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Evil Virtues
"You wrote to me once, listing the four chief virtues: Wisdom, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. As I read the list, I knew I had none of them. But I have other virtues, father. Ambition. That can be a virtue when it drives us to excel. Resourcefulness, Courage - perhaps not on the battlefield, but... there are many forms of courage. Devotion, to my family and to you. But none of my virtues were on your list. Even then it was as if you didn't want me for your son."
Commodus in Gladiator, just before suffocating his father and framing Maximus.

Villains are bad, it goes without saying. However, they can't be all bad for the simple reason that a character loaded down with all of the Seven Deadly Sins (along with whatever other character flaws writers can think of) will be too lazy, gluttonous, envious, prideful, angry, lustful and miserly to do much of anything. A villain laden down with too many vices quickly becomes a loser.

Even if they only have one vice, a villain is going to need a big heaping of icky good traits in order to accomplish their goals. They don't have to be an Anti-Villain,note  they just need to have one or more virtues to get by. The reason for this is both practical and artistic. Practically, a villain with a virtue of some kind will have a way to put their schemes in motion and effectively oppose The Hero. Without these virtues, authors would have to resort to making them a Generic Doomsday Villain to get anything done. Artistically, it helps make the villain a Rounded Character, and helps make them dynamic if their virtue and vice are somehow in conflict.

Oh, and it lets them get all holier-than-thou and "Not So Different" during a Breaking Speech.

For example: A Prideful villain might also be very hard working in order to get the power he needs. A slothful villain might compensate with amazing creativity, coming up with amazing inventions, Evil Plans, and limitless funds. A wrathful villain may nonetheless be very loyal to his minions, inspiring great devotion. A greedy villain might back it up with tenacity, relentless and unyielding in their pursuit of more, more, more. A lustful villain may also be extremely courageous, willing to risk death or worse in pursuit of their carnal desires.

Where this can get strange and interesting is when this is applied to a villain who is Made of Evil. Here you have a ball of elemental nastiness who also happens to have one or more positive traits. Who knew elemental evil had such good taste in scones?

However, there are virtues and then there are virtues. Much like Color-Coded for Your Convenience, there are some virtues that are okay for heroes and some that are more often seen in villains. These are:

Contrast Mr. Vice Guy, where a hero has an emblematic vice, and Virtue Is Weakness, where the villain explicitly rejects all good traits.

Usually, whenever Even Evil Has Standards comes into play, it's because the offender has violated one of the virtues listed above.

This trope is very, very common. Listing examples here would just be an exercise in futility.


The EndOmnipresent TropesFabula and Sujet
Evil Versus OblivionEvil TropesEvil Weapon
Even Evil Has StandardsAnti-VillainFallen Hero

alternative title(s): Villainous Virtues
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