As we move from personation to characterization, it is paramount to dismiss the idea of any firm boundary between these two modes of dramatic figuration. To be sure, what has come to be thought of as “deep” characterization made itself most clearly manifest in early modern drama from the late 1590s onward. Here, as is well known, such characters as Brutus, Rosalind, and Hamlet helped inaugurate fascinating displays of “that within” (Hamlet, 1.2.85). Such displays accompanied a linguistic and behavioral self-consciousness that would, in the ensuing years, distinguish figures such as Lear, Cleopatra, the Duchess of Malfi, and Beatrice-Joanna, to name only these. To this limited extent, then, personation and characterization may be defined in relation to their respective chronologies, according to which, for a brief period, character emerged as a more comprehending image of subjectivity in the theatre. It was a vulnerable mode of selfhood because the groping for a new depth within was inseparable from presenting a worldly without. Between the two arose a relationship that, wanting precedent as well as precept, was beset by an unexplored, untested measure of both engagement and discrepancy. In such characterization any “secret close” (Richard III, 1.1.158) design of passion and desire could be made interactive with a rich, imaginary set of public objects and options, challenges, and charges.
In this way characterization goes beyond personation in the dramatic fashioning of subjectivity.