30 August 2012

Characters, Part Deux

I have a second post in the month of August, which means I get to follow my previous post, "Gibbs vs. Longmire" with a discussion of memorable characters.

The earliest character I can think of is Odysseus, the protagonist in Homer's Iliad. Before Homer, of course, there are the Greek playwrights, but I don't know their characters nearly as well.  I think the Iliad and the Odyssey have the greatest public recognition, particularly since Hollywood has taken an interest in them over the years.

Last year, Sela Carsen wrote a great article about mythology, in which she talks about the ancient gods and goddesses as sources of ideas for stories.  Before classical literature, stories were told of these beings and their trials and tribulations as they mirrored, and reflected back to humanity, peoples' behavior.

I think that's the point of telling stories, in many ways.  We tell stories about ourselves, to ourselves, in an effort to better understand the world around us and the people with whom we must get along.  People are confusing and stories help us make our way through the pitfalls that inevitably arise whenever more than one person gathers together or tries to accomplish something.

Then along came William Shakespeare.  Practically single-handedly, the playwright changed the face of English letters and, with it, the society and times in which they existed.  Whether or not he was one man or, as some argue, multiple people, the influence of the plays of Shakespeare is inarguable.  Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Henry the Fifth are some of history's greatest characters - memorable and lasting.  Though he wrote centuries ago, his plays are still performed, his characters are still in the public consciousness, and his stories are still relevant.

Will our modern-day poets and playwrights craft as memorable material?  Will Stars Wars still screen three hundred years from now, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer be part of the Canon?  I don't know, and no one living now does know what the future will bring.  But it's interesting to wonder whether the likes of George Lucas, Joss Whedon, and Peter Jackson will, one day, join the ranks of Homer and Shakespeare.  What do you think?
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