"I just wondered whether I could make the teensiest interruption, Minerva?"
-- Dolores Umbridge (OP29)
Senior Undersecretary to Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic (OP8). Later Hogwarts teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts (OP11). Forced Dumbledore out and replaced him as Headmaster (OP). In the Death Eater-controlled Ministry of Pius Thickness, Umbridge enjoyed additional duties as the Head of the Muggle-born Registration Commission (DH13).
Umbridge was a force to be reckoned with for Harry Potter even before he caught his first glimpse of her. She was a strong proponent of the Ministry’s efforts to discredit Dumbledore and silence Harry Potter, so she eventually took the law into her own hands and sent two Dementors to Little Whinging to attack Harry (OP1). When he used a Patronus to defend himself and his cousin, she made sure he was brought in for a hearing for performing Underage Magic (OP8). Umbridge was at the hearing and watched in frustration as Dumbledore swung the opinions of most of the Wizengamot toward Harry.
Partly in response to this failure of her plans, she conspired with Fudge to find a way to control both the boy and the Headmaster. The Minister assigned her to the job ofDefense Against the Dark Arts teacher when Dumbledore had trouble finding someone to fill the post (OP11).
Once at Hogwarts, Umbridge used Fudge's support to force a "reform" of the school. In classic government doublespeak, she tells the Hogwarts staff and students: "Let us move forward, then, into a new era of openness, effectiveness and accountability, intent on preserving what ought to be preserved, perfecting what needs to be perfected, and pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited." (OP11)
"Wands away and quills out, please"
Umbridge's true role was to be spy for the Minister Fudge and an agent in his attempt to discredit Harry and Dumbledore. It certainly wasn't to teach Defense against the Dark Arts skills; her "carefully structured, theory-centered, Ministry-approved course of defensive magic" taught no practical skills at all. Students learned theories about dueling and defense but were not allowed to actually practice the spells. Fudge feared that Dumbledore would raise an army from the students.
She singled Harry out for abuse immediately, goading him into arguments and then triumphantly punishing him for "spreading evil, nasty, attention-seeking stories." (OP13) In one of the creepiest scenes in the books, Harry is forced to write "I must not tell lies" with a magical quill that literally cut whatever he wrote on paper into the skin of his hand. Over and over and over again.
Ironically, Umbridge's tyranny and repression were the catalysts for the formation of Dumbledore's Army, an idea of Hermione's that had a tremendously positive impact on the rest of Harry's fifth year. Finally, we see Harry shine as a leader of his fellow students, a group as disparate as the Weasley twins and Neville Longbottom.
As High Inquisitor, Umbridge was given the power "to inspect her fellow educators and make sure that they are coming up to scratch" (quoting Percy Weasley, now a Ministry shill) (OP15). Together, Umbridge and Fudge use Nazi-like edicts to eat away at Dumbledore's control of Hogwarts.
- 22: "in the event of the current Headmaster being unable to provide a candidate for a teaching post, the Ministry should select an appropriate person." (30th August) (OP15)
- 23: "which create the new position of Hogwarts High Inquisitor." (OP15)
- 24: "No student organizations, societies, teams, groups and clubs may exist without the knowledge and approval of the High Inquisitor." (OP17)
- 25: "the High Inquisitor will henceforth have supreme authority over all punishments, sanctions and removal of privileges pertaining to students of Hogwarts, and the power to alter such punishments, sanctions and removals of privileges as may have been ordered by other staff members." (OP19)
- 26: "Teachers are hereby banned from giving students any information that is not strictly related to the subjects they are paid to teach." (OP25)
- 27: "Any student found in possession of the magazine The Quibbler will be expelled." (OP26)
- 28: "Dolores Jane Umbridge (High Inquisitor) has replaced Albus Dumbledore as Head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." (OP28)
- 29?: "if I (Filch) could've strung you up by the ankles in my office, would they? But when Educational Decree number 29 comes in, Potter, I'll be allowed to do them things..." (OP28)
Umbridge vs. Hogwarts faculty
Umbridge also tried to control the staff, and when her efforts to interfere were rebuffed, she appealed to Fudge who made her the High Inquisitor of Hogwarts. In this position she bullied other staff, overruling them and browbeating them, and eventually sacking Trelawney and Hagrid.
- Flitwick: treated her like a guest; not disciplined (OP15).
- Trelawney: put on probation (OP17) and her classes were "inspected" repeatedly. However when Umbridge attempted to dismiss her, Dumbledore blocked her removal and appointed Firenze to teach Divination (OP26).
- McGonagall: openly hostile (OP15). When McGonagall tried to stop Hagrid's eviction, Umbridge's henchmen shot her with 4 stunners (OP32).
- Grubbly-Plank: approved (OP15).
- Snape: relatively passive under her pointed questions about his interest in the DaDA position (OP19). Put on probation anyway when he refused to make a second batch of Veritaserum (OP32).
- Hagrid: Could not account for why he arrived 2 months late for school term (OP20) -- Hagrid doesn't know what hit him (OP21). His classes were "inspected" repeatedly. Eventually Umbridge (with Dawlish the Auror) tried to evict Hagrid one night but he escaped into the Forbidden Forest (OP32).
The Inquisitorial Squad was a group of students that Umbridge hand-picked to be her spies and enforcers (OP28). Members were apparently all from Slytherin and included Draco, Crabbe, Goyle, Warrington, Montague, Pansy Parkinson, Millicent Bulstrode, and an unidentified sixth year girl.
