Monday, May 23, 2022

REALLY Minor Characters in Shakespeare


Let's talk about the minor characters in Shakespeare. I mean the really minor characters, those whose parts are so small, some of them don't even have names. Not that namelessness is necessarily equivalent to minor character status. Hamlet''s Gravedigger has one scene, but he's not a small character. Henry V's "Boy" is not a minor character, nor is the Porter in Macbeth. And then we have the named characters whom we rarely think of when we refer to the plays, but who nevertheless are crucial to the action. As You Like It’s Silvius, Henry IV's Bardolph, and A Midsummer Night's Dream's Peter Quince are major characters. Macbeth's Ross is a secondary character, but one so significant that in Joel Coen's recent adaptation of the play, he takes over the whole script (being outplayed only by Banquo's eyebrows).

So, what characters am I talking about? Ones most people don't even know exist, so microscopic is their presence in the play. Yet, like many trace elements, these characters are catalysts for the action, or for the illumination of some larger character or theme.

Adrian (The Tempest): Okay, Adrian is an exception to all that. He's been called, and is, the most boring character in Shakespeare. This servant of King Alonso exists only to be made fun of by snide Antonio (the hero Prospero's villainous