Monday, April 23, 2012

Designing the Villain Part 4: The Tragic Villain

Back again gang!

Just finished reading and editing the Grimm Challenge play of P.O. Anna and I have to say that when she is ready to release it, you all will not be disappointed! Nor will you be disappointed with P.O. Steven's play. It seems like a year since the Grimm Challenge plays were finished for final drafts. In due to time, the Play Orphans will decide who won the challenge and then we'll have news about a new challenge. But shhh...later! Later!

For now, we are reaching the conclusion of our investigation into the mind of villains in plays. One of the last two villains we will look at is what I like to call: The Tragic Villain.

Patrick Stewart as Macbeth

When we think of villains, we think that their lack of humanity is what makes them tragic, but I respectfully disagree! I believe that a villain who is truly tragic is defined by certain characteristics. Let us take a gander at Macbeth. This character and I shared a brief encounter in my final days at Anderson University. I learned a lot about what makes a tragic villain when I was met with the challenge set by my director to do one thing in particular: make us feel sorry for this seemingly mass murderer. On the surface, yes, there is nothing redeemable about Macbeth. He is overly ambitious, narcissistic, follower of the occult, and a terrible warlord. However, when one simply reads the text you know this is completely false. At least at first.

Macbeth begins his story by being a great ally to the king. In fact, Macbeth comes across as being intent with being a lord and serving his king. It isn't until he encounters the witches that we are introduced to the small dark side that has always laid dormant within him. I have no doubt that Macbeth had the ability to become evil at any moment, but we as humans always strive to be good. We turn to evil because a lot of times, being evil is just easier. Macbeth could easily admit what he did to everyone and end the suffering for all involved (including himself). But the witches inform him that it is his right to become king simply because they have foreseen it. That is where the tragedy comes in. Macbeth's madness comes from his desire to do good, but feeling as if he is trapped on a course that he cannot escape. He mentions at one point "I am in bloodStepped in so far that, should I wade no more,. Returning were as tedious as go o'er." He informs the audience that he cannot turn back because he has gone too far, but we know that is not the truth. No one is beyond redemption, especially the Tragic Villain, though he/she may think so. 

So what are some key characteristics of making this antagonist? The Tragic Villain was a hero at one point or at least a good person. But they can't just be Joe Schmo across the street. The Tragic Villain has to be someone of mild repute or importance. The protagonist and the rest of the cast should be confused and almost hesitant to stop this person because they may have had a pleasant encounter with him/her. The Tragic Villain must, as I stated earlier, feel as if they have no way out of their life of sin. It is almost as if evil has enslaved them and try is they might, they must give into their evil and baser desires no matter what. One key point to remember about the Tragic Villain is that they ultimately are destroyed (most of the time by death) after finally realizing that their fate did not have to come to this, but now it is too late. The protagonist has their number and is calling them out. Tragic Villains are typically as important as the protagonist and, in the case of Macbeth or even Joe Keller from All My Sons, they are the center or crucial part of the story.

Personally, I think it is very cool for both an actor to portray their villain as being a tragic one and for a playwright to write a tragic villain. They are so much more interesting to watch on stage and can really make an audience think and question what they define as truly evil. I may be a little bias, but the Tragic Villain is truly one of my personal favorites. However, and this is probably my all time favorite villain, there is one who not only the greatest villain of all... but the scariest.

"Some men...just want to watch the world burn."

Please join us soon and spread the word as we investigate what I call: The Dark Villain.

P.O. Marc