- Severus Snape
Alec Hopkins (teenager)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's StoneSeverus Snape is a fictional characterin the " Harry Potter" book series written by J. K. Rowling. In the first novel, " Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone", he is one of the primary antagonists. As the series progresses, Snape's character becomes more layered and complex, and Rowling does not fully reveal the details of his true loyalties until the end of the final book, " Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". Snape appears in all seven novels of the series. Over the course of the series, Snape's portrayal evolves from that of a malicious and teacher, to that of a pivotal character of considerable complexity and moral ambiguity. Snape teaches Potions, and later Defense Against the Dark Arts, at Hogwarts, and is Slytherin's Head of House for the majority of the series. Rowling has described him as "a gift of a character". [cite web |url=http://www.half-bloodprince.org/snape_jkr.php |title=Rowling on Snape |accessdate= |accessmonthday= |accessdaymonth= |accessyear= |author= |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |date= |year= |month= |format= |work= |publisher=half-bloodprince.org |pages= |language= |doi= |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= ]
In an interview Rowling described Snape's character as an "
anti hero". She said that she drew inspiration for Snape's character from a disliked teacher from her own childhood,cite web|title=J.K. Rowling interview transcript, The Connection (WBUR Radio)|url=http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/1999/1099-connectiontransc2.htm|date=1999-10-12| accessdate=2008-03-14|format=HTML] and described Snape as a horrible teacher: "the worst, shabbiest thing you can do as a teacher is to bully students."web cite|title=Barnes and Noble and Yahoo! chat with J.K. Rowling, 20 October 2001|url=http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2000/1000-livechat-barnesnoble.html|accessdate=2007-09-15] [ [http://www.accio-quote.org/themes/snape.htm Conversations with JK Rowling, p.21] ] However she does suggest in the books that he is generally an effective one.OP|ch=12] For Snape's surname, Rowling borrowed the name from the village of Snape in the English countyof Suffolk. [cite web|title=Rowling eToys Interview|url=http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2000/fall00-etoys.html|year=2000|accessdate=2007-07-16] In a 1999 interview,cite web|title="Harry Potter Author Works Her Magic", FamilyEducation website|url=http://school.familyeducation.com/harry-potter/reading/37736.html|year=1999|accessdate=2007-09-03] and again in 2004,cite web|title=J.K. Rowling at the Edinburg Book Festival|url=http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/news_view.cfm?id=80|date=2004-08-15|accessdate=2008-03-14| format=HTML] Rowling singled out Snape as one of her favourite characters to write.
Rowling was less forthcoming about Snape than she was for other characters, because his true loyalties and motivations were not to be revealed until the final book.(About revealing what Snape's Patronus or Boggart are) "I'm not going to tell you [...] , but that's because it would give so much away." cite web|title="World Book Day Chat|url=http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2004/0304-wbd.htm|year=2004|accessdate=2007-09-03] However, she hinted numerous times at Snape's important role, suggesting that people should "keep an eye on Snape." "It is worth keeping an eye on old Severus definitely!"cite web|title=Interview with Stephen Fry at Royal Albert Hall|url=http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2003/0626-alberthall-fry.htm|year=2003|accessdate=2007-09-03] Answering a question regarding Snape's love life and the redemptive pattern to his character in 1999, Rowling expressed her surprise at the foresight."I'm slightly stunned that you've said that - and you'll find out why I'm so stunned if you read book 7." cite web|title=J.K. Rowling interview transcript, The Connection (WBUR Radio)|url=http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/1999/1099-connectiontransc2.htm#p13
