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 Severus Snape

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Posts : 493
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PostSubject: Severus Snape   Sun Jan 17, 2010 3:40 am

Severus Snape is a fictional character in 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 partisan teacher, to that of a pivotal character of considerable complexity and moral ambiguity. Snape teaches Potions, and later Defence Against the Dark Arts, at Hogwarts. Rowling has described him as "a gift of a character".

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, and described Snape as a horrible teacher: "the worst, shabbiest thing you can do as a teacher is to bully students." It is believed that Snape is based on John Nettleship, who taught Rowling chemistry at the Wyedean School near Chepstow. She does suggest in the books that he is generally an effective teacher, however. For Snape's surname, Rowling borrowed the name from the village of Snape, Suffolk. In a 1999 interview, and again in 2004, 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 revealed until the final book. However, she hinted numerous times at Snape's important role, suggesting that people should "keep an eye on Snape." Answering a question regarding Snape's love life and the redemptive pattern to his character in 1999, Rowling expressed her surprise at the foresight. Rowling also disclosed that already after publication of Prisoner of Azkaban, there was one woman fan who guessed that Snape loved Lily - making the writer wonder how she had given herself away.

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 out throughout the course of the series, contrasting his character arc with that of Albus Dumbledore. Rowling said, "the series is built around [Dumbledore and Snape]", and 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." Rowling further said in an interview that she wanted Snape to find redemption and forgiveness: "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."

Severus Snape first appears in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, shortly after Harry Potter arrives at Hogwarts. He is the school's Potions Master, though he is widely rumoured to covet the Defence Against the Dark Arts post. Snape himself confirms the rumour in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Snape is a sinister and malicious 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. 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.

As of 2009, Severus Snape has appeared in all six Harry Potter films, portrayed by British actor 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 himself has 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." He also said Snape is a fascinating character, and that he takes immense pleasure in playing someone so ambiguous.

Rickman's performance as Snape is popular with viewers and is appreciated among critics. 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' reaction; 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."

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 a thin man with sallow skin, a large, hooked nose, and yellow, uneven teeth. He has shoulder-length, greasy black hair which frames his face, and cold, black eyes. He wears black, flowing robes which give him the appearance of "..an overgrown bat". 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 GrandPré in the American editions of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and 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 being cold, calculating, precise, sarcastic, and bitter. He strongly dislikes 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 bullied Snape, which according to Alan Rickman caused the already lonely boy to further "shut himself in".[46] 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.[...] [He] was so blinded by his attraction to the dark side he thought [Lily] would find him impressive if he became a real Death Eater."
The adult Snape, on the other hand, is portrayed as very self-assured and confident of his abilities, to a degree that Rickman described as "full of himself." Director David Yates said Snape is a character with gravitas, authority and power. Snape typically displays a very calm and collected demeanour, rarely at a loss for words or taken off guard. His temper, however, is sometimes short where Harry is concerned and positively flares when dealing with his erstwhile tormentor Sirius, or when accused of cowardice. His otherwise impassive and aloof attitude seems to stem from his belief that people who cannot control their emotions are weak.

Like some other prominent members of Slytherin house, Snape is shown as a clever and cunning wizard. He is intelligent and has a keen, analytical mind. In an interview, Rowling 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 outstanding while a student. He specialises in potion making and has talent and passion for the Dark Arts. Sirius claimed that as a student at Hogwarts, Snape knew more hexes and curses as a first-year than most seventh-years. 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 "speciality" in Deathly Hallows. 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 Bell are cursed. Skilful in the arts of Legilimency and 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. According to Rowling, Snape is the only Death Eater capable of producing a full Patronus, which, like Lily'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 only 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 with one another. Snape was very 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.

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 towards Harry and his friends, he invariably ends up protecting or otherwise helping them when they or their allies are in danger. 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 the second chapter, Snape claims to have been working for Voldemort ever since the latter's return, and only pretending to help Dumbledore. By killing Dumbledore toward 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 the 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 on behalf of the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. "Is Snape Good or Evil?" was one of the questions in Scholastic Inc.'s seven-question series, part of its marketing campaign for the book. As part of the Waldenbooks marketing 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 Group published a separate book on the topic, “The Great Snape Debate,” containing essays and arguments from both sides of the debate.
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