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One of the way the Functions of dramatis personae discovered by Vladimir Propp to be interpreted

01/08/2023| By
Serhii Serhii Yaremko

The name of Vladimir Propp and the title of his book "Morphology of the folktale" both are well-known in the world, not for only the literary specialists, today. Many scholars try to find the Functions of dramatis personae in various writings or films, we can see it during watching videos on YouTube or reading science articles (both the ways are equal in my opinion). But what they actually mean, those "Functions of dramatis personae" (I have found the concept of "Functions of Propp" once as well)? Okey, not actually but in general. In this paper I am showing one of the way to answer the question.

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Author: Serhii Yaremko


The name of Vladimir Propp and the title of his book «Morphology of the folktale» both are well-known in the world, not for only the literary specialists, today. Many scholars try to find the Functions of dramatis personae in various writings or films, we can see it during watching videos on YouTube or reading science articles (both the ways are equal in my opinion). But what they actually mean, those «Functions of dramatis personae» (I have found the concept of «Functions of Propp» once as well)? Okey, not actually but in general. In this paper I am showing one of the ways to answer the question.

Keywords: Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the folktale, Functions of the dramatis personae.


The concept of «Functions of dramatis personae» (Propp, 1968) is well-known for people around the world, not only for the scholars, currently. It’s occurred that the whole Class of folktales exists which presents the unique list of characters’ actions. Vladimir Propp was very impressed by that fact after he discovered it in the first half of twentieth century (we can read about this on page 106 of his book), but he has not left any thoughts on what are the functions of dramatis personae mean. Although I am not the literary specialist, I have impression at the moment that scholars of the mentioned field for a while are concentrated only on the searching for Propp’s functions in variety literary works; the same picture is being seen in YouTube. Due to this I am going to be using my own essay «Literary Clichés and the Era of Revolutions» (Я., 2023) as the base for the current exploration. In short, that work argues that all the literary writings we have idea about, since the «Epic of Gilgamesh,» reflect the struggling between Order (Law represents that phenomenon in the human society) and Chaos; the last thesis is illustrated by the Era of Revolutions in the human history most informatively. The elementary actions of the characters (the actions), which are very important objects of observing in the essay, are analogues of the functions of dramatis personae since I have made the formulation of that concept after I had read the «Morphology of the folktale.»


Since the current work is based on the conclusions of essay «Literary Clichés and the Era of Revolutions» completely, then I have to tell about the methods that were being used.

Noticing the actions

The major principle of noticing the actions is that a rare action must be met at least three times in independent sources. Non-rare actions are accepted for observing without any doubts.

Creating graphic schemes for the transmitting the composition of the writing

Although the schemes, which placed in the «Literary Clichés and the Era of Revolutions» have been created with help of actually existing actions, they [schemes] mostly based on intuition (unlike the Six major plot archetypes (Jockers, 2014)), and that is their common weakness.

Interpreting a set of the characters

Essay «Literary Clichés and the Era of Revolutions» tells about only six major dramatis personae: a Lord (it’s been assumed that this person means a phenomenon of a higher level)—usually Law (Order), although it can be with some approximation the sovereignty of the nation (let’s remind the struggling of William Wallace against English conquerors for example); an Enemy of the Lord—Chaos; a Traitor of the Lord which is collective the First Servant of Law— the leaders of a revolution that become tyrants shortly in time after eliminating of a tyranny; a Helper of the Lord—collective the Second Servant of Law which is a set of principled people (dissidents often) in the society; People; Remnant of the People which points on some mass extinction in the society.

Principles and Laws

The Principle of banning (it’s some analogue of the Pauli exclusion principle) and the Law of balance (we should remind that we don’t observe single quarks under the normal terms) were borrowed from the quantum mechanics.


The prehistory

Initial situation; it is not a function (alpha).

We can see the relic of the First Service actually when the intro describes the wealth and happiness of the protagonist—it means, Law is arising in the society due to Chaos is imprisoned by the actions of Servant 1 at the moment.

