My Favorite Protagonist / Antagonist Duos From Musical Theatre!

After my Javert analysis yesterday, I started thinking about things to do with antagonists and protagonists. So, today, I’m talking about my favorite protagonist / antagonist duos and tomorrow, I’m going to talk about Javert’s “hero’s journey”! For today, I’m going to focus on ten of my favorite protagonist / antagonist duos! Los geht’s!

1. JEAN VALJEAN / JAVERT from LES MISÉRABLES – Valjean and Javert have a pretty interesting relationship, I think. Their relationship is completely founded on misconception, misunderstanding, and difference of opinion. The interesting thing about this duo? In traditional fiction (pre-LES MIZ), the roles of protagonist and antagonist would probably be reversed, with Javert being the (maybe a little bit overly zealous) protagonist, and Valjean being the troublemaking thief of an antagonist. There’s so much to be discussed about this, but I think I’ll be exploring that a little more tomorrow!


2. ELISABETH / LUCHENI from ELISABETH – One of the things that I love about this duo is that Sisi is essentially oblivious to the fact that Luchini is her antagonist. And really, if you look at the history surrounding Sisi’s assassination, Luchini is kind of oblivious to the fact that he’s Sisi’s antagonist until practically immediately before he kills her. But in ELISABETH, Lucheni is telling Sisi’s story. So… at this point, he’s aware of the part he plays in Sisi’s death. Another thing that I just love is that the interaction between these two is immensely limited. The only real interaction that they have is when Lucheni stabs her with the file. Other than that, Lucheni’s just narrating and Sisi’s oblivious to the fact that he even exists. It definitely makes for an interesting protagonist / antagonist dynamic!


3. ELISABETH / DER TOD (Death) from ELISABETH – I highly debated whether or not der Tod (Death) could be considered an antagonist. While I suppose that a lot of people view death as a villainous sort, in the musical, Sisi doesn’t really view him as such. For most of the musical, Sisi views him as her friend and even loves him in this really weird way. And yet, I have decided that der Tod (Death) is in fact an antagonist of Sisi. In a lot of ways, he’s working against her and what she wants. She wants to live. He wants her for himself. Sisi loves her children. He takes them from her. Ultimately, though, their goals are the same. In the end, both of them are essentially happy. They’re finally together. Before, I said that Sisi wanted to live. And she does indeed say “Nein, ich möchte leben! Ich bin zu jung um aufzugeben!” (“No, I want to live! I’m too young to give up!”). But at the same time, many times throughout the musical, she begs him to take her away and free her. But each one of those times, der Tod swiftly refuses. So, throughout the musical, they’re working against each other. Until the very end where they are finally both happy. It’s just a really interesting dynamic, I think!


4. SARAH / COUNT KROLOCK from TANZ DER VAMPIRE – In so many ways, this is a really weird protagonist / antagonist duo. They don’t quite operate in the usual way. Sarah and the Count oftentimes want the same things. And yet, at the same time, Sarah’s being deceived by Krolock as he plays off of her naïve nature. Ultimately, though, they become the same sort of cruel, manipulating force as Sarah takes Alfred’s life from him just as Krolock took hers. All in all, it’s just really, really interesting, I think!


5. ELPHABA / THE WIZARD from WICKED – I think that the really interesting thing here is that this whole relationship here is very… odd. It’s just really hard to explain all-in-all. In some ways, they’re very similar (i.e. they’re ambition and want to be “wonderful” or at least viewed as such). And yet, it’s really a difference of morals and beliefs that makes these two the protagonist / antagonist pair that they are.


6. SYDNEY CARTON / HIMSELF from A TALE OF TWO CITIES – So, yes. I am putting Sydney Carton up against himself. Because, really, Sydney’s biggest enemy is well… himself. Even if he doesn’t realize it. He’s the only one standing in his own way of success and happiness. Sydney’s a genius—best lawyer in London. But… no one knows that. He doesn’t even really know that. The only people who know it are the people who use him for his genius and make themselves a name. And while Sydney’s sacrifice of his own life in the end is heroic—one of the most heroic actions of fiction—it does end his life. I’m not saying that what he did was wrong. But all-in-all, if Sydney were didn’t let himself beat himself up so much, he’d not be as unhappy a person as he is throughout most of the book. But then again, changing Sydney in that way would completely destroy the story and we wouldn’t have one of the greatest lines in literature of all time.


7. JEKYLL / HYDE from JEKYLL & HYDE – No one will deny that the idea of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is immensely interesting. But here, we’re talking about the dynamic between Jekyll and Hyde based off of the musical. Jekyll creates Hyde and well, in many ways, Hyde is Jekyll. He’s just the side of Jekyll that never—or at least rarely—comes out because well… Jekyll knows how to control himself and his tempter. Hyde is everything bad about Jekyll in human form without the harness of a conscious. So, yeah.


