the heir to the Nishizumi family so that Miho can live and practice tankery the way she wants, and to that end shot an enemy flag tank when it tried to rescue some of her teammates, which she seems to feel some measure of guilt over. She even has a pose similar to the page image in Episode 10, when she looks on her school's tanks.
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.
Haman Khan from Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ is a female example who checks most of the other boxes. She is a supremely intelligent and charismatic Glorious Leader, highly physically attractive and dominant towards others, yet inside she is a highly conflicted individual; Lonely at the Top, as well as cynical and disillusioned with humanity to the point of being a Misanthrope Supreme. Her philosophy is essentially nihilistic; she wants to conquer all humanity because Humans Are Bastards, and so they deserve nothing better than to be crushed under her iron boot. However, she only embodies the "introspective" part of the trope when she meets Judau Ashta, whose idealism causes her to re-examine her own worldview. Her internal conflicts lead to her downfall; her inability to firmly deal with an apparently harmless traitor, despite knowing of his treachery, leads to the decimation of her forces. Shortly thereafter, her complicated infatuation with Judau leads her to fight a duel with him, at a severe enough handicap that she can be fought to a draw, and she commits suicide afterwards.
As do Sasuke Uchiha and Itachi Uchiha of Naruto. They've both condemned themselves to lives of being despised for the sake of their ideals.
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.
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
Consider HachimanHikigaya in Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru. Is he intensely introspective? LN especially yes. Is he cynical and jaded and has he experienced a bargain bin of a dark and troubled past bundled with regrets? Yes. Does he see his own values or passions as above everyone else's? Yes. Is he doggedly determined to follow his values and passions despite trampling over others? Yes. Is he especially physically attractive?...No well good enough.
Mr. Freeze, the archetypal Anti-Villain from the DC comics and the 90s cartoon, qualifies due to his desire to get revenge on evil businessmen.
Cable started out as this, as he was a time traveler from a time in constant strife and harbored a ruthless nature, though he has since gone from this to standard Anti-Hero territory.
Like Dracula, Doctor Doom is a villainous example of the Byronic Hero. A poor Romani 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.
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 One, and more so in War In Heaven, where he's fighting for Nazi Germany. And he's always extremely broody.
Iron Man: Tony Stark is womanizing, self-destructive, and forever angsting over his past as an arms-dealer.
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.
The Punisher. An utterly ruthless, brooding and intelligent former Vietnam vet vigilante going on a one man war against crime and those who do harm to the innocent.
Dwight and Wallace embody this trope more than any other Sin City protagonist: charming, handsome, dark, mysterious, and violent.
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 than be controlled by his government.
Female example: Emma Frost from X-Men. Cynical and jaded, Dark and Troubled Past, intense drive and determination to live out her philosophy. And more recently, her former husband Scott Summers, aka Cyclops can be considered one too.
Widget Hackwrench, the initial Big Bad of the Chip 'n Dale Rescue RangersfanficUnder the Bridge, not only becomes one, but even describes herself as such. She does do a Heel-Face Turn and even finds love and a soft side to herself, but she cannot simply shake off her Dark and Troubled Past which led to her actions earlier in the story, starting with her lack of fur color and a left arm and almost drowning as a newborn which she always thought was attempted murder, continuing with her life in an orphanage and with a drug addict, and culminating in building an advanced armed submarine out of mostly junk and hiring a war veteran mouse as its captain just to kill her more fortunate sister in revenge for her own miserable life. It even goes to show somewhat at her own wedding: She distrusts the world around her so much that she wears a Kevlar dress.
Dave Stdider Pokemon Traner's protagonist Dave can be a real Jerkass sometimes, to both his friends and his enemies. Usually it's unwarranted in both the former and latter categories, such as when he refuses to help his girlfriend while she's being blackmailed with a nude photo, and when he threatens to beat up Team Bad's Jack Noir and Karkat Vantas despite them not doing a single evil thing at this point in the chapter.
The version of Quirrel/Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality comes off as a byronic hero. That story's version of Harry Potter also has byronic tendencies, and Snape's nature as a canon byronic hero gets deconstructed.
Harry Potter/Tristan Winter in The Jaded Eyes Series. He's a passionate Broken AceVillain Protagonist who begins with the Byronic tendencies when he goes into a self-imposed exile after murdering the Dursleys when he's only six years old. His driving goal is that he wants Revenge on his family and the world that abandoned him.
