Characterization in the Plays of the Chester Cycle

Mary of the Holy Spirit Devereux, Fordham University


CHARACTERIZATION IN THE PLAYS OF THE CHESTER CYCLE CHAPTER I INTRODUCTORY REMARKS Analysis of characterization in any literary work must, as a necessary consequence, involve a consideration of certain factors. Among these are the inherent nature of characterization, the methods by which it is to be achieved, the relative position of the particular work in question with regard to the history of its genre, and the purpose which induced the playwright to write it. Until these have been established, the quality of characterization which may reasonably be expected cannot be deteimined. The first consideration is, therefore, with characterization itself. Seen as the process by which a figure in literature is so developed as to make him achieve more fully in the mind of the reader or spectator the stature and personality which he enjoys in the mind of author or playwright, characterization presents to the writer a taxing problem. This is particularly true in the field of drama, where, in the words of Dr. Gustav Freytag: Each participant in the dramatic action has a definite appointment with reference to the whole; for each, an exact, circumscribed personality is necessary, which must be so constituted that so much of it as has a purpose may be conveniently perceived by the auditor, and what is common to man and what is peculiar to this character may be effectively represented by the actor by means of his art. This necessarily demands some degree of creative power, regardless of whether the character be one whom the playwright has drawn from the rich stores of history, Scripture, literature or tradition, or one whom he has drawn from the realms of his own fanciful imagination: . . . as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a name. Of the means by which characterization may be achieved, Dr. Freytag asserts: Since the dramatic art presents men as their inmost being exerts an influence on the external, or as they are affected by external influences, it must logically use the means by which it can make intelligible to the auditor these processes of man’s nature. These means are speech, tone and gesture.

Subject Area

Theater|British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Devereux, Mary of the Holy Spirit, "Characterization in the Plays of the Chester Cycle" (1960). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28673357.