What is a character?

A character is a real or fictional animated being who acts in a story (literary, dramatic or visual). That is, a character is an entity to which a series of actions, words and / or thoughts are attributed in the framework of a story.

The characters can be people, animals, animated things, fantastic beings or supernatural beings. In every type of story or narrative there are characters. For example, plays, novels, short stories, movies, TV series, or even paintings or sculptures that tell stories.

The word character is also used to refer to those people whose qualities (positive or negative) make them stand out, which generates a series of stories or myths about their figure. The most paradigmatic example are the so-called historical figures. It also applies to refer to the so-called "everyday characters" (coworkers, neighbors, teachers, etc.).

Character types

In literary and dramatic theory, characters are classified according to their function and configuration. When we speak of the role of the characters, we are referring to the purpose and sense of their presence within the story. According to this there are main and secondary characters.

In turn, these characters may have different qualities, from which other classification criteria emerge, regardless of their degree of importance in the story. In this sense, they can be classified as round and flat characters; static and dynamic characters; characteristic characters; archetypes and stereotypes.

Main characters

The main characters are those on whom the plot of the story is centered, as they lead and dominate the story. These are divided into protagonists and antagonists. In general terms, the main characters must move from a situation "A" to a situation "B".

  • Protagonist: the protagonist is the character on whom the main plot focuses, that is, the one who organizes and mobilizes the entire story. It can be a hero or an antihero. There may also be more than one protagonist, in which case we speak of a co-protagonist. An example is Prince Hamlet, in the play Hamlet, prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare.
  • Antagonist: the antagonist has the function of opposing the transit or the plan of the protagonist or protagonists. In this way, it creates more dramatic tension around the main conflict. An example of an antagonist is Claudius, brother of King Hamlet, whom he murders to take over the throne, in the play Hamlet, prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare.

Secondary characters

The secondary characters are those whose function is to give support or support to the protagonists and antagonists. In this sense, they complement the main characters. In the cinema, secondary characters are often also called supporting characters.

Round characters and flat characters

Round characters are those complex characters that express various dimensions and embody an important inner conflict. Given their characteristics, they are exposed to undergo transformations throughout the story that usually surprise the reader. This quality makes the characters gain in depth.

Plain or flat characters are characters with very few characteristics or simple characteristics, that do not express a dominant facet and that, in addition, do not show an internal conflict. Therefore, they are also usually quite stable and easily identifiable as good or bad.

Dynamic and static characters

Dynamic characters are those that we can only discover and understand through what their actions, words and thoughts exposed in the text reveal, so that they are never finished. Dynamic characters are always on the move, that is, they always undergo transformation processes

Static characters are those that we can know through the information provided by the narrator. These characters usually show a socially established model, which can be economic (the authoritarian boss), psychological (the sentimental young woman), intellectual (the smarty) or religious (the priest).

Archetypes and stereotypes

An archetypal character is one whose qualities make him a primary reference model in the collective unconscious. The word archetype comes from the Greek arche, which means "fundamental", "origin" or "beginning", and type, which means "model".

An example is represented by the character of Ulysses or Odysseus in the play The odyssey, who has become an archetype of the western hero.

A literary stereotype is a socially accepted image or idea of ​​a character, which does not vary over time, that is, it has an immutable character. the word stereotype comes from the Greek estuaries, which means solid, and type, which means model.

In the narrative, stereotypes such as the representation of foreigners are common. Other examples may be: the self-sacrificing mother, the drunkard, the gossiping pious, etc.

Characteristic character

A characteristic character is a "typical" character or even a stereotype, endowed with such detailed or specialized characteristics that it becomes a unique character within its category.

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