An antagonist is the character in a story who is against the protagonist.[1]


The English word antagonist comes from the Greek ἀνταγωνιστής – antagonistēs, "opponent, competitor, villain, enemy, rival," which is derived from anti- ("against") and agonizesthai ("to contend for a prize").[2][3]


Heroes and villains

In the classic style of stories where the action consists of a hero fighting a villain/enemy, the two may be regarded as protagonist and antagonist, respectively. However, the villain of the story is not always the same as the antagonist, as some narratives cast the villain in the protagonist role, with the opposing hero as the antagonist. An antagonist also may represent a threat or obstacle to the main character by its existence and not necessarily targeting him or her in a deliberate manner.

Examples in both film and theatre include Sauron, the main antagonist in The Lord of the Rings, who constantly battles the series' protagonists, and Tybalt, an antagonist in Romeo and Juliet, who slays Mercutio and whose later death results in the exiling of one of the play's protagonists, Romeo. In stories, a convention of antagonists is that their moral choices are less savory than those of protagonists. This is often used by an author to create conflict within a story. However, this is merely a convention, and the reversal of this can be seen in the character Macduff from Macbeth, who is arguably morally correct in his desire to fight the tyrant Macbeth.

Examples from television include J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) from Dallas and Alexis Colby (Joan Collins) from Dynasty. Both became breakout characters used as a device to increase their shows' ratings.

Other characters

Characters may be antagonists without being evil – they may simply be injudicious and unlikeable for the audience. In some stories, such as The Catcher in the Rye, almost every character other than the protagonist may be an antagonist.[4]

Aspects of the protagonist

An aspect or trait of the protagonist may be considered an antagonist, such as morality or indecisiveness.[4]


An antagonist may not always be a person or persons. In some cases, an antagonist may be a force, such as a tidal wave that destroys a city; a storm that causes havoc; or even a certain area's conditions that are the root cause of a problem. An antagonist also may or may not create obstacles for the protagonist.[5]

Societal norms or other rules also may be antagonists.[4]

Former protagonists

A character once a protagonist can turn into an antagonist under extremely negative circumstances. Examples include Anakin Skywalker from the Star Wars franchise who turns from Jedi to Sith. A supporting protagonist can become an antagonist by betraying a main protagonist.


An antagonist is used as a plot device, to set up conflicts, obstacles, or challenges for the protagonist.[4][6] Though not every story requires an antagonist, it often is used in plays to increase the level of drama. In tragedies, antagonists are often the cause of the protagonist's main problem, or lead a group of characters against the protagonist; in comedies, they are usually responsible for involving the protagonist in comedic situations.[6]

See also


  1. ^, Literature: Contemporary "Antagonist." Online. 18 October 2007.
    • "Protagonist and Antagonist definition". Retrieved 25 March 2015.
    • "Glossary of Literary Terms". Archived from the original on 26 March 2015. Retrieved on 27 March 2015.
    • "Glossary of Drama Terms". Online Learning Center. Retrieved on 27 March 2015.
    • "Antagonist - Definition for Fiction Writers". Retrieved on 27 March 2015.
  2. ^ "Antagonist". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  3. ^ "antagonist". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ a b c d Bulman, Colin (2007). Creative Writing: A Guide and/or Glossary to Fiction Writing. Polity Press. p. 17. ISBN 9780745636870 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "The Elements of Literature".
  6. ^ a b Smiley, Sam (2005) [First published 1971 by Prentice-Hall]. Playwriting: The Structure of Action. Yale University Press. pp. 133–134. ISBN 0300107242 – via Google Books.
Alpha-1 blocker

Alpha-1 blockers (also called alpha-adrenergic blocking agents) constitute a variety of drugs that reduce the effect alpha-1-adrenergic receptors. They are mainly used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), hypertension and post-traumatic stress disorder. Alpha-1 adrenergic receptors occur in vascular smooth muscle, the central nervous system, and other tissues. When alpha blockers bind to these receptors in vascular smooth muscle, they cause vasodilation.

Over the last 40 years, a variety of drugs have been developed from non-selective alpha-1 antagonists to selective alpha-1 antagonists and alpha-1 inverse agonists. The first drug that was used was a non-selective alpha blocker, named phenoxybenzamine and was used to treat BPH. Currently, several relatively selective alpha-1 antagonists are available. As of 2018, prazosin is the only alpha-1 blocker known to act as an inverse agonist at all alpha-1 adrenergic receptor subtypes; whereas tamsulosin is a selective antagonist for all alpha-1 subtypes. Drugs that act as selective antagonists at specific alpha-1 adrenergic receptor subtypes have also been developed.

Anatomical terms of muscle

Muscles are described using unique anatomical terminology according to their actions and structure.