After the completion of the series Rowling began to speak openly about Snape and admitted that she was particularly pleased with the way Snape’s story played throughout the course of the series, contrasting his
character arcwith that of Albus Dumbledore. [cite web|title='Harry Potter' Author J.K. Rowling Meets With L.A. Students, Plots Her Next Move.|url=http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2007/1015-mtv-adler.html|author=MTV.com|date = 2007-10-15|accessdate=2008-03-14|format=HTML] Saying, "the series is built around (Dumbledore and Snape)", Rowling maintained that she always knew what Snape would turn out to be at the end and that she carefully plotted his storyline throughout the series, " I had to drop clues all the way through because as you know in the seventh book when you have the revelation scene where everything shifts and you realize why Snape was… what Snape’s motivation was. I had to plot that through the books because at the point where you see what was really going on, it would have been an absolute cheat on the reader at that point just to show a bunch of stuff you’ve never seen before."cite web|title=JKR: Snape and Dumbledore Two of the Most Important Characters in "Deathly Hallows"|url=http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org/2008/4/3/jkr-snape-and-dumbledore-two-of-the-most-important-characters-in-deathly-hallows|publisher=the-leaky-cauldron.org|accessdate=2008-04-07|format=HTML] Rowling further said in an interview that she wanted redemption and forgiveness for Snape, "Snape is a complicated man... he's a very– he was a flawed human being, like all of us. Harry forgives him– as we know, from the epilogue, Harry– Harry really sees the good in Snape ultimately... there's redemption."cite web|title=Harry Potter: The Final Chapter|url=http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2007/0729-dateline-vieira.html|author=Vieira, Meredith|date=2007-07-29|accessdate=2008-03-14|format=HTML]
Joyce Millman suggests in her essay "To Sir With Love" in the book "Mapping the World of Harry Potter", that Snape is drawn from a tradition of
Byronic heroes such as "Wuthering Heights"' Heathcliff. [cite book|title=Mapping the World of Harry Potter|editor=Mercedes Lackey|publisher=BenBella Books, Inc.|year=2006|pages=39-52|url=http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=sKRkzVIK3foC&pg=PT13&lpg=PT13&dq=snape++wuthering-heights+byronic+snape&source=web&ots=MqgdkIDEs4&sig=QajAgLIhlGmLt9xOwb3xqVLKm8g&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=8&ct=result#PPT13,M1|accessdate=2008-07-30]
Chronology of the Harry Potter stories."
First three books
Severus Snape first appears in "
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone", shortly after Harry Potter arrives at Hogwarts. He is Hogwarts Potions Master, though he is widely rumoured to covet the Defence Against the Dark Arts post.PS|ch=7] Snape himself confirms the rumour in " Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix".OP|ch=17] Snape is a malicious, zealot teacher, who makes frequent snide and disparaging remarks at Harry's expense. He quickly becomes one of the main antagonists of the book, as Harry suspects him of plotting to steal the Philosopher's Stone, and of attempting to kill him. Only the climax of the book reveals that Professor Quirrell, in league with Lord Voldemort, is the real enemy while Snape, suspicious of Quirrell, was looking out for Harry throughout the book. In the final chapter, Dumbledore suggests that because Harry's father James had saved Snape's life when they were both students, even though the two detested each other, Snape felt responsible for Harry in return.PS|ch=17] As the final book reveals, this is not the full story. In any case, even after Quirrell's true role is revealed, Harry retains feelings of suspicion and resentment towards Snape, and their relationship remains tense. Snape's behaviour and attitude towards Harry also remain unchanged.
