Stock character
A Stock character is a fictional character
Fictional character
A character is the representation of a person in a narrative work of art . Derived from the ancient Greek word kharaktêr , the earliest use in English, in this sense, dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of...

 based on a common literary or social stereotype
A stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of "stereotype" and "prejudice" are often confused with many other different meanings...

. Stock characters rely heavily on cultural types or names for their personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. In their most general form, stock characters are related to literary archetype
An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...

s, but they are often more narrowly defined. Stock characters are a key component of genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

 fiction, providing relationships and interactions that people familiar with the genre will recognize immediately. Stock characters make easy targets for parody
A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...

, which will likely exaggerate any stereotypes associated with these characters.

Ancient Greece

By the loosest definition, stock characters have been around ever since the tragedy of Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

, Sophocles
Sophocles is one of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. His first plays were written later than those of Aeschylus, and earlier than or contemporary with those of Euripides...

, and Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

, being based upon the traits of mythological
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 characters. Although mythological characters are not representations of real people, they are a group that would have been recognizable to ancient audiences, and even back then, tended to fall into well-established group types. For example, Hephaestus
Hephaestus was a Greek god whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan. He is the son of Zeus and Hera, the King and Queen of the Gods - or else, according to some accounts, of Hera alone. He was the god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes...

, Hermes
Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Kyllini in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves, of orators and...

, and Prometheus
In Greek mythology, Prometheus is a Titan, the son of Iapetus and Themis, and brother to Atlas, Epimetheus and Menoetius. He was a champion of mankind, known for his wily intelligence, who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals...

 represented the fool character as "jesters to the gods."

In a stricter definition, stock characters originated in the theater. For example, the Greek Old Comedy
Old Comedy
Old Comedy is the first period of the ancient Greek comedy, according to the canonical division by the Alexandrian grammarians. The most important Old Comic playwright is Aristophanes, whose works, with their pungent political satire and abundance of sexual and scatological innuendo, effectively...

 of Aristophanes
Aristophanes , son of Philippus, of the deme Cydathenaus, was a comic playwright of ancient Athens. Eleven of his forty plays survive virtually complete...

 typically employed three stock characters: the alazon
In the theatre of ancient Greece, alazôn is one of three stock characters in comedy. He is the opponent of the eirôn. The alazôn is an impostor that sees himself as greater than he actually is. The senex iratus and the miles gloriosus are two types of alazôn.-Sources:* Carlson, Marvin. 1993...

, the boastful imposter; his ironic opponent, the eiron
In the theatre of ancient Greece, the eirôn was one of three stock characters in comedy. The eirôn usually succeeds in bringing his braggart opponent down by making himself seem like less than he actually was.-History:...

; and the buffoon, known as the bomolochos. Furthermore, the furnishing of these prototypes of Old Comedy with accents, costumes, or props illustrated the desire of the playwright to have the audience readily recognize and relate with the character quickly. The servants wore short-sleeved cassock; parasites carried a short truncheon; rural deities, shepherds, and peasants held a crook; heralds and ambassadors had the caduceus
The caduceus is the staff carried by Hermes in Greek mythology. The same staff was also borne by heralds in general, for example by Iris, the messenger of Hera. It is a short staff entwined by two serpents, sometimes surmounted by wings...

; kings held a sceptre, heroes a club, and old men carried a crooked staff.


As Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 explored theories on the pursuit of happiness, he discussed the virtues of people surrounding him and, perhaps unintentionally, was the first person to study characters.

His Book V of Nicomachean Ethics
Nicomachean Ethics
The Nicomachean Ethics is the name normally given to Aristotle's best known work on ethics. The English version of the title derives from Greek Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια, transliterated Ethika Nikomacheia, which is sometimes also given in the genitive form as Ἠθικῶν Νικομαχείων, Ethikōn Nikomacheiōn...

, after an outline of positive characteristics (e.g., "liberality," "noble-mindedness," "wit") encouraged in humans, sketched some characters based on their possession or lack of these characteristics. Examples include the "rich man of vulgar profusion," the "vainglorious," the "great-souled man," the “choleric,” the “good tempered man,” the “officious,” the “contentious,” the “self-detractor,” and the “buffoon."

In his Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

, Aristotle explored how “young men, old men, men in their prime, well-born men, rich men, men of power, men of good fortune” varied emotionally. Although Aristotle’s work closely resembles what came to be known as the Character, Ethics and Rhetoric contained “disquisitions,” not Characters.


The study of the Character, as it is now known, was conceived by Aristotle’s student Theophrastus
Theophrastus , a Greek native of Eresos in Lesbos, was the successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school. He came to Athens at a young age, and initially studied in Plato's school. After Plato's death he attached himself to Aristotle. Aristotle bequeathed to Theophrastus his writings, and...

