Antagonist

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An antagonist is the character in a story who is against the protagonist. [1]

Protagonist the main character of a creative work

A protagonist is the leading character of a story.

Contents

Etymology

The English word antagonist comes from the Greek ἀνταγωνιστής – antagonistēs, "opponent, competitor, villain, enemy, rival," which is derived from anti- ("against") and agonizesthai ("to contend for a prize"). [2] [3]

Greek language language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Types

Heroes and villains

In the classic style of stories where the action consists of a hero fighting a villain/enemy, the two may be regarded as protagonist and antagonist, respectively. However, the villain of the story is not always the same as the antagonist, as some narratives cast the villain in the protagonist role, with the opposing hero as the antagonist. An antagonist also may represent a threat or obstacle to the main character by its existence and not necessarily targeting him or her in a deliberate manner.

Hero person who displays characteristics of heroism

A hero (masculine) or heroine (feminine) is a real person or a main fictional character of a literary work who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, bravery or strength; the original hero type of classical epics did such things for the sake of glory and honor. On the other hand are post-classical and modern heroes, who perform great deeds or selfless acts for the common good instead of the classical goal of wealth, pride and fame. The antonym of a hero is a villain.

Villain evil character in a story

A villain (masculine) and villainess (feminine) is an evil fictional character, whether based on a historical narrative or one of literary fiction. Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines villain as "a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel; or a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot". The purpose of the villain is to be the opposition of the hero character and their motives or evil actions drive the plot along. In contrast to the hero, who is defined by their feats of ingenuity and bravery and their pursuit of justice and the greater good, a villain is often defined by their acts of cruelty, cunning and displays immoral behavior that can oppose or perverse justice. The antonym of a villain is a hero.

Enemy adversary

An enemy or a foe is an individual or a group that is verified as forcefully adverse or threatening. The concept of an enemy has been observed to be "basic for both individuals and communities". The term "enemy" serves the social function of designating a particular entity as a threat, thereby invoking an intense emotional response to that entity. The state of being or having an enemy is enmity, foehood or foeship.

Examples in both film and theatre include Sauron, the main antagonist in The Lord of the Rings, who constantly battles the series' protagonists, and Tybalt, an antagonist in Romeo and Juliet , who slays Mercutio and whose later death results in the exiling of one of the play's protagonists, Romeo. In stories, a convention of antagonists is that their moral choices are less savory than those of protagonists. This is often used by an author to create conflict within a story. However, this is merely a convention, and the reversal of this can be seen in the character Macduff from Macbeth, who is arguably morally correct in his desire to fight the tyrant Macbeth.

Sauron Primary antagonist in Tolkiens The Lord of the Rings

Sauron is the title character and main antagonist of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

<i>The Lord of the Rings</i> 1954–1955 fantasy novel by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings is an epic high fantasy novel written by English author and scholar J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's 1937 fantasy novel The Hobbit, but eventually developed into a much larger work. Written in stages between 1937 and 1949, The Lord of the Rings is one of the best-selling novels ever written, with over 150 million copies sold.

Tybalt is a character in William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. He is the son of Lady Capulet's brother, Juliet's short-tempered first cousin, and Romeo's rival. Tybalt shares the same name as the character Tibert/Tybalt the "Prince of Cats" in Reynard the Fox, a point of mockery in the play. Mercutio repeatedly calls Tybalt "Prince of Cats". Luigi da Porto adapted the story as Giulietta e Romeo and included it in his Historia novellamente ritrovata di due Nobili Amanti published in 1530. Da Porto drew on Pyramus and Thisbe and Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron. Da Porto gave it much of its modern form, including the lovers' names, the rival families of Montecchi and Capuleti, and the location in Verona. He also introduces characters corresponding to Shakespeare's Mercutio, Tybalt, and Paris. Da Porto presents his tale as historically true and claims it took place in the days of Bartolomeo II della Scala. Montague and Capulet were actual 13th-century political factions, but the only connection between them is a mention in Dante's Purgatorio as an example of civil dissension.

Examples from television include J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) from Dallas and Alexis Colby (Joan Collins) from Dynasty . Both became breakout characters used as a device to increase their shows' ratings.