Angiotensin II receptor blocker

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), also known as angiotensin II receptor antagonists, AT1 receptor antagonists or sartans, are a group of pharmaceuticals that modulate the renin–angiotensin system. Their main uses are in the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetic nephropathy (kidney damage due to diabetes) and congestive heart failure. They selectively block the activation of AT1 receptors, preventing the binding of angiotensin II compared to ACE inhibitors.

ARBs and the similar-attributed ACE inhibitors are both indicated as the first-line antihypertensives in patients developing hypertension along the left-sided heart failure. However, ARBs appear to produce less adverse effects compared to ACEs.


An anticholinergic agent is a substance that blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the central and the peripheral nervous system. These agents inhibit parasympathetic nerve impulses by selectively blocking the binding of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine to its receptor in nerve cells. The nerve fibers of the parasympathetic system are responsible for the involuntary movement of smooth muscles present in the gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, lungs, and many other parts of the body. Anticholinergics are divided into three categories in accordance with their specific targets in the central and peripheral nervous system: antimuscarinic agents, ganglionic blockers, and neuromuscular blockers.


Antiestrogens, also known as estrogen antagonists or estrogen blockers, are a class of drugs which prevent estrogens like estradiol from mediating their biological effects in the body. They act by blocking the estrogen receptor (ER) and/or inhibiting or suppressing estrogen production. Antiestrogens are one of three types of sex hormone antagonists, the others being antiandrogens and antiprogestogens.


Antihistamines are drugs which treat allergic rhinitis and other allergies. Antihistamines can give relief when a person has nasal congestion, sneezing, or hives because of pollen, dust mites, or animal allergy. Typically people take antihistamines as an inexpensive, generic, over-the-counter drug with few side effects. As an alternative to taking an antihistamine, people who suffer from allergies can instead avoid the substance which irritates them. However, this is not always possible as some substances, such as pollen, are carried in the air, thus making allergic reactions caused by them generally unavoidable. Antihistamines are usually for short-term treatment. Chronic allergies increase the risk of health problems which antihistamines might not treat, including asthma, sinusitis, and lower respiratory tract infection. Doctors recommend that people talk to them before any longer term use of antihistamines.Although people typically use the word “antihistamine” to describe drugs for treating allergies, doctors and scientists use the term to describe a class of drug that opposes the activity of histamine receptors in the body. In this sense of the word, antihistamines are subclassified according to the histamine receptor that they act upon. The two largest classes of antihistamines are H1-antihistamines and H2-antihistamines. Antihistamines that target the histamine H1-receptor are used to treat allergic reactions in the nose (e.g., itching, runny nose, and sneezing) as well as for insomnia. They are sometimes also used to treat motion sickness or vertigo caused by problems with the inner ear. Antihistamines that target the histamine H2-receptor are used to treat gastric acid conditions (e.g., peptic ulcers and acid reflux). H1-antihistamines work by binding to histamine H1 receptors in mast cells, smooth muscle, and endothelium in the body as well as in the tuberomammillary nucleus in the brain; H2-antihistamines bind to histamine H2 receptors in the upper gastrointestinal tract, primarily in the stomach.

Histamine receptors exhibit constitutive activity, so antihistamines can function as either a neutral receptor antagonist or an inverse agonist at histamine receptors. Only a few currently marketed H1-antihistamines are known to function as inverse agonists.

Beta blocker

Beta blockers, also written β-blockers, are a class of medications that are predominantly used to manage abnormal heart rhythms, and to protect the heart from a second heart attack (myocardial infarction) after a first heart attack (secondary prevention). They are also widely used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension), although they are no longer the first choice for initial treatment of most patients.Beta blockers are competitive antagonists that block the receptor sites for the endogenous catecholamines epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) on adrenergic beta receptors, of the sympathetic nervous system, which mediates the fight-or-flight response. Some block activation of all types of β-adrenergic receptors and others are selective for one of the three known types of beta receptors, designated β1, β2 and β3 receptors. β1-adrenergic receptors are located mainly in the heart and in the kidneys. β2-adrenergic receptors are located mainly in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, liver, uterus, vascular smooth muscle, and skeletal muscle. β3-adrenergic receptors are located in fat cells.Beta receptors are found on cells of the heart muscles, smooth muscles, airways, arteries, kidneys, and other tissues that are part of the sympathetic nervous system and lead to stress responses, especially when they are stimulated by epinephrine (adrenaline). Beta blockers interfere with the binding to the receptor of epinephrine and other stress hormones, and weaken the effects of stress hormones.

In 1964, James Black synthesized the first clinically significant beta blockers—propranolol and pronethalol; it revolutionized the medical management of angina pectoris and is considered by many to be one of the most important contributions to clinical medicine and pharmacology of the 20th century.For the treatment of primary hypertension, meta-analyses of studies which mostly used atenolol have shown that although beta blockers are more effective than placebo in preventing stroke and total cardiovascular events, they are not as effective as diuretics, medications inhibiting the renin–angiotensin system (e.g., ACE inhibitors), or calcium channel blockers.

