Let's name & discuss stories in which the title character is not the protagonist.

One qualification: the name in the title must be the name of a person in the story, not a place or thing. Wuthering Heights does not count; Julius Caesar might.


As always, TV Tropes has a page on this.

Moby Dick is a good example, if you allow animals to be characters.

An odd example is Princess Mononoke, where “Mononoke-hime” is not even the real name of the character (she’s mostly called San), and she isn’t the character given most screen time.

Macbeth. He’s the main character, to be sure, but he’s also the villain. People often miss that the Scottish play has a happy ending.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. Liberty Valence was not the protagonist,

Nor was the man who shot him.

The Wizard of Oz

“Protagonist” means “main character”, and not “hero”. You could make a case that Iago is the protagonist of Othello: he’s certainly not the hero! And an even better case could be made for Shylock being the protagonist of The Merchant of Venice – which is a case that fits the OP, since Antonio is the titular merchant of Venice.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. Agnes Nutter barely appears as a character. Protagonists are Aziraphale and Crowley.

Kill Bill. The protagonist is Beatrix Kiddo, not Bill.

The Merchant of Venice - if I recall correctly, the title refers to Antonio, not Shylock.

ETA: Crap. I missed Giles’ post saying the same thing.

I’m not entirely sure I see your point.

Protagonist and hero are not synonymous.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Tim Curry did not play Rocky


The “Lord of the Rings” is actually Sauron, yes?

Rebecca, one of my favorite books of all time. Rebecca is dead before the book starts, but the protagonist is the nameless narrator who is Maxim de Winter’s second wife.

ETA: D’oh…


You’re exactly right. Pippin once calls Frodo “The Lord of the RING,” but that is not a title he ever claims for himself, and Gandalf immediately rebukes Pippin for using it even in jest. As Frodo (in-story) names his & Bilbo’s book “The Lord of The Rings,” I think it’s safe to say that he did not mean himself.

Of course, LotR has multiple protagonists. I would say that Frodo is only the main character of Books I & II. In Book III, the protagonist position would apply, depending on the chapter, to Aragorn or to Pippin & Merry (somewhat more of the Took than the Brandybuck). Book IV is somewhat more about Sam than it is Frodo. Book V is again about Aragorn and the two younger hobbits; and Book VI is variable.

The Three Musketeers are Athos, Porthos, and Aramis; heroic as they are, the protagonist of the novel is, of course, d’Artagnan.

The Last of the Mohicans is Uncas and/or Chingachgook, but Hawkeye is clearly the protagonist.

Paris Trout by Pete Dexter.

In Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Thin Man, the title character is NOT detective Nick Charles, but a missing businessman named Clyde Wynant.