Iago made the perfect Shakespearean villain. Evil to the core, he was determined to abuse Othello’s trust. He manipulates Othello and plots to destroy him.
Wow. My bad guys are murderers, but Iago would eat their lunch. But then, that’s Shakespeare for you.
What makes a really frightening villain? I’ve always found the calm, emotionless psychopaths in movies and literature to be terrifying.
What about the eerie “bad seed” children out there in books? They give me the willies, too.
Extremely capable villains are frightening. More than competent in their evil-doing, they match wits with authorities and win over and over---until the end of the book when they’re (usually) captured.
The British newspaper Telegraph did a piece last December on “The 50 Greatest Villains in Literature.” I thought that was a pretty provocative title, and sure enough, there were plenty of dissenters. Some of the greatest villains were a little odd, but the list as a whole was very interesting.
One interesting point they made was in reference to Moby Dick. Was Ahab the bad guy, or was the whale the villain? Interesting.
Here’s a recap of the Top 10. See what you think:
10 Vindice from The Revenger's Tragedy, by Thomas Middleton
9 Mr Kurtz from Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
8 Claudius from Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
7 Ambrosio from The Monk, by M G Lewis
6 Robert Lovelace from Clarissa, by Samuel Richardson
5 Voldemort from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
4 Iago from Othello, by William Shakespeare
3 Cruella de Vil from The Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith
2 Samuel Whiskers from The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, by Beatrix Potter
1 Satan from Paradise Lost, by John Milton