Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Patricianello (pah-TREE-chee-ah-NEHL-loh), the sixteen-year-old son of Lady Leocadia Clay. Although his name implies that he is a little lordling, Patricianello is also the calf of the play’s title. He attempts the creation of self in the face of shifting, ambiguous relationships and the instability and uncertainty of colonialism in the tropics. In the first act, he is seen playing with cardboard cubes on the floor while dressed in red tights. He is told to dress properly. In each succeeding act, he is more and more constricted by convention. Patricianello’s uncertainty about his parentage and identity is manipulated by his putative real and spiritual fathers as they attempt to ply him into their own image by gagging him and packing him off, thereby negating his quest for self and freedom.

Lady Leocadia Clay

Lady Leocadia Clay (leh-oh-KAH-dee-ah), Patricianello’s mother, Sir Robert’s wife, and Mikulin’s mistress. She is forty-eight years old, with gray hair but shapely legs and a seductive manner. To Patricianello, she is a restrictive old mother, unlike the young beautiful mother of his dreams. Lady Leocadia has a propensity for sentimentality, exhibited when she and Mikulin recount their former love and when she views Sir Robert’s body. It is revealed that in a night of abandon she also became Ludwig’s mistress. Ultimately, her love life puts Patricianello’s parentage into question. As a result, after her death Patricianello’s putative fathers fight over Patricianello’s future.

Sir Robert Clay

Sir Robert Clay, the governor of New Guinea, assumed to have died from the tropical disease Kala-Azar while on an expedition to hunt for bugs for his collection. Sir Robert’s body is brought in at the end of the first act. The coup de théâtre in the third act finds him reappearing wearing tails and a fur coat. He too claims Patricianello as his son and assists the others in packing him off. The last scene finds him calling for his car to go to the club for a game of bridge.


(The entire section is 896 words.)