Study Guide

Hero and Leander Characters

  • Hero

    Hero fits pretty snugly into the classic archetype of the passionate young lover. She's young, beautiful, impulsive, and head-over-heels in love. Like many of her young lover colleagues, her all-consuming love also ends up being her undoing. When she discovers Leander's drowned body on the beach, she can't bear to live without him and commits suicide to be with him in death.

    Sound familiar? That's because she's joining Thisbe and Juliet in the I-loved-him-so-much-it-killed-me club. Yeah, you've heard this one before.

    But when you start to unpack Hero's character a bit, you'll find a couple of interesting ironies.

    (1) She's a priestess of Aphrodite, but when we start off the story she's also a virgin. Kind of odd, since many priestesses of the goddess of love included intercourse as part of the ritual worship of their goddess. So when Leander points out to Hero that he's surprised she's still a virgin, it might not just be a bad pick-up line. In the context of the time, the dude actually has a legitimate point.

    (2) Hero is a worshipper of the love goddess, but it is love that ultimately destroys her. Ouch.

    We definitely feel bad for our girl, but we have to ask: should she have been a little less hasty in falling for Leander and letting him swim across a straight to get to her? What do you think?

  • Leander

    Leander is just your average young hero… who happens to be in love with a girl named Hero. Go figure.

    It seems like Leander has sincere feelings for Hero, given that he bravely risks his life every night to be with her by swimming across the Hellespont. (Maybe they should've invested in a boat?) And just like his lover, Leander fits snuggly into the archetypical role of young lover: Romeo, Pyramus, Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic—there are a ton of characters like Leander throughout every era of art and entertainment.

    Leander ends up being destroyed by his passion when he makes the unfortunate decision to try and swim across the Hellespont during a storm. Romantic? Yes. Stupid? Absolutely. Though Leander is known for being a strong swimmer, he's swallowed up by the waves when Hero's light blows out, and he loses his way. And so the poor guy is destroyed by his two great passions in life: swimming and Hero.

    Womp womp.