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Conflict Resolution Lesson Plans

Protagonist Definition

a character who pursues the primary goals of the plot of a story

Antagonist Definition

a character who stands in opposition to advancing the primary goals of the plot of a story


What is a Protagonist and What is an Antagonist?


In most kinds of storytelling, there is a central figure whom the story centers around, and often there is someone who works against them to foil their plans. While many students may not realize it, if they can recognize the forces of good and evil in a story, a television show, a movie, a comic, or a video game, then chances are they already understand the fundamental differences between a protagonist and an antagonist in literature.

The protagonist pursues the goals of the plot of a story, which may differentiate them from other main characters, mentors, or sidekicks. A protagonist is often also called the hero of the story, although he or she can also be reluctantly chosen or cynical about the whole ordeal. However, most protagonists display common traits, which set them apart from the other characters:


  • Driven by a goal, duty, or curiosity
  • Has a relatable character flaw
  • Loyal to cause, family, and allies
  • Experiences change
  • Brave and courageous
  • Superior intelligence or strength
  • Invokes trust or likeability

The antagonist of a story stands in opposition to the protagonist’s goals. An antagonist is often called the villain, but an antagonist can also come in the form of a group of people, an institution, a force in nature, or a personal conflict or flaw the protagonist must overcome. The best way to discern the antagonist is to ask who is standing in the way of the story’s goal? The antagonist often shares some of the most notable traits as the protagonist, although for different reasons. Common traits of many traditional antagonists include:


  • Driven by a goal or duty, or a desire to avoid something
  • Has a relatable character flaw
  • Loyal to cause, family, and allies
  • Adapts easily to obstacles and change
  • Has a secret or important information
  • Superior intelligence or strength
  • Invokes feelings of unease or distrust


Note Bene: Sometimes the protagonist is evil and the antagonist is good, like in Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Richard III. The key is always to ask who is advancing the plot’s goals, and who is standing in the way? In Richard III, Richard’s goal is to take and hold the throne; however, he is defeated in battle by Henry, the Earl of Richmond, who becomes King Henry VII and begins the Tudor dynasty in England.


Example Protagonist vs Antagonist Activity

Although this activity can be used for multiple grade levels, below are Common Core State Standards for Grades 9-10. Please see your Common Core State Standards for the correct grade-appropriate strands.

  • ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text

  • ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3: Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme

  • ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6: Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature

Students may find it helpful to keep track of the important characteristics of the protagonists and antagonists that they identify as they read. Use the example below to have students depict and provide analysis of these characteristics as they read. The following example utilizes Arthur and Mordred from The Once and Future King:


Protagonist Analysis for The Once and Future King

Create a Protagonist or Antagonist*

Antagonist Analysis for The Once and Future King

Create a Protagonist or Antagonist*

Protagonist vs. Antagonist Templates


Create a Protagonist or Antagonist*


Create a Protagonist or Antagonist*


Protagonist and Antagonist Character Analysis
As we read and discuss, identify, depict, and analyze the seven common characteristics of a protagonist and the seven common characteristics of an antagonist that appear throughout the story. Create a scene for each element that highlights how it is utilized throughout the work. Add a brief quote or description under each scene that highlights an important piece of the element being depicted. Make sure the art in your scenes is historically and factually accurate to the story. Your scenes need to be neat, eye-catching, and reflect creativity and care. Please proofread your writing and organize your ideas thoughtfully.
Proficient
25 Points
Emerging
19 Points
Beginning
13 Points
Protagonist Characteristics
The seven common character traits of a protagonist are correctly identified and portrayed from the story. The explanation provided explains how the scenes depict each characteristic, and shows effective analysis.
5-6 common character traits of a protagonist are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or some of the elements may not be identified correctly. The explanations give context to the scene, but may be minimal, and there is some attempt at analysis.
2-4 common character traits of a protagonist are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or most of the elements are inaccurately depicted. The quotes and/or explanations are too minimal, or missing altogether.
Antagonist Characteristics
The seven common character traits of an antagonist are correctly identified and portrayed from the story. The explanation provided explains how the scenes depict each characteristic, and shows effective analysis.
5-6 common character traits of an antagonist are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or some of the elements may not be identified correctly. The explanations give context to the scene, but may be minimal, and there is some attempt at analysis.
2-4 common character traits of an antagonist are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or most of the elements are inaccurately depicted. The quotes and/or explanations are too minimal, or missing altogether.
Artistic Depictions
The art chosen to depict the scenes are accurate to the work of literature. Time and care is taken to ensure that the scenes are neat, eye-catching, and creative.
The art chosen to depict the scenes should be accurate, but there may be some liberties taken that distract from the assignment. Scene constructions are neat, and meet basic expectations.
The art chosen to depict the scenes is inappropriate. Scene constructions are messy and may create some confusion, or may be too limited.
English Conventions
Ideas are organized. There are few or no grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas are mostly organized. There are some grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas may be disorganized or misplaced. Lack of control over grammar, mechanics, and spelling reflect a lack of proofreading.

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