Follow TV Tropes


Poison Is Evil

Go To

"Poison. The perfect weapon for a snake."
Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay

In many works, when poison comes into play, it is the villain who primarily uses it, and indeed, use of poison by a character is seen as very suspect at best, and a strong sign that the character is evil at worst. Very few heroes (apart from antiheroic Combat Pragmatists) will use poison, considering it dishonest and dishonorable, and if they do use it, it's likely to be something aimed to knock people out such as tranquilizer darts rather than something deadly like arsenic or cyanide, which ties into Thou Shalt Not Kill. A notable aversion are laxatives, which are usually played for laughs and tend to be used more often by heroes. A Poisonous Person will almost always be malevolent because of this trope.

It's not hard to see why poison is considered evil by many. The notion of normally life-giving food or water becoming something that can hurt or kill people, for example, terrifies us, and the use of it is quite sensibly banned in many cultures. Many rulers have fallen to poison, and just as many take precautions against it, such as employing food tasters. We often use the word "poison" figuratively to describe something destructive or corruptive, such as "poisoning someone's mind" or "poisoning the well" in a debate. Latin ("veneficus"), Greek ("pharmakeion"), Hebrew ("kashaph", "qesem") and Navajo ("’ánt’įįhnii") all derive their words for witch(craft) from roots that have to do with poison or poisoners.

Poison is seen as the most vile form of murder also because using it definitely shows mens rea, mind to murder and both intention and determination to commit a murder. Clearly, someone who uses it to commit a murder is committing intentional and premeditated murder; it's hard to argue otherwise. Poison is also considered the weapon of Dirty Cowards everywhere: using it does not require physical prowess or mental courage, and does not allow the victim a theoretical chance to defend themselves against their attacker.

There may also be the matter of Trial by Combat. The conceit, particularly in French chivalric romances and their ilk, is that in such a "trial", God will guide the hand and blade of whichever one of the two is in the right. Poisoned Weapons, therefore, could be interpreted as an attempt to usurp God's judgement and authority, and/or a lack of faith in that judgement and authority always being right.

The use of poison in combat, such as Poisoned Weapons, is widely seen as cheating and dirty fighting, primarily employed by cowardly villains or villainous Combat Pragmatists who care nothing about honor, only about results — usually the poison-using villain's aim is to either murder someone, gain an unfair advantage, or render someone helpless who would otherwise have wiped the floor with them in a stand-up fight. Depending on the effects of the poison in question, things can get awfully dissonant when other non-poisonous abilities exist (blinding flashes or holy power that weakens The Undead, for example) that do pretty much the same thing as what the poison does and are used quite freely by heroes to bring down their opposition. Because of this, poison's limitation to villains can sometimes take on the status of Designated Evil. The fact that poison can be used to take down a physically stronger opponent is why it is sometimes referred to as a "woman's weapon"note , and why it's also a favored tool of villainous eunuchs.

Historically, this trope is most traditional in Western Europe and its descendants — others rarely cared unless there was a breach of Sacred Hospitality or fair duel. In tropical regions hunting with poisons was widespread; in Hindu tradition, poisonous critters are just another fact of life, and cobras even revered sometimes. China didn't see poisons as something special, nor did Steppe peoplesnote , Russians shruggednote . In the Western Hemisphere, Native Americans who use poisoned arrows and darts may be depicted as The Savage Indian, but this trope is often averted if the environment where they live is harsh enough to make such weapons necessary for survival.

By the same token, this trope is ubiquitous in Medieval European Fantasy but never applied in Hungry Jungle settings, for minimum of realism and Darker and Edgier tone.

See also Poisoned Weapons. This trope may contribute to Snakes Are Sinister, which frequently associates all snakes with both poison (though not all snakes are toxic, and their toxin is called "venom" because it's injected through the fangs instead of being absorbed through the skin or digestive system) and evil. Other toxic animals such as spiders, scorpions, jellyfish or toads are also often portrayed as evil, and they are often the Unpleasant Animal Counterpart to their non-toxic relatives.

