|“||You dare use my own spells against me, Potter? Yes. I'm the Half-Blood Prince.||„|
|~ Severus Snape reveals himself as the Half-Blood Prince in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.|
|“||Dumbledore: After all this time?!
|~ Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape, regarding Snape's undying love for Lily.|
|“||You have your mother's eyes...||„|
|~ Severus Snape's dying words to Harry Potter, right after giving him his memories.|
Severus Snape, also known as the Half-Blood Prince, is a major character in the Harry Potter franchise. Originally making his debut in The Philosopher's Stone, he revealed his ambitious side as the titular main antagonist of The Half-Blood Prince. His loyalty was debatable, but he was finally revealed to be on the side of good near the end of The Deathly Hallows, being unconditionally loyal to Albus Dumbledore and the woman he loved, Lily.
He was portrayed by the late Alan Rickman, who also played Joe in Help! I'm a Fish, Hans Gruber in the 1988 film Die Hard, Elliot Marston in Quigley Down Under, the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and Judge Turpin in Tim Burton's film adaptation of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. He was also portrayed by Alec Hopkins as a teenager, and Benedict Clarke as a child.
Snape appears as a thin man with sallow skin, long greasy black hair, a hooked nose and black eyes. He also dresses in a flowing black robe.
Severus Snape, as a young man, was an extremely insecure, vulnerable, and painfully embittered person with a colossal inferiority complex. From the year dot, he strived to be part of some greater cause for the sake of recognition, admiration, authority, or if need be, fear. He grew up in complete and utter poverty under a vicious Muggle father who likely abused him due to his magic and a submissive Witch mother, leading him to be a very fearful person. This also drew him towards Lily Evans, to whom he developed an increasingly powerful love for, however, though she regarded him as a friend, she never was shown to return any of his romantic affection.
Snape's prejudice was very debatable, as he was renowned for hating Muggles like Petunia Dursley, but he didn't appear to regard Lily in the same light because she was a Muggle-Born, this might have been influenced by his love for her. He would turn cold and callous towards what was seen as racially inferior by others if it meant being liked by his peers, shown by him viciously scorning Lily's blood status in front of James Potter simply so that he didn't lose face, an act that he deeply regretted afterwards.
Snape was a determined and highly driven man, and quickly developed supreme confidence in his own talents and abilities. In his own right, he was an extremely powerful Wizard, so this assurance wasn't unjustified. He would also become critical towards the magical powers of others, particularly Hogwarts students he didn't like. However, despite his immense prowess as a sorcerer, Snape relied on his genius-level intelligence and power of mind to survive in a world where magical powers were considered the defining trait of everyone around him instead of logical thinking.
He showed himself to be diabolically cunning and calculating to an extreme, capable of creating elaborate and highly effective plans to achieve difficult and sometimes transparent goals in very short amounts of time, which is shown frequently throughout the series. This is shown by how he deduced that something had happened to Harry when he disappeared into the Forbidden Forest with Dolores Umbridge. It was shown again by him creating a convoluted way of planning out the Battle of the Seven Potters without directly endangering Harry or himself, whilst simultaneously keeping Voldemort's perception of his true allegiance at bay.
Snape's intelligence made him very quick-thinking, shown during a Quidditch match when he saw Harry's broom go out of control, at which point he quickly deduced it was cursed and immediately conjured a counter-curse to reverse its effects, however, this made people, especially Harry, think he was doing the opposite. Snape later volunteered to referee the next match to ensure such an incident didn't repeat itself a second time.
As a teacher, Snape was externally bitter, cynical, precise, cold, sarcastic, aloof and apathetic. He was very direct in his opinions of others and didn't regard people's feelings very highly while having patience for any reckless or rude behavior. His standards for his classes were much higher than that of the other professors, as he only allowed students with the very best grades (an Outstanding mark) to continue into advanced Potions class on N.E.W.T. level. He seemed to favor Slytherins against all other Houses, possibly because of his experiences with Gryffindors as a child and him coming from Slytherin. Nevertheless, he marked the students' works based on their results and gave good marks to those who did their best, even if he disliked them and didn't hesitate to punish Slytherins if they didn't meet his expectations. He wasn't liked very much among most Hogwarts professors, but he was highly respected for his experience, power and knowledge.
Snape, being such a powerful Wizard, possessed an encyclopedic and extremely precise knowledge of various advanced types of magic, he was one of the finest Occlumenses of all time and a highly accomplished Legilimens. He was also so knowledgeable in Potions that he could recite the origins, etymology and capabilities of various potions off by heart, and he could even correct a Potions handbook (an advanced potions book, which should have information that is accurate and effective) so that it provides quicker, more efficient and more precise ways of accomplishing the creation and usage of potions.
Snape was normally a very calm and reserved person, but he possessed a brutal temper that would infrequently get the better of him. He would react violently if he thought he was being pitied, underestimated or especially if he was being viewed as a coward. The most climactic episode where he lost his temper was in his famous duel with Harry Potter, where he turned furious and explosive when Harry used his own spells, that is to say, spells that he personally created against him, just like James Potter would. This gave way to pride, as he freely described himself as the Half-Blood Prince.
Severus Snape was, finally, an enormously brave man, throughout the course of the series, Snape puts himself in unimaginable danger every day of his life, in his efforts to protect Harry from any harm that came his way, he even protected Harry, Ron and Hermione from a werewolf by willingly acting as a human shield for the trio, risking extreme physical harm to his own body. Snape was a man who possessed a deep capacity for love. Everything that he did in the latter part of his life was motivated by his devotion to Lily Evans, who he loved unconditionally. He was one of Dumbledore's most reliable allies and in his role as a double agent, took great personal risk in ensuring Harry's safety at the hands of Lord Voldemort.