8. RUSTY / GREASEBALL + THE OTHER ENGINES from STARLIGHT EXPRESS – I think that we’ve all, in life, had conflicts with people who just don’t like us for whatever reason. They’re constantly trying to get us down and telling us that we’re just not good enough for anything. This is essentially the problem between Rusty and Greaseball (as well as the other engines). Rusty is a steam train and the others are well… not. Rusty’s kind of a runt. If STARLIGHT were a movie about high school packed with stereotypes, Rusty would be the nerdy type with a few close friends, and Greaseball would be the arrogant, too-sure of himself football player. That’s really the only way I can think of to explain this whole dynamic. While it’s a pretty simple relationship, I still think that it’s definitely interesting and I think that Rusty is a character that most people can relate to in some way.


9. MUNKUSTRAP / MACAVITY from CATS – While Grizabella is arguably the protagonist of CATS, she’s a protagonist we see very, very little of. And well… she never has on-stage contact with the antagonist of the show, Macavity (although it is implied that they’ve known each other and maybe were even friends). But Munkustrap is really a cat that I think we can consider a protagonist. He’s implied to be the next Jellicle leader and he’s also very clearly the protector of the tribe. Throughout each and every Macavity scare, Munkustrap is there, defending the tribe and even ultimately takes some injuries because of it. Also, most people in the CATS fandom believes that Macavity and Munku are brothers so that just adds to the interesting nature of their relationship, I think.


10. NANCY / BILL SYKES from OLIVER! – Nancy is in no way the lead protagonist of the show. That honor, of course, would have to go to Mr. Oliver Twist himself. But Nancy definitely is a protagonist and probably the one that most people find themselves caring for the most. And yet, she’s in love with the antagonist of the show, Bill Sykes. Sykes is implied to have some sort of feeling for Nancy though he never says this. When asked if he does love her, he kind of pushes the question away, merely saying “Well, I live with you, don’t I?” It’s clear to everyone around that Nancy and Bill’s relationship is the opposite of healthy. Bill shows little to no remorse for beating her senseless and threatens to kill her without a second thought. Throughout it all though, Nancy loves Bill, refusing to leave him. Even until the end, Nancy protects Bill.


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I think that protagonist / antagonist relationships are really interesting and that there are generally more to them than one might initially think! What are some of your favorite protagonist / antagonist relationships? Tschüss!

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12 thoughts on “My Favorite Protagonist / Antagonist Duos From Musical Theatre!

  1. Javert and Valjean for sure is my favorite protagonist/antagonist relationship. They have a very strong hatred among each other. Valjean has always strongly disliked Javert, but eventually is able to forgive him even if that moment destroys Javert. While Valjean is becoming a better person, Javert is always following him and always trying to recapture. That must be difficult on Valjean especially once he started caring for Cosette.

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      1. They are both very complex characters. They always run into each other paths every so often and Javert always becomes policeman where Valjean lives. It must be hard for Valjean to always be on the run from Javert while he is trying to live by the example set by the bishop and trying to raise Cosette. I can understand why Cosette is over sheltered and overprotected especially since she is being raised by an ex-convict and the two are always on the run

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      2. People think Valjean shields and protects Cosette too much. But you need to think in the mind of Valjean. He is an ex-con always on the run and trying not to be recaptured. I understand why Valjean shields her so much and I have nothing wrong with it

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      3. She was only 8 when Valjean first found Cosette. When she was 17, she wanted to know the truth, but in a way she was still too young in a way. Thankful she was rescued and raised by a person as wonderful as Valjean. The dynamic between Cosette and Valjean is incredible

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      4. Definitely! Although Cosette wanted to know at 17, she wasn’t quite ready for it, I think. And while I definitely think she’d be understanding or at least try to be, I’m not sure that she’d quite be able to handle the full load of the truth

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      5. She was only a teenager at the time. It would have been hard for her to handle especially after falling in love with Marius I believe. Although there isn’t much to her as a character, she still can be memorable

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      6. Definitely agree! I think that it was good for Cosette to find out when she did. Even Valjean knew she wasn’t quite ready–or maybe he just didn’t want to tell her–because he said “Truth is given by God to us all in our time, in our turn.”

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      7. Yeah. But I think in a way, though, that way she didn’t have room to make assumptions or to worry that the man that she’d come to view as a father had persisted in criminal activities, especially with the story of how he rescued Marius there to back him up!

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