Snape has a minor role in "
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets", where he helps Gilderoy Lockhartoversee Hogwarts short-lived Duelling ClubCS|ch=11] but has little interaction with the main plot. It is while attending the Duelling Club that Harry learns the Expelliarmus spell indirectly from Snape, a spell that plays a significant role in later books. In " Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", Snape demonstrates his expertise with potions by brewing the complex Wolfsbane potion for the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, Remus Lupin.PA|ch=8] Snape harbours a deep suspicion throughout the third book that Lupin may be assisting Sirius Blackto enter Hogwarts Castle, believing that Black intends to kill Harry. This suspicion stems from Lupin's friendship with Sirius and Harry's father James while they were all at Hogwarts as students.OP|ch=28] Near the climax of the book, Snape attempts to apprehend Black, believing Black is responsible for murdering innocent bystanders and betraying the Potter family's hiding place to Voldemort. When Black escapes, Snape rightly accuses Harry of aiding him, still believing that Black is a mass murderer. After Harry and Lupin escape punishment, Snape retaliates by revealing to the entire school that Lupin is a werewolf, forcing the latter to resign his post.PA|ch=22]
"Prisoner of Azkaban" reveals more details about the connection between Snape and James Potter. While in school together, Sirius once tricked Snape into entering the
Shrieking Shackwhile Lupin was there, transformed into a werewolf. James realised the danger and stopped Snape, saving his life; this is the incident Dumbledore referred to at the end of the first book. Snape, however, believes James's actions were self-serving, to avoid being expelled.PA|ch=18]
Fourth and fifth books
Snape's role in the fourth novel, "
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" is not substantially different from that of the previous two books. Although he is apoplecticwhen Harry is unexpectedly entered into the Triwizard Tournament, this only makes him even more vindictive than usual. Later Harry accidentally falls into Dumbledore's Pensieve and views memories of several Death Eatertrials from years before. At one point, Snape is named as a Death Eater by Igor Karkaroff, but Dumbledore comes to Snape's defence, claiming that although Snape had indeed been a Death Eater, he changed sides before Voldemort's downfall and turned spy against him. Later, Dumbledore assures Harry that Snape's reformation is genuine, though he refuses to tell Harry how he knows this, saying the information "is a matter between Professor Snape and myself".GF|ch=30]
At the end of the book, Dumbledore attempts to convince a disbelieving Minister for Magic,
Cornelius Fudge, that Voldemort has returned. As proof, Snape willingly shows Fudge the restored Dark Markon his arm, and is subsequently sent on a secret mission by Dumbledore. This mission, as implied in " Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" and revealed in " Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", was to rejoin the Death Eaters and spy on Voldemort as a triple agent, pretending to spy on Dumbledore on behalf of Voldemort.
In the fifth novel, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", Snape returns to a more prominent role. With Voldemort having returned to a fully corporeal body, Snape continues working as a triple agent for Dumbledore.HBP|ch=25] He is seen prior to the start of school at
Number 12, Grimmauld Placegiving reports to the Order of the Phoenix.OP|ch=4] He has a very strained relation with Sirius Black, who owns Grimmauld Place and must remain there in hiding. The two trade frequent snide remarks and at one point almost begin a duel. Snape taunts Sirius about the latter not being able to take an active role in the Order's missions due to his fugitive status. Harry later feels that this contributed to Sirius' willingness to take unsafe risks.OP|ch=24] Back at school, Snape's official allegiance to the Order has no effect on his dislike for Harry.
Later in the book, Dumbledore has Snape teach Harry
Occlumency, the protection of the mind from outside intrusion or influence. Snape is an expert in Occlumency. The sessions are made difficult by their mutual hostility and end prematurely when Harry uses Dumbledore's Pensieve to view, without Snape's permission, a childhood memory of Snape being bullied by James Potterand Sirius Black, and of him insulting Lily Evans, Harry's mother. Neither Harry nor the reader discovers until the final book that this confrontation marked the end of Snape's friendship with Lily.
Towards the end of the novel
Dolores Umbridgecaptures Harry and questions him on the whereabouts of Dumbledore. She sends for Snape to provide a truth serum to force Harry to reveal any information he may be hiding. Snape claims that his supplies of Veritaserumare exhausted, when she desperately attempts to use the drug surreptitiously to force information from Harry. Snape withholds further assistance.OP|ch=32] It is later revealed that Snape had in fact supplied Umbridge with fake Veritaserum on a prior attempt. Snape then carries Harry's cryptic warning about Sirius's capture to the other Order members, allowing them to come to the rescue in the Department of Mysteries.OP|ch=37] Harry, however, still holds Snape partly responsible for Sirius' death, believing Snape's goading spurred Sirius into joining the battle.
In the opening chapters of "
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", Bellatrix Lestrangeand Narcissa Malfoyvisit Snape at his home in Spinner's End. Narcissa's son Draco has been given a difficult task by Voldemort, and Narcissa swears Snape to an Unbreakable Vowthat he will protect Draco, help him complete Voldemort's task, and finish the task himself if Draco fails. Snape claims to have been working for Voldemort (rather than for Dumbledore) ever since Voldemort's return, and explains his actions in the previous books in that light. In addition, he points out that Dumbledore's protection has kept him out of Azkaban and free to operate on Voldemort's behalf.HBP|ch=2]
At the Start-of-term feast at Hogwarts, Dumbledore announces he has finally appointed Snape as Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts.
