Maisie Jane Garvin
What is it about falling in love with fictional characters that don’t actually exist? With Valentine’s Day around the corner and amidst the pandemic, what better time than to look at some of literature’s greatest romantic heroes – at least they can stand in as the perfect date on the 14th.
When we are to think of an all-encompassing love story, minds will instantly jump to Shakespeare’s 1595 play, Romeo and Juliet. Romeo Montague is a timeless romantic hero, infamous for taking his own life rather than go on living without his love. There is no question that it is in this great pathos of the play that Romeo can still be considered as one of the greatest figures in romance.
his wild passion and intelligence make him one of Shakespeare’s best loved protagonists
Although dangerously impulsive and immature at times, his wild passion and intelligence make him one of Shakespeare’s best loved protagonists. Romeo’s unwavering loyalty to Juliet despite their feuding families is a story of star–crossed lovers that seems to never tire. Perhaps the most famous depiction of Romeo is in the 1996 film adaption of the play, where Leonardo DiCaprio plays our hero. DiCaprio encapsulates perfectly the young, swoon – worthy Romeo for a modern audience. Describing a romantic hero and not considering Romeo Montague would be a crime against the genre.
Along with Romeo, Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy has been a designated literary romantic hero since the publication of her 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice. The story of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy encapsulates perfectly the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope that has clearly stood firm against time, since it is still seen so widely in literature today.
Pride and Prejudice is always worth a watch or read, to see a bitter man turn soft under the intensity of true love
Mr Darcy is perhaps the most famous brooding man in literature, but it is in his anagnorisis that he has fallen for Miss Bennet, that solidifies Austen’s love story as canon. These days, it’s always a ‘what you doing’ text and never ‘You have bewitched me body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. And wish from this day forth never to be parted from you’. Like Romeo, Mr Darcy has been played by many famous faces including Matthew Macfadyen who stars alongside Kiera Knightley in a film adaption and Colin Firth in a series brought about by the BBC. Pride and Prejudice is always worth a watch or read, to see a bitter man turn soft under the intensity of true love.
When posed with the question, ‘what is your favourite romantic film?’, a strong contender for most would by the 2004 blockbuster, The Notebook, staring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling. Unbeknown to many, the film is based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, who is one of contemporary romance’s greatest authors. Nevertheless, the story follows its romantic hero Noah Calhoun from meeting his wife Allie as a teenager, up until their final days as she suffers from Alzheimer’s.
Noah is one of the most likeable protagonists of romance writing and is the beating heart of both the film and the novel. His perseverance and loyalty to Allie stands the test of time as he refuses to lose faith in the power of love and is seen reading to her every day despite her memory loss. Gosling’s performance in the film brings to life Spark’s charismatic character who appreciates the simple things in life. There surely cannot be a better story to enjoy on the day of love than this one.
Last year brought us a new romantic hero in Sally Rooney’s Connell Waldron. Her bestselling novel, Normal People, and BBC Three’s subsequent adaption have secured Waldron’s place as one of the 21st century’s literary heartthrobs. Connell is played by the Irish actor Paul Mescal in the drama series, who has gained immense popularity since; in fact, there is an Instagram account solely for the chain he wears, with near enough 200,000 followers.
Perhaps the popularity of Connell as a character is simply because he is relatable
Perhaps the popularity of Connell as a character is simply because he is relatable. To see a man in his twenties suffering with his mental health but not being afraid to say as much is refreshing. Rooney created a hero that many young people may be able to see themselves in; Connell is navigating university, relationships and friendships as well as trying to create a life for himself. His relationship with Marianne shows the value of having your significant other as a friend as well as a partner, and the need for good communication. Normal People is still available to stream on the BBC iPlayer currently and is the perfect series to binge.
Maisie Jane Garvin
Featured image courtesy of Alexander Popov via unsplash.com. Image license can her found here. Article images courtesy of @prideandprejudiceig @romeo_and_juliet_1996 and @the_notebook via instagram.com.
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