Villains are considered criminals that have no qualities to redeem them. In literature, villains are often overlooked, causing them to be one-dimensional, overshadowed by the hero. However, the villains in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and William Shakespeare’s Richard The Third have more than one side to their characters. Multifaceted villains, such as Victor Frankenstein and his monster and Richard, can be sympathetic characters and can have redeeming qualities. Literary elements can show the sympathetic nature of these characters, a nature that in other contexts could be misunderstood or completely overlooked.
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein is an extremely intelligent scientist who wants to gain a godlike quality; during his education, he became interested in the “secrets of life. ” Victor creates his monster, his attempt to play god. Horrified by his creation, Victor tried to avoid the monster. While Victor was avoiding his creation, the monster decided to discover the world. The monster tried to blend into society, but was shunned because of his grotesque appearance. This feeling of abandonment led the monster to seek revenge on his creator, murdering those who were close to Victor.
The monster is a sympathetic character, although a villain. He is sensitive and intelligent. For example, he spoke to Victor with such eloquence that he proved himself an intelligent and emotional being. The monster also tried to befriend the De Laceys who lived in the cottage next to where he was hiding out. He tried to show his gentle nature, but they drove him from the cottage because of his appearance (Shelley 117, 159-161). It is only because of his appearance that he was shunned, leaving the monster lonely and tormented.
Feeling this way, the monster decided to seek revenge on Victor, murdering those close to him. When Victor died, the monster was overcome with grief. The monster then decided to end his suffering and traveled to the northernmost ice to die. This shows that although Victor had no compassion for the monster, the monster still cared for Victor. This accentuates the monster’s kind and gentle character, causing the reader to sympathize with the monster throughout the story. Victor Frankenstein, on the other hand, could either be considered a villain or a victim.
He was tormented by his monster when the monster murdered people close to Victor, however, he created the monster originally and failed to stop it when it turned murderous. Victor added to the monster’s deviant behavior when Victor refused to show his creation any kindness or love. In light of these elements of the story, the reader could see the monster is a clearly villainous, and Victor only an enabler. However, Victor was the cause for his own heartache by creating the monster, and then not caring for him. This makes Victor the second villain in Frankenstein.
By general definition, a villain is a deliberate criminal. In terms of literature, a villain is the antagonist, one blamed for a particular difficulty or evil (“Villain”). However, the villain of a story does not always have to be fully evil, or even a deliberate criminal. For example, in Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein’s monster is not fully evil, and he did not choose to be created, or to be a murderer. All the monster wanted was to be a part of society. Like anyone, he was deeply hurt when he was shunned, and fought back.
However, the way that he fought back is what makes the monster the main villain in Frankenstein. The monster is more misunderstood than evil, whereas Victor can be considered more evil than misunderstood (Goudge 9). Victor created his monster out of passion, out of his own selfish desire to be godlike. The monster, however, was a victim of circumstance, created in a way in which perhaps it was inevitable that he would become murderous. If Victor would have had compassion for his creation and would have supported the monster and befriended him, perhaps the monster would not have murdered innocent people.
In William Shakespeare’s Richard The Third, Richard is more evil than the monster in Frankenstein, but Richard also has a somewhat sympathetic nature. Richard was accused of murdering an imprisoned Henry VI, poisoning his wife, and was the alleged guiding force behind the execution of his brother, the Duke of Clarence, and his two nephews. He stopped at nothing to become king, even murder, and eventually became King of England through his political genius, intelligence, manipulative nature, and large vocabulary. Richard is a complicated character, but is clearly the villain.
He is a charismatic and fascinating character to the point where the audience could sympathize with him. Richard’s monologues outline his evil plots, but also shows a sympathetic nature. Because of this, the monologues tend to manipulate the audience. For example, in act 1, scene 1, Richard states that his wickedness is because he is unloved, and he is unloved because he is physically deformed. This image sways the audience to sympathize with Richard by casting the other characters as villains and himself as the victim.
Richard is evil, manipulative, and corrupt, but there are still redeeming qualities about him, such as the fact that he knows he is evil (“Richard III Essay: Textual Analysis”). For example, toward the end of the play, Richard states, “Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself find in myself no pity to myself? ” (Shakespeare 5. 3. 203-204). Richard does not pity himself, and he did the best he could with what he was given at birth; it could not have been easy living with a deformity. In a certain sense, the audience can admire Richard for his bravery in trying to attain what he wanted.
