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Bill Sikes
Bill Sikes by Fred Barnard
First appearance Oliver Twist
Created by Charles Dickens
Portrayed by Robert Newton (1948), Oliver Reed (1968), Robert Loggia (voice, 1988), Andy Serkis (1999), Jamie Foreman (2005), Tom Hardy (2007), Burn Gorman (2009), Steven Hartley (2009)
Gender Male
Age About 35
Date of birth 1804
Date of death 1839 (aged 35)
Occupation Robber
Spouse(s) Nancy (mistress)
Address Bethnal Green, London, England

William "Bill" Sikes is a fictional character in the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.

He is one of Dickens's most vicious characters and a very strong force in the novel when it comes to having control over somebody or harming others. He is portrayed as a rough and barbaric man. He is a career criminal associated with Fagin, and an eventual murderer. He is very violent and aggressive, prone to sudden bursts of extreme behaviour. He owns a bull terrier named Bull's Eye, whom he beats until the dog needs stitches.

Dickens describes his first appearance:

The man who growled out these words, was a stoutly-built fellow of about five-and-thirty, in a black velveteen coat, very soiled drab breeches, lace-up half boots, and grey cotton stockings which inclosed a bulky pair of legs, with large swelling calves,—the kind of legs, which in such costume, always look in an unfinished and incomplete state without a set of fetters to garnish them. He had a brown hat on his head, and a dirty belcher handkerchief round his neck: with the long frayed ends of which he smeared the beer from his face as he spoke. He disclosed, when he had done so, a broad heavy countenance with a beard of three weeks' growth, and two scowling eyes; one of which displayed various parti-coloured symptoms of having been recently damaged by a blow.

—Pages 198–199 of the second edition[1]

His prostitute girlfriend Nancy tolerates his violent and lawless behaviour, perhaps because she, being a thief since the age of six, needs stability in her life, and because she believes that she loves him. When Sikes murders Nancy, thinking she has betrayed him, a mob hounds him through the streets of London until he accidentally hangs himself while trying to escape. The murder is especially gruesome, and is one of the most graphic, frightening, scenes Dickens ever wrote.

Sikes could be said to have some positive features: at the robbery in the countryside, Sikes, rather than leave Oliver at the scene of his botched burglary of Rose Maylie's house, picks him up and runs with him as far as he can. This, however, could be as much for his own self-preservation as much as Oliver's, and he eventually does abandon the seriously wounded boy and shows absolutely no remorse about doing so. In addition, after he kills Nancy, he apparently does feel guilty, although it could be argued that this is merely fear of the possibility of being caught. Sikes lives in Bethnal Green and later moves to the squalid rookery area of London then called Jacob's Island, east of present-day Shad Thames.

Bill Sikes sometimes has his name spelled Bill Sykes; it is unclear which spelling is correct according to Mr. Dickens. In the musical Oliver! his name is spelled Sikes.

In Disney Version

In Disney's 1988 film Oliver and Company, the character Sykes (who is loosely based on Bill Sikes) is the main antagonist and is voiced by Robert Loggia. Physically, he is one of the more powerfully built Disney Villains. He is a large, muscular man who is seen mostly in the shadows. Above all, Sykes is greedy. He is a loan shark who is willing to do anything, even kidnap a child, to get back the money he is owed. He is guilty of many crimes, from extortion to child endangerment. His appearance is that of a solid, chiseled business man. He appears only at the beginning and the climax of the film. His appearance in the movie is very different from that in the novel. It is never stated whether Sikes is his first name or last name, and if it were the last name then it is never mentioned if it is "Bill" as Dickens has it.

Other depictions

Bill Sikes was played by Robert Newton in David Lean's 1948 film of Oliver Twist, and by Oliver Reed in the 1968 film version of Oliver!

In the 1994 London Palladium production of Oliver!, he was played by Miles Anderson and later, EastEnders actor Steven Hartley.

In the 1999 British television mini-series, he is played by Andy Serkis.

In the 2005 film by Roman Polanski, he is played by Jamie Foreman.

In the 2007 BBC series of Oliver Twist he is played by Tom Hardy.

In the 2009 London revival of Oliver! he is played by Burn Gorman of Torchwood fame. Recently, Steven Hartley returned to the role for the third time, having played it in 1997 and again in Toronto in 2000.


  1. ^ Dickins, Charles. Oliver Twist. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). London: Richard Bentley. pp. 198–9.  

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