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Silent Scapegoat
He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, One of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.
Isaiah

A good character willingly takes all blame for certain disastrous events, making everyone believe in his Face-Heel Turn, then usually dies for his "sins", purposefully not clearing his name. It is usually much later (if at all) that the others realize that the Silent Scapegoat actually performed an elaborate Heroic Sacrifice or Zero Approval Gambit and may end up becoming a Tear Jerker once everyone see just how wrong they've been.

Anyone who successfully pulls this off on a considerably large scale may be considered an Übermensch. Often this is the result of Alternate Character Interpretation of real Villains. If the character did perform hideous crimes in addition to those for which he only took the fall, this doubles as Redemption Equals Death.

Subtrope of The Scapegoat and What You Are in the Dark.

This is frequently a Death Trope, spoilers ahead!

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Parn's father does this in Record of Lodoss War when an allied tribe demands King Fahn's infant daughter as a sacrifice. Unable to refuse, King Fahn gives them his daughter and Parn's father rescues the child and takes the blame as a renegade knight. When war finally erupts with that allied tribe, he simply heads to the battlefield and dies while people still sees him as a worthless knight.
  • Code Geass R2 ends with Emperor Lelouch cultivating a 0% Approval Rating, so that all of the hatred previously caused by international conflict will instead be focused on him, and arranges for himself to be publicly assasinated, taking all the hatred with him in death. Only a very few people knew about this plan, and history will always regard him as a tyrant, perhaps even worse than we consider Hitler today.
  • In Kannazuki no Miko, Chikane Himemiya joins the Orochi, in order to get a shot at killing all of its henchmen and finally allow Himeko to save the world by killing her.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Arika was made out to be the instigator of the war, and she chose to accept this and let herself be executed in order to create an everlasting peace in Mudus Magicus. Nagi ultimately saved her, but made it look like the execution succeeded.
  • In Gundam Wing, Milliardo Peacecraft and Treize Khushrenada plan to create world peace by starting the biggest war the planet has ever seen so everyone can understand how needless and destructive war really is. Both are fully prepared to go down in the history books as history's greatest monsters in order to do so, but while Treize does die in battle Milliardo survives and returns in The Movie (under a new identity) to help prevent a new war.
    • Note, however, that this is only made explicitly clear in the manga, where Milliardo admits the whole thing to Heero during the final battle. The anime strongly implies it, but possibly not strongly enough since for years fans assumed the final arc only happened because it resembled Char's Counterattack.
  • Lord Genome in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann transforms from a valiant Spiral Warrior into a hated, oppressive ruler of the planet, wiping out entire human villages with his Beastmen legions. It is only after his death that the heroes learn that he did all that to preserve the human race, hoping that fear of him and his armies would keep humans in their holes. He made one critical mistake: hatred of him eventually grew stronger...
  • In Naruto, it turns out that Itachi Uchiha slaughtered his entire clan to prevent a civil war between the Uchiha clan and the rest of Konoha village that would inevitably lead to an even bloodier war once Konoha's enemies got involved. His only condition when agreeing to do so was that nobody else be told of the clan's plan to take over and that his little brother be spared. These conditions were to give his beloved little brother a chance to live in peace in the village while hating Itachi in order to make him stronger and avenge their clan. In the end, Itachi sacrificed his life to protect Sasuke, both figuratively and (twice) literally.
  • One Piece: Nico Robin was willing to betray the Strawhats and surrender to the World Government in order to get them safe passage, but the Strawhats discovered her plan and rescued her.
    • Also it looks as if Kuma falls into this category as well.
  • Vash the Stampede from Trigun often gets the blame for the horrendous disasters that seem to follow him around. It's not really his doing but he just takes the blame and keeps moving on.
  • In Pokémon Special, it is revealed that Norman covered for Ruby, who had inadvertently freed Rayquaza from captivity and thus ruined a project that the Pokemon Association was banking on to eventually save the world. And yes, the punishment involved eventually led to him dying, with Ruby not knowing the truth until the last moment. Don't worry, Norman got better.
  • In Durarara!! Izaya takes the blame for the stabbing incident in middle school in order to get revenge on Nakura who stabbed Shinra in the conflict with Izaya.
  • In Great Teacher Onizuka, Class 2-4's former teacher, after he was wrongfully accused of taking humilating pictures of a naked Miyabi when Miyabi framed him, jealous of his fiancee. He resigned rather than to explain his innocence.
  • In Monster, Grimmer subverts this, albeit just barely. He sends a letter of confession to murders the young cop, Jan Suk is under heavy suspicion for. While Grimmer did kill two of the men Suk is accused of killing, it was unambiguous self-defense. Grimmer subverts it in two ways, firstly, he confesses knowing that Wolfgang Grimmer is not his actual name and he can throw the blame onto that and create a identity. He also subverts it by actually telling Tenma that this is what he plans on doing.
  • In RG Veda, it turns out that this was why Taishaku-ten did everything he did. Him killing Ashura-Oh and taking over Tenkei was actually part of a Thanatos Gambit by Ashura-Oh to prevent The End of the World as We Know It, due to his child Ashura really being an Apocalypse Maiden. To do this Taishaku-ten killed Ashura (who he loved) and set himself up as a brutal tyrant to keep the peace. Unfortunately this backfires mightily.

