God’s blessing to you on this the fifteenth day of January in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 2017.
John C. Wright posted recently about the villains in Ayn Rand’s novels, giving them more praise than I’ve generally seen, but for a somewhat plausible reason. And in fairness I’ve seen an interesting argument that Ayn Rand is a sci-fi author. Certainly her plot seems to involve technologies far beyond what we have at present. At the very least rearden metal is closer to Star Trek’s duranium than it is to anything we have at present.
Anyway, I do have to concur that my favorite villains are true villains, who have made bad decisions, and not merely misunderstood good guys. This takes skill to write, since reasonably successful people who have made bad decisions tend to generally make good decisions and to have their bad decisions somewhat constrained in scope. That is to say, realistic characters aren’t easy to write. Big surprise.
I think that the most successful of these was Shakespeare’s Iago, the main villain from Othello. Iago is a soldier under Othello’s command, and has taken a hatred to Othello for promoting someone else over him. So he is out to ruin the other fellow and Othello, and has chosen to do this by convincing Othello that his wife is cheating on him with the fellow he promoted. But the real cunning of the plan is that he gets Othello to force him to plant this idea in his head. Having given Othello the idea that he (Iago) has some suspicion, he then becomes coy and refuses to divulge it, and Othello is asking for it. Then Iago says:
Good my lord, pardon me,Though I am bound to every act of dutyI am not bound to that all slaves are free to.Utter my thoughts? Why, say they are vile and false,As where’s that palace whereinto foul thingsSometimes intrude not? Who has that breast so pureWherein uncleanly apprehensionsKeep leets and law-days and in sessions sitWith meditations lawful?
I do beseech you,Though I perchance am vicious in my guess,As, I confess, it is my nature’s plagueTo spy into abuses, and oft my jealousyShapes faults that are not, that your wisdom,From one that so imperfectly conceits,Would take no notice, nor build yourself a troubleOut of his scattering and unsure observance.It were not for your quiet nor your good,Nor for my manhood, honesty, and wisdomTo let you know my thoughts.
Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,Is the immediate jewel of their souls.Who steals my purse steals trash. ‘Tis something, nothing:‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands.But he that filches from me my good nameRobs me of that which not enriches himAnd makes me poor indeed.
Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy!It is the green-eyed monster which doth mockThe meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in blissWho, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger,But, oh, what damnèd minutes tells he o’erWho dotes, yet doubts— suspects, yet soundly loves!…Poor and content is rich, and rich enough,But riches fineless is as poor as winterTo him that ever fears he shall be poor.Good heaven, the souls of all my tribe defendFrom jealousy!