Note: This is not just a villain who uses poison; this is where the use of poison is seen as a villainous trait.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The few times that poison has been used in Berserk, it has been the province of villains, such as Adon Corbowitz's use of poison in his duel with Casca, or the conspiracy to kill Griffith.
  • In Bleach, Mayuri Kurotsuchi, the Mad Scientist captain of the 12th Division and the Token Evil Teammate for the 13 Court Guard Squads, uses a Zanpakuto with powers based around poison, and his Bankai releases clouds of poisonous fog.
  • All times when poison comes up in the Evillious Chronicles involve it being used to kill people — a particular example is the light novel Gift From the Princess Who Brought Sleep, with the titular gift being the wrong kind of gift.
  • In Fairy Tail, one of the many "second generation" Dragon Slayers that Natsu encounters is Cobra, the Poison Dragon Slayer. He is, unsurprisingly, evil, although he later does a Heel–Face Turn and fights alongside Jellal and other former Dark Guild members as part of Crime Sorciere.
  • Panacotta Fugo from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind is an interesting case. He posesses what is one of the most dangerous Stands in Purple Rain, which produces a powerful virus capable of killing organisms in less than a minute, unless it's contrarrested with another of the virus capsules. He's a member of Bruno Bucciaratti's group who are members of the Passione mafia, but tend to be more on the anti-hero side (though a tad more pragmatic and villanous than the average) . Also, When the group decides to protect Trish and, as such, get in The Boss' sights, Fugo is the only one who takes the option of abandoning the group. Though, in supplemental material, it's shown that he returned to Passione once Giorno became the new boss.
  • Ilulu from Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid can breathe corrosive poison and was introduced as an Ax-Crazy maniac who loved destruction. Subverted when it turned out she was a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds and performed a Heel–Face Turn.
  • While Monster features a lot of killers and murderers, the only ones who ever employ poison are Johan Liebert and Franz Bonaparta.
  • In Naruto, despite everyone being ninjas, mostly only villains rely on combat that involves something other than direct confrontation, although to be fair the heroes themselves rarely remark on it being "bad" in and of itself. Pre-timeskip, some of the only users of poison are the 2 Rain ninja during the start of the Zabuza arc, Kankuro (who becomes a good guy, but his poison focus is introduced when he's a villain) and Shizune. Later on, we get Sasori (who focuses on poison in the same way Kankuro does) and it's not until MUCH much later that Sakura uses her medical expertise to make a poison kunai as one of the few purely heroic examples.
  • In Noir, Shaoli delivers deadly poison with a mere scratch of her fingernails. She's treated as objectively villainous, and her request to join Soldats is turned down... by Chloe's blade.
  • Played with in One Piece via Magellan, the warden of the prison Impel Down. His Devil Fruit, the Venom-Venom Fruit, allows him to generate poison from his body at will. While definitely an antagonist, as the Impel Down arc has Luffy breaking into the prison to rescue his brother, Magellan is also the last line of defense keeping many of the worst criminals in the One Piece worldnote  from seeing the light of day.
    • There are also plenty of villains who aren't afraid of using poisoned weapons, including Don Krieg, Crocodile, Wanze, Duval and Hyouzou.
    • Caesar Clown, one of the most evil characters in One Piece, uses poison gas as one of his Devil Fruit powers. He also helps supply Kaido with poison gas to use.
    • Meanwhile, the heroic Sanji absolutely refuses to have poison put in food he's made as a matter of honor, even if it would provide a golden opportunity to take out one of the Four Emperors. Though in this case, he has a personal reason as he nearly starved to death as a kid and as such absolutely hates wasting food.
    • Inverted with Reiju "Poison Pink" Vinsmoke, who is one of the nicest of the Vinsmoke family and has poison abilities.
  • Pokémon: The Series loves this trope.
    • Jessie and James of Team Rocket originally started out with an Ekans/Arbok and Koffing/Weezing. Jessie later owned a Seviper and James an Amoonguss and a Mareanie.
    • Paul, a Jerkass trainer who puts his Pokémon through Training from Hell, has a Drapion, a Nidoking, and a Magmortar that knows Smog.
    • Two of the commanders of Team Galactic, Saturn and Jupiter, have a Toxicroak and a Skuntank, respectively. In addition, the Galactic Grunts each own at least one Golbat.
    • Hunter J's minions also have Golbat and Crobat, while J herself uses a Drapion and Ariados in battle.
    • Inverted with Ash's Muk, however. It's a very friendly Pokémon that loves giving hugs. His dependable Bulbasaur is never seen taking advantage of its type, and Brock's aloof yet effective Croagunk usually only uses its Poison Jab as a Moment Killer Running Gag when its master is in danger of making a fool of himself. (It did use it offensively on Jesse in one episode, but it was to protect the other good guys.) Also inverted with Ash's Poipole, who's mischievous but overall friendly and means no harm — when it accidentally poisons Rowlet in self-defense, it's immediately remorseful. The Naganadel Ash and friends meet later is also helpful and polite despite its scary typing (Poison/Dragon) and appearance.
  • Saint Seiya: In the anime, during the Asgard saga, God Warrior Alberich uses a Wounded Gazelle Gambit on Eagle Marin, then when she moves in for the finish, Alberich shoots a jet of poison into Marin's face, blinding her (in spite of her face mask). Needless to say, Alberich is the most villainous of the God Warriors, a cunning and ruthless Combat Pragmatist who aspires to depose Hilda herself to become king of Asgard (and possibly the entire world, too) in her place.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! duelists who use poison-themed decks are rare, but they tend to be evil:
    • Professor Cobra was the Big Bad Wannabe of season three of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, and his Venom Deck was not only designed to destroy opposing monsters but weaken and hurt them first. He was a sadist.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, Mr. Heartland had a henchman named Kurage, an unholy cross between a human and jellyfish, who could poison his enemies. Not only was he clearly evil, he was as arrogant and sadistic as the higher-ranking villains. He first poisoned Rio to blackmail Shark into dueling him, and as if that weren't enough, poisoned Shark to make him weak, giving himself a clear advantage. (If this guy was designed with the intent to make a heartless villain, the writers succeeded, and his use of poison only helped.)
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, Yuri had already been established as a sadistic Psycho for Hire willing to trap anyone who gets in his way in a card, but it's capped off by the reveal that his Iconic Item dragon's name is Starve Venom Fusion Dragon.

  • Circe Invidiosa: Poisoning her love rival and turning her into a monster in the process doesn't exactly make Circe look like a saint here...

