Greatest Literary Villains

September 13, 2018

We love them or hate them, but we need to admit that villains provide some of the most memorable characters, they’re often the best part of our literature. We wouldn't have great books without them.

In no particular order, here are the characters that we love to hate. 

“My revenge is just begun! I spread it over centuries, and time is on my side”

― Bram Stoker

1 The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne | Fiction Classics

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In early colonial Massachusetts, a young woman experiences the results of adultery and must spend the remainder of her life atoning for her sins.

2 Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost

John Milton | Poetry Classics

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Adam and Eve's innocence in paradise, their fall from grace, and the origin of Satan are explored in this groundbreaking book of poetry.

3 The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson | Children's Classics

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In short format, this classic story that was born from a nightmare and produced in "white-hot haste", is arguably Stevenson's most famous work, that has had a cultural impact out of all proportions, in contrast to its length.

4 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

L. Frank Baum | Children's Classics

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The story of Dorothy and her dog, Toto, who are swept off the Kansas plains by a huge cyclone, and find themselves in the land of Oz. With color illustrations by Michael Foreman.

5 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | Mystery Classics

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Twelve fascinating stories recount the investigations of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as they try to solve crimes in Victorian London.

6 David Copperfield

David Copperfield

Charles Dickens | Fiction Classics

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This book unearths the life of David Copperfield from his childhood into adulthood.

7 Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte | Romance Classics

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A poor, abused orphan named Jane uses her cleverness and perseverance to win the love of the man she loves.

8 Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair

William Makepeace Thackeray | Fiction Classics

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During the time of Waterloo, Amelia Sedley begins a courtship and Becky Sharp utilizes her cleverness to avoid becoming a governess.

9 The Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy

Dante Alighieri | Poetry Classics

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A pilgrim named Dante receives help of the Roman poet, Virgil, on a journey through Purgatory, on their way to Heaven.

10 Dracula

Dracula

Bram Stoker | Horror Classics

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Count Dracula is a vampire who terrifies the countryside in his quest for human blood, but the residents soon learn his real identity and vow to destroy him.

11 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Mark Twain | Children's Classics

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Set on a 19th century Mississippi town, Tom Sawyer is a mischievous boy who skips school, witnesses to a crime, hunts for pirate treasure, and gets lost in a cave.

12 Macbeth

Macbeth

William Shakespeare | Fiction Classics

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Macbeth is among the best-known of William Shakespeare's plays, and is his shortest tragedy, believed to have been written between 1603 and 1606. It is frequently performed at both amateur and professional levels, and has been adapted for opera, film, books, stage and screen. Often regarded as archetypal, the play tells of the dangers of the lust for power and the betrayal of friends. For the plot Shakespeare drew loosely on the historical account of King Macbeth of Scotland by Raphael Holinshed and that by the Scottish philosopher Hector Boece. There are many superstitions centred on the belief the play is somehow "cursed", and many actors will not mention the name of the play aloud, referring to it instead as "The Scottish play".

13 Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad | Fiction Classics

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Captain Charles Marlow describes his experience transporting ivory along the Congo River in Africa where he encounters many instances of ruin and destruction.

14 Moby Dick

Moby Dick

Herman Melville | Fiction Classics

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Captain Ahab's is fueled by his desire to kill the great white whale that tore off his leg leads, but his attempts lead to disaster.

15 Scaramouche, a Romance of the French Revolution

Scaramouche, a Romance of the French Revolution

Rafael Sabatini | Romance Classics

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Through a procession of vocations, the hero constantly opposes a villainous nobleman, the Marquis de la Tour d'Azyr. First as a lawyer, then as an actor, a swordsman, and finally a revolutionary politician, the hero finds himself confronted by d'Azyr, and finally faces an astounding revelation that changes his life.

16 Treasure Island

Treasure Island

Robert Louis Stevenson | Children's Classics

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Jim Hawkins searches for the buried treasure of the notorious pirate, Captain Flint.

17 Othello

Othello

William Shakespeare | Drama Classics

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Classic theater by the master

18 Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe | Fiction Classics

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In order to pay off his debts, farmer Arthur Shelby, so he makes the tough decision to sell two of his slaves.

19 Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist

Charles Dickens | Fiction Classics

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Oliver escapes from a miserable workhouse where he's spent his childhood, travels to London, and befriends Artful Dodger, Fagin, and their group of thieves.

20 Les Miserables

Les Miserables

Victor Hugo | Fiction Classics

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Ex-convict Jean-Valjean struggles to find redemption after his release for a 19 year prison sentence for stealing food for his starving family.

21 The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling | Children's Classics

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After getting lost in the jungle, Mowgli is adopted into a family of wolves where he learns Jungle Law, the importance of loyalty, and survival skills.

22 Beowulf

Beowulf

Heyn-Socin | Humanities and Arts

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The classic Anglo- Saxon epic poem

23 Hamlet

Hamlet

William Shakespeare | Drama Classics

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After Hamlet's father is killed by his brother, Claudius, Hamlet struggles with his vow to seek revenge by murdering Claudius.

24 The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Victor Hugo | Fiction Classics

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The story of Quasimodo, the hunchback bellringer of Notre-Dame cathedral and his devotion to the beautiful gypsy dancer Esmeralda. When the demented archdeacon Frollo sets out to abduct Esmeralda, he uses Quasimodo to do the evil deed on his behalf. However, Quasimodo turns from captor to saviour.