What Is a Protagonist?


Have you ever learned a new word from a book? Some people use the context clues found in the paragraph to deduce the meaning of an unfamiliar term. If that fails, they turn to a dictionary to provide a definition. If you love books, you probably talk about them after you read them. Did you know that specialized vocabulary exists to describe the characters of a story? Let’s learn the story of one of those terms—protagonist.

In Ancient Greece, the protagonist (from protos, meaning “first,” and agonistes, meaning “actor”) was the lead actor of a play. This actor stood across from a chorus, relating a story by means of questions and answers. Later, the label protagonist was applied to all principal roles, not just in dramas, but also in films and novels.


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