Why Scorpius Malfoy is Our New Favorite Harry Potter Character
The Cursed Child's greatest narrative strength lies in the vulnerability and emotional intelligence of Scorpius Malfoy.
By now, whether you’ve bee lucky enough to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child or not, you’ve probably already fallen in love with one Scorpius Malfoy. (Don’t fight it. It’s your destiny.)
For all of the considerable charms of The Cursed Child, Scorpius Malfoy (played brilliantly by Anthony Boyle in the current Broadway stage version) is the heart and soul of this play filled with no shortage of characters who will make you feel things. Let’s break down a few of the many reasons why Scorpius Malfoy is probably your new favorite Harry Potter character…— Harry Potter Play (@HPPlayLDN) July 30, 2016
Scorpius is (mostly) an original creation.
“Scorpius? Dangerous? Have you met him? Dad, if you honestly think he’s the son of Voldemort…”
In a sea of the nostalgic, Scorpius is a fresh, new part of this canon. Well, mostly. He was mentioned in The Deathly Hallowsepilogue, but only briefly, and we learned nothing about his personality — which is exceedingly willing. Though Scorpius is technically a J.K. Rowling creation, so much of what makes Scorpius into Scorpius springs forth from the mind/pen/keyboard of Jack Thorne, the writer of The Cursed Child.
If you’ve seen any of Thorne’s TV shows, then you know how well he does loner types who are struggling through a confusing, complicated existence. In his own words, Thorne isa storyteller best known for his work in stories with “slightly lonely, weird boy at the center of them.” Scorpius is that and more and, perhaps because the archetype is one Thorne is so interested in, he is the highlight of this play.
Scorpius is incredibly nerdy.
“Wow. Squeak. My geekness is a-quivering.”
Have I mentioned yet that Scorpius is a total, unabashed nerd who says things like “Ooooh, a quiz!” and “double wow” totally unironically. The Harry Potter universe is one that relies on/ prioritizes wonder. In the original series, as a character who was raised in the Muggle world (just like us), Harry is constantly in awe of the wonders of the magical world and what is possible just on the other side of Muggle reality.
This same sense of wonder is integral to Scorpius’ character. As someone who was raised within the walls of Malfoy Manor, not venturing out very often and experiencing the world primarily through books, he always dreamed of going to Hogwarts and meeting a magical friend to one-up Flurry, his imaginary companion he fell out with over the correct rules of Gobstones.
If being a nerd isn’t about what you love, but the depth with which you love it, then Scorpius is a nerd for magic, knowledge, and — above all else — friendship. He will do anything for Albus Potter, the one person he has found who will look past the prejudices attached to his family name and see the nerdy, wonderful person underneath. To foreshadow my inevitable audience surrogate point, is there anything more Harry Potter fans can relate to than being a nerd?
Scorpius as audience surrogate.
“All I ever wanted to do was go to Hogwarts and have a mate to get up to mayhem with.”
Scorpius Malfoy is the ultimate nerd wizard and is The Cursed Child‘s audience surrogate characterin a big way. For one, he has grown up hearing stories about boy wizard Harry Potter, telling Albus: “All I ever wanted to do was go to Hogwarts and have a mate to get up to mayhem with. Just like Harry Potter. And I got his son. How crazily fortunate is that?” Um, tell me that enthusiasm for Hogwarts and these characters we grew up reading about isn’t echoed by pretty much everyone in the audience and/or reading this story at home?
Scorpius is also the character who acts as the audience surrogate during the major cliffhanger of the play. This is perhaps especially prominent for those who go to see this on-stage, as there is an hours to day-long interim between Part 1 and Part 2. The first half of this story ends with Scorpius sitting by the Hogwarts Lake, the sign of Voldemort looming over him as he learns (from Professor Umbridge, no less!) that Harry Potter is dead and Albus Potter was never born.
Moving into Part 2, Scorpius is the only character who knows what we know or, more accurately, he is the only character from our reality. Like Scorpius, we know how the world is “supposed to be,” and that is an incredibly bonding character-audience experience. As he chats with the Snape, Draco Malfoy, Ron, and Hermione in this terrible alternate reality, an intense dramatic irony takes weight. We know how much better things could turn out because, like Scorpius, we just came from that world. Like Scorpius, we desperately want to get back to it.
Anthony Boyle does this character justice.
“Turns out Malfoy the Unanxious is a pretty good liar.”
As someone who was lucky enough to see The Cursed Childon the London stage, I can confirm that Anthony Boyle does this delightful character justice, imbuing Scorpius with a nervous energy and complex vulnerability that makes you want to reach out and give him a hug pretty much at all times.