Horace Slughorn, a retired Hogwarts teacher, replaces Snape as Potions Master. Slughorn lends Harry an old Potions textbook, in which Harry finds marginaliaincluding a variety of hexes and jinxes seemingly invented by an unknown student, and substantial improvements to the book's standard potion-making instructions. The book is inscribed "This Book is the Property of the Half-Blood Prince." The notes greatly bolster Harry's performance in Potions and he impresses Slughorn. Snape, who maintains that he "never had the impression that [he] had been able to teach Potter anything at all", is suspicious of Harry's newfound Potions success.HBP|ch=15]
Later, in a fight with
Draco Malfoy, Harry casts one of the Prince's spells (Sectumsempra) marked "For Enemies" and is horrified when it causes devastating wounds to Draco's face and chest. Snape rushes to the scene and heals Draco's wounds, and then interrogates Harry about the source of the spell, using Legilimencyto extract the source of Harry's knowledge (the Potions textbook) from Harry's mind. As Harry refuses to hand over the Half-Blood Prince's book, Snape puts him in detention during the final Quidditchmatch of the year.HBP|ch=24]
Returning to Hogwarts after a search for one of Voldemort's
Horcruxes, Harry and Dumbledore alight on the school's astronomy tower. Gravely weakened by Voldemort's protective potion, Dumbledore asks Harry to fetch Snape. Before Harry can leave, Draco Malfoy suddenly arrives intending to carry out Voldemort's ordered assassination of Dumbledore, but cannot bring himself to commit the murder. The arrival of Death Eaters and Snape interrupt them, and Snape kills the headmaster himself.HBP|ch=27] An enraged Harry (who had been paralysed by Dumbledore and witnessed the killing while under his invisibility cloak) chases Snape, Malfoy, and the Death Eaters as they flee the castle. Snape easily blocks Harry's attempts to attack him with magic and even jeeringly points out Harry's mistakes, but refuses to strike back. During the confrontation, Snape reveals himself to be the "Half-Blood Prince" (being the son of Muggle Tobias Snape and pure-blood Eileen "Prince"). Harry is unable to stop Snape before the latter passes through the school gates and Disapparates.HBP|ch=28] The full story of the relationship between Dumbledore and Snape and the real reason for the killing are not revealed until the next and last book. Rowling mentioned in an interview that at this point in the series the relationship Harry-Snape has become "as personal, if not more so, than Harry-Voldemort." [cite web|url=http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2005/0705-tlc_mugglenet-anelli-1.htm |title=The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part One|author=Melissa Anelli and Emerson Spatz|publisher=The Leaky Cauldron|date=2005-07-16|accessdate=2008-04-02|format=HTML]
Ministry of Magicfalls to the Death Eaters just before the start of the school year, Snape is named Headmaster of Hogwarts and appoints Death Eaters Amycus and Alecto Carrow to the staff. The novel later reveals that Snape uses his position as Headmaster to protect the students and to contain the Carrows. In the course of the book, Harry and Ron are led to find the Sword of Godric Gryffindor by a Patronus taking the form of a doe.DH|ch=19] Harry later learns that this was Snape's Patronus, taking the same shape as Harry's mother Lily Potter's Patronus, and that Snape had been tasked by Dumbledore with ensuring that Harry gained possession of the sword.
