Character Functions

According to Northrop Frye


Ethos Degree of Realism Alazon Eiron Buffoons Agroikoi
(World of Myth) None: total dreamworld of desire Impostors:

(see themselves as greater than they are)

ZB: Satan, Leviathan


(see themselves as less than they are)

ZB: Christ


romantic ploy

(function to intensify main mood)


realistic ploy

(function to break mood and direct plot back to reality)

Romance Very little: characters divided into good/bad to illustrate conflict of plot

Enemies of Quest: giants, ogres, evil magicians, sirens, witches

ZB: Darth Vadar, Sauron, Sauraman


Helpers on Quest: good magician, fairy godmother

ZB: Obi Wan Kenobi, Gandalf

Sprits of nature

(nymphs et al)

characters who increase sense of wonder, magic

ZB: R2D2, 3CPO,


Realistic Counter

Companion who calls attention to fear; jester who deflates romantic ideals

ZB: Han Solo, Samwise

Tragedy Realistic

Hero who is self-deceived, arrogant, too proud

ZB: Macbeth, Lear, Oedipus

Nemesis or fate, sooothsayer or other agent of wrathful gods

ZB: Tiresius

Supplient who provides vision of unmitigated suffering and helplessness

ZB: Jocasta, Ophelia, Cordelia

Critic of Tragic action who resists tragic movement; 

Comic relief

ZB: Porter in Macbeth, Fool in Lear

Comedy Realistic

Blocking Figures such as heavy father, senex iratus, pedant, or Humor: Characcter driven by one passion

ZB: Archie Bunker

Hero/ Heroine,

Vice or Scheme Hatchers, 

trickster/valet who helps hero 

ZB: Puck

benevolent hermit father figures

ZB: Duke in Measure for Measure

Clowns who increase mood of festivity,

Cook, jovial host

ZB: Falstaff

Straight Man, Killjoy, Prig, Simple Man

walks away from festivity

ZB:Jacques in As You Like