1670s, “principal character in a story, drama, etc.,” from Greek prōtagōnistēs “actor who plays the chief or first part,” from prōtos “first” (from PIE root *per- (1) “forward,” hence “in front of, first, chief”) + agōnistēs “actor, competitor,” from agōn “contest” (from PIE root *ag- “to drive, draw out or forth, move”).
The general meaning “leading person in any cause or contest” is from 1889. The mistaken sense of “advocate, supporter” (1935) is from misunderstanding of Greek prōt- as Latin pro- “for.” Compare antagonist. Deuteragonist “second person or actor in a drama” is attested from 1840.
In literature, the deuteragonist (/ˌdjuːtəˈræɡənɪst/ DEW-tə-RAG-ə-nist; from Ancient Greek δευτεραγωνιστής (deuteragōnistḗs) ‘second actor’) or secondary main character is the second most important character of a narrative, after the protagonist and before the tritagonist. The deuteragonist often acts as a constant companion to the protagonist or someone who continues actively aiding a protagonist. The deuteragonist may switch between supporting and opposing the protagonist, depending on their own conflict or plot.
The part of the tritagonist emerged from earlier forms of two-actor drama. Where two actors only allowed for a principal character and their adversary, moving the part of adversary to a third actor (the tritagonist) allowed for the second actor (the deuteragonist) to play roles as a confidant or aide to the principal character, and thereby elicit greater character depth from the principal character by having the protagonist explain their feelings and motivations to an on-stage listener.: 451 As Ancient Greek theater recitations were partly melodic, the role of the tritagonist would typically go to a performer with a voice in the bass range (as compared to the protagonist as tenor and the deuteragonist as baritone).: 172 Cicero, in his Divinatio in Caecilium, reported that the tritagonist (being a role of lesser importance than the protagonist) would often have to subdue his voice if he was naturally stronger than the protagonist.
Notable Ancient Greek actors who worked in this role include the orator Aeschines, who was held by Demosthenes to have been untalented as a tritagonist,: 175 and Myniscus, who was tritagonist under the playwright Aeschylus.: 195
In some forms of Greek theater, it was traditional for the tritagonist to enter the stage from the left.: 404
Today the terms “left wing” and “right wing” are used as symbolic labels for liberals and conservatives, but they were originally coined in reference to the physical seating arrangements of politicians during the French Revolution.
The split dates to the summer of 1789, when members of the French National Assembly met to begin drafting a constitution. The delegates were deeply divided over the issue of how much authority King Louis XVI should have, and as the debate raged, the two main factions each staked out territory in the assembly hall. The anti-royalist revolutionaries seated themselves to the presiding officer’s left, while the more conservative, aristocratic supporters of the monarchy gathered to the right.
“I tried to sit in different parts of the hall and not to adopt any marked spot, so as to remain more the master of my opinion,” one right-wing baron wrote, “but I was compelled absolutely to abandon the left or else be condemned always to vote alone and thus be subjected to jeers from the galleries.”
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