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Character

CHARACTER.

The word character, when applied to persons, has two sources, distinguished lexically in ancient Greek by the terms êthos and charaktêr. Êthos, originally referring to a disposition or custom, from Aristotle on refers to the stable dispositions that guide a person's actions and that are suitable objects of moral praise and blame. The earliest uses of charactêr in Greek, like the earliest uses of character in English, refer to an impression such as would be carved or stamped onto a coin or tablet; metaphorically, "characters" are signs (actions, facial features, social positions) that reveal something about a person's soul. During the seventeenth century, the sense of "character" in English came to include a person's psychological traits themselves.

Aristotle and Virtue Ethics

The fourth-century b.c.e. philosopher Aristotle, in Nicomachean Ethics, understands character (êthos ; or hexis êthikê, "moral disposition") to be a disposition of the appetitive and emotional faculties, which leads its possessor to act and feel in particular ways. This disposition is acquired through habituation, a process that develops the intellectual as well as the appetitive and emotional faculties. Aristotelian virtues are such dispositions informed by practical wisdoma capacity for judgment developed through experience and reflection, which guides conduct where technical knowledge cannot. This is one point of convergence between Aristotle's ethics and the thinking of contemporary virtue theorists, for as Aristotle rejects the claims of his teacher Plato (c. 428348 or 347 b.c.e.) and Sophists such as Protagoras (c. 485410 b.c.e.) that there is some art or science that can guide conduct, contemporary virtue theorists reject the claims of deontological ethics that conduct is well-guided by rules, such as "maximize utility" or "act only upon a maxim you could without contradiction will to be a universal maxim." Aristotle and contemporary virtue theorists also share the view that characters are appropriate objects of moral praise and blame; Aristotle reasons that this requires that our characters be voluntary, and argues that this is so on the grounds that our actions are voluntary and our characters are the products of our actions.

Aristotle's Ethics focuses on the cultivation (or acquisition or promotion in others) of virtuous character. When Aristotle describes the courageous or liberal person, he does so from the inside, showing us the person's concerns so that we see how, given the person's values, it makes sense for him to do as he does. But Aristotle's Rhetoric uses characterization to dispose audiences to trust a speaker, and his Poetics, to effect an appropriate fit between a person and his words and deeds; here, words and actions are signs by which we may know someone's character. Subsequently, Aristotle's student Theophrastus (c. 372c. 287 b.c.e.) sketched representative vicious types by enumerating their typical words and deeds, in a work that came to be known as the Êthikoi Charaktêres (English trans. Characters of Theophrastus, or Moral signs), which was much imitated in English literature from the seventeenth century on. In Characters of Vertues and Vices (1608), by the English prelate Joseph Hall (15741656), "character" for the first time refers to a type of person, rather than just to the signs that reveal that type. A "character" genre evolved in various directions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, adding to moral types, types of men and women in various stations of life (perhaps influenced by the Stoic notion that human beings are given personae, or roles to play in this world), and using their sketches to satirize individuals and societies. Although this literature interacts richly with popular ideas about character, it has generally not been taken up in philosophical ethics.

Kantian Ethics

An ancient tradition in natural philosophy, and particularly medicine, sought to explain an individual's character (ēthos ) in terms of the four humors, or bodily fluidsnamely the melancholy, phlegmatic, sanguine, and choleric. In his Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, the eighteenth-century philosopher Immanuel Kant (17241804) sweeps such speculation to one side by distinguishing character from temperament: Temperament is given one by nature or habituation. People may vary in their temperaments, and indeed be classified by their dominant humors; however, character, which one either has or lacks, is the property of the will by which one binds oneself to self-prescribed rational practical principles. Kant's most influential ethical work, The Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, identifies character with the good will, a will motivated solely by duty or principles of practical reason that it legislates to itself; Kant gives character the role of making use of such qualities as courage, resolution, and perseverancewhich belong to temperament and might be bad if not in the control of a good will, the only thing good without qualification. In the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant likewise describes virtue as self-constraint, a power to withstand those of our inclinations that oppose moralitynot merely some habit of morally good actions, virtue requires acting on "considered, firm and continually purified principles."

