|Harry Potter character|
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
|First appearance||Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003)|
|Last appearance||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007)|
|Created by||J. K. Rowling|
|Portrayed by||Imelda Staunton|
Dolores Jane Umbridge is a fictional character from the Harry Potter series created by J.K. Rowling. The character is the primary antagonist of the fifth novel Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and was stationed at Hogwarts by the Ministry of Magic to take power away from Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore, who were informing the Wizarding World of Lord Voldemort's return. While at Hogwarts, Umbridge grows in power and is appointed "High Inquisitor" by the Minister of Magic in an attempt to control the school. Despite being assigned as the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Umbridge refuses to teach anything practical in the subject, which leads to the formation of Dumbledore's Army as a way for the students to learn how to defend themselves. Umbridge is described as a fat, toad-like woman, with a wide, slack mouth, and a large bow.
Critics have recognised Umbridge as one of the most hated, as well as the most compelling, villains in the series. Umbridge was portrayed by Imelda Staunton in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.
Fictional character biography
Dolores Jane Umbridge was born to a Wizard father and a Muggle mother, and eventually had a younger brother who was a Squib. Under the influence of her father, Dolores grew up despising her mother and brother for their lack of magical abilities. She was sorted into Slytherin House at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and despised her time at the school due to never being given any positions of power. After her time at Hogwarts, Umbridge rose to prominent and influential positions in the Ministry of Magic in the Improper Use of Magic Office. After a while, Umbridge became the Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic Cornellius Fudge. Umbridge used this position of power to satisfy her hatred of half-breeds, for example through new Anti-Werewolf Legislation which made it near impossible for Remus Lupin to find a new job after resigning his post as Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor at Hogwarts in 1994. After rumours of Lord Voldemort's return and the increased paranoia of Cornelius Fudge, Umbridge set two Dementors on Harry Potter and his cousin Dudley Dursley in Little Whinging in an attempt to get him expelled from Hogwarts for use of magic outside of school. During Harry's trial, Umbridge tried to intimidate him to undermine his defense: that he had used the Patronus Charm only because the Dementors were about to permanently incapacitate him and Dudley. In the end, Umbridge, Fudge and a few other members of the court voted for conviction, but Harry was cleared of the charges.
Reign over Hogwarts
After the trial, the Ministry of Magic appointed Umbridge as the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts to allow the Ministry to monitor the activities within Hogwarts, and particularly Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. Fudge was paranoid that Dumbledore was attempting to overthrow his position as Minister and was using the students to do so. As a result, Umbridge refused to teach any sort of martial magic and saw her return to the school as an opportunity to gain power over the people who refused to give her any positions of responsibility during her schooling. Umbridge started with a negative impression on the students of Hogwarts at the Start-of-Term Feast where she rudely interrupted Dumbledore and talked to the students in a condescending manner as if they were toddlers. Umbridge began interfering with the students learning at Hogwarts by refusing to teach any practical applications despite her post as Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. Due to the apparent return of Voldemort that was being silenced by the Ministry, students such as Harry, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger and Dean Thomas began openly opposing to Umbridge's insistence on theoretical applications. Harry's constant objections in Umbridge's class due to him being present at Voldemort's return and witnessing the murder of Cedric Diggory, led him to a detention with Umbridge where she forced him to write "I Must Not Tell Lies" with a cursed quill that scarred the phrase into his hand permanently. Umbridge used her power to appoint herself as Hogwarts "High Inquisitor" to evaluate, harass or fire any teacher deemed unsatisfactory by her, which found her often quarrelling with Transfiguration professor and Head of Gryffindor House Minerva McGonagall. Umbridge abolished all student groups which included Quidditch teams. Eventually Harry, Ron and Hermione formed Dumbledore's Army in protest to Umbridge and as a way to teach students how to use defensive spells in a practical format. The group was a secretive organisation that would meet in the Room of Requirement, a hidden room in Hogwarts. After Harry gave an interview with The Quibbler where he discussed Voldemort's return, Umbridge banned the magazine and restricted Harry's privileges. Umbridge also attempted to sack Divination Professor Sybil Trelawney, but was unsuccessful due to Dumbledore's interference. Dumbledore then purposely appointed centaur Firenze as the new Divination Professor, as Dumbledore was aware of Umbridge's hatred towards half-breeds.