Light in No Hoper. In this universe he's an aspiring vampyre hunter turned vampyre and a soul in torment on a quest for vengeance. He definitely fits the bill: he's passionate, brooding, mad, bad, dangerous to know.
Ultimate Sleepwalker: Even otherdimensional psychic aliens can pass into this trope. Sleepwalker obviously isn't cute, but he: is deeply torn about his identity as a Sleepwalker trapped in a world of humans, the different mentalities of the two races and whether he's starting to adopt a human mentality and losing his identity as a Sleepwalker in the process; wrestles with his feelings of loneliness and the very real friendships he's formed with many of the humans of the world; struggles with his desire to return his home dimension of the Mindscape and his feeling that he is not worthy to return home until he finally atones for his original sin of becoming trapped in Rick Sheridan's mind; broods over those same mistakes and failures, for which he has never truly forgiven himself; becomes extremely violent whenever Rick or his other close human friends are threatened and taking pleasure in brutalizing criminals who hurt them. While Rick and his friends have tried to show Sleepwalker that he's not alone, they don't really understand that Sleepwalker doesn't feel he can belong in this world the way they do...and more importantly, that he shouldn't be belonging in this world, for all the real good he's done as a superhero.
Martin Blank from Grosse Pointe Blank. As a man who recognized that he was a sociopath from a young age, he chose to exile himself rather that inflict misery on his friends. He does develop some humanity at the end, but still remained a Professional Killer.
Tony Stark: cynical, womanizing, ex-weapons maker and alcoholic who is frequently haunted by his past.
Edward Norton's portrayal of Bruce Banner edges towards this, with more of Banner's personal angst over being the Hulk being shown.
Loki is a villainous example, particularly in regards to his motivations, actions, and demeanor in Thor. His Byronic traits in The Avengers, while present, are less emphasized.
Michael Mann seems to love this trope. In both Heat and Public Enemies, the villains are made at least as sympathetic as the heroes. Sure, they steal for a living, carry automatic weapons, and are responsible for the deaths of both police and civilians, but they only steal from banks and other criminals, they don't kill if they don't have to, they're loyal to their friends, and charming to the point where you want to cheer for them.
Dr. Herbert West from the Re Animator franchise. He genuinely doesn't want to hurt anyone, but his blind pursuit of science leads to him doing some REALLY dreadful stuff in its name. He also has many flaws, including bluntness and lack of social skills.
A villainous example comes in the form of one of the main villains from Star Trek: Into Darkness in the form of John Harrison/Khan. He fits the bill in a few ways; Brooding, charismatic, sympathetic and physically attractive but also incredibly vengeful, prideful and was once an Evil Overlord back in the day.
Doc Holliday in Tombstone: attractive, charismatic, intelligent, and brooding due to his terminal tuberculosis.
V from V for Vendetta. He has a mysterious past and is verbosely eloquent, cultured, charismatic, brooding, and defiant of the authority that has wronged him. At the same time, he is driven by vengeance, murderous, sadistic, subversive, and wantonly destructive.
Tommy Conlon from Warrior, is a quiet, distant loner, who has very painful experiences in his family life and in the Marines. When fighting, he is very ruthless, curb-stomping his opponents in one hits. In addition, he is shown to have a certain disregard for rules, such as not attending press-conferences and leaving the ring immediately after matches. He also has quite the charisma, as he actually gains a huge number of fans because of this.
Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto in X-Men: First Class. Charismatic, full of angst and vengeful, he seeks revenge against the man who tortured him as a child during the Holocaust.
Lord Byron's semi-autobiographical poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage contains one of the earliest Byronic Heroes to be actually named as such.
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 hero of Byron's mock epic, Don Juan, is not at all villainous or malicious, but easily manipulated and misunderstood.
Raistlin Majere of the Dragonlance books fits this trope perfectly. He's arrogant, ruthless, cynical, emotionally troubled, and ultimately evil. He's also highly intelligent, strong-willed, and capable of extraordinary bravery.
The Dresden Files: 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. 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.
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.
The title character of Alexander Pushkin's Eugene Onegin can be both seen as an example, a parody, and a deconstruction. While 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?"
