Title role

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" or "Othello". The actor, singer or dancer who performs that part is also said to have the "title role".

The actor playing the title role is not always the lead; the title role may or may not be the protagonist. In the television miniseries "Shogun", for example, Toshiro Mifune had the title role, but the lead was played by Richard Chamberlain. It can be even more complicated when the title role and the lead are in different genders; for example, in the recent revival of August Wilson's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom", Whoopi Goldberg, a film star, had the title role, but the lead was Charles S. Dutton.

Title character

The title character in fiction is the fictional character whose name is contained in the title, as in "Marjorie Morningstar", by Herman Wouk, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", by Mark Twain, "Harry Potter" by J.K. Rowling, and "Dracula", by Bram Stoker. A more indirect example is Sauron in "The Lord of the Rings" by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Title characters are distinguished from real people, living or dead, since a fictional character is a construct of fiction. For example, US President John F. Kennedy is "not" the title character of a biography entitled "John F. Kennedy", since he was a real person.

A title character may not actually be named in the title. Instead, he or she is "described", as in "The French Lieutenant's Woman". Another example is "An Ideal Husband" by Oscar Wilde, where the 'ideal husband' (the title role) may be the apparently-perfect Sir Robert Chiltern, or it may be the enigmatic Lord Goring, supposedly a confirmed bachelor. Wilde's deliberately ambiguous title creates dramatic irony in this case, since it is difficult to say which of the acting co-leads has the title role.

Like title roles in film and theater, the title character need not be the protagonist. In "The Lord of the Rings", for instance, Sauron, the title character, is the primary antagonist; in "Stranger in a Strange Land" by Robert A. Heinlein, the title character is Valentine Michael Smith but the character accepted as being the main character in that novel is Jubal Harshaw. This also applies to video games. The most well-known example is "The Legend of Zelda", in which the title character is Princess Zelda, but the protagonist is Link.

See also

*Character actor
*Role (performing arts)
*Leading actor
*Supporting actor

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • title role — title roles N COUNT: the N The title role in a play or film is the role referred to in the name of the play or film. My novel The Rector s Wife is being adapted for TV, with Lindsay Duncan in the title role …   English dictionary

  • title role — title ,role noun count the main part for someone in a movie, play, or opera, that has the same name as its title: He played the title role in Hamlet in 1992 …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • title role — or title part or title character n. the character in a play, film, etc. whose name is used as or in its title …   English World dictionary

  • title role — ► NOUN ▪ the part in a play or film from which the work s title is taken …   English terms dictionary

  • title role — n the main acting part in a play or film, which is the same as the name of the play or film …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • title role — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms title role : singular title role plural title roles theatre, cinema the main part for someone in a film, play, opera etc that has the same name as its title He played the title role in Hamlet in 1992 …   English dictionary

  • title role —   the lead part in a movie or other production for an actor or actress, that is named after the title of the film   Example: Harrison Ford in the title role in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), or Angelina Jolie in the title role of Lara …   Glossary of cinematic terms

  • title role — (in a play, opera, etc.) the role or character from which the title is derived: She sang the title role in Carmen. [1885 90] * * * …   Universalium

  • Title role — Role R[^o]le, n. [F. See {Roll}.] A part, or character, performed by an actor in a drama; hence, a part of function taken or assumed by any one; as, he has now taken the r[^o]le of philanthropist. [1913 Webster] {Title r[^o]le}, the part, or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • title role — /ˈtaɪtl roʊl/ (say tuytl rohl) noun (in a play, opera, etc.) the role or character from which the title is derived. Also, title part …   Australian English dictionary

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