Comic Books
  • The Hulk does this to thwart Omnibus's scheme to ignite World War III in the "Ghosts of the Future" storyline, though it's somewhat of a Subversion in that it's strongly implied that this act will start him on the road to becoming the genuinely and monstrously villainous Maestro.
  • This is essentially what Batman does at the end of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
  • In Astro City, the Silver Agent makes no effort to defend himself in his murder trial, and makes no appeal or request for clemency. Two minutes after he's executed, he saves the city via time travel. Later, it's discovered that the man he was convicted of murdering had staged the event using mind control and a body double. The Silver Agent's motives for silence are unclear.

Film
  • Batman does this at the conclusion of The Dark Knight in order to protect Dent's reputation and legacy from the crimes he committed as Two-Face. Negated when Bane reveals the truth in The Dark Knight Rises.
  • A smaller scale example is Hartigan allowing himself to go to jail for seven years for raping Nancy Calligan in Sin City in order to protect her and everyone he cares about from Roark's revenge. And even when he realises he needs to get out to protect her, he does it by publicly confessing to the rape and begging forgiveness.
  • At the end of the film version of Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan does this. Though it was forced upon him, he's willing to go through with it.
  • Towards the end of Mean Girls Cadi takes full responsability for the offensive 'burn book' - a scrap book of gossip that was created by the 'mean girls' before Cadi even enrolled their school, all to bring about peace.

Live-Action TV
  • Sherlock: Played to a T at the end of "The Reichenbach Fall", when Sherlock 'kills himself' and allows the world to believe that he was a fake and a psychopath; yes, the death was faked, but it should take three years before anyone learns the truth.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Worf accepts the dishonor of being labeled the son of a traitor in order to spare the Klingon Empire the political turmoil that would follow if the true traitor (Duras' father) were named.
    • Another TNG example: Data is ordered to never reveal the existence of a xenophobic alien race (or risk the crew's destruction), while the crew has their memories erased. The crew then becomes aware of a missing day, with evidence that Data is lying about it, and possibly responsible. Picard tells Data that his silence is damning, and that by not coming forth, he risks being dismantled and studied to find what went wrong. Data is perfectly aware, and willing to accept this to protect the crew. (They eventually redo the memory wipe process a second time and fix all the clues, and carry on.)
  • The DS9 episode "Dax" revolves around one of Dax's previous hosts being accused of murder. Dax refuses to defend herself - turns out the previous host's alibi was that at the time of the murder, he was schtupping the victim's wife. Dax preferred to be found guilty rather than tarnish the wife's reputation. The cherry on top is that both the wife and Dax were the only ones who knew it was the victim, remembered as a martyr and hero that inspired his army to win the war after his death, who got himself killed while betraying his own people.
    • In another episode, Kira is convinced that a Cardassian visitor is a war criminal. When pressed, he admits that he worked at a Cardassian-run labor camp on Bajor, but only as a file-clerk; however, Kira's digging reveals that he matches the description of Gul Darhe'el, the man who ran the camp. It appears that Darhe'el has tried to assume the file-clerk's identity in order to avoid war-crime charges. But it turns out he really was a clerk, and that Gul Darhe'el had died in an accident. He considered himself a coward for not standing up against the atrocities committed at the camp. He then had a facial reconstruction in order to pass as Darhe'el. His plan was to get caught, protest his innocence for verisimilitude while Kira got progressively closer to what appeared to be the truth, and be executed, thereby allowing the Bajor people to believe that justice had been served while forcing his own people to face up to the atrocities they were responsible for during the occupation (and punishing himself for standing by and doing nothing at the camp).
  • In the 30 Rock episode in which Liz became an executive, Jack explained to her that there was one guy everyone used as a scapegoat. After Liz inevitably made a mess of things, she blamed the scapegoat guy. He simply took it in stride.
  • Very nearly done with Daniel Jackson near the end of season five of Stargate SG-1. The Kelownans wanted to blame him for sabotaging their naquadaria bomb to avoid admitting a flaw in its design. He didn't seem to mind too much, but his friends did, and eventually Jonas Quinn told what really happened. Not that his people appreciated it much, or that it really did anything for Daniel, but it was a nice gesture.
  • In the Horatio Hornblower episode "Retribution", Archie Kennedy's Heroic Sacrifice takes this form. He confesses to Mutiny to let other officers' life and career be saved, mainly his particular friend Horatio. The situation is deliberately ambiguous, when Captain Sawyer's fall might have been either an accident, or one of three characters might have pushed him. It's more than likely that Archie's confession was false, but he was legally declared guilty and died without the merit of good name.
  • House, of all people, does this in a Season One episode. A patient is suffering from a condition that causes symptoms of schizophrenia, and her 15-year-old son is forced to care for her. In a moment of lucidity during treatment, she calls Child Services to pick him up, because she can't bear being a burden on him any more. This happened after House had tricked him into revealing his true age. When she is back to normal at the end, her son believes House called Child Services, and tells him he'll never forgive him. House responds, in typical fashion, that he just wanted the kid out of his hair. He then told them it was Dr. Cuddy who did it, covering all the angles of this trope. He said he asked Cuddy to call them, in case the kid dug further and found it was a woman who called.
  • In the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "Gentle, Gentle", evidence implicates the mother in the smothering death of her infant son. She confesses to the crime and goes to jail. Right when the case is about to be closed, Warrick discovers new evidence that reveals the truth: when the eldest son was distracted by a phone call, the three year old middle child accidentally smothered his baby brother with a teddy bear. Their father explains to the team that his wife would rather go to jail than let their son be ruined by the knowledge that he killed his brother.