So much of Boyle’s personification of Scorpius comes in non-verbal moments, which is why it is so hard to convey the awesomeness of this character without the benefit of Boyle’s performance. His comedic timing is first-rate, yet his humor is laced with a introspective grief that colors so many of Scorpius’ actions following the death of his mother. In Boyle’s adept hands, there is always more going on beneath Scorpius’ nervous, delighted surface.
It’s the climactic fight between Scorpius and Albus where Boyle really shines, those mournful frustrations finally bubbling to the surface. For Scorpius/Boyle, this moment builds through much of the first half of the play, with Scorpius’ continuing attempts to encourage Albus’ adventures and be there for his friend increasingly fraught by Scorpius’ own pain that Albus doesn’t seem to see.
When Scorpius blows up at Albus, Boyle’s performance is not vindictive so much as heartbroken. He is angry, but he is even more disappointed. Because Albus was supposed to be different; he was supposed to be Scorpius’ “good friend” — that was the only request Scorpius made of Albus following his mother’s death. When Scorpius breaks, it is unlike anything that has come before, but is still completely in-character…
There was a moment I was excited, when I realized time was different, a moment when I thought maybe my mum hadn’t got sick. Maybe my mum wasn’t dead. But no, turns out, she was. I’m still the child of Voldemort, without a mother, giving sympathy to the boy who doesn’t ever give anything back. So I’m sorry if I’ve ruined your life because I tell you — you wouldn’t have a chance of ruining mine — it was already ruined. You just didn’t make it better. Because you’re a terrible — the most terrible — friend.
It takes a good actor (and good writing) to deliver a line like “you’re the most terrible friend” and make it sound like heartbreak rather than an attack. Boyle nails it.
Scorpius as an alternate model of masculinity.
“Okay. Hello. Um. Have we hugged before? Do we hug?”
In the original Harry Potter stories, The Golden Trio was not known for their emotional maturity or intelligence. When Hermione was feeling up to it, she would coach Harry and Ron through expressing their emotions, but the girl had a lot of classes to get to and a Dark Lord to hunt down, she couldn’t spend all of her time explaining to her male best friends the nuances of interpersonal relationships. (In The Cursed Child, she uses a hug-threat against Ron and Draco.)
This is where we find Albus and Harry: defined by their inability to understand and express their feelings to one another. Instead, their interactions are so often defined by frustration and anger — the latter of which is a traditional masculinity-approved reaction to the pain of the world. In one particularly moving scene, Draco lays out the problem for Harry, saying:
I can’t talk to him either. Scorpius. Especially since — Astoria has gone. I can’t even talk about how losing her has affected him. As hard as I try, I can’t reach him. You can’t talk to Albus. I can’t talk to Scorpius. That’s what this is about. Not about my son being evil.
Enter Scorpius Malfoy, a character so defined by emotional vulnerability. Scorpius’ pain is so much of who he is. In a sea of male characters in pain trying to do the stoic, non-communicative thing, he is a beacon of anti-traditional masculinity light, forcing emotional issues to the surface and asking those around him to step up and be there for him, emotionally.
Scorpius (and, to a certain extent, Albus) is an alternate model of what it is to be brave and strong — or, in other words, of what it is to be a hero. In The Cursed Child, it (admittedly) has something to do with vanquishing the Dark Lord, but it has everything to do with embracing vulnerability, pain, and — yes, that all important Harry Potter theme — love.
The love story of Albus & Scorpius.
“Find him, Scorpius. You two — you belong together.”
Of course, The Cursed Childis great not because of just one character, but because of this ensemble of richly-realized characters — both new and old — and their complex relationships with one another.
The friendship between Scorpius and Albus is right up there with the father-son dynamic between Harry and Albus in terms of narrative importance. At its most basic element, The Cursed Childis the story of the love between these two friends. When the two meet, the play truly begins. When the two are apart, the emotional angst is at a high point. This is when we get Act Two, Scene Twelve, which is the play’s equivalent of a rom-com’s missing-you montage. Exhibit A:
The staircases meet. The two boys look at each other. Lost and hopeful— all at once. And then ALBUS looks away and the moment is broken— and with it, possibly, the friendship. And now the staircases part — the two look at each other — one full of guilt — the other full of pain — both full of unhappiness.
When the two are trapped in past Godric’s Hollows together, Scorpius tells Albus: “If I had to choose a companion to be at the return of eternal darkness with, I’d choose you.” If The Cursed Childis about specific love, as Ginny and Harry discuss, and Albus is so desperate to find someone who loves him for who he is rather than for who his father is, then there is no greater testament.
Scorpius saves the day with his love for Albus, both in his actual declarations to his best friend and in the fact that he will trade the Albus-less reality for the Albus-ful reality every time. As he tells Snape: “The world changes and we change with it. I am better off in this world. But the world is not better. And I don’t want that.” If the ability to love and be loved is the ultimate trait in the Harry Potteruniverse, then Scorpius best exemplifies this promise…