In some works of fiction, virtue is a central theme. Virtues usually constitute parts in a system, where the individual virtues are regarded as aspects of goodness, and no virtue alone is enough to form a good character. While they complement each other, they may also come into conflict with each other, leading to moral conundrums.
In fictional works dealing with virtue, the author often chooses to assign each virtue in the system to a different character, allowing said characters to allegorically represent their respective virtues through the natural leanings of their personalities. For example, a naturally empathic and compassionate character may be (explicitly or implicitly) assigned the virtue of Compassion to represent, while another may be assigned the virtue of Loyalty on account of his or her personalities' natural affinity for this virtue.
Sometimes this trope is applied to entities other than characters in works of fiction, such as organizations or even inanimate objects. In the latter case the representation has nothing to do with the personality of the assignee, for obvious reasons, but is rather more arbitrarily symbolic. For this reason this is not a strict subtrope of Allegorical Character.
In the specific case of literal personification of a moral ideal in the form of a character, we are speaking about an Anthropomorphic Personification.
The inversion of this trope is Embodiment of Vice. One notable difference between the two tropes is that in the case of characters, the people involved usually are aware of their virtues, and strive to actively cultivate them. Characters that personify vices are usually either unaware of them or somehow unable to overcome them. For example, characters that actively strive to be honorable and courageous are extremely commonplace in fiction, but how many characters have you encountered that strive to be as greedy as possible, for the sake of greed in and of itself? Vice is nearly always motivated by something other than the desire to be vicious, unlike virtue. In the (at least in real life) rare cases where this is not the case, we are dealing with a villain who does evil simply For the Evulz. Compare the Seven Heavenly Virtues.
- The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Like their predecessors, each of the six represents a social virtue.
- Page Turner is the Element of Kindness, who acts as the moral guidance to the others.
- Vix-Lei is the Element of Laughter, who keeps the others' spirits up even when things seem bad. However, she also needs to know when to be serious so her comrades know they can always count on her and not dismiss her for being useless or insensitive.
- Wind Breaker is the Element of Honesty, who keeps the others honest by staying honest themselves.
- Rex is the Element of Generosity, who understands others and inspires them with his selflessness.
- Night Blade is the Element of Loyalty, who defends and protects the others even at cost to themselves.
- Xvital is the Element of Magic, who is the balance that acts as a bridge between the other five.
- In Quest for Camelot, the introduction to Camelot itself is accompanied by a chorus of all of the Knights of the Round Table singing about unity of purpose. They go on to take their places at the table, each lifting their shield to honor their king, and then lowering it as they declare the virtue they most embody. There are far more than seven virtues listed, but 'liberty', 'justice', 'trust' , 'freedom', 'peace', 'honor', 'goodness', 'strength', and 'valor' are listed, among others. Note that the main character's father laid down his shield on 'valor', and the villain laid his down with a shout of 'ME!'.
- Harry Potter: The four houses of Hogwarts Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardry represent and base their student selection on moral qualities.
- Gryffindor represents courage and chivalry, the knightly virtues. Weaknesses include brashness, overconfidence, and pride.
- Ravenclaw represents wisdom, knowledge, and honesty. Weaknesses include arrogance and aloofness.
- Hufflepuff represents humility, loyalty, and diligence. No clear moral weaknesses seem to accompany these traits, yet Hufflepuff is the house which is most frequently looked down on in disdain by the others. A commentary on how humility can be misinterpreted as weakness or passivity?
- In the first book, Hagrid mentions that Hufflepuffs had a reputation for being a "load o' duffers". So it could also be the misconception that Good Is Dumb.
- Hufflepuffs, at least from my memory, seem to be more naive, and they often jump to conclusions quickly (particular Ernie and Justin Finch-Fletchley re: the petrifications and Harry's role in them). At least, this is of the Hufflepuffs we saw.
- Slytherin represents ambition, personal as well as collective. As a trait of utility rather than morality, it can sometimes overshadow traditional moral values, which is why most "evil wizards/witches" in the world come from this house. Yet its relevance as a positive trait cannot be denied. Where would the others be without it?
- According to Pottermore, the American Wizarding School Ilvermorny also has 4 houses that represents virtues
- Horned Serpent represents the mind of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Horned Serpent favors scholars.
- Wampus represents the body of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Wampus favors warriors.
- Thunderbird represents the soul of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Thunderbird favors adventurers.
- Pukwudgie represents the heart of a witch or wizard. It is also said that Pukwudgie favors healers.