Neo-Aristotelian critics have charged that Kant's emphasis on acting on principle results in his neglecting the roles character and virtue play in both a good ethical life and morally praiseworthy action, and Kantian defenders often reply by pointing to Kant's doctrine of virtue. But the criticism can be raised anew with respect to Kant's conception of character and virtue itself, for these replace appropriate feeling and the sensitivity it affords with a commitment to acting on principle. One source of apparent disagreement between Kant and Aristotle is terminological: Aristotle defines moral character as a disposition of appetite and emotion, but he insists that it cannot exist without practical wisdom. So Aristotle does not consider an act or person guided solely by appetite and emotion, however well trained these may be, to be virtuous or praiseworthy. For Aristotle, practical wisdom is necessary for appetitive and emotional dispositions to be good (this is what distinguishes virtue proper from natural virtue), just as for Kant, the good will is necessary for courage, resolution, and perseverance to be good. Still, principle is not practical wisdom, and Kant has less faith in the ability of developed capacities of judgment and feeling to result in right action, and more faith in the ability of principles to do so, than does Aristotle. This may be one reason for Kant's restriction of character to one's commitment to the ends that practical reason prescribes itself; presumably another is that, to the extent that character is the appropriate object of praise and blame, it ought to be voluntary, and Kant takes only our resolutions, but not our natural and habituated inclinations, to be voluntary.

Utilitarianism

Not himself a utilitarian, the eighteenth-century philosopher David Hume (17111776) characterizes virtuous character traits as those that tend to the good, of mankind or at least of their possessor, and vicious ones as those that tend to the bad. Hume thus shares with utilitarians the view that the moral value of a character trait depends on its nonmoral value for people. Given its first widely influential formulation by Jeremy Bentham (17481832) in the nineteenth century in The Principles of Morals and Legislation, utilitarianism focuses on the rightness or wrongness of actions: the principle of utility deems that action right that, of the available alternatives in any given situation, tends to maximize the happiness of those affected. Utilitarianism's critics fault it for being insensitive to the importance of character evaluation for moral evaluation, but John Stuart Mill (18061873), a second-generation utilitarian, already stresses that acts ought to be evaluated for their consequences on character and character formation and includes as ingredients of happiness or utility such diverse intrinsic goods as friendship and virtue. A utilitarian may also subject character-traits and rules, and not only acts, to utilitarian assessment.

Challenges

In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, questions have been raised about whether there is such a thing as character at all. The existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (19051980) charged that to explain a person's (one's own or someone else's) action in terms of his or her character is to assimilate the action to an event in the natural world (for which the character is an ad hoc explanation), denying the person's freedom and refusing the rational understanding that human action demands. In a separate development, a research tradition in experimental social psychology, "situationism," holds that people's behavior is not distinctive or consistent across a range of situations. These criticisms may apply more to the conception of character as revealed in signs than to the conception put forth in philosophical ethics.

See also Aristotelianism ; Good ; Kantianism ; Moral Sense ; Person, Idea of the ; Utilitarianism ; Virtue Ethics .

bibliography

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by Christopher Rowe. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Bentham, Jeremy. The Principles of Morals and Legislation. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus, 1988.

Boyce, Benjamin. The Theophrastan Character in England to 1642. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1947.

Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature. Edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon; New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.

Kant, Immanuel. Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View. Translated by Mary J. Gregor. The Hague, Netherlands: M. Nijhoff, 1974.

. Practical Philosophy. Translated by Mary J. Gregor. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Includes Metaphysics of Morals and Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.

Klibansky, Raymond, Erwin Panofsky, and Fritz Saxl. Saturn and Melancholy: Studies in the History of Natural Philosophy, Religion, and Art. New York: Basic Books, 1964.

Liddell, Henry George, and Robert Scott, comps. Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon; New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Mill, John Stuart. Essays on Politics and Culture. Edited by Gertrude Himmelfarb. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1962.

. Utilitarianism. Edited by George Sher. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1979.

Railton, Peter. "How Thinking about Character and Utilitarianism Might Lead to Rethinking the Character of Utilitarianism." Midwest Studies in Philosophy 13 (1988): 398416.

Ross, Lee, and Richard E. Nisbett. The Person and the Situation: Perspectives of Social Psychology. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Anti-Semite and Jew. Translated by George J. Becker. New York: Schocken, 1948.

Theophrastus. The Characters of Theophrastus: An English Translation from a Revised Text. Translated by J. E. Sandys. London: Macmillan, 1909.

Rachana Kamtekar

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Character

CHARACTER

Character is a psychological, philosophical, and a literary concept. A distinction needs to be drawn between this concept and the metapsychological aspects of character and its relation to symptoms and neurosis.

There are two main ways of defining it, which are interconnected. Concepts of character are designated on the one hand by the metapsychological aspects that are intrinsically connected with developments in theory and, on the other hand, by the distinction between normality and pathology and, specifically, the convergence between character and the major concepts of neurosis, psychosis, and borderline conditions.

