Speak of the Villain

Recently I read (I think it was in Bloom’s “Invention of the Human”) that Claudius does not count as one of Shakespeare’s better villains, because he basically only does one bad thing (which most normal men could also be capable of), and feels guilty for it.

Sure enough I get back from vacation and About.com has their favorite villain poll up. I think this one is skewed a bit, though, as they bill it as “favorite” villain and then in the actual poll call it “most notorious”. I’m thinking that most peole just recognize Iago better than anybody else. How many casual Shakespeare readers could identify Titus Andronicus at all, much less compare Aaron the Moor against Cornwall from King Lear? Iago’s the easy answer.

Claudius, by the way, is not on the list.

One thought on “Speak of the Villain

  1. Claudius is a villain. He is not a man who made a mistake and is now reaping from the benefits. Claudius murdered his brother, took the crown, married his sister-in-law, and, throughout the whole play, tries to think of a way to kill Hamlet. I believe that what readers do is confuse villains with monsters. Claudius was a villain, but he was no monster. He is multi-faceted: morally weak and willing to give up his humanity for a few prized possessions. As well, just because he feels guilt does not exclude him from the list of villains. He feels guilt, but a few scenes later he is plotting to execute Hamlet. So, Claudius, while not a monster, is a villain.

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