What are Flat and Round characters: Definition and Examples

The terms “flat and round characters” are first used by E. M. Forster in Aspects of the Novel (1927) to describe two basically different types of character- and characterization. A ‘flat’ character is uncomplicated, and remains the same in the course of a story or play, and is characterized by only one or two traits. On the other hand, a ‘round’ character is a complex character with many different characteristics and develops throughout the play or story and thus alters and can surprise the readers.

Forster cites Mrs. Micawber in Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield (1849–50) as a flat character and Becky Sharp in  William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1847–48) as a round one. Shakespeare’s Henry IV (Pts I and II) provides a suitable contrast in the shape of Hotspur and Prince Hal. The former is a ‘flat character, and the Prince is a round character who changes and develops considerably in the course of the play. Other examples of round character are Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Madame Bovary in Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet,

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