Guide to Literary Terms

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What is the definition of protagonist?

The definition of protagonist is the central character of a narrative.

Protagonist

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Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 133

Protagonist - the leading character of a drama, novel, etc. This is not always the hero, but is always the principal and central character whose rival is the antagonist.

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The term is from the Greek protagonistes, meaning “first actor in a drama.”

The Greek tragic poet was restricted to three actors: protagonist, deuteragonist, and tritagonist, or first, second, and third actor. In contests between actors, only the protagonists were considered.

Originally, Greek drama probably consisted of only a Chorus and the leader of the Chorus. Thespis (Sixth Century B.C.) added the first actor, Aeschylus the second, and Sophocles the third.

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Some famous protagonists are Hester Prynne from Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Atticus Finch from Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and the title character of Hamlet.

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Latest answer posted July 7, 2011, 1:03 pm (UTC)

3 educator answers

see: antagonist


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