Why is the villain an extremely important part in any great story?I am about to perform a seminar on the aforementioned topic, and I would love to hear anyone's opinions on the subject, as it would...

Why is the villain an extremely important part in any great story?

I am about to perform a seminar on the aforementioned topic, and I would love to hear anyone's opinions on the subject, as it would be very helpful! What I would like to know is why the villain is important (especially Shakespeare's villains, but any will do). Thankyou!

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Agreed. Without conflict, there is no story; and it is the antagonist/villain who most often provides that conflict. In most literature, the antogonist is probably not best described as a villain but as something or someone who is in conflict with the protagonist--a kinder, gentler foe who simply gets in the way of the protagonist. A villain, it seems to me, is intent on the protagonist's downfall and fights actively against him with deliberation and malice. Most villains want something the protagonist has or is. In movies, almost every antagonist is made into a villain--larger-than-life and bent on destruction or seduction.

I guess it depends on how one defines villain, doesn't it? Grendel in Beowulf is certainly a villain, Abigail in The Crucible is probably a villain, Claudius in Hamlet is probably a villain, Bob Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird is probably a villain; but who is the villain in A Raisin in the Sun, for example? Is Gene in A Separate Peace a villain? All depends on the definition. A very interesting topic for a seminar; I'm sure you'll do a great job!

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I recommend that you make this a discussion question, as there will be a diverse range of opinion out there for you to access.

I would say that the villain in literature is usually the antagonist and gives us the perfect foil to the protagonist, main character or hero of the text.

One of Shakespeare's strategies in 'Macbeth' is to present the audience with a protagonist who becomes the villain - in the form of Macbeth. In this play, Shakespeare shows us that those who are great can be destroyed by focussing on their negative inner qualities. Even the bravest and most loyal of soldiers can be corrupted by evil.

In 'Othello', the villain, Iago, is probably the most memorable and evil of all villains in literature. We are fascinated as an audience with regard to the intricate planning with which he executes the destruction of those around him. Critics have argued over the motivations of Iago, and we continue to be repelled, intrigued and compelled by him as a character.



wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Without the villain, we couldn't have a "good guy." Any hero needs a nemesis. Without this counterpoint, we can't see the intricate aspects of the character that make a hero. Take Romeo and Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet for example. We would not be able to see the great change that has taken place in Romeo without the confrontation between him and Tybalt. Romeo tries to resist his insults and the fight Tybalt tries to provoke because of his love for Juliet. Of course, he eventually gives in after the death of Mercutio, but this conflict shows us Romeo's character in a new light. Without the villain Tybalt, we would never understand the complexities of this character. A villain can often make the hero more endearing or allow the good guy to do things we would normally consider bad. As in the example above, Romeo kills Tybalt and we should hate him for it, but we can't. We see Tybalt as the bad guy and Romeo as the good guy whose hand was forced.
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tolstoy says that all good marriages are alike but each bad marriage is unique.  He argues that this is what makes bad marriages more interesting.  The same is true with any story.  Heroes are nothing without their villains.  They are simply all wonderful people who fight for the right, etc.  What really makes them shine is their villains.  These are the people who are "bad" in various that allow the characteristics of the good guys to really shine.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As many of the posts have stated, the villain is very important to the action of a text. Without the villain, conflict does not exist. Without conflict, nothing is learned, nothing is gained, nothing really happens.

Life is full of conflicts- big ones and little ones.

Heroes cannot be defined without a villain. Therefore, a villian is absolutely necessary in any aspect of life- textual, situational, and in life.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

And, once in a rare while, an author creates a villain who may be evil through and through, but also has a sympathetic side. That's when the reading gets truly interesting and imagining myself in the action gets confusing - when I can't decide whether I'm angry about what the "bad guy" is doing or if I'm secretly rooting for him to get away with it!

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the previous post mentioned, every story needs some sort of antagonist to work against the protagonist. The antagonist need not always be a true villain, but all literary works need contrasting characters to help build the conflict of the story. Plus, it's fun to have a villain to hate.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The villain makes the story more interesting, first of all.  He or she serves as a foil to the main character, or hero.  That means the villain gives the hero someone to act off of and oppose.  The villain increases the suspense and conflict.