A stock character
is a fictional character
that relies heavily on cultural types
for its personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. Stock characters are instantly recognizable to members of a given culture.
Stock characters in the western tradition originate from the theatres of ancient Greece and Rome.
Some examples of stock characters are:
- The Hero
- The Villain: evil personified, be it the Duke of Gloucester in William Shakespeare's Richard III or Prince John in the Robin Hood stories.
- The Damsel in Distress: the young, beautiful, virginal woman who must be rescued from some cruel fate by the Hero, a la Penelope Pitstop.
- The Femme Fatale, La belle dame sans merci, the Black Widow, the beautiful, but evil woman who leads the hero to his doom.
- The Fop: The fop is a highly fashionable aristocrat. He is typically overdressed and his speech is characterized by over-use or misuse of popular phrases (often French phrases) or various forms of hypercorrection. The fop is never intelligent and always talkative. (The Hero sometimes poses as a fop to allay his enemies' suspicions: Zorro hid behind the image of the Fop, Don Diego. The Scarlet Pimpernel hid behind the persona of Sir Percy Blakeney.)
- The Fool: The fool is a clown or joker who speaks in riddles and puns. Often, the fool is intelligent and witty and reveals key truths about the characters he fools with (Shakespeare's fools, such as the ones in Twelfth Night and King Lear, are well-known examples).
- The Mad Scientist: The insane man of science, who either accidentally or intentionally "meddles with the forces of nature" and causes the trouble which the hero must correct.
- The Outlaw: sometimes a cold-blooded desperado, but also often a gallant highwayman or a dashing thief after the manner of Robin Hood.
- The Revenger: The Revenger is a hot-blooded young man who has had a loved one (ideally a fiance) cruelly murdered and/or raped and seeks his revenge outside the law. (Laertes in Hamlet and Hamlet himself are examples of Revengers.)
- The Sidekick - the Hero's helper, Sancho Panza in Don Quixote, Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes. The Sidekick is often a figure of fun, but is trustworthy and sometimes shows surprising resourcefulness and bravery. In whodunnits and secondary literature on detective fiction in general, the Sidekick is often referred to as the Watson -- slightly dumber than the average reader, time and again overlooking decisive clues, occasionally drawing the wrong conclusions (such as Capt. Hastings, a friend of Hercule Poirot's).
- The Tart with a Heart: Outwardly tough and hard, she hides a heart of gold under her hard-bitten exterior.
- The Town Drunk, who serves as a figure of fun, serves as a moral example, or is used as a plot device to disrupt public gatherings.