Towards the end of the school year, Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, and Sprout force Snape to flee the school.DH|ch=30] Later Snape is summoned to the
Shrieking Shackby Voldemort. Erroneously believing Snape is the master of the Elder Wand, Voldemort betrays Snape and has his pet snake Nagini bite him through the neck and mortally wound him, believing that Snape's death would make him the master of the Wand.DH|ch=32] Snape, dying from his wounds, releases a cloud of memories and tells Harry to take them. From these memories, Harry sees Snape's childhood and learns of his true loyalties. Harry observes that Snape befriended Lily Evans, Harry's mother, as a child when they lived near to each other. Upon their arrival at Hogwarts, the Sorting Hatplaced Snape and Lily into Slytherinand GryffindorHouses, respectively. They remained friends for the next few years until they were driven apart by Snape's interest in the Dark Arts; the friendship finally ended following the bullying episode that Harry had briefly seen in the fifth book. Despite this separation and Snape's loathing of Lily's eventual husband James Potter, who had bullied Snape at Hogwarts, Snape remained in love with Lily. When Snape inadvertently revealed the prophecy made by Sybill Trelawneyto Voldemort, Voldemort decided to attack the Potters in an attempt to prevent its fulfilment. Though he asked Voldemort to spare Lily, Snape, still fearing for her safety, went to Dumbledore and begged him to protect the Potters. Dumbledore agreed and ensured that they were placed under the Fidelius Charm.
In return, Snape became a
double agentfor the Order of the Phoenix against Voldemort, using his powers of Occlumencyto hide his betrayal from Voldemort. Even with his efforts to protect her, Snape felt responsible for Lily's death when the Fidelius charm was broken. Despite Harry's strong resemblance to James Potter, the fact that he was Lily's son made Snape protect him throughout the series. Snape demanded of Dumbledore, however, that his love for Lily, his reason for switching sides, be kept a secret. Dumbledore agreed and kept the secret throughout the series.
Snape's memories then reveal that Dumbledore had been afflicted by a powerful curse cast on the Peverell ring, one of Voldemort's
Horcruxes, prior to the start of Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts. Although Snape's knowledge of the Dark Arts enabled him to slow the spread of the curse, the curse would have ultimately killed Dumbledore within a year. Dumbledore, aware that Voldemort had ordered Draco Malfoy to kill him, asked Snape to kill him instead as a way of sparing the boy's soul and of preventing his otherwise slow, painful death. Although Snape was reluctant, even asking about the impact of such an action on his own soul, Dumbledore implied that this kind of mercy-killing or killing "by request" would not damage a man's soul in the same way murder would.DH|ch=33] Snape agreed to do as the Headmaster requested. Snape's memories also provide Harry with the information he needs to ensure Voldemort's final defeat, in the form of conversations Snape had with Dumbledore.
Rowling noted in an online interview that because Snape abandoned his post before dying or officially retiring, a portrait of him does not 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.cite web|url=http://the-leaky-cauldron.org/2007/7/30/j-k-rowling-web-chat-transcript|title=Transcript of webchat with J.K. Rowling|publisher=the-leaky-cauldron.org|date=2007-07-30|accessdate=2008-04-02|format=HTML] In a separate interview, Rowling discussed Snape's backstory, 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.
epilogueto "Deathly Hallows", set nineteen years after Harry defeated Voldemort, Harry's second born son has received the name Albus Severus, after Dumbledore and Snape. As Albus is about to enter his first year at Hogwarts, he expresses concern that he will be sorted into Slytherin. Harry tells him that he was "named after two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them [Snape] was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew."
Portrayal within films
As of 2007 Severus Snape has appeared in all five Harry Potter films, portrayed by British actor
Alan Rickman. Rickman was Rowling's personal choice to portray the character. [cite web|title= The First Look At Harry |url= http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1001148-3,00.html|author= Jess Cagle|publisher= www.time.com|date=2001-11-05 |accessdate=2008-03-31|format=HTML] 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. [cite web| title=JK Rowling interview in full|publisher= CBBC|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/tv_film/newsid_1634000/1634994.stm|accessdate=2007-07-29] "He knew very early on that he'd been in love with Lily. He needed to understand […] where this bitterness towards this boy who's the living example of her preference for another man came from."cite web|title=Anelli, Melissa, John Noe and Sue Upton. "PotterCast Interviews J.K. Rowling, part two."|url= http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2007/1224-pottercast-anelli.html |accessdate=2008-03-31|format=HTML]
Rickman himself has mostly refrained from talking about Snape, asking the 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 humour is extremely limited... But in his defence, I will add that he didn't have an easy adolescence, particularly during his studies at Hogwarts."cite web|title= Alan Rickman Interviews Transcripts about Snape |url= http://whysnape.tripod.com/rickman.htm | format=HTML] He also said Snape is a fascinating character, and that he takes immense pleasure in playing someone so ambiguous.cite web|title= Alan Rickman - French Interview Translation |url= http://whysnape.tripod.com/rickmanfrench.htm | format=HTML]
Rickman's performance as Severus Snape is popular with viewers and is appreciated among critics.
