This is not a term for characters who happen to be dead…I have just discovered it is a phrase used by academics for characters who are listed in a Shakespeare play but who don’t have any lines, are never mentioned by any other characters and don’t seem to be involved in the action. Much Ado About Nothing is an example of a play with ghost characters.
Facsimile of the title page of the quarto version of Much adoe about Nothing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It is easy to understand how it could happen. The character probably appeared in the first draft but didn’t make it past the revision stage. Or maybe Shakespeare fell out with an actor. ‘Sorry darling, just had to cut your part. Next time, sweetie. Ok?’
But the character clung on stubbornly throughout the centuries, watching off stage, hoping this time for a walk on part, a chance to mingle in the crowd scene….