Musical Characters Whose Pessimism and Cynicism are Key Traits

Guten tag, alles! One of my favorite things about musicals is the emotional side of them. So… today, I thought that I’d make a list of my favorite characters who are not hopeful but rather pessimistic and /or cynical. It can be difficult to like pessimistic / cynical characters but oftentimes these are the more complex characters, I think. So… here we go!

1. Sydney Carton from A TALE OF TWO CITIES – I think that Sydney Carton is a character who is most certainly known for his cynicism and pessimism. It’s who he is. Brightest lawyer in London yet doesn’t see it and gives everyone else the credit for his work. Always drinking. Always thinking of himself as a miserable wreck of a man. And while he doesn’t sound appealing, he is a character that you can easily grow to love and care about.

2. Éponine from LES MISÉRABLES – Ép is one of those characters who is cynical and pessimistic because she knows that there is no chance for her dreams to come true—it just won’t happen. It’s not even something remotely possible. So… it’s understandable why she’s a pessimist and a cynic. Her death in the book version of LES MISÉRABLES shows that cynical, pessimistic side remarkably. Take, for example, her line: “I’m so happy we’re all going to die.”

3. Lucheni from ELISABETH – Lucheni is an anarchist. And you could say that he’s cynical in regards to government as a whole. But the thing with Lucheni in ELISABETH is that he’s also very cynical and sarcastic in his narration of the show. I might even go so far as to say that he’s the funniest character in the show in a dark, sarcastic way.

4. The Wizard from WICKED – The line that really spoke to me as cynical from the Wizard was: “Where I’m from, we believe all sorts of things that aren’t true. We call it history.” And that sent me right back into my eighth grade history class in which my teacher told us: “By the time you’re out of here, you’ll all be cynics. Just wait.” That was the first day of class. And yeah… that line reminded me of my history teacher and well… it struck me as pretty cynical.

5. The Phantom (Erik) from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA – The Phantom is not so much a cynic as he is a pessimist. Though… in certain lights, he most certainly is a cynic. But he does have reason for being a pessimist. He was mistreated as a child and by everyone around him. So he knows the worst that can happen and he fears it happening to him. I’m not saying that that excuses murder or anything… but it makes you feel for him.

6. Madame Giry from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA – Madame Giry is a cynic and at times, pessimistic. But… rather than being pessimistic, I think that she’s more of a realist. When we find out that Madame Giry knows about the Phantom’s past, we find out that she does have reason for assuming the worst that could come from him. Throughout the whole “Notes / Twisted Every Way” sequence, Madame Giry is cynical and pessimistic of the whole situation and plan that the managers and Raoul come up with.

7. Nick Bottom from SOMETHING ROTTEN! – Nick Bottom isn’t a cynic but he most certainly is a pessimist. And it’s absolutely understandable, though. After all, he and Nigel can’t catch a break with their plays because they’ve got to compete with the most well-renowned playwright of all time: William Shakespeare. And I love how Nick’s pessimism is used as a plot device and eventually a device to get him to develop as a character.

8. Cathy from THE LAST FIVE YEARS – Cathy is not a full-blown pessimist nor cynic. But she grows cynical and pessimistic when she’s at a low after bad auditions and fights with Jamie. Which makes sense. It all really makes sense. And I think Cathy’s pessimism is that sort of pessimism that we all have in us naturally and it makes her a relatable character.

9. Professor Ambrosious from TANZ DER VAMPIRE – I hope I spelt the professor’s name right… but… whatever. It’s understandable why the Professor is pessimistic. He’s looking for vampires. Bloodthirsty, murderous, non-Twilight vampires. (Sorry, I just had to throw in a Twilight jab.) And if you’re all “Aha! This is going to all be fine.”, you’re going to get killed by Krolock and his clan of vampires. So his pessimism is almost a sort of self-preservation device which is really interesting.

10. Sir Danvers Carew from JEKYLL & HYDE – Sir Danvers is cynical of a lot of things. But it’s kind of his job to be (and, also, his role in the musical). Sir Danvers sits on a committee that goes over propositions from scientists and stuff. For that sort of job, you have to be a cynic at least to a certain degree. And then, there’s the fact that he’s Lisa’s father. Lisa’s marrying Henry Jekyll. And I think that all fathers are cynical (at least to some extent) when it comes to marriage for their daughters. Especially when the person she’s marrying is kind of at odds with the people he works with.


So, that’s it! Sorry this post came out so late… I was testing longer than I thought that I would be but I passed with a high score so I guess it was worth it! Who are your favorite characters who could be classified as cynics or pessimists? Tschüss!


26 thoughts on “Musical Characters Whose Pessimism and Cynicism are Key Traits

  1. Never really thought of the pessimistic characters. Only seem to know who are the complete opposite. You do make a good point about Eponine because she knows that Marius could never be hers, but still sticks to his side no matter what. Phantom make sense as well. Just never thought of characters who could possibly be a pessimist


    1. Yeah. The thing with a lot of pessimistic characters is that they’re usually never fully pessimistic. Sydney Carton is probably the best example I can think of of a full-on pessimist but even he does become more and more of an optimist as time goes on


      1. I can easily think of those who are optimistic character. That line the Wizard says in that song is crazy because that line is not true because history is not fake, but real


      2. Definitely! Although I think that with history and the reason why historians are so often cynical is that it all depends on who’s telling the story. History has so many sides to it that the answer is so very rarely here or there but rather somewhere in the middle. But I think that the Wizard is, in a lot of ways, trying to excuse his actions in this way


      3. You are right. He does try to excuse his actions. I never really taken the time to get to know the wizard because I usually don’t take the time to get know antagonists or even villains


      4. Villains and antagonists can be so frustrating because it can be hard to understand their motivates and why they act the way they do. I may not like those sort of characters, but without them, a story has no conflict and in a way no plot. They are just as important as the protagonist


      5. There was only one antagonist I actually felt for. The Javert of the movie, the 25th anniversary concert film, and the community college production were Javerts that I just didn’t even care for.

        But when I saw Jeremy Secomb portray Javert in the West End, I finally felt something for that character. It was during the suicide scene and I finally felt something for that character. I think Javert actually has the saddest death since he died alone unlike the others. The staging was bit off, but at least I finally felt something for Javert. But I still hardly understand some of his motives and have to question him sometimes.


      6. The 25th anniversary cd. People get that cd mixed up with the cast that actually participated in the 25th anniversary concert. I know that the 2010 cd are not the same cast from the concert


      7. One piece of trivia, which led me to watching that 25th concert. I fell in love with the portrayal of Eponine in the movie and its the same actress who portrays the same characters in the concert. Through that realization, I knew I had to watch that concert


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