. In The Characters (c. 319 BC), Theophrastus introduced the “character sketch,” which became the core of “the Character as a genre.” It included 30 character types. Each type is said to be an illustration of an individual who represents a group, characterized by his most prominent trait. The Theophrastan types are as follows:
  • The Insincere Man (Eironeia)
  • The Flatterer (Kolakeia)
  • The Garrulous Man (Adoleschia)
  • The Boor (Agroikia)
  • The Complacent Man (Areskeia)
  • The Man without Moral Feeling (Aponoia)
  • The Talkative Man (Lalia)
  • The Fabricator (Logopoiia)
  • The Shamelessly Greedy Man (Anaischuntia)
  • The Pennypincher (Mikrologia)
  • The Offensive Man (Bdeluria)
  • The Hapless Man (Akairia)
  • The Officious Man (Periergia)
  • The Absent-Minded Man (Anaisthesia)
  • The Unsociable Man (Authadeia)
  • The Superstitious Man (Deisidaimonia)
  • The Faultfinder (Mempsimoiria)
  • The Suspicious Man (Apistia)
  • The Repulsive Man (Duschereia)
  • The Unpleasant Man (Aedia)
  • The Man of Petty Ambition (Mikrophilotimia)
  • The Stingy Man (Aneleutheria)
  • The Show-Off (Alazoneia)
  • The Arrogant Man (Huperephania)
  • The Coward (Deilia)
  • The Oligarchical Man (Oligarchia)
  • The Late Learner (Opsimathia)
  • The Slanderer (Kakologia)
  • The Lover of Bad Company (Philoponeria)
  • The Basely Covetous Man (Aischrokerdeia)

  • It is unclear wherefrom Theophrastus derived these types, but many strongly resemble those from Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Despite the fact that Theophrastus sought to portray character types and not individuals, some of the sketches may have been drawn from observations of actual persons in Athenian public life. Although the preface of the work implies the intention to catalogue “human nature, associate[ed] with all sorts and conditions of men and contrast[ed] in minute detail the good and bad among them,” many other possible types are left unrepresented. These omissions are especially noticeable because each of the thirty characters represents a negative trait (“the bad”); some scholars have therefore suspected that another half of the work, covering the positive types (“the good”), once existed. This preface, however, is certainly fictitious, i.e. added in later times, and cannot therefore be a source of any allegation. Nowadays many scholars also believe that the definitions found in the beginning of each sketch are later additions.

    New Comedy

    New Comedy was the first theatrical form to have access to Theophrastus’ Characters. Menander
    Menander , Greek dramatist, the best-known representative of Athenian New Comedy, was the son of well-to-do parents; his father Diopeithes is identified by some with the Athenian general and governor of the Thracian Chersonese known from the speech of Demosthenes De Chersoneso...

     was said to be a student of Theophrastus, and has been remembered for his prototypical cooks, merchants, farmers and slave characters. Although we have few extant works of the New Comedy, the titles of Menander’s plays alone have a “Theophrastan ring": The Fisherman, The Farmer, The Superstitious Man, The Peevish Man, The Promiser, The Heiress, The Priestess, The False Accuser, The Misogynist, The Hated Man, The Shipmaster, The Slave, The Concubine, The Soldiers, The Widow, and The Noise-Shy Man.


    Another early form that illustrates the beginnings of the Character is the mime
    Mime artist
    A mime artist is someone who uses mime as a theatrical medium or as a performance art, involving miming, or the acting out a story through body motions, without use of speech. In earlier times, in English, such a performer was referred to as a mummer...

    . Greco-Roman mimic playlets often told the stock story of the fat, stupid husband who returned home to find his wife in bed with a lover, stock characters in themselves. Although the mimes were not confined to playing stock characters, the mimus calvus was an early reappearing character. Mimus calvus resembled Maccus, the buffoon from the Atellan Farce. The Atellan Farce is highly significant in the study of the Character because it contained the first true stock characters. The Atellan Farce employed four fool types. In addition to Maccus, Bucco
    Bucco is a genus of puffbird in the Bucconidae family.It contains the following species:* Collared Puffbird * Chestnut-capped Puffbird * Sooty-capped Puffbird...

    , the glutton, Pappus, the naïve old man (the fool victim), and Dossennus, the cunning hunchback (the trickster). A fifth type, in the form of the additional character Manducus, the chattering jawed pimp, also may have appeared in the Atellan Farce, possibly out of an adaptation of Dossennus. The Roman mime, as well, was a stock fool, closely related to the Atellan fools.


