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Bard to the Bone – Shakespeare’s Best Villains
William Shakespeare alone wrote 37 plays, many of them comedies and stories. When I set out to compile a list of your biggest abusers, I thought I’d try to make a Top 10, how could I be wrong? I soon realized that it was impossible to limit the list to 10 and even with a Top 20 there were other characters that seemed to be worth it that just didn’t.
What was a villain? – You could probably write an entire textbook on that. I’ll take a loose working definition – bad people are people who do bad things. Indeed some people will be surprised and offended to find Hamlet and Caliban on the list. I’m not sorry, they did something bad – they are.
Villainy is represented here in many guises from the impudence of Richard II to the calculated plans of Iago and Edmund. There will be tricksters planning to attack virtuous young women, cruel kings and more than evil queens. Families seem to bring out the worst in people and there are half-sisters, brothers, half-brothers, mothers-in-law and mothers-in-law all vying for a place on the Shakespearean list of “who most wanted”.
So here, and in order of being ugly, are Shakespeare’s bad boys (and girls)…
20. Don John (Much Ado About Nothing) – The “Bastard Prince”, brother to Don Pedro. Don John is one of the few examples of a real villain in Shakespeare’s comedies. A bitter man, he tried to prevent the marriage of Hero and Claudio out of a spirit of mere oppression. Derogatory description: “It cannot be said that I am an honest and flattering person, it should not be denied, but I am a regular killer.”
19. Richard II (Richard II) – King of England from 1377 to 1399. Shakespeare paints the picture of a passionate, self-centered and self-centered young man. He ordered his execution, banished those who disagreed with him, and imposed unjust fines and taxes. Richard’s evil behavior is the result of too much power in the hands of an immature child rather than the result of malevolent calculation. Excerpt: (Richard on his God-given right to rule) “Not all the water in the rough sea can wash away the balm from the anointed king.”
18. Angelo (Measure for Measure) — left in charge of Vienna, Angelo enforced ancient laws including one requiring the death penalty for impregnating a woman outside of marriage. He appears pious and self-righteous but soon reveals himself to be a total hypocrite when he tries to bribe a young novice, Isabella, to sleep with him in return for her brother’s life. Clue: (Isabella, on Angelo’s abuse of his new found power) “O! it is a good thing to have the power of a giant; but it is fatal to use it as a giant.”
17. Caliban (The summer) — Son of the witch Sycorax, a half-human monster and a terror to Prospero. Another one that probably raises some people’s hackles, Caliban is often portrayed as a victim rather than a villain. However, do not forget that he tried to coerce Miranda and willingly arranged the death of Prospero with Stefano and Trinculo (who should also be on the hit list if space allows). Curse: (Miranda and Prospero’s curse) “Like the evil dew that my mother flew with a raven’s feather from the wrong fen, let it fall upon you both! Fight south-west against you, and destroy you all!”
16. Hamlet (Hamlet) – Prince of Denmark. Although Hamlet is the tragic hero of the play, do not forget that he does some beautiful things that deserve inclusion on this list: he sends his friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, almost to a death, to kill Polonius and a lot of use. that the statue was planning to kill Claudius. Derogatory word: (on Polonius beating) “How now! A rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!”
15. Iachimo (Cymbeline) — dishonesty and silence. Iachimo enters into a pact to prove that Imogen can be deceived. When he fails in his sensual efforts, he resorts to theft and deceit to disrespect the lady. Along with Angelo, one of Shakespeare’s great lounge lizards will be the trickster. Interestingly, at the end of the game Iachimo was unscathed. Derogatory description: “If you buy a woman’s flesh for a million dram, you cannot protect it from corruption.”
14. Claudius (Hamlet) – Hamlet’s grandfather, responsible for killing Hamlet’s father. He tries to send Hamlet to a certain death, when that fails he conspires with Laertes to poison him with a poisoned sword. Derogatory description: What if this cursed hand is thicker than itself with the blood of a brother – Is there not enough rain in sweet heaven to wash it white as snow?”
13. Cassius (Julius Caesar) — The leader of the rebels against Julius Caesar who urged Brutus to join the conspiracy. Cassius seems to be motivated by a combination of ambition and political wisdom. He finally met his end on the battlefield and committed suicide after witnessing the death of his best friend Titinius. Derogatory quote: (Julius Caesar describing Cassius) “Cassius has a thin and hungry face. He thinks too much. Men like that are dangerous.”
12. Shylock (The Merchant of Venice) — a Jewish moneylender in Venice. Opinion is divided as to what extent Shylock is the villain or the victim. He certainly gets some nice treatment from the Christians, but his insistence on wanting some of Antonio’s flesh makes it hard to see him in a completely sympathetic light. Although Shylock seems to dominate this play, he only appears in four scenes. Derogatory description: “I’m going to be the killer that taught me, and it’s going to be hard but I’m going to be good at the lesson.”
