You ever notice how it can be feast or famine with blog topics? Last week I was working hard to come up with topics. Today, I have three things I could do in addition to the one I wrote this morning. So, I figured I'd better at least get one of these bad boys down before I was unable to keep all of this in my head. Let's do the Claudius villains first, and then I'll talk about the grammatical reaction to Jacqueline Howett (an argument that was summed up well by Rachel Swirsky), and finally I'll chat about what I learned about my writing this morning.
Just a heads up: there will be an I, Claudius villain 5: Messalina. It's your bonus for collecting the whole set.
But first, Caligula.
This is John Hurt. He made a great Caligula. Caligula is a turning point for villains in the Claudius series. While you can say that Livia, Tiberius, and Sejanus were all lying to themselves about the purpose for their actions, all of them are minor league insane. They can function in the world with their personality flaws, and while their way of seeing reality isn't exactly accurate, it is more or less aligned with the way most Romans saw the world, even if they are broken.
Caligula is mad. He thinks that he is a god, and that he can stab his sister Drusilla in the belly, remove her baby, and then she'll be alright because she's a god. He won't sail on the ocean because he's at war with Neptune.
Caligula believes that he has a moral code apart from other mortals. As such, as kills on a whim, much as the gods do. He has sex with his sisters. He can be kind or angry on a moment's notice. Claudius is only lucky to survive him, because there is no strategy to deal with him. Previous villains can be reasoned with. Caligula can not.
In some ways this makes Caligula the most satisfying villain. As viewers, we never know what he will do. On the other hand, it makes him very frustrating to watch. As viewers, we never know what he will do.
When Caligula is assassinated, EVERYONE breathes a sigh of relief. Well, I know I did. Claudius himself is emperor next, and Claudius is one of the good guys.
Caligula has done Claudius a good turn in the guise of a practical joke: he has married deformed old Claudius to beautiful virginal Messalina. That looks like a good thing initially, but regrettably Messalina gets to be our last villain.