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix: Poison is used by the evil architect Artifis in Asterix and Cleopatra (who tries to get the heroes framed for it) and by a corrupt Roman governor on an uncorruptable official in Asterix in Switzerland.
  • Batman: Poison and horrid drugs are common among Batman's enemies:
    • The Joker is famous for his Joker Venom, which not only kills people but leaves them with a ghastly smile. He's also quite fond of Deadly Gas depending on the work, such as the Smylex gas favored by Jack Nicholson's Joker in Batman (1989).
    • The Scarecrow uses a variety of chemical toxins that cause fear and otherwise alter emotions.
    • Combining this Trope with Drugs Are Bad, Bane uses a highly addictive steroidal compound on himself which is also called Venom which, if taken too much, might as well be poison. (This was emphasized in the adaptation Batman Beyond, where years of taking the stuff reduced Bane to a helpless invalid on life support.)
    • Poison Ivy, of course. She has altered her body to the point where she can enchant men with pheromones and slay them with a kiss. Her blood is deadly. Subverted given that she's since undergone a Hazy-Feel Turn and now usually wobbles somewhere between Anti-Villain and Anti-Hero.
  • Captain America: The Red Skull has used a concoction called "Dust of Death" over his career. Similar to Joker's Venom, it kills a victim and causes the skin on the victim's head to shrivel and turn red, making it look like the victim has a "red skull" for a head. The Skull himself became a victim of his Dust, and while he survived due to an antidote, still suffered the secondary effect, making his head a living red skull.
  • Red Sonja: The "Queen of Plagues" arc reveals the plague to actually be broad-scale poisonings. The villain responsible used it to wipe out enemy militaries, then dispatched his general to execute the survivors on grounds of preventing the spread of disease. The poison's inventor was a medieval physician depicted as cowardly and unnatural.
  • Spider-Man: Mac Gargan used poison only in one version of his costume in his identity of the Scorpion (which is odd, considering the arachnid he'd named after) but it was a very potent three-part toxin. The first dose would cause weakness and pain, the second convulsions, and death within twenty-four hours, and the third (if he was being truthful) instant death. He was able to inflict doses one and two on both Spidey and J. Jonah Jameson before an antidote was found.
  • Teen Titans: Cheshire is a villainous Psycho for Hire and Professional Killer whose main schtick is being a Master Poisoner with a vast array of Poisoned Weapons.
  • Wonder Woman: There is an entire legacy of villainesses called Doctor Poison who are all experts in the use of poisons, toxins, and plagues. The original was a WWII war criminal, the second a gleeful killer for hire and her Wonder Woman (Rebirth) iteration a heartless mercenary.

    Film — Animated 
  • Coco: Ernesto de la Cruz poisons Héctor to steal his songs when he tries to return home from a music tour.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Played with in 9 to 5, when Violet fantasizes about killing Mr. Hart. She imagines herself as a Snow White-style Friend to All Living Things, yet bumps him off by poisoning his coffee, to the general rejoicing of animated Woodland Creatures and desk-chained employees. An animated vaporous skull-and-crossbones appears above the coffee cup when she pours in the toxin.
  • Carla Rainer, the sadistic antagonist in Exception to the Rule, injects her victims with sea snake venom to paralyse them.
  • In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Snow's choice method to rid himself of rivals and dissenters is poison. Finnick presents this as a massively cowardly and evil thing to do. "Poison, the perfect weapon for a snake."
  • Though Kill Bill has assassins as major characters, Elle Driver, the most evil and treacherous of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, is the only one in the saga to make extensive use of poison. She tries to poison the Bride while she's in her four-year coma, only to be warned off by Bill, who considers the act to "lower" them, and later uses poison in her killing of Budd (who she sics a black mamba on) and Pai Mei (whom she gets rid of by poisoning his fish heads).
  • The villain in The Lost Medallion: The Adventures of Billy Stone, Cobra, lives up to his name with his poisonous fingernails that he uses to kill people. Pretty surprising for a kid movie.
  • Inverted in The Princess Bride. The current iteration of the Dread Pirate Roberts made himself immune to at least one poison, foiling Vizzini's "I know you know I know" reasoning with the poisoned wine and knocking Vizzini out of play.

  • In A Brother's Price, the kind, loving father of the princesses was poisoned. Even without spoilers, it is obvious that the poisoner must be evil, as the royal family is shown to be competent and reasonably humble.
  • Inverted in Butler Parker: Parker and his protégé, Lady Simpson, often use poisoned dartzs, needles, etc. — though they only ever use sleeping poisons. Fatal poisons are used by criminals, very rarely.
  • It shows up in The Count of Monte Cristo:
    • In a story about the Borgia, the Pope creates four new cardinals, then sells the offices to the highest bidder. One of the new cardinals is not stupid, and knows the new cardinals, and likely their heirs, will be killed to secure their fortunes for the church. He takes steps to hide his fortune before he and his son die of "bad mushrooms" shortly after a dinner the Pope invited them to.
    • The murder weapon of the second Mme de Villefort, who is greedy for her son. Valentine has wealth from not only her mother's estate, but will inherit a large amount from her father's father when he passes on. But if she goes into a convent or dies, then her wealth will pass to her father and to his other heirs -the son he has with Mme de Villefort.
  • Subverted in an obscure 1980s series of historical novels by author William Morrell. In Daimyos Revenge the heroine (a Dutch noblewoman who has been trained in ninjutsu while living in Japan) uses poison to kill an evil Spanish nobleman that she is being forced to marry.
  • Discworld:
    • Mentioned in Interesting Times: Cohen the Barbarian and his Silver Horde are appalled at the use of poisoned food because while the approved barbarian method of trickery is inviting your enemy over to a feast, get him roaring drunk then kill him (any barbarian stupid enough to fall for it deserving it), you never know when you might get hungry yourself.
    • There's also Glenda Sugarbean, who would never poison food. Not so much because she thinks poisoning people is evil, rather because it would ruin perfectly good food. The Sugarbeans are famous for their cooking. Notably, Lord Vetinari and the Assassins' Guild agree with her. Poisoning food for someone else while you're out to inhume them is one thing. Poisoning food made by Augusta Sugarbean at the Guild house is just not done.
  • In Dune Feyd Harkonnen is shown using poison frequently: weakening his slave gladiators so he always wins his fights, attempting to poison his uncle the Baron through the thigh of a sex slave, and using a secret poison needle in his belt buckle in his combat against Paul Mua'dib.
  • The Eyes of The Dragon has sorceror Flagg utilize an excruciating poison (one that he's even wary about) on the king to put his younger Enfant Terrible son on the throne, framing the king's elder son for the crime. Why? Because he can.
  • Inverted in Agatha Christie's Hallowe'en Party. When Hercule Poirot asks the gentle, kind Miranda how she would kill someone, she replies that she would use poison—specifically a sleeping draught—because she wouldn't want to cause anyone any pain.
  • Inverted in the Humanx Commonwealth novels of Alan Dean Foster: The Minidrags of Alaspin are flying snakes that spit a venom that is both corrosive and neurotoxic, but they are also empathic, and typically do not bond with evil characters.
  • Also done in the first book in The Mark of the Lion series, where young noblewoman Julia poisons her violently abusive suitor to be rid of him. It's tempting to count this as an inversion since he was such a vicious brute, but considering Julia goes on to condemn the heroine Hadassah to be fed to lions in the Colosseum, it's still a pretty straight example (at least until both women get better in the second book).
  • In Raiders of Gor one of the five claimants to being the ruler of the city-state of Port Kar is a skilled poisoner and is looked down upon. (He's also a bit fey, which doesn't help.) After being exiled from the city, in Hunters of Gor he secretly supplies poisoned swords to enemy fighters, and they poison Tarl, paralyzing him. In Maurauders of Gor, the leader of those enemy fighters approaches Tarl to give him an antidote; when the king of their city-state had learned of the treachery he forced the other man to create an antidote, then poisoned him to test it. On Gor generally, poison is dismissed as a woman's weapon.
  • Redwall: Vermin will often use poison, typically by means of poisoning weapons or putting poison into food stores or water supply of the heroes. Adders, which are also always hostile to everyone who's not another adder, have natural poison attacks thanks to their venomous fangs. Heroic animals never use poisons in the series.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, poison is commonly seen as the weapon of cowards, women, or those viewed as unmanly, such as a eunuch, as someone eager to pin the blame on Lord Varys is quick to add. Turns out it's actually a woman who did that particular poisoning. The same logic is also used to accuse the dwarf Tyrion for King Joffrey's poisoning, even though Joffrey was a bigger coward than Tyrion ever was. Oberyn Martell's tendency to poison his spears, even in duels and trials by combat, is seen as highly dishonorable, and it's mentioned right up there with his reputation as a Depraved Bisexual. While he's a Hot-Blooded jerk, he's not as evil as his reputation would imply.
  • Much discussed in the Dorothy L. Sayers novel Strong Poison. Mystery novelist Harriet Vane is tried for poisoning her lover Phillip Boyes with arsenic. Despite a mistrial, she is widely assumed to be guilty and vilified on that account. Norman Urquhart's cook comments on this to Bunter, "...but the horrors of slow poisoning, that's the work of a fiend."
  • Villains by Necessity: Our protagonist, Sam, is an assassin with a vast knowledge of toxins and poisons, which he carries plenty of at all times, having spent years building up immunities to them. He also readily employs Poisoned Weapons and owns a Poison Ring (which, admittedly, he used to stash an extra dose of hay fever medicine rather than anything directly dangerous).
  • Tarma and Kethry mention this trope in the Vows and Honor short story "A Woman's Weapon", dismissing it as a coward's weapon. The villain in question is poisoning not only his main rival, but his own workers and the land around him through his careless and destructive tanning processes. Tarma and Kethry work out a way to make him poison himself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: The Centauri, who are not an evil race per se, but certainly a very "dark grey" race, treasure poison needles the way humans treasure swords or Minbari treasure their fighting staffs.
  • Breaking Bad: Walter White's use of poison in the Season 4 finale is generally held by fans as the point where he crossed the Moral Event Horizon from Anti-Hero/Anti-Villain to full Villain Protagonist. Although part of this was also due to who he poisoned.
  • Merlin:
    • Inverted in which it is heroic Merlin who uses poison to try and kill Morgana, thus breaking a near-fatal spell over Camelot that she was inadvertently causing.
    • Played straight later, when Morgana uses poison to kill a witness to her Face–Heel Turn.
    • Also played straight very early on, when Nimueh tries to kill Arthur with poison-Merlin got it instead, and Arthur had to go find the Magic Antidote.
  • Only Murders in the Building: Things start to get real for the trio when Oliver's dog is poisoned, though the pooch survives. Oliver goes so far as to erroneously suspect Sting for the crime. Gradually, they realize that a cat in the building was also poisoned, the night Tim Kono was shot. And later, they learn that Tim was poisoned before he was shot. Eventually, the trail leads to Charles's new girlfriend, the sociopathic Jan who is responsible for all the poisonings, though the cat was accidental. She tries to kill Charles this way, but he is rescued by Mable and Oliver.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Reunion", Chancellor K'mpok announces he's dying, murdered by a slow-acting poison. It's stated that a Klingon who kills without showing his face has no honor and must not be allowed to lead the Empire. Picard is tasked with finding the killer and preventing him from ascending to the Chancellorship. For extra Poison Is Evil points, normally killing your superior officer and taking his job is standard military procedure for Klingons. Poison is the only aspect of this that makes it illegal; it's a dishonorable tactic whose use proves that the killer is too much of a wimp to pull off an old-fashioned Klingon Promotion.
  • Star Trek: Picard: In "The Impossible Box", Narek subjects Soji to a slow and painful death by exposing her to a toxic gas. What makes his action even more disturbing and reprehensible is that he's In Love with the Mark, yet he would still kill his beloved in this fashion.

