I am currently still on my Snape binge courtesy of my ongoing home-bound Harry Potter film fest. I've been watching all five movies on DVD for the last week. (Today's TV sucks anyway.) My favorite character, of course, is the inimitable Severus Snape, Harry's nemesis and the series' anti-hero according to J.K. Rowling. And as I watch the movies I can't help but think about how to define Snape's character.
First, kudos to actor Alan Rickman for his portrayal. From his delicious voice, to his restless, articulate hands, to his stinging sarcasm and his confounding charisma, Rickman's Snape is simply riveting. In my wildest dreams he'd have his own movie. But the closest we're going to get to that is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince which comes out next July.
Second, kudos to the hair and costume department. They have transformed fair-haired, hazel (I think his eyes are hazel; I know they're light-colored) eyed Alan Rickman into the black-haired, black-eyed potions master whose costume echoes the ethos of several ages. The button-down cuffs of the trousers he wears in the first movie evoke the Victorian age of Dickens. The high-collar, gathered sleeves and rows of buttons adorning the front and sleeves of his tunic seem to recall the Puritan dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell. Both the Victorians and the Puritans were known for their public piety while underneath engaging in all sorts of sensual sins and debaucheries. How could Severus, the closet Death Eater/double agent and rejected suitor of Lily Evans, be any different?
I guess that's why I love him so.
Possible Fictional and Historical Inspirations for Snape:
1. Oliver Cromwell, the brutal Puritan military dictator who deposed and beheaded King Charles I and established the English Commonwealth in the 17th century. Snape killed Dumbledore. 'Nuff said. (And if you didn't know that you didn't read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; so what the heck are you waiting for?!)
2. Roger Chillingworth, husband to adulteress Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne's masterpiece novel, The Scarlet Letter, set in Colonial America. Chillingworth made it his business to hunt down his wife's lover, Arthur Dimmesdale, the clergyman who fathered Hester's child. James Potter never had to worry about Snape pulling a Dimmesdale, but damn it, he should have been. After all, who's to say Lily didn't have few tricks up her sleeve? That's what the Severitus fan fic writers assume anyway. Thank God! 'Cause really James Potter was a prat. Harry's daddy should have been Snape.
3. Richard III, reviled English king who deposed his nephew Edward V and reigned from 1483 to 1485 before being killed by Henry VII's army at the end of the Wars of the Roses. Richard has come down through history as the supposed murder of his nephew Edward and Edward's younger brother Richard, Duke of York. However, scholars are now divided on whether he was actually guilty of that sin. Say what you want, but Snape never bumped off anyone's kids...that we know of. He did however, take over the throne, so to speak from Dumbledore. The man's got style!
Honorable Mentions:1. Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. 'Cause, as the members of Monty Python's Flying Circus would say, "you never expect the Spanish Inquisition!" And you know Snape would have all those little Hogwarts brats -- especially Harry and his fellow Gryffindors -- on the rack, confessing their sins at every opportunity. As Filch would say "God! I miss the screaming."
2. Any of the prosecutors from Arthur Miller's McCarthy-era play, The Crucible, about Puritans rooting out witches in Colonial Salem, Massachusetts. Cause the next step after the rack? Burning at the snake, er, I mean stake.
3. Joan Crawford, male version with nobler purposes and a snarkier vocabulary (she had the better shoulder pads though).
4. Any Renaissance-period alchemist (although one wonders if he could have given Faust a run for his money).
(Note: The photo is not my creation; I found it on the web.)
Copyright 2008 by T. L. Heard