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Who is Shakespeare's greatest villain?

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Posted September 8, 2013 at 3:56 PM via web

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Who is Shakespeare's greatest villain?

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enotes | Valedictorian

Posted September 8, 2013 at 3:56 PM (Answer #1)

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There is long rogues gallery to choose from considering that some of Shakespeare's tragic heroes, Macbeth for example, are what we would see as villains and all of them include at least one evil figure like Iago of Othello. At the same time, all of the problem plays (The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, etc.), have one or more morally-misguided characters who may or may not undergo a conversion, while the comedies are filled with blocking characters, typically fathers standing in the way of true romance. But it is again to the history plays that we turn for the Shakespearean villain par excellence, for if Henry V is Shakespeare's ideal ruler, then the murderous hunchback King Richard III is his opposite. Richard III rises to power through a succession of clever plots using brute force to kill purely innocent characters. The murder of the two young princes in the Tower of London that Richard ordered was considered by Elizabethans to be the most heinous crime in English history. It was a deed so awful that Shakespeare did not dramatize or even directly speak of it in Richard III even though we know when it has taken place from the movement of events in the play. That Richard III is so articulate in his evil schemes lends further support to his status as Shakespeare's most hated villain.

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