    The Roman
    Roman Republic
    The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

     playwright Plautus
    Titus Maccius Plautus , commonly known as "Plautus", was a Roman playwright of the Old Latin period. His comedies are the earliest surviving intact works in Latin literature. He wrote Palliata comoedia, the genre devised by the innovator of Latin literature, Livius Andronicus...

     drew from Atellan Farce as well as the Greek Old and New Comedy. He expanded the four types of Atellan Farce to eight (not quite as distinct as the farcical types):
    • Old man, probably a miser
      A miser, cheapskate, snipe-snout, penny pincher, piker, scrooge, skinflint or tightwad is a person who is reluctant to spend money, sometimes to the point of forgoing even basic comforts and some necessities...

       - senex iratus
    • Young man in love, possibly the miser's son, who rebels against authority - adulescens amator
    • Clever or cunning slave
      Tricky slave
      The tricky slave is a stock character. He is a clever, lower-class person who brings about the happy ending of a comedy for the lovers. He is more clever than the upper-class people about him, both the lovers and the characters who block their love, and typically also looking out for his own...

       - servus callidus
    • Stupid
      Stupidity is a lack of intelligence, understanding, reason, wit, or sense. It may be innate, assumed, or reactive - 'being "stupid with grief" as a defence against trauma', a state marked with 'grief and despair...making even simple daily tasks a hardship'....

       slave - servus stultus
    • Hanger-on (parasite) or flatterer
      Flattery is the act of giving excessive compliments, generally for the purpose of ingratiating oneself with the subject....

       - parasitus
    • Courtesan
      A courtesan was originally a female courtier, which means a person who attends the court of a monarch or other powerful person.In feudal society, the court was the centre of government as well as the residence of the monarch, and social and political life were often completely mixed together...

       - meretrix
    • Slave dealer or pimp
      A pimp is an agent for prostitutes who collects part of their earnings. The pimp may receive this money in return for advertising services, physical protection, or for providing a location where she may engage clients...

       - leno
    • Braggart soldier
      A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary...

       - Miles Gloriosus
      Miles Gloriosus
      Miles Gloriosus is a stock character of a boastful soldier from the comic theatre of ancient Rome, and variations on this character have appeared in drama and fiction ever since. The character derives from the alazôn or "braggart" of the Greek Old Comedy...

      note; Swaggering Soldier

    Plautus’s fool was either the slave or the parasite.


    In revision of Theophrastus, Diogenes Laertius
    Diogenes Laertius
    Diogenes Laertius was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is one of the principal surviving sources for the history of Greek philosophy.-Life:Nothing is definitively known about his life...

     published Ethical Characters (Circa 230 BC), sparking interest in two lines of study.

    The first is that of the character book. Imitators of Theophrastus including Satyrus Atheneus, Heracleides Ponticus, Lycon
    Lycon The absolute lowest life form. Lowest ranking level of unknown society; religion Lycon or Lyco may refer to:*Lycon, a son of King Hippocoon of Sparta in Greek mythology...

    , and Rutilius Lupus
    Publius Rutilius Lupus
    Publius Rutilius Lupus was a Roman rhetorician who flourished during the reign of Tiberius. He was the author of a treatise on the figures of speech , abridged from a similar work by the rhetorician Gorgias of Athens, not the well-known sophist of Leontini, the tutor of Cicero's son...

     wrote their own character sketches. Circa 212 BC, Ariston
    Aristo of Ceos
    Aristo of Ceos was a Peripatetic philosopher and a native of the island of Ceos, where his birthplace was the town of Ioulis. He is not to be confused with Aristo of Chios, a Stoic philosopher of the mid 3rd century BC....

    ’s discourse on morality included several proud Character types and mimicked the Theophrastan style. Following Philodemus of Gadara
    Philodemus of Gadara was an Epicurean philosopher and poet. He studied under Zeno of Sidon in Athens, before moving to Rome, and then to Herculaneum. He was once known chiefly for his poetry preserved in the Greek anthology, but since the 18th century, many writings of his have been discovered...

    ’s work on “Self seeking Affability” and Ariston’s characters, evidence of acquaintance with the genre is present, however popularity of the portrait over the generalized stock figures in increasing. This may explain the gap of time from the beginning of the Common Era to the 16th century marked by an absence of character sketching.

    The second field is the study of nomenclature. As the Character rose as a literary genre, many terms were coined in attempt to place labels on the new subject. The translation Theophrastus’ title is based on the terms charassein and Charakter, associated with the stamping of an impression. Rhetorica ad Herennium
    Rhetorica ad Herennium
    The Rhetorica ad Herennium, formerly attributed to Cicero but of unknown authorship, is the oldest surviving Latin book on rhetoric, dating from the 90s BC, and is still used today as a textbook on the structure and uses of rhetoric and persuasion....

