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Driven by Envy
Who's the greenest one of all?

"In the untalented, excellence generates a sense of wonder and amazement. In the merely talented, on the other hand, genius creates burning hatred and jealousy."
Harlan Ellison, from his introduction to The Sandman: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman

Sometimes, the hero's many strengths and talents will inspire due awe and respect... and envy. No matter how amazing and lovable the protagonist is, these traits will invariably manage to rub someone the wrong way, sometimes prompting people into doing horrible things just to get the hero out of their sight.

A sub-trope of Green-Eyed Monster, Driven By Envy is a trope that deals specifically with a character acting on his envy. It is related to Always Second Best. Expect the character to think the one he envies is as preoccupied with him as the other way around, and even that he deliberately excells in order to rub the envious character's nose into it.

For those instances where love, rather than envy, is the impetus for the misdeeds, see If I Can't Have You and Murder the Hypotenuse.

Compare The Resenter. Super Trope of Fairest of Them All.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Vegeta of Dragon Ball Z has this as his sole reason for, in order, working with Goku & his allies on Namek, staying on Earth, achieving his own SSJ transformation, & training further. Up to the Buu Saga, his Always Second Best status was taken for granted, but in his Majin state, he finally let it out & accepted that Goku's purity led to his strength always eclipsing his own.
  • Mello of Death Note wants to defeat Kira simply to satisfy his own inferiority complex. While he hates Near for surpassing him, Near hardly tales notice of this.
  • Envy from Fullmetal Alchemist. In the 2003 anime it's envy towards the Elric brothers, because they received the love of their shared father Hohenheim while Envy was abandoned and thought of as a monster. In the manga and Brotherhood, it's envy towards the entirety of humanity because they're able to feel things he, as an Artificial Human, cannot.
  • Jagi in Fist of the North Star.
    • Yuda is an even better example, as is Shin.
  • Danglars in Gankutsuou.
  • Dr. Mikamura in G Gundam
  • In The Twelve Kingdoms, Princess Shoukei from Hou had a playmate who was very pretty and graceful. Shoukei's mom, Queen Kakai, was so upset by the girl being "better" than her little girl... that she falsely accused her mother (one of her own handmaidens) of accepting bribes, which led to both mother and daughter being executed. After King Chuutatsu is overthrown and killed, the Rebel Leader Gekkei captures Kakai and Shoukei, and harshly calls the queen out for killing the two maids before he beheaded her as punishment.
  • This trope pretty much drives the story of Ga-Rei and its prequel Ga-Rei Zero-. In the prequel at least, Mei's Face-Heel Turn is fueled by her envy toward Yomi and then Yomi's Face-Heel Turn is caused by her envy toward Kagura. It didn't end well for everyone involved.
  • Black★Rock Shooter: Yomi (no relation to the above) turns into Dead Master out of envy toward Yuu, who (from her POV) is taking Mato from her.
  • Hell Girl has a lot but the most notable is probably the theatre episode.
  • Aki Honda from Narutaru is really envious of Hiroko's grades. The end results are not pretty for either of them.
  • Gundam SEED's Muruta Azrael is a genocidal madman who's out to exterminate every Coordinator. He claims it's because they are a threat to humanity, but his flashbacks and some of the things that he says suggest that what he's really angry about is that they dare to be better than him.
  • In Detective Conan, this is why Motoyasu Tsukumo killed Yashiro Kinoshita: he was jealous and fearful of Yashiro's raw talent as a magician, so he tampered with the supplies of Yashiro's water escape trick and as a result, he drowned while practicing the trick. Too bad Yashiro's little sister Mako saw the whole thing and she later becomes his apprentice so she can wait on getting her chance to kill him as part of her revenge.
  • In InuYasha, the miko Tsubaki becomes overwhelmed with jealousy that Kikyou was chosen to entrusted the Shikon Jewel and not her. Her envy would lead her to become a black miko.
  • A combination of jealousy, arrogance, and stubbornness prove to be the driving motivation of Naruto Big Bad Madara Uchiha. While he and future 1st Hokage Hashirama Senju considered each other a Worthy Opponent while their families were at war, Madara went mad with envy when he ended up Always Second Best to Hashirama in the final days of the war and the early days of the Hidden Leaf Village their families founded together. Many of Madara's future actions can be chalked up directly to spite against his arch-rival's descendents; even nearly a century after the final battle between the two of them, Madara's still not over the fact that people chose to follow Hashirama's vision of the future instead of his own.
  • Cavendish from One Piece is this, being resentful of Luffy and the other Supernovae for overshadowing his fame. He tells this to “Lucy” without realising who is really under the fake beard, and, predictably, Luffy is revealed in front of Cavendish, who then tries to murder him.