The rebellion

III. Violation: interdiction is violated (delta); a paired element.

V. Delivery: villain receives information about his victim (zeta); a paired function.

VII. Complicity: victim submits to deception and thereby unwittingly helps his enemy (theta).

VIII. Villainy: villain causes harm or injury to a family member (A); crucial function by means of which the actual movement of the tale is created; the complications begun by an act of villainy;

VIIIa. Lack: one member of a family either lacks something or desires to have something (a).

XXI. Pursuit, chase: hero is pursued (Pr).

XXIV. Unfounded claims: a false hero presents unfounded claims (L).

It’s all about Servant 1’s illegal owning of the power in the society and the betrayal of Order as it was planned by Chaos; as a result, the status of Law is lowering down in the meantime.

The «Desert»

XV. Spatial transference between two kingdoms, guidance: hero is transferred, delivered, or led to the whereabouts of an object of search (G).

Servant 2 is supporting Law through having imprisonment during Servant 1’s rebellion.

XVI. Struggle: hero and villain join in direct combat (H).

This function is clearly showing the process of overcoming the offering of chaotic illegal pleasures by the Second Servant.

XVII. Branding, marking: hero is branded (J).

The Second Servant is bravely having suffering for a long time because of the cruelty of the First Servant for the loyalty to Order—that is the plan of Law.

The collapsing

I. Absentation: a family member absents him/herself from home (beta).

X. Beginning counteraction: seeker agrees to or decides upon counteraction (C).

XI. Departure: hero leaves home (arrow/up).XIII. The hero’s reaction: hero reacts to the actions of future donor (E).

XXVI. Solution: the task is resolved (N).

XXVII. Recognition: hero is recognized (Q).XXVIII. Exposure: false hero or villain is exposed (Ex).

It’s about Servant 1’s full sliding down under influence of Chaos (so, that person is losing self-control, and waging war on a mighty opponent at the moment); meantime, Servant 2 is showing all the loyalty to Order.

XXII. Rescue: rescue of hero from pursuit (Rs).

We are talking about the complete overcoming of consequences of rebellion of Chaos.

XIV. Provision or receipt of a magical agent: hero acquires the use of magical agent (F).

XVIII. Victory: villain is defeated (I).

XIX. Liquidation of misfortune or lack: the initial misfortune or lack is liquidated (K); this function, together with villainy(A), constitutes a pair: the narrative reaches its peak here.

XX. Return: hero returns (arrow/down).XXIX. Transfiguration: hero is given a new appearance (T).

XXX. Punishment: villain is punished (U).

XXXI. Wedding: hero is married and ascends the throne (W).

Well, we are seeing the promotion for the Helper and the punishment for the Traitor through all the seen functions currently.


Negative factors

This paper is based on the essay, not on a science article; it is not been a serious discussion in that case;

We have got the lack of resources for lighting the mentioned topic currently, as it was said earlier;

Thanking the fractal reflections exist, we have at least three positive characters for observing: the Lord, the Helper and the Remnant. So, this fact give birth to many senses obviously;

Graphic schemes were made intuitively mostly;Interpretation of the characters are based on the assuming partly;

Influences that function have on one another—we begin to read about those things on page 66 of Propp’s book (Propp, 1968)—give birth to many interpretations as well;

Positive factors

Only stable, checked character’s actions were taken into account;

Interpretation of the characters are based on analogies discovered in human history partly;

Theses placed in the initial essay are based on the human history in general.


Solid space for a serious discussion has been left.


Jockers, M. L. (2014, June 05). A Novel Method for Detecting Plot. Matthew L. Jockers.

Propp, V. (1968). Morphology of the Folktale. University of Texas.

Я., С. (2023). Literary Clichés and the Era of Revolutions. Orvium Community.

User avatar
Serhii Yaremko
Thank you for such a wise 🦉 comment
User avatar
Layla Alharbi
Great job! My recommendation to Incorporating real-world examples and relatable stories into the analysis can greatly enhance the appeal of the article. By connecting the abstract concepts of 'Functions of dramatis personae' and character dynamics to recognizable situations, readers are more likely to grasp the significance and relevance of the theories being explored. This approach not only makes the content relatable but also enriches the reader's understanding, ensuring a more engaging and captivating reading experience👍🏻
Submitted by1 Aug 2023
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