Character archetypes

An archetype is the model - or prototype - that all other types are based on.

Vladimir Propp used Russian fairy tales to analyse recurring character archetypes in literature.  

These are Propp’s character archetypes:

  • the villain, who struggles with the hero
  • the donor, who prepares and/or provides hero with magical agent
  • the helper, who assists, rescues, solves and/or transfigures the hero
  • the Princess or the prize, a sought-for person (and/or her father), who exists as a goal and often recognises and marries hero and/or punishes villain
  • the father — gives the task to the hero, identifies the false hero, marries the hero, often sought for during the narrative. Propp noted that functionally, the princess and the father can not be clearly distinguished.
  • the dispatcher, who sends the hero off
  • the hero, who departs on a search (seeker-hero), reacts to the donor and weds at end
  • the false hero (or antihero or usurper), who claims to be the hero, often seeking and reacting like a real hero (ie by trying to marry the princess)

Can you see these archetypes in the characters in Much Ado?