    Comic Books 
  • Flintheart Glomgold from the Disney Ducks Comic Universe is made of this trope; his entire motivation is that he's the Second Richest Duck in the World.
  • Superman's 1990s enemy Conduit.
    • This is also a facet of both the Master Jailer's hatred of Superman and that of Lex Luthor himself. In Lex's case, he hates Superman because he's the only person alive who is simply better than him, and he knows if Superman wasn't around he would be humanity's greatest hero instead. In Blackest Night, Wonder Woman used her lasso to make Lex admit that he wanted to be Superman.
  • Ocean Master/Orm was indeed this trope in the Silver Age comics, where he grew up as Aquaman's non-superpowered half-brother and tried competing at things like swimming but he's had a different backstory since the first big Crisis Crossover ReBoot.
  • Captain America villain Flag-Smasher didn't start out this way, but from his second appearance onwards admitted to hating Cap for simply being so much better physically and morally.
  • The primary and secret reason for newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson's hatred of Spider-Man and why he uses the Daily Bugle to public denounce him. It is revealed in Amazing Spider-Man #10 that Jameson is envious of Spidey's altruistic heroism. Jameson admits to himself he needs to tear down Spider-Man because he can't be as good a man as him.
  • Although he'll never admit it, the reason Doctor Doom hates Reed Richards as passionately as he does is because he can't stand the fact that Reed is smarter, better, and more admired than him, and always manages to foil his schemes through superior intelligence.
  • One of the reasons Loki's relationship with his brother Thor was so conflicted was because Loki envied Thor for being Odin's favored son. Of course, Loki's constant scheming against Thor (though Thor was far from being Loki's only target) in his efforts to one-up him gave Odin and the rest of Asgard more and more reasons to hate Loki, to the point that now every Asgardian except Thor and (maybe) the Warriors Three wants to kill Loki even after he was reincarnated as a relatively innocent and powerless child with no memories of his past self.
  • The Amazon Alcyone frequently tried to kill Wonder Woman, claiming that she was an abomination who would bring doom to Themyscira. After one defeat, Diana forced her to reveal the real reason: Alcyone envied Hippolyta because Hippolyta got to have a child while Alcyone couldn't. Deep down, she wished Diana was her daughter.
  • Peloto from Zipi y Zape.

     Fairy Tales  

    Fan Fic 
  • The Takotsuboya K-ON Trilogy is often compared to Amadeus, with Yui taking on the Mozart role and Mio becoming the Salieri. This being the kind of story it is, things end well for neither of them.

    Film 

    Literature 
  • Joseph's brothers, also in Genesis.
  • Satan from Paradise Lost. Who, as an Angel, envies God and leads a rebellion against him/her/it on the grounds that he/she would make a better lord of all creation... never mind the fact that the God of Paradise Lost is all-powerful, all-knowing, and thinks Satan unfit for the position by virtue of his/her 'not' being all-powerful or all-knowing, or particularly nice or virtuous either when it comes down to it.
  • Danglars from The Count of Monte Cristo, who goes as far as to frame Edmond for treason.
    • From the same author, Isaac Boxtel of The Black Tulip, who, jealous of the hero's talent at horticulture and success at creating a black tulip, frames him and tries to steal the tulip's discovery for himself.
  • Snape from Harry Potter big time. A good deal of his hate with Harry's dad James was a result of James being popular and talented and with a loving family.
  • In the Myth Adventures book, Little Myth Marker, small-time magicians jealous of Skeeve's success hire a "character assassin" to sabotage his career and destroy his reputation.
  • Zhou Yu, of Three Kingdoms quasi-fame manages to envy himself to death when confronted again and again (and, crushingly, again) with Zhuge Liang's downright unfair genius.
  • The entire deal behind the Judgement of Paris.
  • In The Wheel of Time, at least three of the Forsaken - Sammael, Be'lal and most especially Demandred - have hatred and envy of Lews Therin Telamon as their primary motivation for turning to the Shadow. Demandred in particular is noted for being basically Lews Therin Lite in almost every way, and when their rivalry drove him to the Shadow, it's noted that no one hates Lews Therin more than he was. Maybe no one hates anything more than Demandred hates Lews Therin. Considering just how hateful the Forsaken in general are... that's a hell of a lot of hate.
  • In Zora Neale Hurston's Moses, Man of the Mountain, Moses's uncle Ta-Phar plots against him because Moses upstaged him with his tactical genius.
  • In The Silmarillion, Morgoth's main motivation for trying to destroy reality is that he is envious of Eru's ability to create. This later morphs into envy for all his creations: the Valar, Elves, Men and Middle-Earth itself.
  • This is part of what drives Lorgar and the Word Bearers to side with Horus in the Horus Heresy. Lorgar was envious of the fact that Ultramarines Primarch Robuote Guilliman was so great in the Emperor's favor, while Lorgar's devotion was, at best, unnoticed and at worst unwelcome.