     (c. 20 BC), attributed to Cicero
    Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

    , split the character up into two qualities: effictio, the description of physical appearance, and notation, the nature of man. Later in his De Inventione
    De Inventione
    The De Inventione is a handbook for orators that M. Tullius Cicero composed when he was still a young man. Quintillian tells us that Cicero considered the work rendered obsolete by his later writings. Originally four books in all, only two have survived into modern times.-External links:* by C.D....

    , Cicero divided the character, or conformation as he called it, into eleven points: name, nature (natura), way of life (victus), fortune (fortuna), physical appearance (habitus), passions (affectio), interests (studium), reasons for doing things (consilium), one’s deeds (factum), what happens to one (casus), one’s discourses (orationes). Seneca
    Seneca the Younger
    Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

    , too, played a part in providing labels for the new genre in his Epistulae Morale
    Epistulae morales ad Lucilium
    The Epistulae morales ad Lucilium is a bundle of 124 letters which were written by Seneca the Younger at the end of his life. These letters all start with the phrase "Seneca Lucilio suo salutem" and end with the word "Vale" . In these letters, Seneca gives Lucilius tips on how to become a more...

    , using the terms ethologia and characterismos for characteristic conduct of moral types. Circa 93 AD, Quintilian
    Marcus Fabius Quintilianus was a Roman rhetorician from Hispania, widely referred to in medieval schools of rhetoric and in Renaissance writing...

    ’s Institutio Oratoria discussed the effect of personality on rhetoric and in so doing, coined the terms ethopoeia, an orator’s imitation of another person’s character or habits, and prosopopoeia
    A prosopopoeia is a rhetorical device in which a speaker or writer communicates to the audience by speaking as another person or object. The term literally derives from the Greek roots "prósopon face, person, and poiéin to make, to do"....

    , the same thing, but with a dramatization of the person as well as the giving of his words. Other terms conceived in the period include figurae sententiarum and descriptio personae. Decorum
    Decorum was a principle of classical rhetoric, poetry and theatrical theory that was about the fitness or otherwise of a style to a theatrical subject...

    , the rhetorical principle that an individual’s words and subject matter are appropriately matched, also became a relevant term, and would remain significant into the Renaissance
    The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...


    Supersession by philosophy

    The Romans' “perverse admiration for decorum,” is in part responsible for the deterioration and the resulting blackout period of the Character genre. During this blackout, the Character smoldered under the philosophies of such men as Horace
    Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

    . In the Ars Poetica
    Ars Poetica
    Ars Poetica is a term meaning "The Art of Poetry" or "On the Nature of Poetry". Early examples of Ars Poetica by Aristotle and Horace have survived and have since spawned many other poems that bear the same name...

     (c. 18 BC), Horace drew pictures of typical men at various ages, from childhood to old age. Horace’s belief that “what is typical of a class should be observable in the individual,” was illustrated in his epistles classifying Achilles
    In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.Plato named Achilles the handsomest of the heroes assembled against Troy....

     as a man of rage and love, Paris
    Paris (mythology)
    Paris , the son of Priam, king of Troy, appears in a number of Greek legends. Probably the best-known was his elopement with Helen, queen of Sparta, this being one of the immediate causes of the Trojan War...

     an impractical lover, and Ulysses
    Odysseus or Ulysses was a legendary Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer's epic poem the Odyssey. Odysseus also plays a key role in Homer's Iliad and other works in the Epic Cycle....

     the model of virtue and wisdom. Others, such as Hermogenes
    Hermogenes (philosopher)
    Hermogenes was a son of Hipponicus, and a brother of the wealthy Callias. He is introduced by Plato in his dialogue Cratylus as one of the interlocutors, and maintains that all the words of a language were formed by an agreement of people among themselves...

    , Aphthonius
    Aphthonius of Antioch
    Aphthonius of Antioch , Greek sophist and rhetorician, flourished in the second half of the 4th century, or even later. Nothing is known of his life, except that he was a friend of Libanius and of a certain Eutropius, perhaps the author of the epitome of Roman history...

    , and Priscian
    Priscianus Caesariensis , commonly known as Priscian, was a Latin grammarian. He wrote the Institutiones grammaticae on the subject...

    , shared this belief and sought to explore the workings of human nature.

    Steady return

    In Medieval
    Middle Ages
    The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

     England, the study of the Character began its slow recovery, perhaps partly because the existence of feudalism
    Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

     at this time created several clear types in society.

    The Canterbury Tales
    The Canterbury Tales
    The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century. The tales are told as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at...

    of Chaucer centered around prototypical characters, including moral and professional types as well as astrological or physiological classifications. With works such as Vision of Piers Plowman
    Piers Plowman
    Piers Plowman or Visio Willelmi de Petro Plowman is the title of a Middle English allegorical narrative poem by William Langland. It is written in unrhymed alliterative verse divided into sections called "passus"...

