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A character (or fictional character) is a person in a narrative work of art (such as a novel, play, television series or film).<ref>Baldick (2001, 37) and Childs and Fowler (2006, 23). See also "character, 10b" in Trumble and Stevenson (2003, 381): "A person portrayed in a novel, a drama, etc; a part played by an actor".</ref> Derived from the ancient Greek word χαρακτήρ, the English word dates from the Restoration,<ref>OED "character" sense 17.a citing, inter alia, Dryden's 1679 preface to Troilus and Cressida: "The chief character or Hero in a Tragedy ... ought in prudence to be such a man, who has so much more in him of Virtue than of Vice... If Creon had been the chief character in Œdipus..."</ref> although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749.<ref>Aston and Savona (1991, 34), quotation:
[...] is first used in English to denote 'a personality in a novel or a play' in 1749 (The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, s.v.).
</ref><ref name=Harrison1998p51/> From this, the sense of "a part played by an actor" developed.<ref name=Harrison1998p51>Harrison (1998, 51-2) quotation:
Its use as 'the sum of the qualities which constitute an individual' is a mC17 development. The modern literary and theatrical sense of 'an individual created in a fictitious work' is not attested in OED until mC18: 'Whatever characters any... have for the jestsake personated... are now thrown off' (1749, Fielding, Tom Jones).
</ref> Character, particularly when enacted by an actor in the theatre or cinema, involves "the illusion of being a human person."<ref>Pavis (1998, 47).</ref> In literature, characters guide readers through their stories, helping them to understand plots and ponder themes.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation

|CitationClass=journal }}</ref> Since the end of the 18th century, the phrase "in character" has been used to describe an effective impersonation by an actor.<ref name=Harrison1998p51/> Since the 19th century, the art of creating characters, as practiced by actors or writers, has been called characterisation.<ref name=Harrison1998p51/>

A character who stands as a representative of a particular class or group of people is known as a type.<ref name=b265>Baldick (2001, 265).</ref> Types include both stock characters and those that are more fully individualised.<ref name=b265/> The characters in Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (1891) and August Strindberg's Miss Julie (1888), for example, are representative of specific positions in the social relations of class and gender, such that the conflicts between the characters reveal ideological conflicts.<ref>Aston and Savona (1991, 35).</ref>

The study of a character requires an analysis of its relations with all of the other characters in the work.<ref>Aston and Savona (1991, 41).</ref> The individual status of a character is defined through the network of oppositions (proairetic, pragmatic, linguistic, proxemic) that it forms with the other characters.<ref>Elam (2002, 133).</ref> The relation between characters and the action of the story shifts historically, often miming shifts in society and its ideas about human individuality, self-determination, and the social order.<ref>Childs and Fowler (2006, 23).</ref>
Character (arts) sections
Intro  Classical analysis of character  Types of characters  Creation of characters  Other   See also   Notes  References  

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