     Live Action TV  
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • An entire episode is devoted to the plots of another witch Amy the former rat setting up traps for Willow out of sheer jealousy for Willow's talent at magic. Villain even rants about how she had to work and work and work to be half as powerful as Willow was without even trying. She also cites that Willow was Easily Forgiven for nearly killing all her friends and almost destroying the world, but she was never even given a second chance.
    • Genevieve can't believe Buffy, a colonial commoner, is the leader of the Slayers and wants to kill her to take over.
  • Frasier: Frequently happens to one or both brothers, often with disastrous results. In "Door Jam," for example, they con their way into an exclusive day spa and enjoy the pampering, until they spot a door that leads to the facility for upper-tier members. They weasel their way in here and find it truly luxurious, until they see another door within easy reach. Thinking that it will take them to an area for the absolute top members, they charge through - and end up locked out of the spa in an alley strewn with garbage.
  • On Merlin, this seems to be Morgana's main motivating factor in her vendetta against Guinevere, considering Gwen has more or less taken what Morgana considers to be her rightful place in Camelot and is destined to be its Queen.
  • Once Upon a Time Zelena's (the Wicked Witch of the West) entire motivation is that she's jealous of the life Regina had...and jealous anytime someone else looks like they might steal her perceived spotlight. She was so jealous, it actually turned her green. Regina's (true) statements that her life isn't something to desire (especially being raised by her mother) only enrages Zelena further.

    Pinball 
  • In the backstory of Mad Daedalus, the Greek inventor Daedalus is driven to murder after he is jealous of the accolades his nephew received.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • In Promethean: The Created, this is how disquiet manifersts for the Galatea. Being around them causes people to feel intense envy. At first a thought that they can't quite get out of their heads but gradually becomes an obsession as the guilt of feeling attracted to this person leads them to commit evil acts that eventually turn towards attacking the Galatean.

    Theater 
  • Salieri again. This time in the play that inspired the better known movie Amadeus.
  • Iago from Othello - subverted, as his priority is not Cassio, but Othello (although he might envy the latter's relationship with Desdemona).
    • Alternate Character Interpretations by Shakespeare scholars also suggest the possibility that Iago was in love with Othello himself, so the entire play was really a ploy to remove those people closest to Othello so Iago could either have him all to himself, or so he could make Othello suffer for marrying Desdemona and promoting Cassio.

    Mythology 
  • Athena, who hated losing a weaving contest so much that she turned the winner into a spider.
    • Ironically, Arachne (the above spider) may also have been driven by this- as well as pride. Arachne could have been content with being (merely) one of the most genius weavers humanity had ever known...but she boasted, constantly, about how her skills surpassed both those of mortals and gods. Even when someone urged her to be more humble and not to taunt Athena (the goddess of weaving), she replied; "I am not afraid! Let Athena come, if she dares!"
  • Aphrodite did not take well to people claiming that Psyche was more beautiful than her. In Aphrodite's case, she ordered her son Eros to make Psyche fall in love with a monster...which backfired when Eros fell in love with Psyche and married her.
  • Apollo, who hated losing the first round of a music contest so much that he changed the rules of the second round to make it impossible for his competitor to win, then skinned the other guy alive.
  • The inventor Daedalus threw his nephew Perdix off a cliff because he realized the boy's natural genius would someday surpass his own- or already had- and Daedalus couldn't handle that. (Athena rescued Perdix by turning him into a bird and branded Daedalus to mark him as a murderer forever.)