Calcium channel blocker

Calcium channel blockers (CCB), calcium channel antagonists or calcium antagonists are several medications that disrupt the movement of calcium (Ca2+) through calcium channels. Calcium channel blockers are used as antihypertensive drugs, i.e., as medications to decrease blood pressure in patients with hypertension. CCBs are particularly effective against large vessel stiffness, one of the common causes of elevated systolic blood pressure in elderly patients. Calcium channel blockers are also frequently used to alter heart rate, to prevent cerebral vasospasm, and to reduce chest pain caused by angina pectoris.

N-type, L-type, and T-type voltage-dependent calcium channels are present in the zona glomerulosa of the human adrenal gland, and CCBs can directly influence the biosynthesis of aldosterone in adrenocortical cells, with consequent impact on the clinical treatment of hypertension with these agents.CCBs have been shown to be slightly more effective than beta blockers at lowering cardiovascular mortality, but they are associated with more side effects. Potential major risks however were mainly found to be associated with short-acting CCBs.

Dopamine antagonist

A dopamine antagonist (antidopaminergic) is a type of drug which blocks dopamine receptors by receptor antagonism. Most antipsychotics are dopamine antagonists, and as such they have found use in treating schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and stimulant psychosis. Several other dopamine antagonists are antiemetics used in the treatment of nausea and vomiting.

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonist

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonists (GnRH antagonists) are a class of medications that antagonize the gonadotropin-releasing hormone receptor (GnRH receptor) and thus the action of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). They are used in the treatment of prostate cancer, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, female infertility in assisted reproduction, and for other indications.

Some GnRH antagonists, such as cetrorelix, are similar in structure to natural GnRH (a hormone made by neurons in the hypothalamus) but that have an antagonistic effect, while other GnRH antagonists, such as elagolix and relugolix, are non-peptide and small-molecule compounds. GnRH antagonists compete with natural GnRH for binding to GnRH receptors, thus decreasing or blocking GnRH action in the body.

H1 antagonist

H1 antagonists, also called H1 blockers, are a class of medications that block the action of histamine at the H1 receptor, helping to relieve allergic reactions. Agents where the main therapeutic effect is mediated by negative modulation of histamine receptors are termed antihistamines; other agents may have antihistaminergic action but are not true antihistamines.In common use, the term "antihistamine" refers only to H1-antihistamines. Virtually all H1-antihistamines function as inverse agonists at the histamine H1-receptor, as opposed to neutral antagonists, as was previously believed.

H2 antagonist

H2 antagonists, sometimes referred to as H2RA and also called H2 blockers, are a class of medications that block the action of histamine at the histamine H2 receptors of the parietal cells in the stomach. This decreases the production of stomach acid. H2 antagonists can be used in the treatment of dyspepsia, peptic ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease. They have been surpassed by proton pump inhibitors (PPIs); the PPI omeprazole was found to be more effective at both healing and alleviating symptoms of ulcers and reflux oesophagitis than the H2 blockers ranitidine and cimetidine.H2 antagonists are a type of antihistamine, although in common use the term "antihistamine" is often reserved for H1 antagonists, which relieve allergic reactions. Like the H1 antagonists, some H2 antagonists function as inverse agonists rather than receptor antagonists, due to the constitutive activity of these receptors.The prototypical H2 antagonist, called cimetidine, was developed by Sir James Black at Smith, Kline & French – now GlaxoSmithKline – in the mid-to-late 1960s. It was first marketed in 1976 and sold under the trade name Tagamet, which became the first blockbuster drug. The use of quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSAR) led to the development of other agents – starting with ranitidine, first sold as Zantac, which has fewer adverse effects and drug interactions and is more potent.

Muscarinic antagonist

A muscarinic receptor antagonist (MRA) is a type of anticholinergic agent that blocks the activity of the muscarinic acetylcholine receptor. Acetylcholine (often abbreviated ACh) is a neurotransmitter whose receptor is a protein found in synapses and other cell membranes. Besides responding to their primary neurochemical, neurotransmitter receptors can be sensitive to a variety of other molecules. Acetylcholine receptors are classified into two groups based on this:

muscarinic, which respond to muscarine

nicotinic, which respond to nicotineMost muscarinic receptor antagonists are synthetic chemicals; however, the two most commonly used anticholinergics, scopolamine and atropine, are belladonna alkaloids, and are naturally extracted.

Muscarinic antagonist effects and muscarinic agonist effects counterbalance each other for homeostasis.

Certain substances are known as long-acting muscarinic receptor antagonists (LAMAs).