Snape and Harry had a very complicated relationship, as Snape viewed Harry as an eternal reminder that his childhood bully married the love of his life and that Lily had died. However, he simultaneously saw Harry as the last reminder of Lily he had left, and as such, he vowed to protect Harry at all costs since Lily died protecting him, although his hatred of James lead to him singling out Harry and his friends the most during class. Harry, on the other hand, consistently saw Snape as a nuisance and frequently suspected that Snape was evil as he was a former Death Eater as well as his treatment of the students.
Harry's suspicions of Snape allegedly were confirmed when Snape killed Dumbledore, after which Harry's dislike towards Snape turned into pure hatred, with Harry referring to Snape as a "traitor" and a "coward". It isn't until after Snape died that Harry learned the truth about the professor and the sheer lengths that he had gone to in order to protect Harry. After Voldemort's defeat, Harry made sure to make Snape's real nature be known to the world and even named his son 'Severus' in honor of Snape, whom he referred as "the bravest man he knew".
Rowling interview about Snape
Rowling noted in an interview that because Snape abandoned his post before dying or officially retiring, a portrait of him doesn't immediately appear in the Headmaster's office following his death. She adds, however, that she would like to think Harry made Snape's true loyalty and heroism known in the Wizarding World, and that he lobbied to ensure that a portrait be installed in the office. In a separate interview, Rowling discussed Snape's back story, saying she had planned it ever since she wrote the first book because the whole series is built around it and she considers him one of the most important characters of the seventh book.
Portrayal within films
Severus Snape appears in all eight Harry Potter films, portrayed by the late Alan Rickman. Rickman was Rowling's personal choice to portray the character. He had conversations with Rowling about his character and is one of the few Harry Potter actors that she spoke to prior to the completion of the book series about the future direction of the character. "He knew very early on that he'd been in love with Lily," said Rowling. "He needed to understand […] where this bitterness towards this boy who's the living example of her preference for another man came from."
Rickman used this knowledge of Snape's ultimate loyalties throughout the films by deciding how to play certain scenes, deliver specific lines, or using body language to convey specific emotions. When the directors of the films would ask him why he was doing a scene a certain way or delivering a line in a specific manner, Rickman would simply reply that he knew something they didn't.
Rickman himself refrained from talking about Snape, asking readers to wait and "see what unfolds" in the course of the novels; however, he did say Snape is a complicated person, very rigid and full of himself; in an interview he went further, saying: "Snape isn't one who enjoys jokes and I strongly fear that his sense of humor is extremely limited... But in his defense, I will add that he didn't have an easy adolescence, particularly during his studies at Hogwarts." He also said Snape is a fascinating character, and that he takes immense pleasure in playing such an ambiguous person.
Rickman's performance as Snape was widely acclaimed by critics, fans and Rowling herself. Entertainment Weekly listed Rickman as one of the most popular movie stars in 2007 for his performance as Snape, saying: "As the icy, humorless magic instructor Severus Snape, Rickman may not be on screen long, but he owns every minute."
Rickman also noted fans' reactions; in an interview, he said he found "that people in general adore Snape. He is sarcastic, stubborn, etc, etc. But he is also fascinating. I have a lot of fun impersonating him." Rickman was nominated for several awards for his portrayal of Snape, and in 2011, was elected the best character portrayal in all of the Harry Potter film series.
In 2011, Empire magazine published an open letter from Rickman to J.K. Rowling, ruminating on the ten years of working on the Potter films and thanking her for telling the story.
In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifteen-year-old Snape (portrayed by Alec Hopkins) makes a brief appearance in a flashback of Snape’s youth. In the final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, the younger Snape, perhaps ten or eleven, is played by Benedict Clarke.
- Tim Roth was in talks to play Snape, but he turned down the role to play General Thade in the 2001 Planet of the Apes film.
- Alan Rickman proved to be a remarkable actor to play the character since he managed his performance so well that Rupert Grint admitted to being afraid of him in an interview.
- An aspect of him of being an anti hero is due to him being an extremely biased teacher, who blatantly favored students of Slytherin, which he was the head of the house of, while unfairly punishing and verbally abusing every other student, especially Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville.
- In the film series, however, Snape's characterization is changed to appear more likable as with Gilderoy Lockhart; he is more laid back and less anti social, does not openly insult or harass his students (with the exception of shoving or whacking Harry and Ron on the head to make them focus on their studies and once when Ron snickered when Umbridge was embarrassing and mocking him). While his enmity with Harry is still evident, he is less cruel towards him, such as wishing him good luck on his first Quidditch match and even flashing him a slight smile, along with a sarcastic compliment on Harry's defeat of the mountain troll earlier that year. He also initially defended him, Ron and Hermione in the second film from Filch's accusations when Mrs. Norris was petrified (though he did note that there was a set of suspicious circumstances) and when talking with Dumbledore after revealing the Prophecy to Voldemort, he asked him to protect the entire Potter family (including his rival James) rather than Lily alone, without Dumbledore having to prompt him to do so.
- In honor of Alan Rickman's death from pancreatic cancer in 2016, Snape appears in a 2016 episode of The Simpsons.
- According to J.K. Rowling, Snape's character was loosely inspired by an unpleasant chemistry teacher she had in secondary school.
- He was born in 1960, making him 38 years old in the final book.
- Severus Snape is considered by many to be the most sympathetic and least evil villain Alan Rickman ever portrayed, as well as one of his most sympathetic roles in general.
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