I have a fondness for villains. I’ve always regarded villains with equal parts fascination and idolization because the best drawn villains make being bad cool. Were I an actor, I’d only want to play the bad guy. Why? Because a good villain lives forever. Just look at Hannibal Lecter. Because a good villain is worth ten times the hero and, in most cases, is ten times more interesting. Because to play a masterfully written villain is a dream role that spells Oscar or, in the case of writers, literary immortality. Also, villains have the best lines and are notoriously regarded as the best dressers.
So without further ado, here’s a list (in no particular order) of my favorite literary villains.
Steepike was the bad boy crush of my teen years. An ambitious kitchen boy on the lowest rung of the social ladder, he ascends to the top by deceit, murder, flattery, and seduction. Steerpike is an example of Machiavellian puppet mastery at its finest. As far as accessories goes, he carries a sword stick that he uses to tickle the twins or stab the Master of Ceremonies and he’s got a pet monkey named Satan. He also kills people with a slingshot like a deadly Tom Sawyer.
Iago is the ultimate devil’s advocate and puppet master. Such an evil, calculating mind! All does not end well because of him. One day, I would like to see Othello re-envisioned with a female in the Iago role.
My favorite part in Wuthering Heights: Heathcliff returns rich and ready for revenge. If I grew up with a douchy foster brother who took the buggy whip to my backside whenever I got dark and broody and my unfaithful soul mate married another, I’d probably bang my head against a tree and embark on a real estate take-over the likes of which Yorkshire has never seen!!!
Never has being a villain been so fun! This sartorial Italian twitters to his pet birds (Do you warble, my little wren?) and has a pagoda of white mice and a taste for poison and bonbons. But under his jolly exterior, there’s a steel-trapped mind and an inclination for EVIL and exclamations! He sends a poor Victorian maiden to the insane asylum which is …wrong, I guess, but in Fosco’s defense, said maiden was really annoying so Fosco was doing the world a favor. This is a role perfectly suited for the likes of Johnny Depp or Robert Downey Jr. since they tend to stake their comeback careers playing weird, slightly flamboyant roles.
Black Jack Randall
Most fans of Outlander are disgusted by what Black Jack did to Jamie Fraser. I, for one, will never erase the images from my mind! But God help me, I like Black Jack and was disappointed when he *SPOILER ALERT* died in Dragonfly in Amber. Black Jack was like Inspector Javert in that he was so persistent in getting his man. Unlike Inspector Javert, however, Black Jack had a Master Rape Plan. So devious…
Jean Baptiste Grenouille
The trailer will do my work for me. He used his nasal superpower to slaughter 25 virginal girls to make the ultimate perfume! Definitely the most unique villain/antagonist I’ve ever encountered in my reading.
See my love of Machiavellian schemers. Have you seen the 1996 adaptation set in pre-WWII Britain? No? Trailer time.
Captain Ahab takes obsession to a new level. Any man who would sink his ship in pursuit of his nemesis whale is interesting in my book. Okay, I haven’t actually finished Moby Dick so I only like the idea of Captain Ahab because he reminds me of myself. I could get pretty intense when it comes to goals and there’s only room in my one-track mind for ONE goal. I’ve also been known to step on people, like literally, I will grind my foot on your face. You stand in the way of my dream and I will give you an Asian back massage that will send you crawling to your chiropractor in pain!
Remember that part where Brianna shot Bonnet in the nuts and he crawled to a backwoods doctor to have his injured ball(s) surgically removed and preserved in a jar, which he then kept as a souvenir next to his bed!!! That’s pretty gross and kind of… cool.