"The protagonist [...] is the main character in a work[...].  The events of the work center on him or her" (Hamilton 129).

It is common misconception that the hero of the story has to be the protagonist.  Sometimes, the evil character can be the protagonist.  In fact, some of the greatest movies and plays have protagonists that are downright malicious.  Darth Vader is the first name that springs to my mind when I think of bad protagonist.  While he was the antagonist in parts four through six, he commanded most the action (and wooden dialogue) of the prequel.  In a way, his master, Obi-Wan, was the antagonist.  Obi-Wan always impeded Vader progress towards attaining his goals.  Another example is Macbeth.  In the play, Macbeth drives the action of the play by slowly killing off his conteders to the throne.  Can you think of any other examples of evil protagonists?

P.S.  Why is Othello referenced so much in the  Foster and Hamilton books?

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Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevski and Native Son by Richard Wright are just two examples of this. Raskolnikov murders someone and so does Bigger Thomas yet they are the protagonist.

Ethan, I think Othello is referenced so much because it is a good example of a lot literary elements. Also, it is a relatively familiar Shakespeare play that many students have read. Hamilton is trying to give us examples through a literary work we may be familiar with.
But good work pointing out that the protagonist does not need to be the good guy. When I was reading Hamilton, this revelation kind of surprised me. I did realize that it was true, but I had never really thought of it as the bad guy being the main character. There are a lot of examples where that is the case. So thanks for giving me some more examples, yours of Darth Vader is a good one! Although I’m not sure I would classify Darth Vader as bad, I see him more as misled.

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This page contains a single entry by EthanShepley published on March 12, 2008 7:31 PM.

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