Stock character: An established, instantly recognizable character type to whom the audience or reader ascribes specific characteristics by virtue of convention. Some stock characters recur within a particular genre, whereas others regularly appear in a variety of genres. Stock characters are often, but not always, stereotyped or flat; many are caricatures drawn simply and defined by a single idea or quality, but some are more fully developed, or round.
EXAMPLES: In fairy tales, the wicked stepmother and her intended victim, a beautiful, innocent young girl; the villain with an oily-looking “handlebar” mustache in Victorian melodramas and early movies; the strong, silent, gun-toting macho cowboy in American Westerns. The braggart soldier appears in works ranging from ancient Roman comedies such as Plautus’s (Titus Maccius Plautus) Miles Gloriosus (c. 205 B.C.) to William Shakespeare’s plays to commedia dell’arte (a form of improvisational comedy in which the braggart soldier is called “il Capitano”) to the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962; adapted to film 1966). Disney productions often include wisecracking sidekicks: the crab Sebastian in The Little Mermaid (1989); the green, one-eyed monster Mike Wazowski in Monsters, Inc. (with Pixar, 2001); the title character’s friend Lilly Truscott in Hannah Montana (Disney Channel; 2006—11).