Richard is also afflicted with terrible guilt for his crimes. By the end of the play, the audience realizes that Richard is only human, and is susceptible to remorse (Pearlman 28). Overall, Richard does set out determined to be a villain. He hides nothing from the audience and takes pleasure in evildoing and “even more in cloaking his evil purposes in the appearance of virtue. ” (Becker 122). The audience knows from the very beginning who the villain is, the rest of the play is only fleshing the plans of this villain out. Literature can show sides of characters that otherwise could not be seen.
Literary elements, such as point of view, can make even the most vile of characters sympathetic. For example, in Richard The Third, Richard’s monologues, which show his sympathetic nature, are the equivalent of his thoughts. Richard’s thoughts are a part of his character that other characters are not privy to. However, even Richard’s thoughts are manipulative, twisting the audience’s view of him in his favor. In this way, like the characters in the play, the audience is captured by Richard’s skillful wordplay and argumentative nature, despite knowing the fact that he is pure evil.
This makes it more difficult for the audience to watch Richard’s demise than for the other characters in the play. The audience is torn between what Richard says and the facts. Toward the middle of Frankenstein, the reader views the story from the point of view of the monster. He wanted to be accepted and live harmoniously with others. In a certain sense, the monster is the most human of all the characters. He stands in for man in confronting the human condition of suffering. The monster did not bring about his downfall because of this own mistakes. He was a victim of circumstance (“Character Roles”).
In the reality of the world in which the monster lived, his human condition was not evident. The monster did do good deeds for the townspeople, but no one saw that. Society only saw a hideous monster. Because of the monster’s point of view, the reader can appreciate the monster’s good deeds. The reader can see the softer side to the monster, therefore sympathizing with him. In Frankenstein, the villain is not so obvious. The monster is the obvious choice for a villain, however, Victor created him. It is a question of who is really guilty, the man who allowed innocent people to be murdered, or the creation that actually committed the crimes?
The monster was intelligent, but perhaps not intelligent enough to know that murdering innocent people is wrong. Victor never tried to keep the monster from society, but rather was only concerned for himself, leading to the deaths of innocent people. In Richard The Third, it is obvious that the villain is Richard. However, by the end of the play, Richard shows remorse for what he has done. He also does not pity himself, which is a redeemable quality, and accepts what he has done. Despite all of his faults and crimes, the audience can still feel sympathy for Richard because of his remorse.
Victor Frankenstein and his monster and Richard are sympathetic characters with redeemable qualities. Literary elements, such as point of view, allowed the reader to experience not only the villainous side of these characters, but also a soft and kind side. In Frankenstein, the monster was a misunderstood villain who only wanted to be accepted and Victor Frankenstein was a selfish villain who created a monster that he did not come to support and care for, resulting in several deaths. In Richard The Third, Richard was a genuinely evil villain, but redeemed himself at the end of the play by showing remorse.
The villains in these two stories were well thought out; the authors created multifaceted characters that have withstood the test of time and have caused many generations of readers to learn the facts about someone before judging them. – Becker, George J. Shakespeare’s Histories. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. , 1977. 122. – “Character Roles. ” Shmoop. 2009. 8 June 2009. http://www. shmoop. com/character-roles/literature/mary-shelley/frankenstein. html – Goudge, Eileen. “Creating Villains You Hate to Like. ” The Writer. 108. 10 (Oct. 1995): 9. – Pearlman, E. “The Invention of Richard of Gloucester.
” Shakespeare’s Histories. ed. Harold Bloom. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, 2000. 28. – “Richard III Essay: Textual Analysis. ” About Shakespeare. 2009. 8 June 2009. http://www. about-shakespeare. com/richard_essay. php – Shakespeare, William. Richard The Third. ed. Jack R. Crawford. The Yale Shakespeare. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1927. 1. 1, 5. 3. 203-204. – Shelly, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein. New York: Doubleday, 1818. 117, 159-161. – “Villain. ” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. 8 June 2009. http://www. merriam-webster. com/dictionary/villain
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