In literature, the deuteragonist (from Greek: δευτεραγωνιστής, deuteragonistes, second actor) is the second most important character, after the protagonist and before the tritagonist.[1] The deuteragonist may switch from being with or against the protagonist depending on the deuteragonist's own conflict/plot.



Greek drama began with simply one actor, the protagonist, and a chorus of dancers. The playwright Aeschylus introduced the deuteragonist; Aristotle says in his Poetics

Καὶ τό τε τῶν ὑποκριτῶν πλῆθος ἐξ ἑνὸς εἰς δύο πρῶτος Αἰσχύλος ἤγαγε καὶ τὰ τοῦ χοροῦ ἠλάττωσε καὶ τὸν λόγον πρωταγωνιστεῖν παρεσκεύασεν (1449a15).[2]

Thus, it was Aeschylus who first raised the number of the actors from one to two. He also curtailed the chorus and gave the dialogue the leading part (1449a15).[2]

Aeschylus' efforts brought the dialogue and interaction between characters to the forefront and set the stage for other playwrights of the era, like Sophocles and Euripides, to produce many iconic plays.[3]


Because Ancient Greek drama involved only three actors (the protagonist, deuteragonist, and tritagonist) plus the chorus, each actor often played several parts. For instance, in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, the protagonist would be Oedipus, who is on stage in most acts, the deuteragonist would be Jocasta (Oedipus' mother and wife), as well as the Shepherd and Messenger. This would be because Jocasta is certainly a major role—acting opposite Oedipus many times and occupying a central part of the story—and because the Shepherd and Messenger are onstage when Jocasta is offstage.[4]


Literarily, the deuteragonist often assumes the role of "sidekick" to the protagonist. In Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the protagonist is Huck and the deuteragonist, his constant companion, is Jim. In this story the tritagonist would be Tom Sawyer.[5] Conversely, the deuteragonist could also be a particularly visible antagonist, normally whom the actual antagonist hides behind, for example Professor Quirrell in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, whom Voldemort (the actual antagonist) uses in order to have a human body.

Television, film and video games

Many television series, films and video games employ the use of a deuteragonist in order to weave a thicker plot and to advance the characterization of the protagonist through contrast. Examples include:

See also


  • Cuddon, J.A., ed. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. 3rd ed. Penguin Books: New York, 1991.
  1. ^ (2006). Deuteragonist
  2. ^ a b Perseus Digital Library (2006). Aristotle, Poetics
  3. ^ (2006). "Aeschylus and his Tragedies"
  4. ^ Wayne S. Turney (2006). Sophokles' Oedipus Rex
  5. ^ Dr. L. Kip Wheeler (2006). Literary Vocabulary

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Deuteragonist — (auch Deuterolog), im Drama der alten Griechen der zweite Schauspieler, wie Protagonist der erste und Tritagonist der dritte …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • deuteragonist — deuteragònist m DEFINICIJA kazal. pov. drugi glumac u antičkoj drami (ukupno su postojala samo tri glumca), usp. protagonist ETIMOLOGIJA grč. deuteragōnístḗst ≃ deutero + grč. agōnistḗs: glumac, natjecatelj …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • deuteragonist — [do͞ot΄ər ag′ə nist, dyo͞ot΄ər ag′ə nist] n. [Gr deuteragōnistēs: see DEUTERO & AGONIZE & IST1] Class. Drama the character second in importance to the protagonist …   English World dictionary

  • Deuteragonist — Die Artikel Protagonist und Hauptperson überschneiden sich thematisch. Hilf mit, die Artikel besser voneinander abzugrenzen oder zu vereinigen. Beteilige dich dazu an der Diskussion über diese Überschneidungen. Bitte entferne diesen Baustein erst …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • deuteragonist — noun Etymology: Greek deuteragōnistēs, from deuter + agōnistēs combatant, actor more at protagonist Date: 1855 1. the actor taking the part of second importance in a classical Greek drama 2. a person who serves as a foil to another …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • deuteragonist — /dooh teuh rag euh nist, dyooh /, n. (in ancient Greece) the actor next in importance to the protagonist. [1850 55; < Gk deuteragonistés. See DEUTER , AGONIST] * * * …   Universalium

  • deuteragonist — noun A person in a secondary role …   Wiktionary

  • Deuteragonist — Deu|ter|a|go|nịst auch: Deu|te|ra|go|nịst 〈m. 16〉 der zweite Schauspieler im altgriechischen Theater [<grch. deuteros „der zweite“ + Agonist] * * * Deuteragonịst   der, en/ en, im altgriechischen Drama der Schauspieler, der die… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Deuteragonist — Deu|ter|a|go|nịst auch: Deu|te|ra|go|nịst 〈m.; Gen.: en, Pl.: en; Theat.〉 der zweite Schauspieler im altgrch. Theater; →a. s. Protagonist (1), Tritagonist [Etym.: <grch. deuteros »zweite(r, s)« + Agonist] …   Lexikalische Deutsches Wörterbuch

  • Deuteragonist — Deu|te|ra|go|nist* der; en, en <aus gleichbed. gr. deuteragōniste̅s> zweiter Schauspieler auf der altgriech. Bühne; vgl. ↑Protagonist u. ↑Tritagonist …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

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