Ranked with Shelley and Keats as one of the great Romantic poets, Byron became famous throughout Europe as the embodiment of romanticism. His good looks, his lameness, and his flamboyant lifestyle all contributed to the formation of the Byronic legend. By the mid-20th cent. his reputation as a poet had been eclipsed by growing critical recognition of his talents as a wit and satirist.
Byron's poetry covers a wide range. In English Bards and Scotch Reviewers and in The Vision of Judgment (1822) he wrote 18th-century satire. He also created the "Byronic hero," who appears consummately in the Faustian tragedy Manfred (1817)—a mysterious, lonely, defiant figure whose past hides some great crime. Cain (1821) raised a storm of abuse for its skeptical attitude toward religion. The verse tale Beppo is in the ottava rima (eight-line stanzas in iambic pentameter) that Byron later used for his acknowledged masterpiece Don Juan (1819–24), an epic-satire combining Byron's art as a storyteller, his lyricism, his cynicism, and his detestation of convention.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.