Literature
  • Jesus in The Bible. The page quote is a prophecy about him, after all. In Christianity at least. Other Abrahamic religions have different interpretations.
    • The original example in Leviticus was an actual goat. On Yom Kippur, the High Priest would impute all the sins of the people on to the goat and send it to die in the wilderness.
  • Harry Potter: Snape gets this for killing Dumbledore at the end of the sixth book. The seventh book reveals that Dumbledore, who was already dying, ordered Snape to do it so Malfoy wouldn't have to.
    • Also from Voldemort's point of view, the fact that Draco disarmed him first. Meaning that Snape's death actually didn't help him at all, but Snape just sort of went with it.
  • God-Emperor Leto Atreides II in the Dune novels turned himself into a half-human, half-sandworm hybrid and oppressed the entire known universe for over three millenia, for the sake of breeding a human who will be unpredictable even by a Kwisatz Haderach.
  • All Three Versions of Judas by Jorge Luis Borges theorize that Judas Iscariot was a Silent Scapegoat in different ways.
  • In Turn Coat Warden Donald Morgan allows everyone to blame him as a lone psychotic murderer and traitor to the White Council because the real murderer was his teacher and (unrequited) beloved, Warden Commander Luccio, who has been put under Mind Control by the real traitor. In other words, he took all blame to save the woman he loved and simultaneously to save the image of the Wardens and the entire White Council. And then he died.
  • In the last book of the Sign Of Seven trilogy by Nora Roberts, one of the main character's father is a reformed alcoholic/abusive father. (As in, now that he's not drunk, he's truly repentant that he used to beat his son.) Through the trilogy, his son rejects any and all of his father's attempts for a reconciliation or forgiveness, until the end when he takes down a magically influenced family man with a shotgun. The family man would have shot up the small town's bowling alley where 90% of the kids and teens hang. The ex-abusive father, dying from his wounds, tells them to blame it on him, because everyone would believe he did it and the family man was influenced by ghost demon evil...ness.
  • Similar to the Real Life example below, Ryunosuke Akutagawa's short story "The Martyr" concerns a child named Lorenzo who is adopted by Jesuits after showing up on their doorstep and then cast out after being accused of impregnating a local woman. Lorenzo is mortally wounded saving his alleged daughter, after which the woman confesses he's not really the father. This is cemented by the revelation that the dying Lorenzo is a woman.

Music

Theatre
  • At the end of Wicked, Elphaba makes Glinda promise not to clear her name and to take charge in Oz, allowing her to disappear.
  • Mrs Erlynne in the final act of Lady Windermere's Fan allows Lord Windermere and his other friends to think she was sleeping around with Lord Darlington, in order to keep mum about what his wife nearly did.