11. Lady Macbeth (Macbeth) – Macbeths wife. Lady M’s ambitions for her husband result in her turning to marry not only Duncan but also his pages. Haunted by the murders, he eventually killed himself (offstage). Derogatory description: “Seems like an innocent flower, but is a snake underneath.”
10. Macbeth (Macbeth) – begins the game as Thane of Glamis, but quickly works his way up and becomes King of Scotland. However, his reign was short-lived and he was beheaded in battle by Macduff. Critics argue over who is worse, Macbeth who commits bloody deeds, or his wife who stabs him. Derogatory description: “Stars, hide your light! Do not let the light see my darkness and desires.”
9. Cornwall (King Lear) — the husband of Regan and a well nasty piece of work. Cornwall is a small force and is often overshadowed by some of the showier scandals in the sport. But don’t overlook it, it’s merciless punishment and deserves its place on the list. He eventually died from a wound inflicted by one of his own servants while torturing Gloucester. Crossword: (on removing Gloucester’s eyes) ”Get out, bad jelly! Where is your shine now?
8. Richard III (Richard III ) — King of England for two years from 1483 until his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Shakespeare’s prototypical villain who begins the play with a long monologue explaining his evil motivations to the audience. Richard will stop at nothing in his quest for the throne and enjoys the chaos and carnage he causes along the way. Richard III is the second longest play in the entire Shakespeare canon, only Hamlet is longer. Slander: (on Lady Anne) “Was a woman ever this humor woo’d? Was a woman this humor won? I’ll have it; — but I won’t keep it long.”
7. Tamora (Shoot Andronicus) — Queen of the Goths, brought to Rome as a captive by Titus. Although in some ways it is tempting to see Tamora as the evil queen she is famous for, it has to be remembered that she was treated somewhat harshly at the hands of the Romans. In one of the most tragic scenes in Shakespeare, it is his two sons who are baked in a pie by Titus before he is stabbed next. Derogatory description: I will find one day to destroy them all, and destroy their clans and their families.
6. Regan (King Lear) – Lear’s middle daughter and specifically suffering from middle childhood syndrome. Regan is the more openly sadistic of the two sisters, positively comforting her husband’s blindness of Gloucester. Widowed after her husband Cornwall dies from a wound inflicted by a servant, she pursues the affections of her sister’s lover, Edmund. You are eventually poisoned by your sister. eventually died from poison administered by his sister. Infamous quote: (after helping to blind the Duke of Gloucester) “Go, take him out of the gate, and let him smell his way to Dover.”
5. Goneril (King Lear) — Lear’s eldest daughter, she takes over a third of his kingdom but is unable to resist her father and his merry bands. Married to a weak husband, she openly reveals her affair with Edmund. In the end he stabbed himself (offstage) after admitting that he poisoned his sister. Profanity: (Albany, talking about his wife) “Thou Goneril! Thou art not worthy of the dust that the rude wind blows in thy face. I fear thy character: that nature, that ignores its origin, cannot assert itself.”
4. Queen (Cymbeline) — Cymbeline’s wife and Imogen’s mother-in-law. This is a good example for the stepmother, she tries unsuccessfully to poison both Imogen and Cymbeline. Even though she is never given a name, the queen is a great evil influence. Clue: (Dr. Cornelius, who has been asked to prepare poisons by the queen who says she just wants to poison the animals to see what happens!) “I don’t want it. You think you have a strange ling’ring drug. I know your spirit, and I would not trust one of your malice with a drug of such a damn’d nature.”
3. Edmund (King Lear) — Gloucester’s illegitimate son. He hatches a plot to get rid of his estranged brother and has an affair with two of Lear’s daughters playing them against each other for his own ends. Edmund is not without his redeeming powers and at the end of the play, after being mortally wounded, he repents of his evil deeds – however, it is all in vain, no one’s life is saved by revelations and many today’s leader cut. the word of his utter repentance. Derogatory description: “Now, gods, rise for the bastards!”
2. Aaron (Shoot Andronicus) — The Moorish lover Tamora was brought as a captive to Rome by Titus. One of Shakespeare’s darkest villains who is responsible for many atrocities and murders in this very bloody play. When he was finally caught, he gloated about his evil deeds. Shakespeare only gives Aaron one redeeming quality, his devotion to his grandson. Derogatory description: “I have done a thousand terrible things as willingly as one who wants to kill a fly; Nothing really hurts me so much, except that I cannot do ten thousand.”
1. Avoid (Othello) – Othello’s politics and the man who corrects his downfall by persuading Othello that his wife has sex. Iago is the arch manipulator who is directly or indirectly responsible for all the deaths in the play. Interestingly, Iago is one of the few major villains who does not die at the end of the play. Derogatory description: “But I will wear my heart on my sleeve for mornings to peck at it. I am not what I am.”
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