Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
William of Baskerville
William of Baskerville, a Franciscan monk. This fifty-year-old English cleric and former inquisitor is tall and slender, with a hooked nose, sharp eyes, and a wry sense of humor. Reared in the skeptic tradition, he is a pre-Renaissance humanist, learned in letters, science, and philosophy; he is skilled, eloquent, and tolerant. Because of his interest in all knowledge, he finds it repugnant that anyone should bar others from acquiring it, either through censorship or, worse yet, murder. In addition to working on a compromise between Pope John XXII and Emperor Louis IV, William solves the serial death cases, although he is unable to prevent the abbey library from being burned to the ground. He dies of the plague sometime in the mid-fourteenth century.
Adso of Melk
Adso of Melk, a Benedictine monk. In the prologue, he is an old man, but in the novel he is a novice and Brother William’s disciple and scribe. Eighteen years old, he is handsome and impressionable, even naïve, particularly in matters of love, sex, and bookish knowledge. In one compressed week, he acquires an entire education and, from his master, a sophisticated way of viewing people and truth.
Abo, the abbot. He is of refined and noble origins, and he enjoys showing off the wealth of his abbey, especially his famous library. By being less than forthright with William, he causes delays and difficulties in the investigation. Trapped in an airless room of the library, Abo becomes the sixth and last victim.
Berengar of Arundel
Berengar of Arundel, an assistant librarian, a very close, homosexual young friend of Adelmo. The handsome, pale, and lascivious Berengar was the last to see Adelmo, raving mad with guilt. Clever and unscrupulous, he is not beyond revealing library secrets to his friends or using his good looks in exchange for favors. He is the third victim.
Benno of Uppsala
Benno of Uppsala, a scholar of rhetoric. From his interest in the great pagan writers, he theorizes that a supposedly lost volume of Aristotle’s Poetics, dealing with comedy and laughter, may have fallen into Berengar’s hands. After he steals the book, he extorts his promotion to assistant li-brarian; desolate over all the destruction, he dies in the library fire.
Venantius of Salvemec
Venantius of Salvemec (veh-NAN-shee-uhs), a Greek and Arabic translator. He has a discussion with Adelmo about fantasy in art and may have come to know too much. He is killed (he is the...
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The Characters (Masterplots II: World Fiction Series)
In addition to challenging the reader to solve the mystery of the monks’ deaths, Umberto Eco presents a second puzzle. The Name of the Rose is a roman a clef; many of the characters resemble well-known real or fictional figures. William of Baskerville, a tall, thin English detective with a fondness for a substance that induces lethargy, needs only a pipe, deerstalker cap, and cape to be the perfect double of Sherlock Holmes, whose use of cocaine is legendary. Adso resembles Holmes’s faithful and not overly bright historian, Dr. Watson. The blind Spaniard, Jorge of Burgos, bears the features of the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, who also created labyrinths and imaginary libraries. Just as Dante, a contemporary of the events related in the novel, peopled The Divine Comedy with his fellow Florentines, so Eco adds thinly disguised figures from postwar Italian politics to his novel. For example, Renato Curcio, the leader of the terrorist Red Brigades, resembles the radical reformer Fra Dolcino, who turned to violence the more rapidly to achieve a peaceful world.
Characters may thus be read allegorically, each figure in the book corresponding to another in a different book or in life. In medieval fashion, they may also be read anagogically, representing metaphysical concepts. William can stand for reason, Adso for mysticism, Jorge for the power of evil, and Abo for complacency. The novel then takes on yet another medieval guise, the psychomachia, or war of ideas, as it pits these characters against one another. Unlike the clear resolution of medieval conflicts, Eco’s ending is uncertain. William solves the mystery by exposing Jorge. He also, however, becomes Jorge’s accomplice by destroying the Aristotelian treatise in the fire that results from his determination to unravel the monastery’s riddles.