Villain (literature)

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In literature , film and other forms of storytelling , the villain or villain is a form of antagonist (opponent, adversary) of the hero (s) . In contrast to the antagonist, who as a dialectical contrast of the protagonist does not have to be a negative figure, the villain is a clearly negative figure and often the expression of a stereotype .

According to this definition, pure personifications of evil, as they appear in medieval theater as the incarnate devil or antichrist or as Vice , the embodied vice in English theater of the 16th century, are not literary villains in the true sense of the word. The main character of the picaresque novel , popular from the 16th century onwards, is not a villain either, even if his actions are often morally questionable or criminal, rather in today's terminology they are antiheroes , i.e. imperfect and completely ordinary people marked with weaknesses and burdens, in contrast to the flawless heroes of the simultaneous knight and court romance.

Numerous examples of villains in almost exemplary form can then be found from the end of the 18th century in horror novels or gothic novels , whose standard inventory includes the villain, who is responsible for threatening the female heroine in the form of persecuted innocence ( Damsel in Distress ) to plunge into misfortune or to kidnap, which in turn obliges the hero to save innocence from the clutches of the villain, well-known examples are the monk Ambrosio in Matthew Gregory Lewis ' The Monk or Conte Fosco in Wilkie Collins ' The Woman in White .

Well-known stereotypical forms of villain are:


  • Hans Angehrn: The villain in Lessing's theory and poetic practice: A contribution to the history of German drama in the 18th century. P. G. Keller, 1968.
  • Tami D. Cowden: Fallen Heroes: Sixteen Master Villain Archetypes. Fey Cow Productions, Las Vegas 2011, ISBN 978-0-615-47111-2 .
  • Nadia Hamdi Bek: On the morphology and reception aesthetics of anthropomorphic evil in the feature film: The eight facets of evil. Springer, Wiesbaden 2019, ISBN 978-3-658-24979-3 (also dissertation Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn , 2018).
  • Martin Thomas Pesl: The book of villains: The 100 most brilliant villains in world literature. Edition Atelier, Vienna 2016, ISBN 978-3-903005-93-8 .
  • Gero von Wilpert : Subject dictionary of literature. Kröner, 2013, ISBN 978-3-520-84601-3 , p. 296, sv opponents .