Saturday 25 July 2020

theophrastan model or on character and caricature

Via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump (much more to explore here), we are given the opportunity to revisit our familiar and enduring cast of personality tropes, stock characters first put forward by Aristotle’s student Tyrtamus, given the honourific by his teacher Theophrastus “divine speaker” for his eloquent writing and lucid observation in the fourth century BC and resound still throughout the ages to this day.
Though specialising in botanical studies and dabbling a bit in all the liberal arts, Theophrastus is best known for his character sketches (Ἠθικοὶ χαρακτῆρες) that class virtually every fictional and real life protagonist, couched in termsone’s virtues, faults and hubris. Though ancient and fixed, inflexible, they are sustained not only throughout the arc of narrative that they’ve been dealt but also throughout the centuries because their dispositions, relatable though one dimensional they might be, give us the extras needed to limn a society—and we recognise others in them, the Grumbler, the Boaster, the Slanderer even if we fail to see ourselves.