Wilhelm Meister (VIHL-hehlm MIS-tur), the novel’s hero, who provides continuity to an otherwise long series of vignettes. He is the son of a wealthy merchant who cannot understand his son’s fascination for the theater. Meister, discovering that his first love is unfaithful, travels for his father’s firm collecting debts and publicizing the company’s wares. He meets actors along the way, joins them, keeps them out of financial difficulties, and learns that a young boy he has been protecting is his own son. Meister finally marries and settles down with a nobleman’s sister, a “beautiful Amazon” who once rescued Meister’s troupe of actors from bandits. He believes he has served his apprenticeship in life.
Philina (fih-LEE-nah), a gay young actress in love with Meister and around whom a group of unemployed actors forms. Meister, after lending financial aid to the destitute troupe, decides to travel with them. Philina is devoted to Meister, and she nurses him back to health after he is wounded by robbers.
Mariana (mah-ree-AH-nah), Meister’s first love, whom he abandons when he learns that she is a kept woman. After her death, it develops that she has born him a child; through a set of coincidences, the boy is with his father in the traveling company of actors.
Mignon (mee-NYOH[N]), a graceful, pretty child whom...
(The entire section is 664 words.)