Television Telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images

Television (TV), sometimes shortened to tele or telly, is a telecommunication medium used for transmitting moving images in monochrome, or in color, and in two or three dimensions and sound. The term can refer to a television set, a television program, or the medium of television transmission. Television is a mass medium for advertising, entertainment and news.

Larry Hagman American actor

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<i>Dallas</i> (1978 TV series) American television series

Dallas is an American prime time television soap opera that aired on CBS from April 2, 1978 to May 3, 1991. The series revolves around a wealthy and feuding Texas family, the Ewings, who own the independent oil company Ewing Oil and the cattle-ranching land of Southfork. The series originally focused on the marriage of Bobby Ewing and Pamela Barnes, whose families were sworn enemies with each other. As the series progressed, Bobby's older brother, oil tycoon J.R. Ewing, became the show's breakout character, whose schemes and dirty business became the show's trademark. When the show ended in May 1991, J.R. was the only character to have appeared in every episode.

Other characters

Characters may be antagonists without being evil – they may simply be injudicious and unlikeable for the audience. In some stories, such as The Catcher in the Rye , almost every character other than the protagonist may be an antagonist. [4]

<i>The Catcher in the Rye</i> novel by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye is a story by J. D. Salinger, partially published in serial form in 1945–1946 and as a novel in 1951. A classic novel originally published for adults, it has since become popular among adolescent readers for its themes of angst, alienation and as a critique on superficiality in society. It has been translated into almost all of the world's major languages.

Aspects of the protagonist

An aspect or trait of the protagonist may be considered an antagonist, such as morality or indecisiveness. [4]

Non-personal

An antagonist may not always be a person or persons. In some cases, an antagonist may be a force, such as a tidal wave that destroys a city; a storm that causes havoc; or even a certain area's conditions that are the root cause of a problem. An antagonist also may or may not create obstacles for the protagonist. [5]

Societal norms or other rules also may be antagonists. [4]

Former protagonists

A character once a protagonist can turn into an antagonist under extremely negative circumstances. Examples include Anakin Skywalker from the Star Wars franchise who turns from Jedi to Sith. A supporting protagonist can become an antagonist by betraying a main protagonist.

Usage

An antagonist is used as a plot device, to set up conflicts, obstacles, or challenges for the protagonist. [4] [6] Though not every story requires an antagonist, it often is used in plays to increase the level of drama. In tragedies, antagonists are often the cause of the protagonist's main problem, or lead a group of characters against the protagonist; in comedies, they are usually responsible for involving the protagonist in comedic situations. [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

Cliffhanger narratological device

A cliffhanger, or cliffhanger ending, is a plot device in fiction which features a main character in a precarious or difficult dilemma, or confronted with a shocking revelation at the end of an episode of serialized fiction. A cliffhanger is hoped to ensure the audience will return to see how the characters resolve the dilemma.

Plot (narrative) concept in narratology: presentation of a sequence of events in a narrative work

Plot refers to the sequence of events inside a story which affect other events through the principle of cause and effect. The causal events of a plot can be thought of as a series of sentences linked by the connector "and so". Plots can vary from simple structures—such as in a traditional ballad—to complex interwoven structures sometimes referred to by the term imbroglio. The term plot can also serve as a verb referring to a character planning future actions in the story.

A plot device, or plot mechanism, is any technique in a narrative used to move the plot forward. A contrived or arbitrary plot device may annoy or confuse the reader, causing a loss of the suspension of disbelief. However a well-crafted plot device, or one that emerges naturally from the setting or characters of the story, may be entirely accepted, or may even be unnoticed by the audience.

Thriller (genre) genre of literature, film, and television programming

Thriller is a broad genre of literature, film and television, having numerous, often overlapping subgenres. Thrillers are characterized and defined by the moods they elicit, giving viewers heightened feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation and anxiety. Successful examples of thrillers are the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

Lich undead creature

In fantasy fiction, a lich is a type of undead creature. Often such a creature is the result of a transformation, as a powerful magician skilled in necromancy or a king striving for eternal life using spells or rituals to bind his intellect and soul to his 'phylactery' and thereby achieving a form of immortality. Liches are depicted as being clearly cadaverous, bodies desiccated or completely skeletal. Liches are often depicted as holding power over hordes of lesser undead creatures, using them as soldiers and servants. Unlike zombies, which are often depicted as mindless, a lich is sapient, retaining independent thought and is as intelligent as it was prior to its transformation.

