Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Marcella Ardeati Sarte
Marcella Ardeati Sarte (mahr-CHEHL-lah ahr-DEHAH-tee SAHR-teh), Dr. Alessandro Sarte’s wife. She is separated from him and living with Massimo Iacofleff. She declares herself as realizing her vocation in her revolt against authority, law, and justice, as established by rulers such as Julius Caesar and Benito Mussolini. Marcella’s true vocation is to feel allied to all those who are humiliated, oppressed, and committed to rebellion. She is demoniacally bound to her mission of assassinating Mussolini. Her harshness is in response to that dictator’s authoritarian willfulness. Destruction fascinates Marcella, and Dr. Alessandro Sarte repeatedly sees her as a medusa or a vampire.
Dr. Alessandro Sarte
Dr. Alessandro Sarte, a famous surgeon and the husband of Marcella. He has failed in both of his functions, however, as he cannot heal Lina Chiari’s breast cancer and he cannot understand his wife. The doctor hides behind the mask of social success and exploits his patients financially. He seems to be cold, hard, bitter, and distressed. He likes hunting for deer with royalty and driving beautiful sports cars to attract women. For him, all women are interchangeable. Dr. Sarte, who sees the film Sir Julius while sitting next to Angiola, makes love to her but despises her.
(The entire section is 1101 words.)
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The Characters (Masterplots II: World Fiction Series)
There is no one central character in A Coin in Nine Hands; instead, several characters have a tenuous relationship with one another and share a com-mon need for illusion or obliteration. No one strives for meaningful action or consciousness; they simply act out predetermined roles or wear appropriate masks. Yourcenar’s other novels are very different, especially Memoires d’Hadrien (1951; Memoirs of Hadrian, 1954). One critic makes the differences clear: “In that early work, Yourcenar made modern characters of mythical ones. Here [A Coin in Nine Hands], she has reversed the process. Marcella, the assassin, is seen not as a modern woman, but as a doomed spirit of revenge.” Yourcenar has also described her characterization as mythic; she suggests that “Massimo is of course Thanatos, the angel of death [and] Marinuzzi is Dionysus.”
Two other characters deserve mention. Dr. Sarte is, in contrast to most of the others, objective and aloof. He is not the victim of illusion but sees the world as it is. He is, moreover, an opportunist who is using Fascism rather than being used by it. Nevertheless, he wants and needs to reestablish his relationship with Marcella, since without it, his life is empty. Another disinterested character is Massimo. He is the product of the modern world, not of Marcella’s mythic one. He has been initiated by “hunger, war, escape, being arrested at the border.” His only value is...
(The entire section is 238 words.)
Representing a fictional cross section of society in fascist Italy at the time of the novel, characterization in A Coin in Nine Hands is developed as an ensemble which is in sharp contrast to the single, dominating protagonist generally projected in Yourcenar's historical fiction. In essence, the various characters, male and female, constitute a collective statement concerning the social and political atmosphere created by the author. Each character who handles the coin uses it as retribution to purchase an illusion, attempting either to alleviate guilt or dispel the silence of despondency. From prostitute to shopkeeper to candle vendor, the coin moves in cyclical rotation as the action of the novel unfolds to reveal the universal pathos of existence.
Referred to by Yourcenar as "tragicomic," the characters in A Coin in Nine Hands are drawn with minimal detail and biographical information. Interestingly, the most developed as well as intricate characters of this novel are women, unlike Memoirs of Hadrian (1951) and The Abyss (1968) where male figures emerge with intensity. As an author, Yourcenar is clearly manipulating characterization to achieve her creative purpose. This is further illustrated by Yourcenar's ability to intertwine the lives of her secondary characters into the structural development of the novel as a means both to engage the interest of the reader and to enhance her thematic concerns. Most successful in...
(The entire section is 296 words.)