NMDA receptor

The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (also known as the NMDA receptor or NMDAR), is a glutamate receptor and ion channel protein found in nerve cells. The NMDA receptor is one of three types of ionotropic glutamate receptors. The other receptors are the AMPA and kainate receptors. It is activated when glutamate and glycine (or D-serine) bind to it, and when activated it allows positively charged ions to flow through the cell membrane. The NMDA receptor is very important for controlling synaptic plasticity and memory function.The NMDAR is a specific type of ionotropic glutamate receptor. The NMDA receptor is so named because the agonist molecule N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) binds selectively to it, and not to other glutamate receptors. Activation of NMDA receptors results in the opening of an ion channel that is nonselective to cations, with a combined reversal potential near 0 mV. While the opening and closing of the ion channel is primarily gated by ligand binding, the current flow through the ion channel is voltage dependent. Extracellular magnesium (Mg2+) and zinc (Zn2+) ions can bind to specific sites on the receptor, blocking the passage of other cations through the open ion channel. Depolarization of the cell dislodges and repels the Mg2+ and Zn2+ ions from the pore, thus allowing a voltage-dependent flow of sodium (Na+) and small amounts of calcium (Ca2+) ions into the cell and potassium (K+) out of the cell.Ca2+ flux through NMDARs is thought to be critical in synaptic plasticity, a cellular mechanism for learning and memory. The opening and closing (gating) of the NMDA receptor is complex. While it is primarily a ligand-gated channel, it does display weaker voltage-dependence modulation of the ligand-dependent gating. The ligand gating requires co-activation by two ligands: glutamate and either D-serine or glycine. The voltage-dependence of current through the channel is mainly due to binding of Mg2+ or Zn2+ ions to the protein as described above.

The activity of the NMDA receptor is affected by many psychoactive drugs such as phencyclidine (PCP), alcohol (ethanol) and dextromethorphan (DXM). The anaesthetic and analgesic effects of the drugs ketamine and nitrous oxide are partially because of their effects on NMDA receptor activity. Since 1989 memantine has been recognized to be an uncompetitive antagonist of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDA receptor), entering the channel of the receptor after it has been activated and thereby blocking the flow of ions.

NMDA receptor antagonist

NMDA receptor antagonists are a class of anesthetics that work to antagonize, or inhibit the action of, the N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR). They are used as anesthetics for animals and humans; the state of anesthesia they induce is referred to as dissociative anesthesia.

Several synthetic opioids function additionally as NMDAR-antagonists, such as pethidine, levorphanol, methadone, dextropropoxyphene, tramadol and ketobemidone.

Some NMDA receptor antagonists, such as ketamine, dextromethorphan (DXM), phencyclidine (PCP), methoxetamine (MXE), and nitrous oxide (N2O), are popular recreational drugs used for their dissociative, hallucinogenic, and euphoriant properties. When used recreationally, they are classified as dissociative drugs.


A protagonist (from Ancient Greek πρωταγωνιστής (protagonistes), meaning 'one who plays the first part, chief actor') is the leading character of a story.

The protagonist is at the center of the story, makes the key decisions, and experiences the consequences of those decisions. The protagonist is the primary agent propelling the story forward, and is often the character who faces the most significant obstacles. If a story contains a subplot, or is a narrative made up of several stories, then each subplot may have its own protagonist.The protagonist is the character whose fate is most closely followed by the reader or audience, and who is opposed by the antagonist. The antagonist will provide obstacles and complications and create conflicts that test the protagonist, thus revealing the strengths and weaknesses of the protagonist's character.

Receptor antagonist

A receptor antagonist is a type of receptor ligand or drug that blocks or dampens a biological response by binding to and blocking a receptor rather than activating it like an agonist. They are sometimes called blockers; examples include alpha blockers, beta blockers, and calcium channel blockers. In pharmacology, antagonists have affinity but no efficacy for their cognate receptors, and binding will disrupt the interaction and inhibit the function of an agonist or inverse agonist at receptors. Antagonists mediate their effects by binding to the active site or to the allosteric site on a receptor, or they may interact at unique binding sites not normally involved in the biological regulation of the receptor's activity. Antagonist activity may be reversible or irreversible depending on the longevity of the antagonist–receptor complex, which, in turn, depends on the nature of antagonist–receptor binding. The majority of drug antagonists achieve their potency by competing with endogenous ligands or substrates at structurally defined binding sites on receptors.

Receptor modulator

A receptor modulator, or receptor ligand, is a type of drug which binds to and modulates receptors. They are ligands and include receptor agonists and receptor antagonists, as well as receptor partial agonists, inverse agonists, and allosteric modulators.

Serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor

Serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs) are a class of drugs used mainly as antidepressants, but also as anxiolytics and hypnotics. They act by antagonizing serotonin receptors such as 5-HT2A and inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, norepinephrine, and/or dopamine. Additionally, most also antagonize α1-adrenergic receptors. The majority of the currently marketed SARIs belong to the phenylpiperazine class of compounds.

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