Dumbledore's Army was eventually betrayed by Ravenclaw student Marietta Edgecombe who was threatened by Umbridge that if she didn't turn them over, her mother would lose her job at the Ministry. Umbridge attempted to prosecute Harry and have him thrown out of Hogwarts, but Dumbledore took the blame for the group's formation and disappeared from Hogwarts to avoid arrest. Umbridge then appointed herself as the new Headmistress of Hogwarts and formed the Inquisitorial Squad, composed entirely of Slytherin students such as Draco Malfoy. Despite Dumbledore's Army being ousted and banned, the rebellion against Umbridge continued mainly led by consistent pranks by Fred and George Weasley. Before Umbridge could catch the Twins, they fled Hogwarts on their broomsticks and requested the Castle's poltergeist Peeves to continue to torment Umbridge in their absence. The Castle itself seemed to recognise that Umbridge was not the true Headmistress as she was denied access from the Headmaster's Tower. After firing Care of Magical Creatures Professor Rubeus Hagrid due to his half-breed status, Professor McGonagall attempted to intervene, which resulted in Umbridge and other Aurors attacking her so severely she was hospitalised. Umbridge would also intercept all manner of communication to prevent Harry from contacting his godfather Sirius Black and the Order of the Phoenix, even going so far as to injure Harry's pet owl Hedwig.
Umbridge eventually caught Harry attempting to use the Floo Network in her office to contact Sirius. This resulted in Dumbledore's Army members Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville Longbottom, Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood being rounded up by the Inquisitorial Squad and held in her office. When Harry refused to give Umbridge any information, she called Potions master Severus Snape to provide her with the truth telling potion Veritaserum, but she was denied access to the potion as Snape informed her that she had squandered all of it whilst interrogating students. Umbridge then believed that the illegal Cruciatus Curse would cause Harry to loosen his tongue. Hermione attempted to protest but Umbridge brushed her off and revealed that she had ordered the Dementor attack on Harry and Dudley during the summer. Hermione tricked Umbridge into following Harry and herself into the Forbidden Forest to search for Dumbledore's alleged "secret weapon". Umbridge was confronted by a herd of centaurs, whom she insulted with racial slurs and attacked a centaur. Due to this, Umbridge was chased and nearly killed by the herd. Umbridge was saved by Dumbledore who managed to calm the herd due to their respect for him. After Voldemort was sighted in the Ministry of Magic by numerous people, including Cornelius Fudge, Dumbledore's power at Hogwarts was restored and Umbridge was sacked. Umbridge attempted to sneak out of the school but was encountered by Peeves the Poltergeist, who chased her out of the school with McGonagall's cane to the delight of students and teachers alike.
Return to the Ministry
After her dismissal from Hogwarts, Umbridge returned to the Ministry as the Senior Undersecretary to the new Minister Rufus Scrimgeour. She purposely chose to continue to torment Harry by informing the Minister of Harry's wish to become an Auror. Harry refused to trust Scrimgeour or the Ministry of Magic due to the fact that Umbridge was never sacked or arrested for her actions. Afterwards Umbridge was later seen at Dumbledore's funeral and was startled by the appearance of Firenze, clearly traumatised by her encounter with the centaurs. After Voldemort's takeover of the Ministry of Magic, Umbridge oversaw the registration and prosecution of Muggle-born witches and wizards under the Muggle-Born Registration Commission. In her position, Umbridge conducted biased trials that would subject Muggle-born witches and wizards to Dementors and have them sent to Azkaban prison for "stealing magic from real witches and wizards". Following Alastor Moody's murder, Umbridge somehow obtained possession of his magical prosthetic eye and had it fixed into the door to her office as a way of terrorising Ministry employees that she was observing them at all times. Afterwards Umbridge received a locket while bribing thief Mundungus Fletcher. The locket was actually Salazar Slytherin's and was (unbeknownst to her) one of Voldemort's Horcruxes. Due to Umbridge's twisted nature, the Horcrux actually amplified her magical abilities. During one of her trials whilst interrogating Mary Cattermole, Umbridge admonished Cattermole claiming that her wand was actually stolen and that she isn't a true witch. Full of rage, Harry revealed himself from under his Invisibility Cloak and attacked Umbridge, which allowed Harry and Hermione to take the locket from her in order to destroy Voldemort once and for all. Despite taking the real Horcrux, Hermione left the fake locket behind with Umbridge to not arouse any suspicion.
