Magnificent Bastard / Theatre

"So will I turn her virtue into pitch.
And from her own goodness make the net.
That shall enmesh them all."
Iago, Othello

  • Iago from William Shakespeare's Othello. He's been described as a "motiveless malignity". Indeed, the reasons he gives for manipulating everybody just aren't big enough for justification - in the end, it probably has to do with the fact that he finds it fun to control everyone and have them believe his every lie. He is among the greatest Magnificent Bastards is Theatre/Literature history.
  • A more restrained Shakespearean example of a Magnificent Bastard (and, in fact, a real-life example) is Octavius Caesar in Antony and Cleopatra. He pulls a string of Xanatos Gambits, such as marrying his own sister to Antony to force him either to shame Caesar (and thus provide him with an excuse for war) or bend the knee, manipulates nearly everyone he meets (bar Cleopatra), defeats the more militarily adept Antony through a Batman Gambit, has truly grandiose plans, and, unlike most of the other examples here, ends up as the most powerful man in all the world and Emperor of the Roman Empire.
  • William Shakespeare's Magnificent Bastard par excellence is Richard III. Born with a slew of Red Right Hands and a truly twisted intellect, he takes to villainy, manipulation, and plans like a fish to water. He also possesses an unparalleled wit and charisma despite being deformed, managing to seduce the wife of a man he murdered over the man's corpse. He talks to the audience more than almost any other Shakespeare character, letting them in on his plans, and sharing his triumphs in wonderfully gloating asides. He's a vile and utterly self-centered man, but it's just about impossible not to admire how damn good he is at it. How much the real Richard III lived up to the "bastard" half of the equation is a matter of much controversy in historical circles.
  • The three witches in Macbeth persuade a great hero to murder his king and become a bloody tyrant, all without even explicitly encouraging murder until he is steeped in it already.
    • Lady Macbeth is practically the whole driving force of the first half of the story, being the one who sets up the whole plot to kill King Duncan but in Act II she suffers Villainous Breakdown and is revealed to be more of a Smug Snake.
  • Aaron The Moor from Titus Andronicus really needs a mention as well.
    • This play was basically Shakespeare's idea of putting an entire cast of magnificent bastards on one stage and watching them (literally) eat each other.
  • King Lear's Edmund. A bastard in every sense of the word, Edmund is an evil manipulator of the Iago variety, but he's also way cooler than his legitimate half brother Edgar, who, while not (particularly) stupid, is a total stiff. Edmund lies, forges, betrays, and seduces his way to the top, but part of you still can't help liking him. Especially since he actually says in a speech, "Stand up for bastards!" No apologies.
  • The Black Knight in Middleton's A GAME AT CHESS. When told "Your plot's discovered!" he smirks "Which of the twenty thousand and nine hundred/fourscore and five, canst tell?"
  • Harry Roat from Wait Until Dark, right from the very first scene when he traps Talman and Carlino into his plot.
  • Caldwell B. Cladwell, Corrupt Corporate Executive and Big Bad of Urinetown, most definitely qualifies. His bastardry is even more delicious when in the end it is revealed that as cruel as his methods were, they actually caused less harm to the people than when the heroes take over and make water consumption unlimited, resulting in an apocalyptic drought.
  • Roy Cohn, the Real Life Amoral Attorney and McCarthyist zealot portrayed in Angels in America.
  • Few can compare with the Phantom from Webber's musical adaption of The Phantom of the Opera. He is a decidedly dark "Angel of Music" affected with a hint or two of madness, a hearty dollop of romantic obsession and a flair for dramatic trickery and murder. He's also a suave, half-masked genius who excels at seduction, manipulation, (possibly real) magic and arrogant bravado. Oh, and he manages to achieve most of this with some of the most potent male theatrical scores ever written. "Sing for me," indeed.
  • Regina Giddens in The Little Foxes.
  • Petruchio from The Taming of the Shrew fits the bill. He manages to not only tame Katarina, but get two dowries. He tames Kate and successfully manipulates Baptista, Hortensio and Luciento, and a tailor.
  • Abigail Williams from The Crucible is the teenage sociopath who started the Salem Witch Trials by getting her friends to pretend that they were being affected by witchcraft as a cover up for why they were practicing a voodoo ritual on an old slave of Abigail's family. With charisma and influence (and a touch of intimidation), she has the girls accuse many innocent people of being witches or servants of The Devil. She capitalizes off of both the town's distrust and paranoia of one another and their religious beliefs in order to gain attention and adoration (and amusement) from others, something she felt she was lacking, especially as a female in that time period. Thanks to her lies and deception, many innocent people are hanged or shamed for life, and the entire religious community of Salem is turned over on it's head due to mass paranoia and hysteria, all while she just stands back and watches, laughing her butt off over what she's created. Abigail manages to use her charisma, her intelligence, her sexual attractiveness and even her sense of humour to manipulate everyone around her, even managing a Karma Houdini by fleeing Salem with a handful of stolen money after essentially achieving mass murder. Dayum, girl!
  • Henrik Ibsen: Engstrand the carpenter from Ghosts. He is The Man Behind the Man, and the driving force behind the reverend Manders. He is instrumental in making Manders believe he himself was the one who set fire to the planned orphanage, and manipulates the reverend to put all the money from the Alving estate into a brothel he himself has planned, all without making the reverend suspicious. He only fails in securing his adopted daughter Regine for a "job" in his establishment.
    • Also Daniel Heire from The League of Youth. He twirls the young hero of the play around his finger like nothing, makes him believe whatever he wants him to believe, and comes out of the play scot-free, while the main character Stensgaard is put to shame.
  • J. Pierrepont Finch from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He is a window-washer who gets a mailroom job at a company by pretending he knows the CEO, gets promoted to head of the mailroom that same day by shmoozing the former head, turns down that promotion knowing that he would be stuck there for years and screws over another employee, gets a job as a junior executive by being so "humble", tricks the CEO into thinking he had been working all night long on a Saturday and that he is an alumnus of the CEO's college, gets his own office and secretary as a result of this, tricks that secretary into seducing his boss whose job he steals, gets appointed Vice President in charge of Advertising by outing the actual VP candidate as a student of the rival of the CEO's alma mater, steals an idea from a fellow employee about a treasure hunt and pitches it, and finally, when the treasure hunt idea fails and he is facing being fired for the disaster it caused, he forces everyone else at the company to help him by suggesting to the Chairman of the Board to fire them all, but reminding them that they are all in a "Brotherhood of Man", and then when The Chairman retires he names Finch his replacement. Magnificent indeed.
  • Eva in Evita is truly this trope. She schemes her way up from the slums, kicks out Juan's mistress without even blinking, brilliantly masks her wickedness by helping the people, and runs the country through her husband. Juan may be El Presidente, but Eva's the real dictator here. She even seizes control of the government! And as for magnificence? Her wardrobe is truly fabulous, her death can only be described as tragic, despite her villainy, ("I saw the lights, and I was on my way."), she always steals the spotlight, and is BELOVED by her people.
  • Steven Kodaly in She Loves Me is a very fun example of this trope. He is a "rat" who dates multiple women at the same time, manages to seduce a woman over the course of a musical number, and is a successful clerk at a ladies perfumery shop, all while hiding an affair with the bosses wife. When he is discovered and fired, he is unfazed, and simply departs with a flourish and a musical number, claiming that soon all of the other clerks will be out of jobs and forced to come work at the shop he is planning on owning. His number "Grand Knowing You" is just about the smarmiest, hammiest, and most magnificent farewell possible for a stage character.