Entertainment Weeklylisted Rickman as one of the most popular movie stars in 2007 for his performance as Severus Snape, saying: "As the icy, humorless magic instructor Severus Snape, Rickman may not be on screen long — but he owns every minute." [cite web|title=The movie stars we're loving right now|url= http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20043289_20043293_20043278_3,00.html|publisher=EW.com|accessdate=2008-03-23|format=HTML] Rickman also noted the fans' reaction, in an interview he said that he finds it splendid that people in general adore Snape.
In "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", the teenaged Snape (portrayed by
Alec Hopkins) makes a brief appearance in a flashback to Snape’s youth.
Snape is described as hook-nosed, with sallow skin, black eyes, uneven yellow teeth, and greasy, shoulder-length black hair. His build is described as tall and thin, adorning black-robes; appearing "like an overgrown bat".PS|ch=8] The youthful Snape is described as having a "stringy, pallid look", being "round-shouldered yet angular", having a "twitchy" walk "that recalled a
spider" and "long oily hair that jumped about his face".
In the chapter illustrations by
Mary GrandPréin the American edition of " Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", Snape is depicted as balding with a goatee, but in the next novel, "Half-Blood Prince", he is depicted with long black hair.
Snape is generally depicted as having a dour and intense personality. He is cold, calculating, precise, sarcastic, bitter, and displays a strong dislike of Harry and often insults him by insulting his father, James Potter. As the series progresses, it is revealed that his treatment of Harry stems from Snape's bitter rivalry with James when they were in school together. In particular, James and Sirius Black bullied Snape, which according to Alan Rickman caused the already lonely boy to further "shut himself in". Rowling further described the young Snape as insecure and vulnerable:"Given his time over again [Snape] would not have become a Death Eater, but like many insecure, vulnerable people he craved membership of something big and powerful, something impressive. [...] [H] e was so blinded by his attraction to the dark side he thought [Lily] would find him impressive if he became a real Death Eater."web cite|title=Web Chat with J.K. Rowling 30 July 2007 on Bloomsbury.com|url=http://www.raincoast.com/harrypotter/pdfs/webchat-jkr.pdf|format=PDF|accessdate=2007-10-02]
The adult Snape, on the other hand, is shown very self-assured and confident of his abilities to a degree that Rickman described as ”full of himself.” Director
David Yatessaid Snape is a character with gravitas, authority and power. Snape typically displays a very calm and collected demeanour and is in control, rarely at a loss for words or taken off guard. However his temper is sometimes short where Harry is concerned and positively flares dealing with his erstwhile tormentor Sirius and when accused of cowardice. His otherwise impassive and aloof attitude seems to stem from his belief that people who can't control their emotions are weak.
Like some other prominent members of Slytherin house, Snape is shown a clever and cunning wizard.DH|ch=32] He is intelligent and has a keen analytical mind. Rowling in an interview adds that Snape is immensely brave, and when asked if she considers Snape a hero, replied: "Yes, I do; though a very flawed hero. An
anti-hero, perhaps. He is not a particularly likeable man in many ways. He remains rather cruel, a bully, riddled with bitterness and insecurity — and yet he loved, and showed loyalty to that love and, ultimately, laid down his life because of it. That's pretty heroic!"