Doctor Victor Frankenstein is a rather nice Byronic Hero (who is notthe monster!). His dangerous experiments with science and very troubled past made him Byronic Hero. However, his lack of compassion and responsibility for his creation, who desperately longed for his love and affection, rather throws him off from redeemable characters who are just misunderstood by society.
The Monster (or the Creature, as he is more often called in the novel) qualifies. He is incredibly eloquent, brilliant, and 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). Some literary critics have interpreted the Creature as Victor's dark side.
Michael Grant zigzags this trope with Caine Soren from the GONE series. In most books, he's simply a Jerkass Woobie villain who spends more time forfilling the "Jerkass" side of that trope and argubly isn't worthy of sympathy at all (PLAGUE and GONE being the most potent examples). But in HUNGER and FEAR he is very much a byronic hero, at least by the end of those installments.
The Great Gatsby: Jay Gatsby. As poor soldier, he fell hopelessly in love with beautiful socialite Daisy, who got married to her equal, a Jerk Jock Tom from old money, but he is determined to win her back. He would do — and does — anything for Daisy, who, sadly, doesn't quite deserve it. Gatsby heavily idealized and romanticized Daisy and everything about her. Gradually, it becomes obvious that Gatsby's opulent wealth comes from smuggling and organized crime, but he's more compassionate than most of the "law-abiding" characters.
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?".
In the Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. literature 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 worrywart, 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. In Commodore Hornblower his wife thoughtfully provides him with a copy of Byron's newly-published Childe Harold to while away the hours at sea. It is not to his taste:
''"Bombast and fustian," he said to himself, flipping through the pages.'
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.
Jane Eyre's Love Interest, Mr. Rochester, is decidedly 'Byronic'. A taste for such heroes seems to have run in the Brontë family. He's dark and troubled, snarky and attractive despite his lack of good looks. Society frowns upon his ways, but deep down he's a good person who suffered horribly. Good that in his case Love Redeems.
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.
Deconstructed by Uncle Andrew in The Magician's Nephew. With his willingness to break social conventions and everyday morality For Science!, his contempt for the common person, and his seeming devotion to a broader ideal (he uses the phrase 'ours is a high and lonely destiny' when referring to himself), he first appears quite glamorous to his nephew Diggory — but then Diggory realizes that his uncle makes other people bear all the costs of his experiments, and comes to understand that Andrew is little more than an everyday bully. Furthermore, when the professor runs up against a genuineÜbermensch later in the story, all his pretentions collapse and he ends up cutting quite a pathetic figure.
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.
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.
Edward Cullen of Twilight is lonely but can't stand how much he wants Bella Swan and her blood.
Edward: Beautiful? This is the skin of a killer, Bella.
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.
Irial from Wicked Love, although he definitely has redeeming qualities: selflessness and his love for Niall being the most prominent.
In Emily Brontë's Wuthering HeightsVillain 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.
Live Action TV
Angel: Wesley Wyndam-Pryce for a good time of later seasons 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 Vampire With A Soul!
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.
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. Other incarnations that come close are the Tenth, though he tries very hard to throw off the "cynical and jaded" part; and the Seventh, although he doesn't qualify for the aesthetic aspects and has some prominenttraits atypical for this trope.
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".
As in the source material, brothers Tyrion and Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones. The show treats Jaime more sympathetically than the early books, so he qualifies much earlier on.
Jess Mariano from Gilmore Girls. Jess is rebellious, irreverent, witty, and literary, and his troubled relationship with his parents leads him to act out. Jess manages to attract the main character (Rory) with his brooding, looks, and intellect.
Adam. 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). 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. He tends to operate in a morally grey fashion at times (particularly while working with The Company).
Doctor Cal 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.
Shane McCutcheon of The L Word is a rare and well-done female version.
The titular character of Sherlock embodies almost all the major features of this trope.
Skins: Definitely Cook from the second series; possibly Tony from the first. A rare female example could be argued for Frankie from the third series.
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).
Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries, whilst being the primary antagonist in season 1, he is always been a representative of this trope.
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.
Fox Mulder of The X-Files: Brooding and comely FBI agent whose quest for the truth is just and right, although his means of trying to achieve that can be over-the-top and jackassery. Only very few people in the show's world seem to appreciate him.