After Voldemort's defeat at the hands of Harry and the restoration of the Ministry by new Minister Kingsley Shacklebolt, Umbridge was sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban for her crimes against Muggle-borns.
Umbridge is depicted in the novels as being an evil, cruel, strict and despicable woman who represented the worst of political power. Umbridge is implied to be sadistic and overwhelmingly corrupt, to the point of finding joy in torturing students. Harry himself even describes Umbridge to Sirius Black stating that she's vile enough to be a Death Eater, despite not being one herself. Umbridge is also depicted to be a prejudiced person, despising half-breeds and Muggle-born witches and wizards, to the point of firing Hagrid due to his half-giant status as well as her intolerance to the centaur Firenze, even shouting racial insults towards the herd of centaurs that confront her in the Forbidden Forest. Umbridge was a "pure-blood supremacist" and attempted to mask her half-blood status and would often lambast her Muggle mother and Squib younger brother. Umbridge was eventually imprisoned in Azkaban due to her crimes against Muggle-borns during her interrogations, as not everyone she interrogated and tortured survived.
Reception and impact
Dolores Umbridge is often cited as being one of the most despised fictional characters of all time, due to her authoritarian stance and her dictator-like presence as well as her racist attitudes and torturing of children. Due to her reputation, Umbridge is often cited as being one of the most hated fictional characters, as well as one of the best literary villains, even occasionally overshadowing Lord Voldemort, the primary antagonist of the series. Charlotte Ahlin from Bustle stated while listing some of the most hated characters in literature:
Voldemort may have been the most evil character in the Harry Potter universe, but Dolores Umbridge was almost certainly the most hated. Unlike Voldy, she didn't represent an abstract form of authoritarian evil. She was that mean teacher you had in high school, that one mom on the PTA who thinks that rap music is destroying America, that simpering talking head on Fox News claiming that feminism makes women unhappy. Her brand of bigotry was just so relatable, and her nastiness got under every reader's skin.
IGN ranked Umbridge as the 17th best character in the franchise:
This is a woman who thinks the appropriate way to punish a student involves making him perform a ritual which, thanks to magic, causes him to bleed over and over again – one of many despicable acts. The fact that she spoke in a blatantly forced sing-song voice and wore gaudy pink clothing only added to her hideousness. [...] as nasty as Umbridge is in the film, in the book, she's even worse
Horror author Stephen King praised Umbridge as one of the best antagonists he has ever read:
The gently smiling Dolores Umbridge, with her girlish voice, toadlike face, and clutching, stubby fingers, is the greatest make-believe villain to come along since Hannibal Lecter. One needn’t be a child to remember The Really Scary Teacher, the one who terrified us so badly that we dreaded the walk to school in the morning, and we turn the pages partly in fervent hopes that she will get her comeuppance… but also in growing fear of what she will get up to next. For surely a teacher capable of banning Harry Potter from playing Quidditch is capable of anything.
Occasionally, real-life public figures have been compared to Umbridge in a negative light due to their actions. Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were both compared to Umbridge during the 2016 United States presidential election. Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher, was an influence on the way the character was portrayed in the film adaptations according to director David Yates and actress Imelda Staunton. Rowling has stated that Umbridge is in fact based on a teacher she once had, and was not directly inspired by Thatcher. Rowling herself has been compared to Umbridge after her comments regarding trans women.
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