    (c 1380) and Everyman
    Everyman (play)
    The Somonyng of Everyman , usually referred to simply as Everyman, is a late 15th-century English morality play. Like John Bunyan's novel Pilgrim's Progress, Everyman examines the question of Christian salvation by use of allegorical characters, and what Man must do to attain it...

    (c 1520) the use of allegorical characters, such as Dowel ("Do-Well"), Dobet ("Do-Better"), and Dobest ("Do-Best"), and Death, Everyman, Strength, Discretion, Beauty, Fellowship, Knowledge, Good-Deeds, and Avaricia, became a familiar device, not unlike the use of stock characters. Although both stocks and allegories will be recognized by society and represent an institution beyond the individual, stock characters are representative of actual men, while allegorical characters are horizontal studies of one tendency in all men. The English Mystery plays, also contained a form of prototypical character: the vice or devil, and the clown. Although some trace these characters no further than our natural proclivity for fools, the devil and clown figures seem to have descended from the satirical interludes of the Grecian stage (the satyr play
    Satyr play
    Satyr plays were an ancient Greek form of tragicomedy, similar in spirit to burlesque. They featured choruses of satyrs, were based on Greek mythology, and were rife with mock drunkenness, brazen sexuality , pranks, sight gags, and general merriment.Satyric drama was one of the three varieties of...

    ), the Fabula Atellana of Rome theaters, and the Exodiarii and Emboliaria of the mimes. Brant-Barclay’s Ship of Fools
    Ship of Fools
    The ship of fools is an allegory that has long been a fixture in Western literature and art. The allegory depicts a vessel populated by human inhabitants who are deranged, frivolous, or oblivious, passengers aboard a ship without a pilot, and seemingly ignorant of their own direction...

     (1494) drew upon these simple characters of mystery plays, miracle plays, and morality play
    Morality play
    The morality play is a genre of Medieval and early Tudor theatrical entertainment. In their own time, these plays were known as "interludes", a broader term given to dramas with or without a moral theme. Morality plays are a type of allegory in which the protagonist is met by personifications of...

    s to create this early source of strong medieval sketches.

    Erasmus proved to have a deep understanding of the Character in his De Duplici Copia Verborum ac Rerum (1512). In Copia, Erasmus sketched the moral types of “amantis,” “luxoriosi,” “avari,” and “voracis,” as well as the “pretender to wealth.” Especially significant was his sketch of the “pseudoplutus,” which connected the Character with the type-personages of Plautus and Terence. Erasmus also painted vivid sketches in his Moriae Encomium (Praise of Folly) (1509).

    Flourishing of ideas

    At this point, the Character genre was on its way to being recollected, as evidenced by the many editions of Theophrastus published between the years 1527 and 1599. During these years, several additional sources, too, suggested the coming reemergence of the Character. Thomas Wilson
    Thomas Wilson (rhetorician)
    Thomas Wilson was an English diplomat, judge, and privy councillor in the government of Elizabeth I. He is now remembered for his Logique and The Arte of Rhetorique , an influential text...

    ’s Arte of Rhetorique (1553) made use of the term descriptio in sketching the pinch-penny. Richard Sherry
    Richard Sherry
    -Life:He was born about 1506 in the neighbourhood of London. In 1522 he became a demy of Magdalen College, Oxford, and graduated B.A. on 21 June 1527 and M.A. on 10 March 1531. In 1534 he was appointed headmaster of Magdalen College School. He held this post until 1540, when he was succeeded by...

    ’s Treatise of the Figures of Grammer and Rhetorike (1555) revisited the terms characterismus and effictio in imitating Erasmus. George Pettie's translation of Guazzo's Civile Conversation (1586) included what may have been the first post-Ciceronian attempt to enumerate the divisions of society. Pettie’s divisions included "young men and old, gentlemen and yeomen, princes and private persons, learned and unlearned, citizens and strangers, religious and secular, men and women.” George Puttenham
    George Puttenham
    George Puttenham was a sixteenth-century English writer, literary critic, and notorious rake. He is generally considered to be the author of the enormously influential handbook on poetry and rhetoric, The Arte of English Poesie ....

    's Arte of English Poesie (1589) also took a part in the nomenclature trend. Puttenham used the term prosopographia describing sketches of real people and set it apart from the previously coined term prosopopoeia, which Puttenham took to describe the personification of abstractions. Other significant titles of the period include Fraternity of Vocabondes (1561) by John Awdeley, Caveat or Warening, for Commen Corsetors (1567) by Thomas Harman
    Thomas Harman
    A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursitors, vulgarly called vagabonds was first published in 1566 by Thomas Harman, and although no copies of that edition survive, it must have been popular, because two printers were punished by the Stationers' Company in 1567 for pirated editions. Two editions...