Cradle Of Filth gets a LOT of mileage out of this trope. Including having a song based on the life of Lord Byron, that features Ville Valo of HIM. In an interview it was explained that Dani Filth considered Ville Valo to be the embodiment of the modern day Byronic man which is why they wanted to feature him in the song.
No thought of the consequences / I've got to know the meaning of life"
Most popular songs by The Who seem to employ this trope in their narrator's POV. In addition to the above example, My Generation, Black Widow's Eyes, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, A Legal Matter, I Can See For Miles, and the main character Jimmy Cooper in Quadrophenia.
In Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, Leonardo De Montreal runs down each point on the checklist, to the point where his heroism is at least fifty percent based on how much better he is than anyone else. Between being raised in an abusive orphanage, long-term emotional isolation, literally and figuratively ripping his heart from his chest, and spending a year at the Bleak Academy (which is a metaphor for bleak enlightenment when it's not a metaphor for death). He avoids sleeping for long periods of time lest his nightmares drip out into the world, requires the Mechanism of Original Sin to have a facsimile of a conscience, and is metaphysically incapable of having friends or equals. He gains extra XP for ranting at length about his superiority. On the other hand, he's also personally replaced the source of all light and hope in the universe.
Lord Entropy II similarly does the brooding loner with complex history and extreme passions. Lord Entropy the First had something similar going on in Nobilis, with the noteworthy exception of romance: he was metaphysically impossible to love.
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. Sulumor, the 2E signature Malefactor, was abandoned by her tribe and the Spirits of the Desert. After her prayers to the Unconquered Sun gave no result, she instead cursed him with such vehemence as to attract Cecelyne's interests. Now she plots revolution among those who betrayed and abandoned her, creating a new society in her path.
Melchior Gabor of Spring Awakening: an intelligent, charming, enlightened youth who is ahead of his time and deeply troubled by his repressive society and his own developing urges as he comes of age.
Booker DeWitt of Bioshock Infinite is not a nice man. Having served in the massacre of Wounded Knee at the age of 16 and refusing a baptism and that's not even getting into the stuff relating to his daughter, it would be healthy to say he's a cynical fellow. Later, Booker would find himself spiral into an abyss of gambling debts that pilled up by the truck load and rampant alcoholism. He's given a chance to atone for all of the things he's done by retrieving a mysterious girl by the name of Elizabeth and as the game progresses, he's more than willing to tear Columbia a new one to rescue her.
Gabriel Belmont in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is willing to commit countless murders in order to achieve his goals - primarily concerned with his own interests rather than the greater good, even though he has inherent good in him, and does commit himself to achieving the greater good.
Magus, or Prince Janus of Zeal, from Chrono Trigger. 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 Lavos...so 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 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.
Locke Cole in Final Fantasy VI. Though he's a Lovable Rogue at first blush, he's passionately anti-Empire, passionately pro-protecting any woman he meets, both owing to a personal tragedy that he still obsesses over. Oh, also Setzer, whose character quote describes him as not conforming to society's rules, and who's quite happy to gamble his own life away for a thrill because of his own personal tragedy. You could count Celes as a female example too, as a former Imperial general who's committed atrocities and has a hard time befriending the rest of the party. (For bonus points, Locke and Celes are the Official Couple.)
Seifer Almasy of Final Fantasy VIII takes this to a villainous extreme. Brooding, handsome and charismatic enough to initially woo Rinoa, he reveals the motivation for his jerkassery to be his intense passion to become a knight like his childhood hero.
Niko Bellic, the Anti-VillainProtagonist of Grand Theft Auto IV; an intelligent, witty criminal mastermind who is involved with a life of crime because it's all he feels he's good at. He comes to Liberty City looking for a better life and to escape his past, which includes being chased by a Russian mobster who believes Niko owes him money. He's also looking for a man who got twelve of his childhood friends killed, hoping for revenge. Whether he remains this way depends on several situations in the game that force the player to choose between Niko's personal beliefs or money.
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 mostly Good).
Dr. Catherine Halsey of the Halo universe is a ruthless, unapologetic woman who abducted young children in order to create an army of super soldiers. She's one of the most brilliant human minds alive, but that doesn't stop most people who meet her from loathing her to their very core. Nonetheless, she's undeniably fighting for the advancement of the human race and has been shown to deeply care for those she sees as her "children", whether it be her SPARTAN-IIs or her actual daughter Miranda Keyes.