Video Games
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: The Boss, especially with what happens in the fourth game in the series. And that game reveals that this is essentially the motive of both Big Boss and Revolver Ocelot for their own evil deeds in the other games. It works.
  • Sialeeds from Suikoden V. Upon realizing that her side is winning the battle a little too efficiently, Sialeeds fakes a defection to the bad guys and manipulates the very course of the war to ensure that the nobles on both sides of the struggle die. That way, when things are over the nation (and her niece and nephew) can have a fresh start free from their corruption. Sialeeds herself will die and be remembered only as a traitor, this ensuring that her actions aren't associated with the new government.
    • Georg Prime also fits this trope. He kills the previous Queen and fully accepts the blame for this act, sparing the queendom from the knowledge that the Sun Rune was driving her mad, and that (in a fit of rage) she came close to destroying the entire country with the Rune's power. Making matters worse, her husband actually ASKED him to do this, just in case she ever lost control and became dangerous. She did.
      • Minor correction: Georg was there as a backup in case Ferid (the queen's husband) was unable to do the deed himself he got vaporized by the sun rune, which finally sent the queen over the edge and necessitated Georg's action. It should also be known that the queen herself was (probably) aware of this plan; both she and her husband knew that it was only a matter of time before the Sun rune overwhelmed her mind, and she would become a danger to all once it did.
  • In Monster Rancher 4, Phayne took the blame for his friend Wit stealing and reading a book of forbidden techniques. This leads to the main plot of the game, as he gets expelled from the academy and winds up finding somebody else willing to let him start a ranch... and sows the seeds for the horribly jealous Wit using those forbidden techniques to try and prove himself better than Phayne.
  • In In Famous 2 Good Ending, Cole was planning on being this after he sacrificed himself to kill The Beast. However people knew of his sacrifice and made him the Patron Saint of New Maris.

Visual Novels
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni has Hanyuu, otherwise known as Oyashiro-sama, though it's not so much that she's just taking the blame as it is that Rika is the only one who can hear her speak. Played straight in her backstory, though, when she takes on the sins of her village and asks her daughter to kill her to prevent a war between demons and humans.
    • The latter is actually a deconstruction. Yes, her self-sacrifice brought demons and humans together, uniting them as one village...right up till the point where they started doing the exact same thing again- using peer pressure to bully outsiders to the village and isolating themselves from all change. Also, unity is nice and everything, but Hanyuu is still dead for no reason, and her daughter is traumatized from having to kill her own mother for the sins of other people- all of whom got away blameless. The story is set in the present day, several hundred years after all this happened, and the village's mythology depicts Hanyuu as an evil, vengeful demon, who can only be placated by the murder of two people in an annual ceremony. This 'tradition' continues into the present, and the festival day honouring her sacrifice is implicitly considered by everyone a 'free day' to commit murder, on which no one will be punished for it, and everyone will say that Oyashiro killed the victims. (The irony of this is not lost on her.)
    • The last arcs make a very blatant argument against martyring oneself for a greater cause, and Hanyuu spends them trying to prevent the death of innocent people. She succeeds, eventually. The main Aesop is that murdering people to solve a problem causes a Vicious Cycle, and that if one tries hard enough, a better solution can be found.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Beatrice is revealed to be this, along with a Stealth Mentor, taking the blame for killing Battler's family to push him towards finding the truth.
    • The seventh arc heavily implies Eva Ushiromiya to be one letting Ange believe she was the culprit and hate her forever rather than tell her the truth about what really happened on the island, which she feared would be too much for her. Episode 8 actually confirms this, and adds a new perspective on the whole Eva-Beatrice thing.

Web Comics
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, the Guides refused to explain why they did not take Surma to the other side, forcing Annie to do it. Presumably they wanted to spare Annie the Awful Truth: Annie had been draining Surma's power and lifeforce for years — when this finally caused Surma's death, there was nothing left for the Guides to take.

Western Animation
  • In an episode of Justice League Unlimited, the Question found records of an alternate universe Superman that killed "his" Lex Luthor and then Jumped Off The Slippery Slope to become a Knight Templar. Seeing events in his own universe heading in the same direction, he seeks to kill "our" Lex Luthor first so Superman won't. He points out that his own execution won't hurt the league.
    The Question: I'm a well-known crackpot. The League's reputation will recover.
  • Family Guy: In Seahorse Seashell Party, after tearing her family a verbal new one, Meg Griffin comes to the conclusion that she must serve as this for the rest of the Griffin family, lest they ultimately turn on each other (which seems happens pretty quickly).

Real Life
  • There was a monk that stayed in a tavern (although this may have been for a monk business trip, let's not dwell on that). The innkeeper's daughter became pregnant and said the monk did it. The monk was banished from the monastery and lived as a beggar at its gates for a while and then was reaccepted in the monastery at the lowest rank and had to do the tasks nobody else wanted to do. When the monk died of old age and they were preparing him for the funeral, they discovered the monk was a woman. She had been entered in the monastery under a false identity by her father and had kept the secret even though she could have easily proven her innocence (not that it would help her much to come back in the monastery, but she still lived as a beggar and raised the child instead of flying away and becoming a nun).

Promoted to ScapegoatBlame TropesDisastrous Demonstration
Silent PartnerSilence TropesSilent Snarker
Shrouded in MythFame and Reputation TropesSlave to PR
Silent PartnerCharacters as DeviceSimple Country Lawyer
Silent CreditsDeath TropesSlashed Throat
Self-Sacrifice SchemeHeroic SacrificesSomeone Has to Die
Signature StyleAdded Alliterative AppealSilent Snarker

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