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.
Ruggiero di Credo
Ruggiero di Credo (rew-gee-EHR-oh dee KRAY-doh), the former Italian consul to Biscra. He married a vulgar Jewish Algerian woman, and they have two children, Rosalia and Angiola. His baroque domain of Gemera, in Sicily, which he inherited, is decaying. Faithful to the Bourbons, he disdained the dynasty of the Savoys; living in Sicily, he had no interest in the fall of papal Rome to the north. His hats resemble either halos or helmets. When he joins the army for four years, his wife betrays him. The splendor of Gemera remains but a dream for him and his family, and after it is destroyed, they leave for Rome, in the hope of exploiting his aristocratic ancestors and relatives. Life has stolen his dreams, but it is Ruggiero’s constant misinterpretation of reality that leads to his isolation in an asylum, then death.
Rosalia di Credo
Rosalia di Credo, the uneducated daughter of Ruggiero di Credo who becomes a votive candle vendor in Rome. Rosalia remains devoted to the dream of her past, to Gemera, and to both her father and her sister, Angiola. Her own wishes are seldom granted, and her solitary destiny without love and happiness...
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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 survival in a meaningless world.