    , The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia
    Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia
    The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, also known simply as the Arcadia or the Old Arcadia, is a long prose work by Sir Philip Sidney written towards the end of the sixteenth century, and later published in several versions. It is Sidney's most ambitious literary work, by far, and as significant in...

    (1587) by Sir Philip Sidney, Pierce Penilesse (1592) by Nashe
    Thomas Nashe
    Thomas Nashe was an English Elizabethan pamphleteer, playwright, poet and satirist. He was the son of the minister William Nashe and his wife Margaret .-Early life:...

    , and Wits Miserie (1596) by Lodge
    Thomas Lodge
    Thomas Lodge was an English dramatist and writer of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.-Early life and education:...


    New genres

    The real impetus to establish a new genre came only in 1592 and 1599, when Isaac Casaubon
    Isaac Casaubon
    Isaac Casaubon was a classical scholar and philologist, first in France and then later in England, regarded by many of his time as the most learned in Europe.-Early life:...

     published the Greek text together with Latin translations, an elaborate commentary, and a ‘Prolegomena’ discussing literary connections. Casaubon coined the terms “Characters Ethici” and “Notationes Morum” and set the concept of the Character whirring with Renaissance spirit. Following Casaubon, Ben Jonson
    Ben Jonson
    Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

     produced several works highly influenced by the Character. Cynthia's Revels
    Cynthia's Revels
    Cynthia's Revels, or The Fountain of Self-Love is a late Elizabethan stage play, a satire written by Ben Jonson, The play was one element in the so-called Poetomachia or War of the Theatres between Jonson and rival playrwights John Marston and Thomas Dekker.-Performance:The play was first performed...

    (1600) is said to contain the first genuine English Characters. Every Man Out of His Humour
    Every Man Out of His Humour
    Every Man out of His Humour is a satirical comedy written by English playwright Ben Jonson, acted in 1599 by the Lord Chamberlain's Men. It is a conceptual sequel to his 1598 comedy Every Man in His Humour...

    (1600) and Volpone
    Volpone is a comedy by Ben Jonson first produced in 1606, drawing on elements of city comedy, black comedy and beast fable...

    (1606) also follow the Theophrastan model. Shakespeare was known for his remarkable ability to write a broad range of characters. Although he was interested in writing realistic character, in exploring various types, he, of course, hit on several stocks. Shakespeare especially employed the fool character in many of his plays: Feste in Twelfth Night, or What You Will
    Twelfth Night, or What You Will
    Twelfth Night; or, What You Will is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written around 1601–02 as a Twelfth Night's entertainment for the close of the Christmas season...

    , Lavatch and Parolles in All's Well That Ends Well
    All's Well That Ends Well
    All's Well That Ends Well is a play by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1604 and 1605, and was originally published in the First Folio in 1623....

    , and Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream
    A Midsummer Night's Dream
    A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play that was written by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1590 and 1596. It portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta...

    , Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice
    The Merchant of Venice
    The Merchant of Venice is a tragic comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic...

    , Touchstone in As You Like It
    As You Like It
    As You Like It is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1599 or early 1600 and first published in the folio of 1623. The play's first performance is uncertain, though a performance at Wilton House in 1603 has been suggested as a possibility...

    . In addition, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice
    The Merchant of Venice
    The Merchant of Venice is a tragic comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic...

    has often been described as an antisemitic character designed to play into the prejudices of the time, and in this way he would also fit the definition of a "stock character" as well. However, he often settled on rounded characters, stock types with individualized twists.

    The genre continued to climb with Joseph Hall’s Characters of Virtues and Vices (1608). Hall is thought to be responsible for the unquestioned emergence of the Character as a distinctive and acknowledged literary form. At last coining the term “character,” Hall presented nine virtuous and fifteen vicious types, all moral or psychological, based on Christian ideals. Among these types are the wise man, the honest man, the faithful man, the valiant man, the humble man, the patient, the truly noble, the good magistrate, the busy-body, the superstitious, the malcontent, the flatterer, the covetous, the vain-glorious, the hypocrite, the profane, the inconstant, the slothful, the ambitious, the envious, the unthrift, and the distrustful. Especially of note is Hall’s sketch of “the good magistrate,” for it is said to bridge the gap between innumerable analytic and satiric pictures of feudal Estates written before Hall and the numerous Characters of social and professional classes written after Hall.

