What makes a good villain? Do most villains know they are villains? Based on the number of antagonists I have observed in everything I have read, the answer is no. Really, the only villains I have come across who knew they were on the wrong side can be found in 'The Mahabharata'. Drona and Bhishma were on the wrong side and not only did they know it, they accepted it. They didn't like it, but they accepted it. There's also the Joker from 'Batman', to a lesser extent. Maybe he knew he was in the wrong, but I doubt he ever cared about that, since he stood for gaining control through whatever means necessary. His favoured weapon was chaos, and he employed that weapon every chance he had. I know precious little about Joker in the 'Batman' canon for real, so if I'm 'wrong', please let me know. I'm dwelling upon villains lately thanks to a lovely little book by Charles G. Masinton. 'Christopher Marlowe's tragic vision: A study in damnation' looks at the likes of Tamburlaine and Doctor Faustus, seeing where they went wrong and why. Definitely makes me want to read 'Tamburlaine' and 'Doctor Faustus' now. I've read Goethe's 'Faust' but I suspect Marlowe's take on it is much darker.
Another excellent 'selling the soul to the Devil' story is 'The sorrows of Satan' by the magnificent Marie Correlli, but I have not read it lately, so I'll skip talking about it. One more digression before I move on. Robertson Davies (God rest his soul eternal!) wrote a great short story called 'When Satan goes home for Christmas'. Great ending to that story, by the way. Moving on now; I started reading 'Barchester Towers' by Anthony Trollope. I seem to recall that I wasn't very fond of the story the first time I read it. For some reason, this time I am enjoying it. Two of the villains are quarrelling at this point but the heroes aren't really happy either. Actually, I don't think there are any real heroes in this story thus far, although Trollope has labeled certain folks as heroes and others as villains. That's his right, I guess.
A week to go until Spring Break. Sigh......
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