The concept of character appeared as early as 1900 in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), in connection with the importance of mnemic traces. The role of fixations emerged more clearly in 1905 in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d), emphasizing the role of sublimation in character formation; Freud wrote: "A sub-species of sublimation is to be found in suppression bb reaction-formation" (p. 238). He then described various character types associated with the partial drives in "Character and Anal Erotism" (1908b) and "Some Character-types Met with in Psycho-Analytic Work" (1916d). It was in 1913, in "The Disposition to Obsessional Neurosis: A Contribution to the Problem of Choice of Neurosis" that he most sharply differentiated symptom and character: "the failure of repression and the return of the repressedwhich are peculiar to the mechanism of neurosisare absent in the formation of character. In the latter, repression either does not come into action or smoothly achieves its aim of replacing the repressed by reaction-formations and sublimations" (1913i, p. 323).

In 1923, with the introduction of the structural theory, character is located in the ego and the importance of identifications is emphasized: "an object which was lost has been set up again inside the egothat is, an object-cathexis has been replaced by an identification....We have come to understand that this kind of substitution has a great share in determining the form taken by the ego and that it makes an essential contribution towards building up what is called its 'character'" (1923b, p. 28). Character thus comprises the history of object-choices that have since been abandoned. However, the earliness of these identifications should not allow us to forget that the earliest identifications with the parents are those that influence the constitution of the superego rather than the ego (Lecture 32, New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, 1933a). Here the function of character traits as resistance is frequently emphasized: "we may now add as contributions to the construction of character which are never absent the reaction-formations which the ego acquiresto begin with in making its repressions and later, by a more normal method, when it rejects unwished-for instinctual impulses" (p. 91).

Freud saw a degree of overlap between character and symptom in spite of their differences and maintained that it was the failure of the defensive function of character that led to repression and neurosis; in "Analysis terminable and interminable," he demonstrated that: "the defensive mechanisms, by bringing about an ever more extensive alienation from the external world and a permanent weakening of the ego, pave the way for, and encourage, the outbreak of neurosis" (1937c, p. 238).

The "libidinal types" (1931a) have been considered a development of character theory. However, these are in fact an attempt by Freud to attribute a key role to the agencies of the structural theory (id, ego, and superego) in a psychoanalytic nosography.

The study of character has been continued by various authors but it has been overtaken by the subject of character resistance and the associated problems of technique. Karl Abraham emphasized the importance of fixations, although he cautioned against the notion of a fixed nature as something that is disproved by modifications in character ("A Short Study of the Development of the Libido," 1924/1927). He set out to establish a semiology of psychic material and emphasized the earliness of object relations involved in symptom-formations and character-formation. Wilhelm Reich is known mainly for the modifications in technique that he advocated with patients who presented him with "character armor." This means avoiding interpreting drive impulses before having interpreted and overcome this resistance, layer by layer. In their demonstration that a large number of muscular reactions are designed to prevent the breakthrough of emotions, excitations, or anxiety, these descriptions are reminiscent of Pierre Marty's discussions of rachialgia (1963).

In The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1945), Otto Fenichel also demonstrated the need to resolve the conflicts between the drives and defenses. Raymond de Saussure considered character as a developmental stage in which the subject has become stuck and not as a type that is established for a lifetime.

Jean Bergeret (1976) described character and structure by distinguishing three levels of character: Character, as an emanation from the deep structure in relational life, traces the progress or failure of the structural development; character traits, elements of the fundamental character, are often associated with elements of other forms of character, compensating for deficiencies in fundamental character through adaptive requirements, and can thus appear in a different structure from the one from which they derive. Character pathology, on the other hand, corresponds to the "borderline" economy and its decompensation leads to a deformation of the ego, with the onset of more or less severe forms of splitting.

Otto Kernberg's work on character forms part of his studies of borderline functioning. In "A psychoanalytic classification of character pathology" (1970), he proposed a classification of character pathologies with three levels of severity, corresponding to the level of development of the drives, the superego or the ego, or the more or less pathological nature of the character traits. The three levels of severity that he distinguishes are reminiscent of the levels of mentalization in Pierre Marty's theory of character neurosis.

The issues raised by character traits continue to be of interest to the French psychosomaticians among others. In "Névrose de caractère et mentalisation" (Character neurosis and mentalization) for example, Michel Fain (1997) argued that the disappearance of a character trait indicates a dementalization occurring in an essential depression rather than the resolution of a neurotic process.

