Character Archetypes: The Temptress

Ah, the Temptress. She saunters in and gives you a coy smile, her eyes promising that more is available, if you’re willing. The Temptress is a fairly common female archetype though, like the Damsel in Distress, it is evolving in response to people wanting more well-rounded and less stereotypical female characters.

Common Aspects of the Temptress Archetype:

  • Usually female
  • Usually bad news for the Hero
  • Commonly portrayed as being sensuous, but can tempt in other ways
  • Used as an obstacle the Hero must overcome to continue on their Quest

The Temptress, like the Mother and the Damsel, can be more of an idea than a person. The main reason the Temptress exists, especially in a classic Hero’s Journey story, is to be an obstacle in the Hero’s way, something they must not give into, because doing so would prove them unworthy. Getting past the temptation allows the Hero to prove they are just and worthy, and to continue on with what must be done.

Most Temptress characters are women, but they do not have to be. In general, however, a Temptress character will bring a Hero character’s downfall, whether it is purposeful or not. The Temptress character can be an echo of a Hero’s dark side, showing them what they could become if they give up their ideals. But a Temptress is not necessarily evil, or even aligned with the Villain. They exist more as an obstacle and for the character development of the Hero.

Almost every James Bond movie has a Temptress in it somewhere. And the Sirens from Greek mythology are perhaps the most literal example of this archetype, as they lead men to their deaths.

Any Temptress characters you think are well done, Squiders? Like the Damsel in Distress, what are your feelings on this archetype and its use in media?

Next: The Innocent Archetype


9 responses to this post.

  1. I’m really enjoying this series, and want to keep the dialog going. The best one I can think of right now is Cat Woman. Would this apply to any sort of love triangle stories?


    • I would argue not really. Yes, normally one half of a love triangle is a “bad boy” trope, but if they were too archetype-y I think it would be too obvious that they were a bad choice and the triangle would break down.


      • What if it were switched around, with two women? Maybe I should stick to more like Morgan La Fay tempting the quest nights in Excalibur.

      • I don’t think switching the genders would do anything. The Temptress is more useful in a temporary context than as a main character, or a love interest. But Morgan le Fay, especially in certain stories, can definitely be seen as a Temptress character.

      • Cool. I completely agree on the supporting, but not main, character status. I’m really liking this series of posts.

  2. […] all the lupus and the purple eyes, [she] was uncommonly pretty. (Huxley 13)” She is the temptress of the story, as evinced from this […]


  3. Posted by Hang_Mi on 2020/11/05 at 8:16 PM

    What is an example of a temptress? Please reply because i needed this to finish my homework, thanks

    PS check out my website!


    • There are a couple in the post itself, but there are several characters in literature and movies who fulfill the temptress archetype for a portion of the story. If you’re familiar with Disney’s Hercules, Meg acts as a temptress for much of the movie, and even Eve from the Bible fits a temptress role when she’s convincing Adam to eat the apple.


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