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YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!
~ Jessup's most famous line.
We use words like "honor", "code", "loyalty". We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said "thank you", and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to!
~ Jessup's monologue to Daniel Kaffee about the Marines.

Colonel Nathan Roy Jessup is the main antagonist of Aaron Sorkin's stage play A Few Good Men as well as its 1992 film adaptation.

He was portrayed by veteran actor Jack Nicholson, who also portrays Jack Torrance in the 1980 film, The Shining, The Joker in the 1989 film, Batman, Jimmy Hoffa in the 1992 film Hoffa, and Frank Costello in the 2006 film The Departed.

Biography

Jessup was the commanding officer of the ground forces stationed in Guantanomo Bay, Cuba. His Marines worked as a machine with lots of help from his right-hand men, Lt. Col. Matthew Markinson and Lt. Kendrick. When one of the men made a mistake, it was the job of the other men to never let that one Marine forget it. Using a hazing technique known as a "Code Red", a couple of Marines were ordered to let one of their own know he made a mistake one night. The mistake, it turns out, was theirs, as the young Marine wound up dead.

Faced with incredible embarrassment, Jessup did everything he could to cover up the details of the order given to the two young Marines now on trial for murder. They were left out to dry, facts were covered up, and official documents were falsified. The simple fact was that if word got out an order was given to rough up the deceased kid, Jessup's ass and the rest of officers would be on the block. Leave it to one young upstart attorney, Lt. Daniel Kaffee, a man hired to plea bargain for the two Marines and unwittingly sweep the case under a rug, to actually investigate and uncover a conspiracy.

Dramatically called to the stand, Col. Jessup would voice his lack of respect for the people like Kaffee who did things to tear people down instead of understanding what he was trying to do. Jessup made his moves to protect his Marines and his country, and it's just too damn bad that one subpar Marine fell got dragged under the wheels of his rise to political power. His devotion to the Marine way of life is admirable, but Jessup takes offense to being questioned about the manner in which he protects his country. In the end, he shows his true colors and admits to giving the order that cost at least two Marines their lives and two innocent Marines their careers. He is later arrested in court.

Trivia

In the stage version, Jessup was ranked a Lieutenant Colonel.