Robert AssÉo

See also: Anal-sadistic stage; Character Analysis ; Character formation; Character neurosis; "Confusion of Tongues between Adults and the Child"; Countercathexis; Dependence; Ego; Eroticism, anal; Eroticism, urethral; Failure neurosis; Fate neurosis; I; Identification; Indications and contraindications for psychoanalysis for an adult; Orality; Paranoia; Psychic structure; Psychological types (analytical psychology); Reaction-formation; Sex and Character ; Sublimation; Transference neurosis; Transgression.

Bibliography

Abraham, Karl. (1927). A short study of the development of the libido. Selected papers of Karl Abraham. London: Hogarth. (Original work published 1924)

Bergeret, Jean. (1976). Personnalités normales et pathologiques: Les structures mentales, le caractère, les symptômes. Revue française de psychanalyse, 40 (2), 351-370.

Fain, Michel. (1997). Névrose de caractère et mentalisation. Rev. française de psychosomatique, 11, 7-17.

Fenichel, Otto. (1945). The psychoanalytic theory of neurosis. New York: W. W. Norton.

. (1900a). The interpretation of dreams. SE, 4-5.

. (1905d).Three essays on the theory of sexuality. SE, 7: 123-243.

. (1908b). Character and anal erotism. SE, 9: 167-175.

. (1913i). The disposition to obsessional neurosis: A contribution to the problem of choice of neurosis. SE, 12: 311-326.

. (1916d). Some character-types met with in psychoanalytic work, SE, 14: 309-333.

. (1923b). The ego and the id. SE, 19: 1-66.

. (1931a). Libidinal types. SE, 21: 215-220.

. (1933a). New introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. SE, 22: 1-182.

. (1937c). Analysis terminable and interminable. SE, 23: 209-253.

Kernberg, Otto. (1970). A psychoanalytic classification of character pathology. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 18, 800-822.

Marty, Pierre. (1963). La psychosomatique de l 'adulte. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Reich, Wilhelm. (1945). Character analysis: Principles and technique for psychoanalysts in practice and in training (Theodore P. Wolfe, Trans.). New York: Orgone Institute Press. (Original work published 1933)

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Character

Character

General term in psychology used to describe behavior motivations and personality traits that make each person an individual.

Character is most often used in reference to a set of basic innate, developed, and acquired motivations that shape an individual's behavior. These qualities of an individual's motivation are shaped during all stages of childhood . By late adolescence , around age 17, the traits that make up individual's character are normally integrated into a unique and distinctive whole. The term character is sometimes used as roughly synonymous with the term personality , although such usage does little to reduce the imprecision of either term. Some psychologists believe that differences in character among individuals largely reflect affective, or emotional, differences, that are the result of biochemical or other organic variations. Many psychologists claim that character, to some extent, is a function of experience. These psychologists, generally, believe that, as the early behavior of an individual directed toward a primary, instinctive goal is modified by environmental circumstances, the motivational system of the individual is also modified, and the character of the individual is affected. There is some dispute among psychologists about whether, or to what extent, character may be controlled by conscious or rational decisions, and about whether, or to what extent, character may be dominated by unconscious or irrational forces. At the same time, there is widespread agreement among psychologists that, while much research remains to be done to delineate the genetic, instinctive, organic, cognitive, and other aspects of character, the development of a reasonably stable and harmonious character is an essential part of a psychologically healthy existence.

Character education, a periodic but recurring theme for schools to teach basic values and moral reasoning to primary and secondary students, attracted renewed popularity in the 1990s. Character education initiatives have developed at the local and state levels, but reflect a national trend. In 1995, President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Congress declared October 16-22 "National Character Counts Week." In character education, teachers confront students with moral dilemmas and ask them to formulate and defend courses of action.

Many prominent educators, politicians, and academics support character education. Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union, object to character education because it could lead to teaching religious beliefs. Some religious groups oppose it as well, since public school teachers must avoid teaching religion and could make character a virtue that is anti-religious.

See also Personality development

Further Reading

Lockwood, Anne Turnbaugh. Character Education: Controversy and Consensus. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, 1997.

Murphy, Madonna M. Character Education in America's Blue Ribbon Schools: Best Practices for Meeting the Challenge. Lancaster, PA.: Technomic Publishing Co. Inc., 1998.