    Around the time of Hall, a new stock-based form was developing in England. The puppet tradition known as Punch and Judy
    Punch and Judy
    Punch and Judy is a traditional, popular puppet show featuring the characters of Mr. Punch and his wife, Judy. The performance consists of a sequence of short scenes, each depicting an interaction between two characters, most typically the anarchic Punch and one other character...

     involved a trickster on strings. Although the lazy, gluttonous Punch resembles Bucco and Maccus from the Atellan Farce, such a stock character is present in all stock pools. Such forms came easily with the new awareness of character building up in England.

    The pinnacle

    The Character genre finally reached its pinnacle with Sir Thomas Overbury
    Thomas Overbury
    Sir Thomas Overbury was an English poet and essayist, and the victim of one of the most sensational crimes in English history...

    ’s A Wife: Witty Characters Written by Himselfe and Other Learned Gentlemen His Friends (1614). The most famous of the 17th-century Character-books, Overbury included 83 types in his fullest edition. Of these, 32 are speculated to have been written by John Webster
    John Webster
    John Webster was an English Jacobean dramatist best known for his tragedies The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi, which are often regarded as masterpieces of the early 17th-century English stage. He was a contemporary of William Shakespeare.- Biography :Webster's life is obscure, and the dates...

    , with others by Thomas Dekker and John Donne
    John Donne
    John Donne 31 March 1631), English poet, satirist, lawyer, and priest, is now considered the preeminent representative of the metaphysical poets. His works are notable for their strong and sensual style and include sonnets, love poetry, religious poems, Latin translations, epigrams, elegies, songs,...

    . In addition to the Theophrastan moral types, the Overburian characters include complex social types, including national representatives, women, and representatives of institutions. According to Overbury, his Character sketches are “pictures (real or personal) quaintlie drawne in various colours, all of them heightened by one shadowing.” His Characters include A Good Woman, A Virtuous Widow, A Worthy Commander in the Wars, A Nobel and Retired House-keeper, A Very Very Woman, A Fair and Happy Milkmaid, A Mere Common Lawyer, A Mere Scholar, A Mere Pettifogger, An Arrant Horse-Courser, An Excellent Actor, An Almanac-maker, An Improvident Young Gallant, A Revered Judge, Fantastic Inns of Court Man, A Drunken Dutchman Resident in England, Cleargy Hypocrites, Clerke Hypocrites, A Sailor, A Whore, A Jesuit, and several prison types.

    Other character books

    Although the character sketch is said to have peaked with Overbury, A Wife was by no means the last character book. On the contrary, as the character sketch became vogue, countless books continued to catalogue character prototypes. Some noteworthy works include John Stephens
    John Stephens
    John Stephens may refer to:*John Hall Stephens , U.S. Representative from Texas*John Legend , American musician*John Lloyd Stephens , American explorer, writer, and diplomat...

    Satyrical Essayes Characters (1615) including 50 types, and John Earle
    John Earle (bishop)
    John Earle was an English bishop.-Life:He was born at York, but the exact date is unknown. He matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, but moved to Merton, where he obtained a fellowship...

    ’s Microcosmography (1628) including 76 types. Eloquentiae Sacre et Humanae Parallela Libri XVI (1619) by Nicholas Caussin, includes many “epidictici characters,” moral and social types, and abstractions suggesting the origin of the types. Caussin alleges that “Garrulus” descends from Theophrastus and Horace; “Avarus, et Tenax” comes from Theophrastus and Plautus; and “Avarus Dives” is from Carthaginian saint Cyprianus. By 1665, the Character genre was so clearly defined that Ralph Johnson
    Ralph Johnson
    Ralph E. Johnson is a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a co-author of the influential computer science textbook Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software.Ralph was an early pioneer in...

    in his Scholar's Guide from the Accidence to the University, could outline the “Rules for Making a Character.” In 1688, the Character first extended beyond England and into the mainland of Europe. Jean de La Bruyère
    Jean de La Bruyère
    Jean de La Bruyère was a French essayist and moralist.-Ancestry:He was born in Paris, not, as was once thought, at Dourdan in 1645...

    ’s Les Caractères, ou les Moeurs de ce Siècle was to become the first work of social criticism in French literature. La Bruyère systematically organized his types under the categories Of Works of the Mind, Of Personal merit, Of Women, Of the Affections, Of Society and Conversation, Of the Gifts of Fortune, Of the Town, Of the Court, Of the Great, Of the Sovereign and the State, Of Mankind, Of Opinions, Of Fashion, Of Certain Customs, Of the Pulpit, Of Free-Thinkers

    Extemporal comedy

    Perhaps by chance, this seems to have coincided with the beginnings of the extemporal comedy or commedia dell'arte
    Commedia dell'arte
    Commedia dell'arte is a form of theatre characterized by masked "types" which began in Italy in the 16th century, and was responsible for the advent of the actress and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. The closest translation of the name is "comedy of craft"; it is shortened...