Unreliable narrator narrator whose credibility has been seriously compromised

An unreliable narrator is a narrator whose credibility has been seriously compromised. The term was coined in 1961 by Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction. While unreliable narrators are almost by definition first-person narrators, arguments have been made for the existence of unreliable second- and third-person narrators, especially within the context of film and television, although sometimes also in literature.

In literature and writing, stylistic elements are the use of any of a variety of techniques to give an auxiliary meaning, idea, or feeling to the literal or written.

Foil (literature) character who contrasts with another character of a narrative work

In fiction, a foil is a character who contrasts with another character, usually the protagonist, to highlight particular qualities of the other character. In some cases, a subplot can be used as a foil to the main plot. This is especially true in the case of metafiction and the "story within a story" motif. The word foil comes from the old practice of backing gems with foil to make them shine more brightly.

Conflict (narrative) literary element; the opposition main characters must face to achieve their goals

In works of narrative, conflict is the challenge main characters need to solve to achieve their goals.

A plot twist is a literary technique that introduces a radical change in the direction or expected outcome of the plot in a work of fiction. When it happens near the end of a story, it is known as a twist or surprise ending. It may change the audience's perception of the preceding events, or introduce a new conflict that places it in a different context. A plot twist may be foreshadowed, to prepare the audience to accept it. There are a variety of methods used to execute a plot twist, such as withholding information from the audience or misleading them with ambiguous or false information.

Rock (manga) manga character

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An archenemy is the main enemy of someone. In fiction, it is a character who is the hero's or protagonist's most prominent and worst enemy.

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Mind control has proven a popular subject in fiction, featuring in books and films such as The Manchurian Candidate and The IPCRESS File, both stories advancing the premise that controllers could hypnotize a person into murdering on command while retaining no memory of the killing. As a narrative device, mind control serves as a convenient means of introducing changes in the behavior of characters, and is used as a device for raising tension and audience uncertainty in the contexts of the Cold War and terrorism. Mind control has often been an important theme in science fiction and fantasy stories. Terry O'Brian comments: "Mind control is such a powerful image that if hypnotism did not exist, then something similar would have to have been invented: the plot device is too useful for any writer to ignore. The fear of mind control is equally as powerful an image."

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to fiction:

Dark Lord stock character; an evil, very powerful, often godlike or near-immortal sorcerer

In fiction, Dark Lord is often used to refer to a powerful villain or antagonist with evil henchmen. In particular, it is used as a moniker in fictional worlds where it is thought that pronouncing the villain's real name will bring bad luck or represents a bad omen. Such a villain usually seeks to rule or destroy the people around them

<i>The Seven Basic Plots</i> book by Christopher Booker

The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories is a 2004 book by Christopher Booker containing a Jungian-influenced analysis of stories and their psychological meaning. Booker had worked on the book for 34 years.

There has been a stereotyping of minorities and people of colour in the horror genre, especially within American films. Throughout the history of the genre there has been a devaluing of the roles of minorities within such films, and according to one critic "a use of aspects from their culture as fodder for the plot". These films tend to have a predominantly white casts and audience, and cast minorities as violent, and as monsters and villains. The horror genre in particular holds the power to play with aspects of violence in intriguing and symbolic ways.

References

  1. About.com, Literature: Contemporary "Antagonist." Online. 18 October 2007.
    • "Protagonist and Antagonist definition". Grammarist.com. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
    • "Glossary of Literary Terms". Archived from the original on 26 March 2015. Retrieved on 27 March 2015.
    • "Glossary of Drama Terms". Online Learning Center. Retrieved on 27 March 2015.
    • "Antagonist - Definition for Fiction Writers". About.com. Retrieved on 27 March 2015.
  2. "Antagonist". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  3. "antagonist". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. 1 2 3 4 Bulman, Colin (2007). Creative Writing: A Guide and/or Glossary to Fiction Writing. Polity Press. p. 17. ISBN   9780745636870 via Google Books.
  5. "The Elements of Literature". roanestate.edu.
  6. 1 2 Smiley, Sam (2005) [First published 1971 by Prentice-Hall]. Playwriting: The Structure of Action. Yale University Press. pp. 133–134. ISBN   0300107242 via Google Books.