    Video Games 
  • Sticky Fingaz in Def Jam: Fight For NY. His resentment of the player character's greater skills leads to him switching sides and trying to kill the hero and his girlfriend.
  • Erik of Laus in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword in regards to Hector and Eliwood.
    • Also, what drives a good part of the conflict between Trabant of Thracia and Cuan of Lenster in Fire Emblem Seisen no Keifu. Thracia is a montainous land that borders on Crapsack World, while Lester is more peaceful and fertile; this drives Trabant to desire at first for the well-being for his people, and then to cruelly murder Cuan and his wife Ethlin and take their daughter Altenna hostage so his land will have the upper hand.
  • The backstory of the Fallout: New Vegas DLC Dead Money has singer Dean Domino envious of businessman Francis Sinclair's happiness, which he saw as self-absorbed pretentiousness. Because of this, he planned to rob the vault of his casino, the Sierra Madre with the help of Vera Keyes, an old fling. The plan failed due to a combination of Vera getting cold feet and the nuclear holocaust happening moments afterwards, though Dean (now a ghoul) stuck around trying to rob the vault. By the end of the DLC, Dean either gets killed by the Courier or survives and helps the Courier into the vault, where in the epilogue he learns Sinclair and Keyes' side of the story, goes through a Heel Realization and leaves the Sierra Madre for the world outside.
  • Ultimately, this triggers everything that goes wrong in Live A Live. Straybow, friend and accomplice of the beloved knight Oersted, was so tired of being trapped in Oersted's shadow that he sabotaged the other man's life, tricking him into murdering the king and turning everything else in the kingdom against him. This ended with Oersted killing Straybow, Oersted's beloved Alicia committing suicide out of her love for Straybow, and Oersted, having lost everything he had in his life, turning his back on all of humanity and becoming the Demon King Odio. All because Straybow was jealous of Oersted's fame.
  • Joseph Bertrand of Infamous 2. His reason for wanting all Conduits dead, is because of his raw deal as a Conduit. While people like Cole and Nix got easily manageable powers, Bertrand's Conduit form is a mindless, enormous monstrosity. His jealously and anger over this is what leads him to brand Conduits as 'Abominations'.
  • In Touhou there is the hashihime note  Parsee Mizuhashi who feeds on jealousy and envy and can manipulate it in others. At this point she is, herself, closer to being an Anthropomorphic Personification of jealousy and envy more than anything else: She becomes jealous of someone if she thinks they're happier than she is; if they are about on the same level, she'll boast about how she is more unfortunate; if she thinks the other person is the unfortunate one yet they aren't jealous of her she'll become jealous of their forbearance and if they are jealous of her, then their jealousy becomes her sustenance... Either way the person is screwed 'cuz Parsee can get violent if she's jealous of someone and she would likely attack if she got enough power from another's jealousy to overpower them.
  • Taken Up to Eleven in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. While it was bad enough in the films, the Evil Stepsisters' envy towards an extremely beautiful and kind hearted Cinderella was enough to drive them towards their attempt to murder her after the glass slipper fits her, which grants her not only freedom, but also the prince's hand in marriage. Not only that, this very act made their hearts go deathly black, making them the opposites of Cinderella, who's a Princess of Heart.
  • A major reason why Arpeggio, the assumed Big Bad of Sly 2: Band Of Thieves, wants the Clockwerk parts is out of envy towards other birds, because they can fly while he cannot.
  • The true Big Bad of Deus Ex: Human Revolution Hugh Darrow, the inventor of Augmentation enacts a plan that will sour humanity on augmentation forever by using a signal to drive every Augment alive insane. He claims that it's for the greater good so that people will see how dangerous augmentation is. In reality, he's simply envious of Augments because his own body cannot accept augmentation. Darrow is willing to drive a good chunk of the populace mad, causing global panic and destruction, just because he's jealous of other people who can replace bad limbs with augments while he's stuck walking with a cane.

