Although the main character of an epic, play, fiction, or short story is a protagonist, he cannot become a protagonist without an antagonist. There could be just one antagonist or several ones. Odyssey by Homer has several antagonists that shatter different dreams of Odysseus, including that of the suitors when Odysseus reaches home. Similarly, Hamlet would have failed without Claudius, and Caesar would have never uttered the universal line of Et Tu, Brute? Interestingly, there are several types of antagonist archetypes presented in epics, plays, movies, and fiction. The top ten types are as follows.
The first types of villain or antagonist archetype are bullies. They have appeared in various ancient epics as well as fictional works. These villains or bullies are morally not equal to tragic heroes. Therefore, they fail to win the appreciation of the readers. However, sometimes, they act in a way that they become somewhat likable and not bad at all. Yet, they are bullies and stay bullies until the end of the works. Some of the best examples of bully archetypes are as follows.
- Melanthius in Odyssey by Homer
- Malvolio in Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
- Napolean in Animal Farm by George Orwell
- Estella Havisham in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
- Iago in Othello by William Shakespeare
In the western democratic system, a ruler having no public endorsement is a despot, tyrant, or dictator. Several such characters appear in fiction and ancient literary pieces, demonstrating their despotic rule, violating all moral, ethical and social norms to take up the throne. Heroes often come into conflict with such persons to set things right. Although despots hold power until the hero becomes the victor, they accentuate the sense of the hero’s ethical superiority during the conflict. Some good examples of despots are as follows.
- Claudius in Hamlet by William Shakespeare
- Satan in Paradise Lost by John Milton
- Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Authority Figure Archetype
Although such figures do not seem antagonists yet they become ones when they come into conflict with hero archetypes. Such figures do not hinder the heroes or their progress in the real sense. They only desire hero archetypes to abide by the rules or laws of the land. Yet they seem villains in that they hinder the hero or raise obstacles in his/her smooth sailing. In literature, some of these figures are as follows.
- Javert in Less Miserables by Victor Hugo
- Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
- The King in The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Although there rarely appear any machines in classic or Grecian literature, modern literature, specifically futuristic novels, is full of machines that hinder the progress of humanity at large or become unruly and stop heroes from performing their duties. Such machines become villains due to their destructive activities after taking the life of their own. Such antagonists often become uncontrollable. Some of its examples are as follows.
- Monster in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
- Morlocks in The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
- The Fighting Machine in The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
This one is a classic type of villain who obstructs the path of the hero or creates issues for the people where the hero is to make his name as the best human being. Such villains are often some strange animals that could exist in reality or even in imagination. Some of these cause the death of heroes or even cripple heroes. Some of the best examples of such villains are as follows.
- The sharks in The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
- The Whale in moby dick by Herman Melville
- Grendel and the dragon in Beowulf by Anonymous
- The Giant Wolf chief in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The masterminds are the most interesting type of villains who weave or raise obstacles for the heroes through manipulations and machinations. They make different plans to hinder the progress of the heroes. Heroes often do not understand how such characters play with morals and ethics to trap and cause them harm. These types of villains have several subordinates, minions, and henchmen to help them.
- Napoleon in Animal Farm by George Orwell
- Professor Moriarty in The Final Problem by Arthur Conan Doyle
- Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
- Fantômas by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre
Example # 7
These types of villains often have the same features as the heroes or protagonists. They share the same moral qualities, the same character traits, and sometimes the same methods to achieve their goal. However, the interesting thing about such villains or antagonists is they follow a different ethical framework. In such a situation, this becomes a mirror case, and a conflict arises out of this situation and takes the hero head-on. Such types of villains are as follows.
- Artemis Entreri in The Forgotten Realms by Ed Greenwood
- Qurrah Tun in Half-Orcs by David Dalglish
- Dan Vader in Star Wars by George Lucas
Family Oppressor Archetype
Family oppressors are villains who keep the family united come what may. They could be fathers or the elder siblings who do not want to keep the children out of the family estate or do not let any rebel child cross boundaries. However, such villains are often found in stories written for teenagers. Some of the best examples of the family oppressor are as follows.
- Claudius in Hamlet by William Shakespeare (with some similarities)
- The Other Mother in Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Evil Incarnate Archetype
Although several human beings, monsters, and machines type of villains are archetypes, they are mostly evil incarnate or act on the other side of the ethical framework. Such characters are presented as evil incarnate with whom the heroes have an eternal conflict. Such characters exist in almost all the moral stories such as given in the following examples.
- Alec d’Urberville in Tess of d’Urberville by Thomas Hardy
- Claudius in Hamlet by William Shakespeare
- Sauron in The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Although such villains are just new in the categories of such archetypes, they invite readers and the audience’s finer feelings such as love, sympathy, and empathy. Their bad actions often have good justifications. They could be more villainous or even least villainous. Such villains are resilient and flexible. They seem anti-heroes, but they are not and fall in proximity to them. Some of the examples of such anti-villain archetypes are as follows.
- Thanos in Avengers by Marvel Comics
- Darco Malfoy in Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling