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Real-life persons maligned in classic fiction?
Thread poster: xxxM_S
xxxM_S
English to Russian
Sep 17, 2005

I'm a Russian feature writer who is researching a feature on the most maligned prototypes of classic literature characters (personages). Because this is a multinational message board, I hope to get examples from different national literatures.

So, the question is this: are you aware of famous villains from literary fiction who had real-life prototypes who were not villains or at least not-so-villainous? An example: composer Antonio Salieri, in all likelihood, did NOT kill Mozart, although his reputation as a murderer was perpetuated by Russian writer Pushkin.

Examples from any time period are welcome.

PS: although I'm looking for fiction villains who are famous, the prototype does not have to be a famous real-life person, like Salieri. There are examples when a writer was settling the scores with a person who was not a public figure or anything like this -- just a more or less ordinary person whom the writer happened to dislike.

Thanks to all in advance!

PPS: Although this posting is not related to translating, I hope the moderator will let it stay.


[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2005-09-17 10:38]


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 17:22
English to Spanish
+ ...
Hola Sep 17, 2005

M_S wrote:

PPS: Although this posting is not related to translating, I hope the moderator will let it stay.


Hi M_S!

Welcome to the Literature/Poetry forum!

I guess many ProZians will be more than willing to participate in such an interesting topic. However, let me remind you the 'no politics-no religion policy' of the site. Salieri might not be that controversial, but that may not always be the case.

Thank you very much and, again, WELCOME!

Au




[Edited at 2005-09-17 10:34]


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:22
Member (2000)
Russian to English
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Richard III of England Sep 17, 2005

King Richard III of England, who reigned from 1483 to 1485, is now widely believed not to deserve the evil reputation foisted upon him in Shakespeare's play "Richard III", written during the Tudor dynasty (representing the winning side in the War of the Roses, and thus wanting to blacken the reputation of the losers).
There are Richard III Societies in the UK and USA devoted to giving him his due.


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:22
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
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Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in Candide by Voltaire Sep 17, 2005

The way Leibniz was ridiculed by Voltaire comes to mind although Dr. Pangloss isn't portrayed as a real villain.

Regards,
Gerard


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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:22
Member (2002)
Italian to English
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Captain Bligh and "Mutiny on the Bounty" Sep 17, 2005

Hi, you might find this article interesting! It discusses your very subject!
http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/R/real_lives/bligh_t.html
Catherine


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Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:22
Member
English
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No Old McDonald? Sep 18, 2005

One of the most famous examples of literary figures representing historical figures must of course be Orwell's "Animal Farm". In a biting satire, Orwell dissects what he felt went wrong with the Russian Revolution, showing
how Snowball (Trotsky) loses power to Napoleon (Stalin).

The best thing about that fable is that it seems to work equally well as a satire on any number of revolutions. Had he written it in French, 150 years earlier, we would probably have seen Napoleon as Robespierre, etc. That surely is the mark of a classic work of satire, that it outlives the incident, or period, it is satirizing.

It is also interesting to read the "Annotated Alice" - a version of the famous "Alice in Wonderland" in which the editor provides notes on who Lewis Carrol was lampooning in the book. Again it is another work that has long outlived the fun it was trying to poke at contemporary literary, intellectual and political figures of its day.

[Edited at 2005-09-18 18:33]


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Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:22
Member
English
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Dick III (Part Two) Sep 18, 2005

Jack Doughty wrote: King Richard III of England, who reigned from 1483 to 1485, is now widely believed not to deserve the evil reputation foisted upon him in Shakespeare's play "Richard III".


There is a great theatre play by David Pownall called "Richard the Third Part Two" in which he debunks the Shakespeare version. It starts with a wonderful "coup de teatre". The main actor walks on "a la Olivier version" with a black cape and a large lump on his back revealing him to be a hunchback. The audience, expecting a debunking, gasp, asking themselves, "I thought this was supposed to destroy that myth!" A second later, the actor throws off the cape to reveal a colourful outfit and a bowl mandolin thrown over his shoulder, which he then begins to play. The audience roll about in the aisles.... (or at least that's what happened when I saw it )

[Edited at 2005-09-18 18:35]


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