Keep Tightly Closed in a Cool Dry Place Characters

Megan Terry

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Jaspers, a young attorney. Disturbed by the feeling that he was becoming too much like his wife and losing his own identity and by the idea that a woman would have an influence over their two sons, he had his wife murdered. Confined to a jail cell with his two accomplices, he enlists Michaels in an effort to bully Gregory into confessing sole responsibility for the crime. When that fails, he tries to enlist Gregory in a plot to railroad Michaels. Although he is aggressive, arrogant, and quite confident that he can save himself at the expense of his accomplices, and although he wants to appear insensitive, he has an introspective side. He wonders, for example, what his wife felt when she was being murdered. In the course of the action, he metamorphoses into General Custer torturing an Indian (Gregory), a young English boy dying at Jamestown, an aggressive drag queen, his own wife, and a priest. By becoming his wife, he experiences at first hand how she felt during the murder. As the priest, he expresses doubts about his own actions and motives.


Michaels, a large, self-seeking man. Michaels served as the middleman in setting up the murder of Mrs. Jaspers. He hired Gregory and is blamed by Jaspers for selecting an incompetent. Through most of the action, Michaels sides with Jaspers in his efforts at bullying and humiliating Gregory, although he doubts that Gregory can be persuaded to accept sole responsibility for the crime. After a sexual encounter with Jaspers, however, he turns against him, stating that he cooperated with Jaspers only for the money Jaspers promised him. During the translation scenes, the characters into which Michaels changes generally are subordinates of those that Jaspers becomes.


Gregory, a good-looking, brutal young man. Gregory is the killer Michaels hired; he confessed to the plot rather than go to jail alone. He spends most of the play trying to sleep, while Jaspers attempts to rouse him. As he sleeps, he dreams of perpetrating violent rape. He resists Jaspers’ attempts to force him to sign a recantation of his confession but is willing to side with Jaspers against Michaels. During the transformation scenes, Gregory often becomes characters victimized by those that Jaspers becomes.