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character

char·ac·ter / ˈkariktər/ • n. 1. the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual: running away was not in keeping with her character. ∎  the distinctive nature of something: gas lamps give the area its character. ∎  the quality of being individual, typically in an interesting or unusual way: the island is full of character. ∎  strength and originality in a person's nature: she had character as well as beauty. ∎  a person's good reputation. ∎ dated a written statement of someone's good qualities; a recommendation. 2. a person in a novel, play, or movie. ∎  a part played by an actor. ∎  a person seen in terms of a particular aspect of character: shady characters. ∎ inf. an interesting or amusing individual. 3. a printed or written letter or symbol. ∎  Comput. a symbol representing a letter or number. ∎ Comput. the bit pattern used to store such a symbol. 4. chiefly Biol. a characteristic, esp. one that assists in the identification of a species. • v. [tr.] archaic inscribe; engrave. ∎  describe; characterize. PHRASES: in (or out of) character in keeping (or not in keeping) with someone's usual pattern of behavior.DERIVATIVES: char·ac·ter·ful / -fəl/ adj. char·ac·ter·ful·ly adv. char·ac·ter·less adj. ORIGIN: Middle English: from Old French caractere, via Latin from Greek kharaktēr ‘a stamping tool.’ From the early sense ‘distinctive mark’ arose ‘token, feature, or trait’ (early 16th cent.), and from this ‘a description, esp. of a person's qualities,’ giving rise to ‘distinguishing qualities.’

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character

character distinctive mark XIV; graphic symbol XV; sum of mental and moral qualities XVII; personage, personality XVIII. ME. caracter — (O)F. caractère — (mostly late) L. charactēr — Gr. kharaktḗr instrument for marking, impress, distinctive nature, f. kharássein scratch, engrave.
So characteristic XVII. — F. — late Gr. characterize XVI. — F. or medL. — late Gr.

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character

character (trait) A distinctive inherited feature of an organism. Organisms in a population may display different aspects of a particular character, e.g. the A, B, and O human blood groups (see ABO system) are different aspects of the blood group character.

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character

character
1. An element of a given character set.

2. A subdivision of a word in a machine, usually comprising 6, 7, or 8 bits. This is also called a byte.

3. The smallest unit of information in a record.

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character

character Any detectable attribute or property of the phenotype of an organism. Defined heritable differences in the character may exist between individuals within a species.

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character

character Any detectable attribute or property of the phenotype of an organism. Defined heritable differences in the character may exist between individuals within a species.

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character

character Any detectable attribute or property of the phenotype of an organism. Defined heritable differences in the character may exist between individuals within a species.

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character

character Any detectable attribute or property of the phenotype of an organism. Defined heritable differences in the character may exist between individuals within a species.

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"character." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/character-2

character

characterbitter, committer, critter, embitter, emitter, fitter, flitter, fritter, glitter, gritter, hitter, jitter, knitter, litter, permitter, pitta, quitter, remitter, sitter, skitter, slitter, spitter, splitter, submitter, titter, transmitter, twitter, witter •drifter, grifter, lifter, shifter, sifter, snifter, uplifter •constrictor, contradictor, depicter, dicta, evictor, inflicter, predictor, victor •filter, kilter, philtre (US philter), quilter, tilter •Jacinta, midwinter, Minter, Pinta, Pinter, printer, splinter, sprinter, tinter, winter •sphincter •assister, ballista, bistre (US bister), blister, enlister, glister, lister, mister, resistor, Sandinista, sister, transistor, tryster, twister, vista •trickster •minster, spinster •hipster, quipster, tipster •cohabiter • arbiter • presbyter •exhibitor, inhibitor, prohibiter •Manchester • Chichester • Silchester •Rochester • Colchester •creditor, editor, subeditor •auditor • Perdita • taffeta • shopfitter •forfeiter • outfitter • counterfeiter •register • marketer •cricketer, picketer •Alistair • weightlifter • filleter •fillister • shoplifter •diameter, heptameter, hexameter, parameter, pentameter, tetrameter •Axminster • Westminster •limiter, perimeter, scimitar, velocimeter •accelerometer, anemometer, barometer, gasometer, geometer, manometer, micrometer, milometer, olfactometer, optometer, pedometer, photometer, pyrometer, speedometer, swingometer, tachometer, thermometer •Kidderminster • janitor •banister, canister •primogenitor, progenitor, senator •administer, maladminister, minister, sinister •monitor • per capita • carpenter •spanakopita • Jupiter • trumpeter •character • barrister • ferreter •teleprinter •chorister, forester •interpreter, misinterpreter •capacitor • ancestor • Exeter •stepsister •elicitor, solicitor •babysitter • house-sitter • bullshitter •competitor • catheter • harvester •riveter • banqueter • non sequitur •loquitur •inquisitor, visitor •compositor, expositor

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"character." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"character." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/character

"character." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/character