    Myth & Religion 
  • In The Bible, the famous Exodus 22:18 verse "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (King James Version translation) has often been claimed to refer to a poisoner instead of a sorceress. The word which the Septuaginta uses, φᾰρμᾰκείᾱ (pharmakeía), means literally "concoction-maker".

    Pro Wrestling 
  • One of the oldest heel tricks is to soak a rag in ether and hold it over the face of an unsuspecting opponent should you be in danger of losing a match. Traditionally the heel would then, in his haste to hide the foreign object from the referee, throw it away too far and into the reach of fans, who would identify the smell and inform the referee of the attempted poisoning. Despite its once-ubiquitous status, ether in the USA became heavily associated with The Midnight Express, SMW and all else associated with "ether bunny" Jim Cornette, to the point Joey Styles referenced him directly when Raven used the trick on Pitbull #2 in ECWnote .
  • Part of what made the ether rag such an effective heel trick was that a pro wrestling show was some young fans' first experience with the compound. The heel, in his attempt to hide what he did, would of course throw the rag away, often into the crowd. Audience members would of course identify the smell and quickly toss the rag to the referee, to let him know what happened but on the off chance someone didn't know ether's smell, they'd breathe in too much and get nauseous. For safety reasons promoters mandated the use of diluted ether-based substances unlikely to make anyone seriously ill but it was nonetheless one of the first wrestling tropes on the chopping block, more so than even blading or the fireball, when corporate America and their ilk invaded the pro wrestling industry.
  • Averted on the Dominican Republic television program International Wrestling where the baby face equivalents were known as "The great Poison técnicosdel fighters". "The block luchadoresrudos Lightning" were the heel equivalents. This was due to top stars Jack Veneno and Lightning Hernandez.
  • Downplayed in Ring of Honor, where hardly anyone was cool with Delirious's use of poison or the shocking, out of character acts of his red persona in general. However, most of his peers agreed that the targets of his poison, Hangmen 3, deserved it for, well, going around hanging people. However, it was played straight when Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team made use of an ether soaked rag against Mark Briscoe, a tactic so heinous Nigel McGuinness found it inexcusable even in a Fight Without Honor.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • While poison itself is usually treated as no more inherently evil than any other weapon, evil characters tend to have more options when it comes to specialising in it.
    • In AD&D 1st Edition Assassins (who were always Evil) had special abilities with learning about and using poisons.
      • Evil clerics could use poison, non-evil clerics could not. Likewise, evil bards could use poison, non-evil ones couldn't.
      • Any non-assassin NPC would assume anyone with Poisoned Weapons were assassins and attack them, call for the city watch, or both. Meanwhile, assassins won't like when people break their "monopoly."
      • Some suggestions on how DM's should handle poison use:
        It is also likely that the DM will establish sanctions regarding the use of poisons on a continuing basis, i.e. characters of good alignment cannot use such toxic substances as it constitutes foul and unfair practice; or characters found with poisoned weapons will be immediately slain and their corpses burned and ashes scattered. In a similar vein, most communities view poisoning and poisons as highly undesirable due to the difficulty of protecting against ingestion of such fatal substances. Any individual (or group) making indiscriminate use of poison will have social pressure and/or legal action brought against him or her. The DM could also simply point out that if the party started habitually using poison so could their normally non poison using opponents — a dozen kobolds with save or die poison on their arrows can seriously wreck your day.
      • Use of a Dagger of Venom (which injected poison) could cause alignment problems for Good aligned characters.
    • In 2nd Edition all of the references above were removed except for the Dagger of Venom. Now a few Good critters like Couatls used lethal poisons too.
      • The Always Chaotic Evil Anti-Paladin class in an early Dragon Magazine article. An Anti-Paladin was an "aficionado of the fine art of poisoning," who considered "poisoning to be both an aesthetic pleasure and a means of artistic expression." He used poison at every opportunity, including to test a new poison just distilled for him, to determine if his stock of vintage poisons was still potent or simply to see if he can get away with it.
      • Dark Sun as a Darker and Edgier setting was one of few exclusions — bards learn to use poisons without any Character Alignment considerations.
    • In 3rd Edition, using poison is still generally evil. Like previous editions, Poison Use as an ability (apply poisons to weapons without the risk of poisoning yourself) is found mostly in evil-only classes, though races like Warforged duplicate the effect by simply being immune to poison.
      • A non-lethal knockout venom exists that is the exception: It has no worse side effects than "unconscious for 2d4 hours", and the books specifically mention that even paladins could use that one with little moral quandary, provided the intention is to knock someone out rather than kill them (like capturing a criminal for courts). Of course, in a fine bit of irony, it's called Drow poison and is relatively unknown on the surface — the Drow use it for live captures of slaves.
      • Book of Exalted Deeds spells out poison that does ability damage or drain as inherently evil because it "causes undue suffering in the process of incapacitating or killing an opponent." It also introduces "ravages", which have exactly the same effect as poisons, except that they are okay because they inflict damage via the creature's evil rather than via its biological processes. Confusingly one of the listed ravages is "purified coautl venom", drawing attention to how couatls still have poisonous attacks while being Always Lawful Good.
      • The Book of Vile Darkness introduces a few magical poisons that are literally evil, called Psychic Poison Oils, meant for use by Assassins.
      • The Grey Guards is an order of Paladins who saw the evils of the world and gets inducted into said order, giving them, shall we say, 'loose' interpretations of the Paladin's code of conduct thus allowing them to commit acts that would normally result in losing their Paladinhood. But even they are banned from using poisons.
    • The Pathfinder Alchemist is alignment-unrestricted and receives the Poison Use skill, so poison's evilness has been diluted a bit.
    • In 4th Edition, poison isn't evil anymore, and anyone can use it with impunity.
    • As of 5th Edition, it is frowned upon — "Given their insidious and deadly nature, poisons are illegal in most societies but are a favorite tool among assassins, drow, and other evil creatures" — but there are no alignment or class penalties for its use.
    • Traditionally, the only "iconic" dragon with a poison-based Breath Weapon is the Green Dragon, one of the Usually Evil (Lawful Evil in its case) Chromatics and known for being particularly malicious and cruel. This is especially noticeable because each Chromatic (Evil) Dragon has a Good counterpart Metallic Dragon. However, the Good aligned counterpart to Green, the Brass dragon, uses Fire.
    • The Forgotten Realms setting features Talona, Chaotic Evil goddess of venoms and illnesses among other similarly nasty things.
  • Magic: The Gathering averts this in the Theros block. Pharika, a snake-like goddess associated with poisons, is also the patron of healers due to her pharmaceutical skills. That said, messing with her is still a bad idea.
  • The One Ring: Poison is restricted to creatures of the Shadow, such as Giant Spider stings or Orcs' Poisoned Weapons, and is off-limits to heroic adventurers.
  • In Warhammer, it is notable how much more common poisoned attacks, weapons, and spells are among the Forces of Destruction. Witch Elves, Dark Elf and Skaven Assassins, Ghouls, Crypt Horrors, Gutter Runners, Plaguebearers, Forest Goblins, some Forsaken and Chaos Champions to name but a few — virtually all of the Forces of Destruction have plentiful access to poisons; whereas of the Forces of Order, only the Lizardmen use them, only really getting a pass because they are jungle-dwellers (when one sees a blowdart, it's expected to be poisoned). Dwarfs, High Elves, Empire, Bretonnians, and even Wood Elves don't have any poisoned attacks at all.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Dark Eldar and Tyrannids make heavy use of poison as do certain Chaos units like Fabius Bile. Out of the Forces of Order, the only poisoned ammo exists for sniper rifles, that Eldar ammo that causes heads to explode, the character Sly Marbo and other rare assassin types. Oddly out of the more benign armies, the one that uses poison the most are the Space Marines who have plenty of snipers and can make extensive use of hellfire ammo (a mutagenic acid).

  • This trope plays somewhat differently in Shakespeare's works, since in Elizabethan England poison was seen as the weapon of women, not of villains. But it certainly shows up in villainous contexts as well.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney: Most of the really unsympathetic culprits in the game are the ones who use poison.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations has the first cases of murder (and attempted murder) via poison. In chronological order, Dahlia tricks Terry Fawles into suicide via drinking poison, poisons Diego Armando for looking into her (he survives, but is left in a coma), and poisons Phoenix's cold medicine, but he doesn't have a chance to take it before Mia reveals the poison. The poisoner is also willing to kill via stabbing and electrocution when necessary, but poison is kind of their Weapon Specialization.
      • Trials and Tribulations also has Furio Tigre and Viola Cadaverini in the third case; the former poisoned Glen Elg and the latter's creepiness is emphasized by hinting that she poisons food she serves — though Viola doesn't actually poison anyone during the investigation. The epilogue hints that she sent poisoned food to Furio Tigre to get back at him for using her as a pawn.
    • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney: The victim of case 5 (along with his daughter) is poisoned with an extremely deadly and rare toxin called atroquinine, because he was a forger and one of his clients was paranoid that he might reveal their connection. The victim was told to use a poisoned stamp to send a letter, and his daughter (a twelve-year-old) was given poisoned nail polish knowing that she bites her nails when nervous.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies: Downplayed with the culprit of case 2, who drugged two people with sleeping pills so he could murder one and frame the other.
    • The Great Ace Attorney:
      • Played absolutely straight with Jezaille Brett, a cold-blooded killer who uses rare poisons to obfuscate investigations into her murders. Downplayed with her killer, an Anti-Villain who poisons Brett because she was racially abusing him and about to become a Karma Houdini.
      • Averted with Olive Green, who poisons William Shamspeare with strychnine (he survives) because he got away with killing her fiancée a few years ago.
  • Averted in AdventureQuest Worlds. Rogues of either alignment will use poison against their enemies, and one of the most skilled poison-makers in Lore, Alina, is also one of the most kind-hearted and sweet-natured people of the setting as well.
  • Played with in the Arcana Heart series. On one hand, the Arcana of Evil, Dieu Mort, has moves that can poison the opponent and is the only one that can do so. On the other hand, the main user of said Arcana, the occultist Yoriko Yasuzumi, is not evil in the slightest.
  • Zig-Zagged in Assassin's Creed. In the first game, the eponymous creed specifically forbids the use of poison; in the second game, however, it's stated that the Assassins have adopted the use of poison in order to adapt to changing times. (Twisting the trope further is the fact that poison is one of the less subtle weapons in the protagonist's arsenal — a poisoned foe will go berserk and attack everyone around him before dying!)
  • In Battle for Wesnoth, only orcs, undead and outlaws have units with the ability to poison, and only the former two can recruit them directly.
  • Danganronpa: Actually inverted; the two deaths caused by poison have the most sympathetic culprits. Sakura Ogami killed herself to put a stop to the rising tensions amongst the students after her reveal as The Mole, and Chiaki Nanami was tricked into putting out a fire near the victim with an extinguisher grenade that she didn't know was poisoned.
  • Just like the ones in Dungeons & Dragons, Egoboo paladins cannot use poison.
  • Elden Ring: Averted in the case of spirit jellyfish, disembodied souls that tend to hang around the graveyards where their original bodies were interred. They can fire poison at the Tarnished, but they only do so when attacked, as they are normally neutral entities. The Tarnished can also receive the spirit ashes of the spirit jellyfish Aurelia, allowing them to summon a poison-launching ally to the field.
  • In Emperor: Battle for Dune, both the evil Harkonnen and the decidedly amoral Ordos use weapons based on toxins and poison, as do the tleilaxu. The noble Atreides and the fremen, meanwhile, do not.
  • The Gorgon of Evolve deals poison damage with three of its abilities and is by far the most horrific and unsettling of the monsters.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, Kefka's use of poison at Doma (read: "mass murder of an entire city"), even in war, is the point that the Empire's soldiers and citizens consider him to have crossed the Moral Event Horizon. That said, your characters can learn Poison-elemental magic fine.
  • In Fire Emblem, only enemies can generally use poison weapons.
    • Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 is a double subversion; you can try to steal poison weapons, but they revert to iron weapons if you try to steal them. While you do have access to one weapon with a poison effect (the dark tome Jormungand), it only poisons when the enemy wields it.
    • Subverted in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, where you can steal poison weapons — and in this case, they retain their effects under your ownership. In addition, you can pry Valaura, a poison light tome, off of Valtome's corpse in Part 4 of Radiant Dawn.
      • Early in Radiant Dawn, Izuka urges the party to capture a nearby prison camp by dumping poison in the camp's water supply. The protagonists disapprove, claiming that not only will they lose the support of the citizenry for it, but it makes no sense from a strategic stand point (the mission is to liberate the prisoners to gain a manpower boost, which is impossible when they are dead).
    • In Fire Emblem Fates, members of the Ninja class can use the Poison Strike ability, including not just enemy Mooks but also the playable characters Kaze, Saizo, and Kagero. Saizo can be a Jerkass, but Kagero and especially Kaze are straight-up heroic characters, despite their use of Poisoned Weapons. This skill returns in Fire Emblem Heroes, in the hands of Kaze, Saizo, Matthew (another heroic individual), and Clarisse (a villainess).
    • Averted in Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia; poison weapons are very hard to obtain, but they can be forged from randomly dropped rusted weaponry. In addition, the DLC Yasha class has a Skill/2% chance to poison any enemy it hits.
    • Both averted and played straight in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, where playable male characters who master the Dark Bishop Class learn Poison Strike, and the blacksmith is able to forge weapons into poisoned ones like the Venin Axe or Venin Sword. On the other hand, a number of enemy mooks are able to wield poisoned weapons before the player is likely to have the skill levels required to access them. This is also played straight in the case of minor antagonists Acheron and Metodey; Acheron's personal ability is Poison Strike and he is able to inflict poison on any target he hits, and Metodey wields a Venin Edge sword.
      • Also notably averted with Claude, one of the three main Lords of the game. He experiments with poisons in his free time, jokes about tampering with the other two houses' meals before their first mock battle, and plays up his love of schemes and strategy; one of his lost items is a bottle of mild stomach poison. On the other hand, he's unambiguously heroic and even idealistic, and his ultimate goal is to break down walls between people and see a world united in peace and acceptance of one another.
  • In Ghost of Tsushima, using poisonous blow darts (which can either cause enemies to drop dead in pain vomiting blood, or fly into a halluncination-induced rage and attack their allies) is considered a dishonorable tactic for a samurai to use. When Lord Shimura sees Jin Sakai use poison to dispatch a pair of Mongols and distract a leader long enough to behead him from behind, he reacts with shock and horror.
  • Played with during the tournament in The Legend of Dragoon, if you lose something will happen that makes you the winner by default. One of the opponents is deemed to have cheated by using "an illegal poison". However, the first round of the tournament has the opponent start by using a poison-inflicting item without being penalized for it; while he's disqualified if you lose, the disqualification is because he tries to outright murder you after he's already been declared the winner.
  • In LEGO Batman, only villainous characters such as Joker, Bane, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, and, strangely enough, Mr. Freeze, are "toxic" characters who can wade through poisonous green slime.
  • In NetHack, you are punished for using poisoned weapons as a Lawful Good character, getting a penalty to your Character Alignment with the quote below.
    You feel like an evil coward for using a poisoned weapon.
  • The New Order Last Days Of Europe: While chemical weapons are occasionally seen, their most prominent and notorious user, someone who is not sated with the existent chemical arsenals but commissions ever-deadlier gases, is Sergei Taboritsky, the Mad Regent of the Holy Russian Empire. In his insane efforts to purify Russia of heretics, criminals and non-Russian ethnicities that he believes are in the way of Alexei's return, he will turn much of the Russian wilderness into poisoned wastelands from the sheer amounts deployed. And there's much emphasis in the sheer cruelty of the ever-deadlier concoctions deployed.
  • Defiler demons from Nexus War games have Defiler Poison, which not only rapidly kills enemies but persists beyond death, potentially killing its victims in respawn after respawn in a setting where death is frequently a slap on the wrist otherwise. In the second game, anyone can use Poisoned Weapons but these use a weaker poison that lacks both the potency and persistence of Defiler Poison.
  • Pokémon:
    • Poison-type Pokémon are not inherently evil, but the villainous teams of each game tend to favor using at least one line of Poison-type Pokemon.
    • In Pokémon Red and Blue, the only Ghost-types were also Poison-types, and they were somewhat evil (possessing channelers in the Lavender Tower).
    • There's at least one Poison type on the obligatory team of bad guys in each installment of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, though there's also a few neutral/good Poison types present in each, as well.
    • It's not until Pokémon Scarlet and Violet that we finally get Poison-type Pokémon that are unambiguously bad news, except that due to a misunderstanding, The Loyal Three were thought to be heroes of Kitakami when in truth they attacked Ogerpon's partner and stole three of her four masks purely out of greed.
  • Averted in The Reconstruction; plenty of characters with Noxious skills and affinities are perfectly nice people.
  • Street Fighter:
    • F.A.N.G from Street Fighter V has a moveset that is based on wearing down his opponents gradually with different kinds of poisons. He is also Sagat's replacement in Shadaloo as M. Bison's Number Two.
    • Street Fighter 6 introduces A.K.I., who is F.A.N.G.'s Ax-Crazy Number Two with moves that steadily deplete her opponent's health should they connect due to the poisons in said moves.
  • In World of Warcraft, the rogue class can use Poisoned Weapons. The only two playable races who are unable to be the rogue class are the Tauren on the Horde side and the Draenei on the Alliance side. Each of these two races is the most noble race among their respective faction.
    • However, both of those races can be Hunters, and shoot poisoned arrows at people with impunity.
    • The Forsaken use biological and chemical weapons, and are the Token Evil Teammate of the Horde. Drek'thar expresses disgust for their use of those weapons in warfare, as well as their lack of guilt over doing so.
  • In one sidequest of Xenoblade Chronicles 1 you need to help a soldier find a weapon for her promotion exam. One of the options is a poisoned claymore, though she is unaware of this. If selected, she will fail the trial for winning by dishonorable means. Interestingly this is a case of in-game Deliberate Values Dissonance as you get the weapon from a Nopon merchant. Likewise, the game's Nopon party member specializes in poison and status ailment attacks. The homs (or at least their military) believe in this trope while the Nopon have no such stigma.