    Visual Novels 
  • Shinji Matou of Fate/stay night, despite being a descendant of the Matou line of magi, lacks any magic circuits and thus cannot perform any magecraft. He is intensely jealous of Shirou and Sakura, and his main goal in the Fifth Grail War is to become a magus by using the Grail.

    Webcomic 
  • Ho from Tower of God. He is very envious of fellow Wave Controller Baam's incredible talent. He eventually attempts to kill Baam during a test that would have in all likely hood failed Ho and kicked him out of the Tower, ending his dream forever. Upon the failure of his plan, rather than face leaving the Tower, he commits suicide.
  • Hilary from Sequential Art is described as being this by Art and by general exposition. Hilary started bullying Kat when they were eight because they both owned the same lunchbox, with Hillary believing that being its exclusive owner would have made her the most popular girl, something Kat remains completely unaware of to this day. Art is forced to deal with her as a client of the graphic design firm he works for, where she is unreasonably judgmental of his ideas out of spite; essentially bullying Kat vicariously through him. After blackmailing her into backing down, he points out to Kat that Hilary has no charm or personality to support her beauty, and that he believes this is why she hates Kat so much. As a bonus, this implies that he finds Kat beautiful, charming and personable and admires her for it.

    Western Animation 
  • Orm from Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, this seems to have been an underlying factor for Eddie Brock/Venom—in this continuity their parents were friends and died in the same plane crash, but Eddie seems angry that he apparently had no one to take him in while Peter got Happily Adopted by his aunt and uncle.
    • While the series was Left Hanging before he could make the full turn to supervillainy, Harry Osborn as well. Peter seems to be better than him at school and sports, Harry's father obviously prefers him, and at the end of the series, he accidentally overhears Peter and his girlfriend, Gwen, planning to get together as soon as she can break up with Harry.
  • Shown in the page image is Princess Morbucks from The Powerpuff Girls. Her penchant for evil is entirely driven by her desire to be better than the Powerpuff Girls.
    • Or rather that the girls won't let her be one and with good reason. She's a glory hog, has no powers of her own and almost got herself killed when she tried to make her debut. In a nice bit of irony, once she gets an upgraded suit it never strikes her that she could strike out on her own. Instead wasting it on fighting the PPG.
    • Morbucks even attacks the Powerpuff Girls' new friend Robin because she can't understand why the girls would want to be friends with Robin and not her.
  • The Simpsons might be considered to have on in the episode "Homer's Enemy" with Frank Grimes, while not only putting up with Homer who's Too Dumb to Live. He's gotten angrier at the fact that despite Homer's stupidity and laziness, Homer met several presidents, won a Grammy, and met famous celebrities just to name a few while Frank has to work from scratch. Even though Homer tries to please Frank, the latter was driven an deeper hatred and jealousy that lead him to his death.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Korra speculates that this is the real reason why her uncle Unalaq got his older brother Tonraq, Korra's father, banished. Tonraq was well-respected Northern Water Tribe general who was next-in-line to become chief. Unalaq, out of envy and his hunger for power, would arrange the incident that would get Tonraq banished. Korra also suggests that Unalaq's desire to teach her stems from further envy of the fact that in spite of the shame Tonraq "brought" on the family and Unalaq's own spirituality, Tonraq would go on to sire the next Avatar.

    Real Life 
  • Ethan Hawke admitted that he felt "Salieri" levels of envy of his friend and Explorers co-star, the late River Phoenix, when he got so much acclaim and attention for his work in movies like Stand by Me.
  • The main drive behind most Sibling Rivalry.


DismotivationMotivation IndexDystopia Justifies the Means
Devoted to YouObsession TropesEaster Egg
Crazy Jealous GuyEnvy And Jealousy TropesGreen-Eyed Epiphany
Dragons Up the Yin YangMartial Arts MovieDueling Dojos
Drink OrderCharacterization TropesDriven to Suicide
Dressing as the EnemyOlder Than FeudalismDriven to Suicide
Classic VillainArch-EnemyEnemy Mine
The Powerpuff GirlsImageSource/Comic BooksUplifted Animal

alternative title(s): Salieri Syndrome
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