All seven novels show Snape to be a very powerful wizard and to have been talented while a student. He specialises in potion making and has talent and passion for the Dark Arts. Sirius Black claimed that as a student at Hogwarts, Snape knew more hexes and curses as a first-year than most seventh-years.GF|ch=27] Particularly gifted in potion making, Snape added major improvements to his Potions textbook while still a student. Also as a student, Snape shows a rare gift for creating new spells, ranging from non-verbal Levicorpus and Liberacorpus to more dangerous Sectumsempra. Remus Lupin describes Sectumsempra as Snape's “specialty" in "Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows."DH|ch=5] Snape is shown using this spell as a teenager and in the aerial battle in the last novel. Despite Sectumsempra's deadly power, Snape can also heal the wounds it causes. Snape is adept at reversing or containing fatal damage from other dark curses as well due to his vast knowledge of Dark Arts, as he does when Dumbledore and then
Katie BellHBP|ch=13] are mortally cursed. Skil ful in the arts of Legilimencyand especially Occlumency, Snape is able to both access the minds of others, and protect his own thoughts — indeed, though Snape does not care for the term himself, Harry forms the uncomfortable impression early in the series that the Potions Master is able to "read minds." As an Occlumens, Snape is able to keep his betrayal from Voldemort, who is himself a very skilled Legilimens. Snape is the only Death Eater able to produce a full Patronus, which, like Lily Potter's, is a doe. Snape is a talented duellist, able to hold off by himself (if only briefly) a group of three Hogwarts Professors that included former duelling champion Filius Flitwick. Professor McGonagall later implies that Snape learned to fly without the use of a broom, a rare skill previously displayed by Voldemort.
Snape's family background is mostly shown in flashbacks during the course of the last three novels. Snape was born to Eileen Prince, a witch, and Tobias Snape, a Muggle, making him a half-blood. Snape spent his early childhood living with his parents in a small house in
Spinner's End. Snape's family was a poor one and he is described as wearing ill fitting clothes "that were so mis-matched that it looked deliberate". As a child, Snape was apparently neglected and his parents often fought each other. Snape was then eager to leave his home to go to Hogwarts. Towards the end of the last novel, Harry draws parallels between his childhood, Snape's, and Voldemort's, DH|ch=34]
Snape's true loyalty was one of the most significant questions in the series up until the end of the final instalment , "
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". Although the first five novels depict him as unfair, and vindictive, Snape invariably comes through, helps, and protects Harry. Several characters express doubts about his loyalty, but Dumbledore's trust in him is generally taken as the final word. The sixth novel, " Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", departs from that model. In an early chapter, Snape claims to have been working for Voldemort ever since the latter's return, and only pretending to help Dumbledore. By killing Dumbledore towards the end of the novel Snape seems to place himself firmly in Voldemort's camp. Rowling maintains this impression through the early chapters of the seventh novel. However, near the climax of that book, Snape leaves Harry his dying thoughts (to be viewed in the Pensieve) and ultimately reveals to Harry that he had been loyal to Albus Dumbledore throughout the series. Snape's loyalty to Dumbledore stems from his fierce devotion to and love of his childhood friend, Lily Evans, Harry's mother.
After "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", Snape's loyalty was a matter of intense debate among the fans. The issue was given special attention in the marketing campaigns of the last book "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". "Is Snape Good or Evil?" was one of the questions in Scholastic Inc. seven-question series, part of its marketing campaign of the book. [cite web|title = Scholastic asks "Is Snape Good or Evil?"|url= http://www.hpana.com/news.19880.html|date=2007-05-01|accessdate=2008-03-18|format=HTML] As part of the
Waldenbooksmarketing campaign, two free stickers, one that said "Trust Snape" and another that stated "Snape Is A Very Bad Man" were available with the book. Borders Grouppublished a separate book on the topic, "“The Great Snape Debate,”" containing essays and arguments from both sides of the debate. [cite web|title = Severus Snape: Friend or Foe?|url= http://www.bordersmedia.com/harrypotter/snapepanel/default.asp|accessdate=2008-03-18|format=HTML Link includes video.] [cite web|title = The Great Snape Debate - Borders Exclusive|url= http://www.bordersstores.com/search/title_detail.jsp?id=56815939|accessdate=2008-03-18|format=HTML]
The secretive attitude and gradual unfolding of Snape’s character was broadly admired, with
Stephen Fry, the UK audio books narrator, saying in 2003: "Characters like Snape are hard to love but there is a sort of ambiguity – you can’t quite decide - something sad about him – lonely and it’s fascinating when you think he’s going to be the evil one..., then slowly you get this idea he’s not so bad after all."cite web|title=Interview with Stephen Fry at Royal Albert Hall|url=http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2003/0626-alberthall-fry.htm|year=2003|accessdate=2007-09-03] David Yates, who directed the fifth movie instalment of the series, also expressed his views on the character, saying: "A character like Snape, where you're not really sure if he's a good guy or a bad guy, that gives you a latent tension... I think the coolest thing you can do with an audience is deny them a little bit of information."cite web|title=Director `denies' Potter audience... just a little| url=http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/19734081/date=2007-07-13|accessdate=2008-03-14|format=HTML] Despite being less than kind, the character quickly gained popularity within fandom to a level that surprised Rowling herself.
