“Byron”: the BBC biopic (click title for comments)

Our assigned viewing for the class, the two-part BBC production Byron (2003) can be found here:

I want to use the Byron biopic to introduce Lord Byron in particular, and the idea of the “Poet-Rockstar” in general.  For the generic name of this course’s protagonist, I chose “Poet-Rockstar” rather than “Rockstar-Poet” for a couple of reasons:

1) The first version has the two terms in historical order
2) In “Rockstar-Poet”, the “Rockstar” sounds like an adjective; whereas “Poet-Rockstar” sounds more like…a weird hyphenated noun. Which is what I want it to be!

So we’re looking with a kind of double vision: there is a certain cultural role, once best played by Poets, that is now best played by Rock Stars. That’s our hypothesis. Not every poet, not every rockstar, will fit the role–because not all of them have the same relationship to fame. And the term “poet-rockstar” allows us to think about that role as a tradition: how it develops over time.

The biopic is a “source” for us in two ways: it gives us a portrait of Byron’s life with no major inaccuracies, and it makes an “argument” about what kind of figure Byron was (each of the three films we watch will do this about their respective protagonist).

A question (finally!): how do you think Byron, as he is represented in the movie, feels about the role of poet? When replying, make specific reference to a scene in the movie (the easiest way to do this is to use running time–approximate times will help us all return to a scene–eg: “at 17:00 Byron says he woke up and “found himself famous”…)

You may make a claim of your own, or respond (bringing something new) to a claim made by someone who’s already posted…


10 Replies to ““Byron”: the BBC biopic (click title for comments)”

  1. I think Byron likes the idea of being a poet. He is shown in a scene around 18:45 in the movie being admired by many women as he tells his story about how he is a poet and the true nature of poets. He seems to love the attention he is getting from it all as he “laments” his life as a poor poet.

  2. I think Byron likes the idea of being a poet, not only for the fame, but because of the dramatic romanticism of it. He is quoted as saying that he won’t take payment for his poetry as it is “beneath a gentleman” (50:07). This drama-filled, slightly persecuted role he seems to take on quite well as it gives him more material for his poetry.

    1. Yes! that word “gentleman” is important, also, when considering Brougham’s response to Byron’s poetry.

      The economic career of Byron’s work, its publication history over the first half of the 19th century, is fascinating (the quotation is not inaccurate, but it only represents one of his perspectives)

  3. I believe Byron loves the role of a poet. Because of this role he is able to be melodramatic with everything he says while still being idolized by many. For example in the beginning he says, “for a man to become a poet he must either in love or miserable” (19:22) insinuating that only people with intense emotions can be poets. Thus separating himself from the common man.

    1. Yes: & we still, in 2017, associate poetry (maybe art in general?) with the expression of “intense emotion”……don’t you think?

  4. I think that as a poet, Byron might feel that his work is underappreciated. At 8:15, while talking about a poem he wrote called ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’, he says that he doubts ‘it will suit the taste of the town being so damn modern’ in kind of an exasperated tone, as if he’s frustrated that others can’t appreciate his poems.

  5. I believe that Lord Byron enjoys the role as a poet as he “has done some odd things in his time” (20:19). Throughout his writing, Lord Byron is able to make a play on words and tell a story, which he continues to do in conversation. I also think that the idea of his fame continuing to grow and the curiosity amongst his readers is driving his continuation of writing as “every other woman in London wants to know him” (25:34).

  6. I believe that Lord Byron embraces the role of the poet. When Byron is about to get married, he expresses his skepticism of the Bible and Christian practices (54:00), but he says he will read whatever texts and evaluate any arguments given to him. I believe this is what defines Byron as a poet. He has a desire to evaluate things, or in today’s terms, think critically.

    1. I like that angle, Austin! To connect your idea back to Byron’s terms, skepticism (what you describe as a measured, careful stance) leads potentially to a kind of outsiderhood or radicalism, to challenging the “conventional wisdom” for its own sake or to challenging apparent injustices.

      I wonder: for Byron, is this attitude part of “being a Poet”, or simply part of being a man?

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