Iconic Roles in Theatre

Building a strong and varied resume is an important task for a young actor or performer. A good resume will help the actor to show that they are able to perform a wide range of different roles. There are certain parts that every actor wishes to play, because they help to highlight the talents of that actor. This list is dominated by Shakespearean characters, because many of Shakespeare’s roles are considered to be iconic. The list is also largely made up of tragic figures, because tragic figures allow an actor to fully express their range throughout the course of the story.


Almost every actor wants to have a shot at playing the titular character in Hamlet. Hamlet is a varied role which can be interpreted in a number of different ways, meaning that each actor is able to put their own spin on the performance. Some interpret Hamlet as a manipulative and vengeful son, whereas others interpret the character as someone who is slowly losing their mind. Over the years, Hamlet has been played by both men and women.


Cleopatra is another Shakespearean role which many actors yearn to play. Many interpret Cleopatra as a strong female character who graced the stage well before feminism was considered to be cool. She is strong, sexualised and can be played as heroic. Women who put in a strong performance as Cleopatra can really grab the audience’s attention.

John Proctor

John Proctor is the lead character in the Crucible by Arthur Miller. In order to play John Proctor successfully, an actor must understand the turmoil that the character is facing. Although he is known to have committed adultery and is shown to have a quick-temper, he is also driven by strong principles of fairness and justice. As the narrative moves on, he is forced to make an impossible choice.


Medea is a very challenging role for women to play, because the character must be somewhat relatable even though she is also dangerous and brutal. The actor must work hard to show the character’s vicious and vindictive nature as she becomes more and more upset about the hand that she has been dealt by life. It is possible to play the character as a victim, as a woman who is ravaged by madness, or as woman who is struggling to regain control of her life in male-dominated world.

Richard III

Richard III is particularly well-known for the range that the lead actor must show in order to perform the character. Richard is shown scheming on stage as he shares long monologues with the audience; however he is then forced to change his personality completely to allow him to manipulate the other characters in the performance. Actors are also required to engage in stage combat during the latter stages of the play. It is a great role for an actor to be able to put on their resume because it requires stamina and range.

Lady Bracknell

Lady Bracknell is a wonderful comedic role for older women to perform. The character can be played in a number of different ways, but the actor must be able to move from serious scenes to comedic lines with ease. During the course of the performance, it becomes clear that Lady Bracknell is careful and calculation, but that she has not always been a member of the upper classes. The actor who is playing Lady Bracknell must be able to show that Lady Bracknell herself is acting as a character. Her behaviour through the play was used as a social commentary at the time of release.

Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth is another iconic Shakespearean role for women. The character is shown to be the driving force behind her husband’s brutal ambition, but she is unable to cope with her role in his rapid ascent to power. The role is so well-known that the nickname Lady Macbeth is still often used as a disparaging term for women who are perceived to be ruthless and powerful. To successfully portray Lady Macbeth, an actor must be able to blend the character’s own ambition with her inner vulnerability. She must be able to show both strength and weakness to the audience in a convincing way.