Jenny Sawyer from
The Christian Science Monitorcommented on the character's development in the series.cite web|title=Missing from 'Harry Potter"|url=http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0725/p09s02-coop.html?page=1|date=2007-07-25|accessdate=2008-06-23|format=HTML] She claims that Snape is the only protagonistwho genuinely had a choice to make and struggled to do the right thing, hence the only one to face a "compelling inner crisis". She believes the popularity of the character is due to the moral journey and inner conflict Snape undergoes within the series, as it is the hero's struggle and costly redemption that really matters: " [Snape's] character ached for resolution. And it is precisely this need for resolution – Our desire to know the real Snape and to understand his choices – that makes him the most compelling character in the Potter epic."
The final revelation of Snape's loyalty in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was viewed positively by fans and critics alike.
Daniel Radcliffe, who portrays Harry Potter in the movie series, expressed his delight, saying he was pleased to see that his theory that Snape would end up being a sort of tragic herocame through. [cite web|title= Daniel Radcliffe Talks 'Deathly Hallows'|url= http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20044270_20044274_20048635,00.html|author=Steve Daly|publisher=EW.com|accessdate=2008-03-18|format=HTML] Elizabeth Handfrom The Washington Postwrote:
In popular culture
*Snape appears in "Harry Potter vs. Pubertis", an episode of Emmy award-winning television series
Robot Chicken, and was voiced by Seth Green, [ [http://robotchicken.org/index.php?title=Harry_Potter_vs._Pubertis Harry Potter vs. Pubertis - ADD TV: The Robot Chicken Wiki ] ]
Neil Cicierega's online Potter Puppet Palsparodies, the video "The Mysterious Ticking Noise" with the chorus "Snape, Snape, Severus Snape" is the seventeenth most viewed video of all time as of 2008 and the winner for "Best Comedy" of the year 2007 at YouTube. [cite web|title= PotterPuppetPals Top at YouTube Awards |url= http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org/2008/3/22/tic-tock-potterpuppetpals-top-at-youtube-awards| |publisher=www.the-leaky-cauldron.org|date=2008-03-22|format=HTML]
*Alan Rickman appeared himself as Snape in a "Harry Potter" parody named "Louis Potter and the Philosopher's Scone" in
Alistair McGowan's " Big Impression" show. [cite web|title=BBC One press release|url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2002/03_march/14/entertainment.pdf|year=2001|accessdate=2007-05-20|format=PDF]
*Comic Relief released a story called "Harry Potter and the Secret Chamberpot of Azerbaijan", in which Snape is played by
sketch comedynamed "Cooking With..." in "The Wedge", Snape catches Harry and Hermione in love. [cite web|title=Australian television: The Wedge episode guide|url=http://www.australiantelevision.net/wedge_episodes.html|accessdate=2007-05-25]
*Snape is also parodied as Professor Santory Snapekin in
Sluggy Freelance's webcomic entitled "Torg Potter". In the first parody, Torg defeats a plot by Professor Snapekin to achieve ultimate power. [cite web|title=Torg Potter and the Sorcerer's Nuts|url=http://www.sluggy.com/daily.php?date=030915|accessdate=2007-07-18]
* [http://www.hp-lexicon.org/wizards/snape.html Snape Character profile] from the
Harry Potter Lexicon
* [http://www.accio-quote.org/themes/snape.htm Interviews in which Rowling has given information about Snape] from accio-quote.org
* [http://www.half-bloodprince.org/snapebook6quotes.php Quotes, info, and more] from http://www.half-bloodprince.org/
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