The following is a handout prepared by Jodi Karjala for her Costume Design class.


Analysis of the Character


Identify each Character on the 4 basic levels of Characterization from information you find in the text.  Following is a list of suggestions for each category.  This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but meant to be used as a guideline.


1.Physical/Biological  Defines gender, age, size, coloration and general appearance                                 

       Age – be as specific as possible                                                                                                           

       Gender/Sex – not only male/female, but virile, macho, effeminate, feminine, butch, gay, etc. 

       Health – from excellent to sickly, including how oneÕs health may or may not effect his/her appearance.  For example, a character may have AIDS, but may not be showing physical symptoms.

       Particular physical characteristics that makes the character distinctive – big nose, hunchback, large breasts, etc. 

       Ethnic origin – race, coloring of skin and hair                                                                

       Physical Stature/Figure – perfect, average, tall/short, thin/fat, malformed, hunched, slouchy, willowy, barrel-chested, knock-kneed, pigeon-toed, etc.

       Physical Activity  - dynamic, active, sedentary, listless, coach potato, confined to a wheel-chair, etc               

       Face – handsome, good looks, common, homely, ugly


2. Social Defines economic status, profession or trade, religion, family relationships

       Class Situation – aristocracy, upper, upper middle, middle, lower middle, lower, beggar

       Economic Situation – rich, independent, salaried, day labor, dependent (keep in mind that just because someone is a member of the aristocracy it doesnÕt mean they have money.)

       Social Situation/Social Role - how is the character related to the other characters in the play?  Family? Friends? Co-workers? The boss? The King? Etc.   Is there a specific social event taking place, such as a wedding, where in the character has to take on a particular social role, such as father-of-the-bride? 

       Relationship to the World around him/her – How does the character fit into his/her social situation?  Is the character popular? Does he/she have friends? Is he/she a loner? Etc. How does the character interact with the other characters - is the character: a leader, a helper, a follower, submissive, a slave?

       Occupation – list the characterÕs specific job or trade

       Group Affiliation – Does the character belong to or identify with a specific group or team? (example – a minority group, a club, a sports team, a political group, etc)

       Is there a specific social event taking place, such as a protest rally, where in the character identifies with a particular group, such as feminists?

       Political affiliation – Republican, Democrat, etc.

       Religious affiliation – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc.


3.Psychological/Emotional  Reveals habitual responses, desires, motivations, like and dislikes – the inner workings of the mind.  Reveals how the characters think (psychological) and what they feel (emotional).  This is considered the most essential level of characterization.  Keep in mind that a personÕs thoughts and feelings can often be determined as a further extension of his/her physical and social characteristics.  For example – under social, you can determine a characterÕs religious affiliation.  Under psychological/emotional, you can determine what that person thinks or feels about his/her religion.               

       Psychological State – what does the character think about his/herself and the world around them?  Is the character: open-minded objective, subjective, unselfish, selfish, paranoid?

       Emotional State – what does the character feel about his/herself and the world around them?  Does the character feel: accepted, rejected, oppressed, etc?

       Emotional Depth - are the characterÕs relationships: life-long, lasting, moderate, passing, momentary?

       Emotional Control – no temper, slow temper, even temper, quick temper, a loose cannon

       Emotional Type – Extrovert, ambivert, introvert

       Desires or goals – what does the character want?

       Loves – what, or who, does the character value?

       Weaknesses – what, if anything, is a potential psychological or emotional weakness, on the part of the character, that can interfere with the character obtaining his/her desire?

       Prejudices – what, if anything, does the character feel prejudicial about? 

       Fixed Attitudes – Similar to a prejudice, but not with the negative connotation.  For example, in your social analysis youÕve determined the character is Jewish.  Now, determine how that character feels or thinks about Judaism – is the character: a zealot, a liberal, orthodox, conventional, a skeptic?


4. Moral/Ethical   Reveals what the characters are willing to do (moral beliefs) to get what they want and what characters actually do (ethical behavior) when faced with making a difficult choice.  Determine the charactersÕ moral beliefs and ethical behavior, and how those relate to the world of the play.  Be very careful not judge them based upon your own morals and ethics.  For example, you may believe it is morally wrong for two people to live together unless they are married.  However, in the world of this play, no characters may hold this moral belief, and the playwright may not be making a point about this moral belief, and therefore such actions are not to be seen as immoral or unethical within the context of the play.

       Moral beliefs – an individualÕs or societyÕs beliefs in what is right and wrong in terms of behavior.

       Is the character able to determine right from wrong and to make decisions based upon that knowledge?

       Determine the individual characterÕs morals, based on what his/her conscience suggests is right and wrong, rather than on what the law or society dictates.

       Determine the morals of the world of the play in general: the principles of right and wrong judged by the standards of the average person or society at large, and how those principles govern standards of general and/or sexual behavior.  Does the character hold beliefs in contradiction to those of their society?

       Does the character evolve/change?  For example, is there a moral belief the character holds at the beginning of the play that he no longer holds at the end of the play?  In other words, does something happen for the character to change his mind and be convinced otherwise?

       In the play itself, is there a Ņmoral to the storyÓ?  Is the playwright using the character as a positive or negative example in relation to this moral?

       Ethical behavior – how an individual or society conducts themselves according to their morals.

       How does a characterÕs moral beliefs affect his/her conduct?  For example, is a character unable to act due to a moral/ethical dilemma?

       How does a characterÕs goals affect his/her conduct?  Is the characterÕs ethical behavior contrary to his/her moral beliefs?  For example, a character believes it is morally wrong to commit murder, but to obtain his goal, his is willing to behave unethically and kill.  

       Does the character believe that he is acting ethically, yet is the playwright holding him up as an example of how one should not behave?

       Does the character behave according to or contrary to any of the 4 basic levels, therefore giving a false perception of themselves to the other characters? For example, you may have determined that a character is seriously ill, yet the character behaves as if he were in perfect health.  Or a character may masquerade as someone he is not.  What morals and/or goals are affecting this behavior? 


Mental/Intellectual A 5th area you can consider.  Reveals how intelligent and creative a character may be.

       IQ – brilliant, good mind, average, dull, moron

       Education – scholar, college, self-made, schooled, illiterate

       Mental type – philosophic, scientific, mechanical, artistic, social scientific

       Dexterity – dexterous, skilled, handy, clumsy, uncoordinated

       Creativity – genius, talented, original, unoriginal, barren of thought

       Interests, skills, accomplishments



Identify for the play as a whole, and clearly explain where necessary:

       Who is the Protagonist?  Who is the Antagonist?

       Which Characters are of Primary Focus?

       Which Characters are of Secondary Focus?

       Which Characters qualify as Ōset dressingÕ?

       Are any of the Characters Symbols or Metaphors?

       Are any of the Characters Formalized Conventions?