- In The Dresden Files there are three holy Swords wielded by three paladins. Each Sword has in its hilt one of the Nails that pierced Jesus Christ to the Cross. What is interesting is while the swords represent are Christian virtues, one need not be a Christian to properly wield the sword.
- Amoracchius is the Sword of Love, also called Excalibur. Its wielder tend to be people who have great amounts of love in their life, whether a loving husband and father of many children, who will halt his final attack to give an evil person a chance to redeem himself, or a mother who is protecting her child.
- Fidelacchius is the Sword of Faith also called Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi. Its wielders are people who have a deep faith. Not necessarily in the True God, but in good overcoming evil and one person can make a difference. It has been wielded by a Japanese baptist, a police officer with a deep faith in the right and justice of the law, and one geek who was able to reforge the broken blade into the representation of his faith in the ideals Star Wars preaches: a lightsaber.
- Esperacchius is the Sword of Hope, also called Durendal. The wielders are people who don't give up on hope. They believe an evil person can repent, that good will come back even in the bleakness of the time. The current wielder is completely agnostic to God's existence, despite having received his blade from an Archangel, and is a reformed villain himself, now seeking to atone for his actions by doing what he can.
- In The Keys To The Kingdom, each of the seven parts of the Will represents one of the Seven Heavenly Virtues.
- In Thief of Time, Wen the Eternally Surprised claims Susan Sto Helit is "helpfulness personified". Reluctant Hero Susan is less than happy about this.
- In Bayonetta, personifications of the four cardinal virtues are used as antagonists. They represent Courage, Temperance, Justice, and Prudence.
- In Daemon Bride, each of the Angel side Brides represents one of the seven virtues. Michael represents Righteousness, Uriel represents Courage, Rafael represents Wisdom, Gabriel represents Love, Zadkiel represents Loyalty / Faith, Metatron represents Fidelity / Chastity, and Haniel represents Prudence.
- Final Fantasy XI contains seven bosses (as a group named Jailers of the Sea or Jailers of Virtue) named after virtues. In order of kill, they are Jailer of: Temperance, Fortitude, Faith, Justice, Hope, Prudence, and Love.
- Ōkami: The Satomi Canine Warriors. Each of them represents the Confucian virtues : Brotherhood, Faith, Knowledge, Honor, Wisdom, Duty, Loyalty, and Justice
- Ultima IV: The main protagonist's companions, each one representing one of the Sacred Virtues of Avatarhood:
- Mariah the mage represents Honesty
- Iolo the bard represents Compassion
- Geoffrey the fighter represents Valor
- Jaana the druid represents Justice
- Julia the tinker represents Sacrifice
- Dupré the paladin represents Honor
- Shamino the ranger represents Spirituality
- Katrina the shepherd represents Humility
- In the Diablo series, the leaders of the Angels represent different virtues.
- Auriel is Hope
- Malthael is Wisdom(Though he later renounces that virtue to become the Angel of Death)
- Ithereal is Fate
- Imperius is Valor
- Tyrael unsurprisingly is Justice. In Diablo III, Tyrael's commitment to his virtue is so powerful that he renounces his position and powers to become mortal rather than abide by his fellow Angels' decision to abandon humanity to the demons. At the end of the game, Tyrael takes up the position of Wisdom instead, having gained some during his journey, confident that mortals can handle Justice just fine on their own.
- The Seven Evils embody evil virtues.
- In Persona 5, Morgana is literately made of humanity's hope. This becomes important as the restoration of humanity's hope is ultimately the start of the demise of the Bigger Bad.
- Bearers of the Triforce in The Legend of Zelda are this. Specifically Link represents Courage, Zelda represents Wisdom, and Ganondorf/Ganon represents Power.
- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: The "Mane Six", where one pony each represents one of the "Elements of Harmony": Fluttershy (Kindness), Rainbow Dash (Loyalty), Rarity (Generosity), Applejack (Honesty), Pinkie Pie (Laughter), and Twilight Sparkle (Friendship, which in the local lore happens to also be the Element of Magic).
- The Equestria Girls-only character, Sunset Shimmer, represents Forgiveness/Empathy as a 7th Element.
- In the past there were Precursor Heroes, known as The Pillars of Equestria, that followed a similar pattern and were in fact the ones who planted the literal seed that would manifest the Elements of Harmony themselves: Mage Meadowbrook (Healing), Flash Magnus (Bravery), Mistmane (Beauty), Rockhoof (Strength), Somnambula (Hope), and Star Swirl (Sorcery).