    . Most likely having descended from the Atellan Farce and the Greek and Roman mime, commedia began with four stock characters, first known as magnifici (magnificent ones) and zanni
    Zanni or Zani is a character type of Commedia dell'arte best known as an astute servant and trickster. The Zanni comes from the countryside. The Zanni is known to be a “dispossessed immigrant worker”. "Immigrant" in Italy at the time of the city-states, did not necessarily mean someone from...

     (slaves), later receiving the names Pantalone
    Pantalone, or Pantalone del bisognosi, Italian for 'Pantalone of the needy', is one of the most important principal characters found in commedia del arte...

    , Dottore, Arlecchino, and Scapino
    Scapino, Scappino, or Scapin, is a zanni character from the commedia dell'arte. His name is related to the English word "escape" in reference to his tendency to flee from fights, even those he himself begins. He has been dated to the last years of the 16th century, and his creation is sometimes...

    Brighella is a comic, masked character from the Commedia dell'arte. His early costume consisted of loosely-fitting, white smock and pants with green trim and was often equipped with a battachio or slapstick, or else with a wooden sword. Later he took to wearing a sort of livery with a matching cape...

    . In 1667 the character of Harlequin
    Harlequin or Arlecchino in Italian, Arlequin in French, and Arlequín in Spanish is the most popularly known of the zanni or comic servant characters from the Italian Commedia dell'arte and its descendant, the Harlequinade.-Origins:...

     appeared in a comedy by Ravenscroft
    Edward Ravenscroft
    Edward Ravenscroft , English dramatist, belonged to an ancient Flintshire family.He was entered at the Middle Temple, but devoted his attention mainly to literature. Among his pieces are...

    . Succeeding La Bruyère, Novelty; or Every Act a Play (1697) came to include Harlequin, Pantalone, Columbina
    Columbine is a fictional character in the Commedia dell'Arte. She is Harlequin's mistress, a comic servant playing the tricky slave type, and wife of Pierrot...

    , and Clown
    Clowns are comic performers stereotypically characterized by the grotesque image of the circus clown's colored wigs, stylistic makeup, outlandish costumes, unusually large footwear, and red nose, which evolved to project their actions to large audiences. Other less grotesque styles have also...

    . Commedia flourished into a form that would mark the height of the stock character. Like in the Greek Old Comedy, stock costumes are important in assisting the audience in identifying the familiar type. The use of masks in Commedia helped the clear physical portrayal of the character. Masks also served to exaggerate the characters, aiding Commedia in its sense of satire. At no other point in theater history has a form so perfectly typifying the Character genre arisen.

    The Innamorati
    Gli Innamorati were stock characters within the theatre style known as Commedia dell'arte, which appeared in 16th century Italy. These characters were present within commedia plays for the sole purpose of being in love with one another, and moreover with themselves...

    or lovers of commedia dell'arte
    Commedia dell'arte
    Commedia dell'arte is a form of theatre characterized by masked "types" which began in Italy in the 16th century, and was responsible for the advent of the actress and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. The closest translation of the name is "comedy of craft"; it is shortened...

     were stock characters in the sense that they appeared in every scenario, which often revolved around them. However, their lack of distinctive character was shown by their lack of masks, and the action took place about them, with other characters bringing about their fate.

    Other countries

    Stock characters also feature heavily in the comic traditions of Kyōgen
    is a form of traditional Japanese comic theater. It developed alongside Noh, was performed along with Noh as an intermission of sorts between Noh acts, on the same Noh stage, and retains close links to Noh in the modern day; therefore, it is sometimes designated Noh-kyōgen...

     in Japan and Commedia dell'arte
    Commedia dell'arte
    Commedia dell'arte is a form of theatre characterized by masked "types" which began in Italy in the 16th century, and was responsible for the advent of the actress and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. The closest translation of the name is "comedy of craft"; it is shortened...

     in Italy; in the latter they are known as tipi fissi (fixed [social] types).

    Copyright law

    In the United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

    , court
    A court is a form of tribunal, often a governmental institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law...

    s have determined that copyright
    Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time...

     protection can not be extended to the characteristics of stock characters in a story, whether it be a book
    A book is a set or collection of written, printed, illustrated, or blank sheets, made of hot lava, paper, parchment, or other materials, usually fastened together to hinge at one side. A single sheet within a book is called a leaf or leaflet, and each side of a leaf is called a page...

    , play
    Play (theatre)
    A play is a form of literature written by a playwright, usually consisting of scripted dialogue between characters, intended for theatrical performance rather than just reading. There are rare dramatists, notably George Bernard Shaw, who have had little preference whether their plays were performed...

    , or film
    A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

    The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.