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The senex iratus or heavy father figure is a comic archetype character who belongs to the alazon or impostor group in theater, manifesting himself through his rages and threats, his obsessions and his gullibility.

His usual function is to impede the love of the hero and heroine, and his power to do so stems from his greater social position and his increased control of cash. In the New Comedy, he was often the father of the hero and so his rival. More frequently since, he has been the father of the heroine who insists on her union with the bad fiancé; as such, he appears in both A Midsummer's Night Dream, where he fails and so the play is a comedy, and Romeo and Juliet, where his acts are successful enough to render the play a tragedy.

Pantalone in Commedia dell'arte acts as a senex iratus.

In his Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye considered all blocking humors in comedy to be variations on the basic function of the senex iratus.

References

  • Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, ISBN 0-691-01298-9

See also


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