Hannibal Lecter Character Analysis

Hannibal Lecter was the break out character of Silence of the Lambs with an Oscar winning performance by Anthony Hopkins. However, the analyses offered so far do not seem to adequately cover important aspects of the character such as his modus operandi. It is worth noting that this guide mostly focuses on the Hannibal Lecter portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in the series of movies, most specifically the portrayal in Silence of the Lambs.

Modus Operandi

Hannibal Lecter’s appears to murder those he considers to be somehow incompetent in their tasks. As such when analyzing any of the murders Lecter committed there is an element of incompetence in those he attacks or kills. For instance, the flautist playing poorly was killed because he unfairly had that position with the symphony. The guards around Lecter’s cell were incompetent by default, as they failed to guard Lecter and as such Lecter would view them as candidates to kill. The ambulance personnel were incompetent in not recognizing that the patient they had was a healthy person with another’s face upon it. It seems fairly clear that Hannibal Lecter appears to kill those he considers incompetent in some way or another.


hannibal lecter

Lecter has a polite personality that covers over a cold, calculating demeanor. His voice most clearly reflects this with Anthony Hopkins creating his ‘sound’ by mixing Truman Capote, Katherine Hepburn and the murderous computer HAL-9000. In this way Hopkins uses his voice to portray a character that is polite and pleasant on the surface, but is cold and violent beneath.

To add further he tends towards activities that are considered ‘upper class’, such as listening to classical music and being something of a gourmet. For example, the music he is listening to in his cage toward the end of the film is Bach’s Goldberg Variations and he has a food magazine nearby. In later films it is revealed that he was a part of Lithuanian aristocracy, but could just as easily be related to his academic tastes as a psychiatrist

Hannibal Lecter As Fairy Tale Wizard

One of the interesting aspects of Silence of the Lambs is the manner in which it resembles a fairy tale. Curiously, as a fairy tale various characters take on archetypal roles. The senator’s daughter is the princess, buffalo bill is the monster in the dungeon, Clarice is in an odd gender role as the knight and Hannibal is the wizard. As this archetype, the knight is forced to make a deal with the wizard in order to gain information about where the princess is. This deal generally involves some variety of pact and twist that both harms the knight and yet promotes growth of a kind. The deal made in Silence of the Lambs is that Lecter will help Clarice in exchange for her answering questions.

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