Garrus Vakarian in Mass Effect becomes one in the sequel, as he is haunted by the death of his hit squad on Omega. Garrus is a man who constantly seeks to punish the wicked and finds himself brooding a lot during the 2nd game. A Paragon Shepard can begin to pull him out of this, while a Renegade can push him further into it. However, by the time Mass Effect 3 rolls around, he seems to have mellowed down, though he is still broods quite a bit here and there.
The titular Max Payne is a cynical, moody and self destructive man, constantly haunted by the death of his loved ones, whether it'd be his wife and baby daughter or his friends. He even finds himself in exile in the third game, on the run from mobsters after shooting the son of a very powerful crime boss. Max was even physically attractive back in the day, but his indulgence in drugs and alcohol as since diminished what looks he has.
Solid Snake in the Metal Gear series. He is not opposed to commit countless murders in order to achieve his goals - primarily concerned with his own interests rather than the greater good, even though he has inherent good in him, and does commit himself to achieving the greater good.
Samus Aran from the Metroid franchise is a female example.
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.
Sonic the Hedgehog: 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.
Atton Rand from Star WarsKnights of the Old Republic II: 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.
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.
Kenny from The Walking Dead can be described as this. Though The Leader at first, he gradually falls further and further from the top spot as he goes through a Trauma Conga Line. Most notably, Kenny is single-minded in protecting his family by getting to the coast and finding a boat to find a safe place. As the game goes on, and his family members die, he grows more and more cynical. He reaches his absolute lowest when the group makes it to the coast, only to find there are no boats left. Kenny ends up hitting the sauce in episode 4, before becoming a full-on Death Seeker in episode 5 that culminates in a Heroic Sacrifice to save either Ben or Christa. Notably, Kenny can also have Undying Loyalty towards Lee, but only if you side with him 100% of the time.
Illidan Stormrage can be seen as a Byronic Hero: Cunning and ruthless, yet in conflict between his heroic tendencies (regarding his actions in the "Well of Eternity"- Raid in Cataclysm and the books) and his craving for power. Rejected by the woman he loved, outcast by the people he wanted to save (unfortunately, post-apocalyptic nightelves had no need for his "present"). Plus his very intense speech in Warcraft 3: "In truth it was I, who was betrayed! (Dramatic lightning)". Additionally, Illidan had a highly charismatic, magically-gifted and intelligent personality, allowing him to rise quickly into the ranks of the Highborne before the Sundering and to become the Ruler of Outland after the Third War. His quotes in the Warcraft 3 strategy-games expressed his tendency to cynism and arrogance- reasons for his downfall in "The Burning Crusade". Moreover, Illidan was one of the few persons who switched allies rapidly (he was ally and enemy of the burning legion several times), thus making him some sort of an Anti-Hero or Trickster.
Garrosh Hellscream is increasingly leaning towards this. He retains a strong warrior code of honor, but it's much harsher than the one the Horde was founded on. He is ruthless to his enemies, prone to lashing out as a demonstration of his superiority, and is openly racist towards members of the Horde he views as not contributing enough.
Vaarsuvius is an arrogant, condescendingElf Wizard with a taste for ultimate arcane knowledge and power, and is very long-windedand 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.
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.
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.
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.
Lord Byron himself. 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 heronote which is what Byron considered this very trope—a persecuted, flawed, and ultimately lonely genius.
A whole lot of Russian writers were 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 struggling 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.
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 this role like a glove. 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, Downey Jr. eventually overcame his self-destructive behavior and has since found his way back onto the path of mainstream success, beginning with his portrayal of Tony Stark (an above-listed Byronic Hero).
Florence Nightingale. Intelligent, passionate, and moody.
Ludwig van Beethoven, the big 'B' himself...where to begin? Not only was he a direct contemporary of Lord Byron himself, he was 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 apparantly incited by the explosive bombing of Vienna by Napoleon Bonaparte). He nevertheless wrote an entire symphony in honour 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 retitled 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 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 inexpressably 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.
Another musical example: Michael Jackson. 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: the Past, Present and Future, Book 1," many of the songs display a cynicism about the media.
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. 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. Just after the war he died in an auto accident at the age of 60.