What Alan Rickman's Professor Snape taught me
Five lessons from one of Harry Potter's most complex characters.
- Total Shares
To say the news of Alan Rickman's death came as a shock to me will be a gross understatement. I don't know how many of us even knew that the British actor and theatre legend, immortalised as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, was duelling with cancer.
I didn't know Rickman personally, of course. But just like many of his countless fans, I did know him as the slit-eyed, sneering and sharp as ever Professor Snape. These words I just used to describe barely scratch the surface of one of the most memorable and complex characters created by JK Rowling.
In Rickman's own words, "If people want to know who I am, it is all in the work."
Here are few lessons I learnt from him:
1. Heroes are like hidden gems: For a larger part of Harry Potter's story, Snape spelled instant hatred for Pottermaniacs. Three pinches of no-nonsense attitude, the just-right dramatic swish of his robe, and a few drops of the controlled tenor in his voice, the Potions master would serve you right and deduct at least 10 points from your house. Then, we rediscover him as the Half Blood Prince, who was by Harry's side, as his guardian, if not godfather, from the very beginning.
2. Love was Lily: We say, love is not forever. Why even chase the idea of it, and so on. But Snape loved Lily, who was his rescuer, his friend and his only hope, probably even beyond forever. In showing his antagonistic side to Harry, he was "severe" (can't praise Rowling enough for the wordplay), only to protect him as he too loved him fiercely.
3. Trustworthy: Whichever side, he took, Snape stood by his choices. Be it joining Voldemort's army or acting as a double agent for the Hogwarts headmaster, Snape was loyal, well to an extent, and also a shrewd intellectual. He didn't let Dumbledore down and he held on to his promise of doing anything he could to keep Harry safe.
4. People are capable of changing: A former Death Eater, Severus Snape did a U-turn by "betraying" Voldemort, but haven't all of us backtracked at some point in our lives? I know I have, and that's okay. He gave up his old ways to be a part of something that actually called to him on a much deeper level. It did take a Dumbledore for him to do choose the better path, but it was his decision that he stood by in the end. Rickman himself puts it beautifully, "Each character I play has different dimensions. I'm not interested in words that pull them together."
5. A human: I remember seeing a ghost of a smile on Snape's face the moment before he passes away, in the sixth part, when he looks at Harry with forlorn longing, and says, "You have your mother's eyes..." I never saw him smile, not once, in any of the films. He was a character in a state of constant turmoil. He would smirk at "The Boy Who Lived" but the pain of remembering Lily every time he laid eyes on her little boy scorched the screen.
Severus Snape, you're a source of inspiration and you make me want to believe.
Thank you, for all the lessons. The first and the last.