When the D.A. was caught at practice, Dumbledore took the blame and left the school, and Umbridge became the Headmistress. By this time, however, the students and staff had begun to fight back and Umbridge found herself facing a low level mutiny, led joyfully by Fred and George Weasley. The more she cracked down, the more the rebellion took hold and flourished. In the end, Umbridge’s battle with the students took her into the Forest where she was carried off by Centaurs (OP33). She left Hogwarts castle in disgrace some days later.
Allegiances ("What Cornelius doesn't know won't hurt him")
Umbridge appears to be doing Cornelius Fudge's bidding, however she later boasts about sending Dementors to Little Whinging without Fudge's knowledge (OP32). According to Draco, Umbridge is very close to Lucius Malfoy (OP17).
Muggle-born repression and finally, justice
When the Death Eaters took over the Ministry, Umbridge found herself among like-minded people. She developed the policy of sending Muggle-born wizards to Azkaban and chaired the Muggle-born Registration Commission (DH13). Umbridge may have had worries that her own ancestral background would not stand up to scrutiny. She purchased the stolen Slytherin locket and passed it off as a Selwyn family heirloom (DH10, 13). After the war, she was arrested and charged with crimes against Muggle-borns. She was sent to Azkaban (BLC).
Other canon notes and references
At Harry's trial: Toad-like, which meant her figure was squat and flaccid, and her face wide and jowled. Her eyes also bulged like a toad's. She wore a small black velvet bow in her short, tightly curled hair. (OP8)
At Hogwarts: At the welcoming feast, she wore a pink hair band in her mousy brown hair, and a matching "fluffy" pink cardigan on top of her robes (OP11). Later in the book she wears a "green tweed cloak and a matching hat with earflaps." (OP19). She also wears several "ugly, old-fashioned" rings on her stubby fingers" (OP13).
Not a croak. "High-pitched, breathy and little-girlish" (OP8). She simpers too, especially around the Minister of Magic.
In a pretense of civility, Umbridge gives a little cough whenever she wants everyone's attention.
Likes: pink and kittens. Power.
Dislikes: anyone of mixed race (OP14), Muggle-born wizards and witches (DH).
Skills: She is probably not a legilimens or she wouldn't have had to resort to Veritaserum (OP28), invented the torture quill she uses for detentions (Pm).
Hogwarts office decor"The surfaces had all been draped in lacy covers and cloths. There were several vases full of dried flowers, each one residing on its own doily, and on one of the walls was a collection of ornamental plates, each decorated with a large technicolor kitten wearing a different bow around its neck." (OP13)
"Dolor" = Latin for pain, sadness, grief, resentment.
Umbridge = homonym for the English word 'umbrage:' to take offense, from Latin "umbra" shade, shadow, ghost.
Note: In an early planning chart for Order of the Phoenix, Umbridge's first name was originally 'Elvira.' (JKR scrapbook)
Rowling on Umbridge (in 2005, before DH):
What has happened to Umbridge?
JK Rowling: Well obviously we would all like to hear that she met a horrible accident but she is in fact alive and well and working at the Ministry.
Why doesn't she get arrested for trying to use an Unforgivable Curse?
JK Rowling: She has good contacts at the Ministry. She is one of those people, and they do exist in real life, who will always side with the established order. As far as she is concerned authority cannot be wrong so she doesn't question it, and I would go as far as to say that whatever happened and whoever took over at the Ministry, Umbridge would be there, she likes power. So she is going to side with the people who give her the authority (ITV).
UMBRIDGE in the MOVIES
The role of Dolores Umbridge in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is played by Imelda Staunton (IMDb).
Inspiration from Agatha Christie?
Author Dolores Gordon Smith, guest on Episode 5 of the Mugglenet Academia podcast, noted that JKR's character of Dolores Umbridge resembles several saddisitic and oppressive characters from the stories of Agatha Christie, including Three Act Tragedy, Dead Man's Folly, and Appointment with Death. Gordon Smith particularly noted the character of Mrs. Boiten in Appointment with Death who Christie "described as a toad ... as like a buddha ... squat ... [and with] a red-haired very nervous daughter called Ginevra who she calls Ginny." The physical similarities of Mrs. Boiten and Umbridge are intriguing though the connection to a daughter called Ginny is a bit confusing. ould Umbridge and Ginny have had a stronger connection in original conceptualizations of the plot? Perhaps JKR was inspired by the horrible Mrs. Boiten and her daughter Ginny separately. --Hufflepuffskein
Judge Karen and Guest Tim on Episode 3 of the Mugglenet Academia podcast proclaimed that Professor Umbrigde would have been tried in US courts if she had violated student rights in a US institution to the extent that she did at Hogwarts in Harry Potter's fifth year. They noted that she violated the students' right to free speech, right to association, among other things. In seriousness, they mentioned the applicability of this fictional case to understanding important US precedents such as Tinker v. Des Moines. --Hufflepuffskein
From the Web
- Dolores Umbridge on Pottermore
- Dolores Umbridge on Harry Potter Wiki
- In Defense of Umbridge by Jasmine on Mugglenet
- Is Dolores Umbridge the Most Evil Character of All? by Mugglenet
- Dolorest Umbridge's 23 Favorite Cat Gifs from Mugglenet
- Did Umbridge Have a Point: The Other Professors by hpboy13
Did Umbridge Have a Point: Dumbledore's Giant Mistake by hpboy13
Did Umbridge Have a Point: Punishment and Safety by hpboy13
- Why the WB Sacrificed Snape's character for Umbridge in the Order of the Phoenix Movie by Silver Ink Pot