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The word "svengali" has come to refer to a person who, with evil intent, dominates, manipulates and controls another.
In court, a Svengali defence is a legal tactic that presents the defendant as a pawn in the scheme of a greater, and more influential, criminal mastermind.
[Svengali] would either fawn or bully, and could be grossly impertinent. He had a kind of cynical humor which was more offensive than amusing and always laughed at the wrong thing, at the wrong time, in the wrong place. And his laughter was always derisive and full of malice.
In the novel, Svengali transforms Trilby into a great singer by using hypnosis. Unable to perform without Svengali's help, Trilby becomes entranced.
Svengali was first portrayed by the English actor Herbert Beerbohm Tree in London and by the actor Wilton Lackaye in the United States in the 1895 stage play Trilby. The story has also been used in several movies. The character was portrayed in the following films, all titled Svengali: by Paul Wegener in the 1927 German silent film, by John Barrymore in 1931, by Donald Wolfit in 1954 (in Technicolor), and by Peter O'Toole in a 1983 made-for-television modernised version co-starring Jodie Foster. In the 1983 movie, the names of the characters were changed.
- Rosenberg, Edgar, "From Shylock to Svengali: Jewish stereotypes in English fiction". (Stanford University Press, 1960)
- Seelymarch, Katharine Q. (March 13, 2015). "Defense in Marathon Bombing Has Echo of Clarence Darrow". The New York Times. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
- Du Maurier, George. Trilby. Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. Volume 88, number 525. February 1894. p. 329.