    Web Animation 

  • Inverted in Axe Cop, where using poison to take out bad guys is a favourite tactic of the titular hero, who calls it his "secret attack." Axe Cop seems to have a poison for every villain he comes across, with some bizarre method to get it into them. The artist notes this trope in his commentary, saying that most people associate poison with treachery and villains, but the author, his six-year-old brother, thinks poison is simply a quick, easy, and pragmatic way to take out bad guys.
  • In Girl Genius, Lucrezia is well aware of this trope.
    Lucrezia: Oh Klaus, I will miss you. [..] I'm afraid you really will have to go.
    Klaus: [speech slurred, holding the empty drink] By drng. Hyu pzind by drng.
    Lucrezia: Not poison, silly. I'm one of the good guys now, remember? Goodbye, darling.

    Web Videos 
  • Stampy's Lovely World: Downplayed. While Stampy and his Helpers use splash potions of poison in certain minigames for non-malevolent purposes, HitTheTarget and Veeva Dash are the only ones to use it with the intentional purpose of harming others, even actively Tampering with Food and Drink several times with it.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in Kung Fu Panda with Master Viper, who is venomous, but lacks fangs to deliver the venom, and instead uses kung fu to take down opponents. Averted completely with her father, who uses his fangs as a routine part of his battles until they're shattered by an armor-wearing opponent.