Lord George Gordon Byron’s dramatic poem Manfred is a fantastical ghost story of sorts which has decided autobiographical undertones. Consumed with guilt over the death of his half-sister and lover, Manfred summons spirits to make him forget—not to seek forgiveness.
As is the case with most tales of mortals seeking to control other worldly beings, it does not quite go according to plan. Eventually forced to confront his guilt over the death of his illicit lover, Manfred attempts to end his life, but is prevented from doing so. The ghost of his half-sister speaks to him and grants him forgiveness and assures him that he will die the next day and he passes the following evening.
What makes a Byronic Hero? Typified as being as being unstable and intense intellectuals gifted with cunning and manipulative ways, the Byronic Hero maintains a dark and seductive air over his deeply rooted instabilities. Often struggling with previous trauma, the Byronic Hero is a mentally and emotionally tortured individual putting forth a daunting and impregnable persona as a shield from future pain.
Byron himself is often considered to be a Byronic Hero. He certainly had his own issues which tormented him. Like Manfred, often considered to be an at least loosely autobiographical character, Byron fell deeply in love with his half-sister whom he hadn’t met until they were both adults.
As a Byronic Hero, Manfred possesses many of the character traits of such a Dark Hero such as intelligence, struggling with emotional and intellectual trauma, self-destructive, yet appealing. The allure of the Byronic Hero is counter to that of the ‘proper’ hero, yet the attraction is unmistakable and plays upon deeply rooted evolutionary instincts. Though Manfred’s story ends sadly, his passing is a relief both for him and for the reader, for at last, his trials in this world are passed. Though alluring, the Byronic Hero is best loved from a distance: get too close, you might be burned.