Title role

The title role in the performing arts is the performance part that gives the title to the piece, as in Aida, Giselle, Michael Collins,[1] or Othello. The actor, singer, or dancer who performs that part is also said to have the title role.

The performer playing the title role is not always the lead and the title role may or may not be the protagonist. In the television miniseries Shogun, for example, Toshirō Mifune had the title role, but the lead was played by Richard Chamberlain. In the James Bond novel The Man with the Golden Gun, the title character is the primary antagonist. The title role and the lead can be different genders; for example, in the 2003 revival of August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Whoopi Goldberg had the title role, but the lead was Charles S. Dutton.[2]

Title character

The title character in narrative works is one who is named or referred to in the title, such as the Doctor in the TV series Doctor Who, Harry Potter in the series of novels and films,[3] Romeo and Juliet in the Shakespeare play,[4] or Annie Oakley in the musical Annie Get Your Gun.[5]

The title character need not be fictional, such as Erin Brockovich in the film of the same name[6] or Thomas More in the play A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt.[7]

The title character need not be named in the title, but may be referred to by some other word or phrase, such as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit[8] or Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.[9] A title character may only be indirectly described in the title, as in An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde, which refers to the apparently perfect Sir Robert Chiltern.[10]

The title character need not be the subject of the whole title in a strict grammatical sense: Uncle Tom is the title character of Uncle Tom's Cabin[11] and Lee Marvin is often described as playing the title character in the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, as his character (Liberty Valance) is named in the title, even though the subject of the title is the person who shot him.[12]

A title character may be the main antagonist, e.g. Sauron in The Lord of the Rings[13] or Bram Stoker's Dracula.[14] In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the wizard is the title character, but Dorothy Gale is the main character.[15] In the musical Bye Bye Birdie, Conrad Birdie is the title character, while Albert Peterson is the protagonist. In the video game The Legend of Zelda, the title character Princess Zelda is the damsel in distress, but the protagonist is Link.[16] The title character may be unseen, e.g. Godot in Waiting for Godot,[17] Rebecca de Winter in the 1938 novel Rebecca,[18] or Jason Bourne in the 2012 film The Bourne Legacy.[19]

Status as the title character has been attributed to named objects, such as the bus in the film and musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.[20]


The general phrase "title character" can be replaced with a description of the character, and then further identified as "titular". For example, the title character of Dracula can be referred to as "the titular vampire",[21] and the title character of Hamlet is "the titular prince of Denmark".[22]

See also


  1. Walshe, Shane (2009). Irish English as Represented in Film. Peter Lang. p. 258.
  2. Hill, Anthony D (September 2, 2009). The A to Z of African American Theater. Scarecrow Press. p. xxxiv.
  3. Bell, Christoper E (July 30, 2012). Hermione Granger Saves the World: Essays on the Feminist Heroine of Hogwarts. McFarland. p. 21.
  4. "The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet". Richmond Shakespeare Festival.
  5. Hoffman, Warren (February 18, 2014). The Great White Way: Race and the Broadway Musical. Rutgers University Press. p. 57.
  6. Hammer, Tonya R (April 2008). Myths, Stereotypes, and Controlling Images in Film: A Feminist Content Analysis of Hollywood's Portrayal of Women's Career Choices. p. 58. ISBN 9781243451705.
  7. The Best Test Preparation for the Advanced Placement Examination in English Literature & Composition. Research and Education Assocn. 1990. p. 83.
  8. "The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien, Analysis of major characters". SparkNotes.
  9. Taylor, Paul C (July 29, 2009). "The Last King of Scotland, the Last N----r on Earth? The Ethics of Race on Film". Contemporary Aesthetics.
  10. Rice, Randy (November 14, 2008). "Review: An Ideal Husband at The Gamm". Wisdom Digital Media.
  11. Sharma, Raja (2012). Ready Reference Treatise: Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
  12. Casillo, Robert (2006). Gangster Priest: The Italian American Cinema of Martin Scorsese. University of Toronto Press. p. 153. ISBN 9780802091130.
  13. Skogemann, Pia (2009). Where the Shadows Lie: A Jungian Interpretation of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Chiron Publications. p. 145.
  14. Constanzo, William V (November 18, 2013). World Cinema through Global Genres. John Wiley & sons. p. 211.
  15. "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum: Summary & Characters". Education Portal.
  16. Lambie, Ryan (23 November 2011). "The Legend Of Zelda: why Link is one of the most enduring characters in videogaming".
  17. Sharma, Raja (2012). Ready Reference Treatise: Waiting for Godot.
  18. Buzwell, Greg (25 May 2016). "Daphne du Maurier and the Gothic Tradition". British Library. Retrieved 2018-06-25.
  19. Bradshaw, Peter (August 9, 2012). "The Bourne Legacy – review". The Guardian.
  20. Tavener, Simon (February 28, 2013). "Priscilla - Queen of the Desert (Tour - Oxford)". What's on Stage: Theatre News.
  21. Robinson, Sara Libby (2008). Blood Will Tell: Blood and Vampires as Metaphors in the Political and Popular Cultures of Great Britain, France, Germany, and the United States, 1870--1914. Proquest. p. 131.
  22. Saxon, Theresa (October 11, 2011). American Theatre: History, Context, Form. Oxford University Press.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.