Last modified on 22 October 2014, at 23:05

Unseen character

Not to be confused with ghost character.

An unseen character is a fictional character referred to but never directly observed by the audience. They are characters that are "heard of, but never heard from".[1]

Unseen characters are a common device in drama.[2][3] They are continuing characters—characters who frequently interact with the other characters and who influence current story events. Films, television shows, and stage plays make use of characters who are not seen or heard, but who have an effect on the events portrayed.

Books can feature characters who are referenced by others, but whose actions and dialogue are never directly described. The work of Voltaire, for example, included the "unseen character".[4]

Illustrative examplesEdit


UK television and radioEdit

  • Heartbeat, the wife of Constable Alf Ventress is frequently referred to by him, a characteristically hen-pecked husband, solely as Mrs Ventress, but she never appears onscreen.[8]
  • Dad's Army, Captain Mainwaring is equally hen-pecked by his wife, Elizabeth, who never appears onscreen despite frequent references to her.[9]
  • Minder, Arthur Daley's wife, referred to only as "'Er Indoors", is never seen or heard, but often quoted.[10]
  • The Clitheroe Kid, Jimmy Clitheroe often talked about his unseen friend "Ozzie".[11]

US television and radioEdit

  • On the mystery drama, Columbo, Detective Lieutenant Columbo often described his wife in detail but she is never portrayed in the series.[12]
  • On The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Phyllis Lindstrom's husband, Dr. Lars Lindstrom, is oft-referenced but never seen.[13]
  • On Seinfeld, Bob Sacamano, Lomez and "Cousin Jeffrey" are often mentioned but never seen. The first two are friends of Cosmo Kramer, and the last is the cousin of Jerry Seinfeld. Jeffrey works for the New York City Parks Department, as Jerry is told ad nauseam by his Uncle Leo.[14]
  • On The Andy Griffith Show, Juanita Beasley, for whom Barney Fife occasionally expresses affection, is unseen but often referenced and telephoned by the love-struck Fife.[15]
  • On Will and Grace, Stan Walker, Karen Walker's incredibly wealthy, unfaithful, and morbidly obese husband, is never seen, although his wife and mistress fight over him and his estate.[16]


  1. ^ Wellington, Marie A. The Art of Voltaire's Theater: An Exploration of Possibility (Peter Lang Pub Inc, 1987), p. 176.
  2. ^ See for example, Byrd, Robert E. Jr. Unseen Characters in Selected Plays of Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Edward Albee (Dissertations, Academic, 1998).
  3. ^ See also Ade, George. "Introducing "Nettie"; Who Is the Leading But Unseen Character in a New Princess Playlet", The New York Times (December 6, 1914): Drama Music Real Estate Business Financial, p. xx2
  4. ^ Theodore Besterman and J.L. Schorr, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, University of Michigan, 1956, p. 195; republished by Voltaire Foundation, 1990 (digitized March 28, 2008); ISBN 0729404064, ISBN 9780729404068
  5. ^ "'Romeo and Juliet' meets Jeff Buckley in 'The Last Goodbye'", Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2013; accessed 16 May 2014.
  6. ^ "The Women". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  7. ^ Goldstein, Malcolm (2007). "The Women". The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama, Volume 2. Columbia University Press. p. 1489. ISBN 978-0-231-14032-4. 
  8. ^ "Mrs Ventress profile at". Den of Geek!. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  9. ^ "Mrs Elizabeth Mainwaring profile at". Den of Geek!. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  10. ^ "'Er indoors' enters the lexicon",, 31 August 1992; accessed 15 May 2014.
  11. ^ Profile of The Clitheroe Kid,; accessed 15 May 2014.
  12. ^ Profile of Columbo,; accessed May 16, 2014.
  13. ^ Lars Lindstrom reference on "Famous television characters we never actually saw",; accessed May 15, 2014.
  14. ^ Reference to unseen Seinfeld character "Bob Sacamano",; accessed May 15, 2014.
  15. ^ "Famous television characters we never actually saw",; accessed May 15, 2014.
  16. ^ Unseen TV characters: Stan Walker,; accessed May 15, 2014.