Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 781
Argenis (ahr-JEE-nihs), a beautiful, resourceful priestess of Pallas Athena and the daughter of Meleander, king of Sicily; she also symbolizes the throne of France. Having met Poliarchus, a hero in the Sicilian rebellion, she can never return the love of Archombrotus, a suitor favored by her father, or that of Radirobanes, king of Sardinia, who insists on pressing his suit and attempts to blackmail her for meeting her beloved in secret. She thwarts Radirobanes’ designs, appeases her father’s wrath, discovers that Archombrotus is her half brother, and marries the man of her choice.
Poliarchus (po-lih-AHR-kuhs), in reality Prince Astioristes of France, allegorically King Henry IV of Navarre, a warrior-hero in chivalric disguise. As a daring fighter for King Meleander, the young knight insists on a firm peace rather than a truce, and he thereby alienates his loved one’s father and makes an enemy of the rebel leader, Lycogenes. An outcast, Poliarchus assumes female disguise and calls himself Theocrine in order to enter the heavily guarded castle where Argenis and her maidens have been sent by Meleander after Lycogenes has threatened to abduct the princess; Poliarchus’ purpose is to see for himself whether Argenis is as beautiful as she is reported. The two meet and fall deeply in love. The adventures of Poliarchus include routing pirates, slaying a Sardinian interloper in single combat, and succeeding to the throne of France, as well as marrying Argenis.
Archombrotus (ahr-kom-BROH-tuhs), Poliarchus’ good friend, in reality Hyempsal, prince of Mauritania and King Meleander’s favorite warrior. The first to know of his friend’s deep love for Argenis, he too is smitten and presses his suit for the lovely Princess. He is above reproach, however, in his attentions, and he truly merits her hand after he kills Lycogenes, the rebel leader, in single combat, thereby ending the revolt. His bravery is rewarded when his friend Poliarchus helps to defend Mauritania and aids Queen Hyanisbe in successfully routing the invaders. In the end, Archombrotus is revealed as the royal son of King Meleander by his first wife, the sister of the queen of Mauritania.
Meleander (meh-lee-AN-dur), king of Sicily, the father of Argenis and Archombrotus. A cautious, often mistaken, but always generous man, he is unable to subdue an insurrection until two foreign knights, Poliarchus and Archombrotus, come to his aid. His friendship for the latter, who rescues him from drowning and defeats the rebel leader, and his antagonism toward the other complicate the plot. When it looks as if his kingdom will be lost, he finally takes the initiative. By leading his ships to victory and his daughter to the altar, he rights wrongs and rewards the deserving.
Radirobanes (ra-dih-roh-BAY-neez), the king of Sardinia, at first the ally of King Meleander but later his antagonist for the hand of his daughter. Though brave in war, Radirobanes is a dastard in love. He bribes a maid in order to learn of a rendezvous of the hero and heroine, attempts blackmail to win the hand of the princess, and schemes to abduct her. Thwarted in both love and war, he falls victim to Astioristes, the new king of France.
Lycogenes (li-KOH-jeh-neez), a traitorous nobleman who almost succeeds in unseating King Meleander but whose breaking of a truce brings about his deserved death at the hands of Archombrotus.
Timoclea (tih-moh-KLEE-uh), a wise and loyal matron of Sicily who becomes the chief lady of King Meleander’s household after she uncovers Selenissa’s part in the plot to abduct Argenis. The devoted friend of Poliarchus as well, she hides him after his banishment, acts as his agent, and consoles Argenis.
Arsidas (AHR-sih-dehs), the governor of Messana, a Sicilian nobleman loyal to the crown. He acts as a comforter to Argenis when rumors of her beloved’s death are received, as an arbiter to the king, and as the confidant of the two lovers.
Selenissa (see-lee-NIHS-uh), Argenis’ nurse and companion, who commits suicide after the failure of the plan to have her mistress abducted by Radirobanes.
Gobrias (GOH-bree-uhs), the commander of the war fleet sent by the king of France to invade Sicily. He rescues shipwrecked Arsidas and tells him the story of King Astioristes’ adventures in Sicily while disguised as Poliarchus. Overjoyed to learn that the knight he knew as Poliarchus still lives, Arsidas offers his aid in reuniting the lovers.
Gelanorus (jee-leh-NOH-ruhs), the French nobleman who attends Poliarchus in Sicily and acts as his servant.
Nicopompus (nihk-uh-POM-puhs), the court poet who composes the epithalamium for the wedding of Argenis and Poliarchus, now revealed as Astioristes, the king of France.
Hyanisbe, queen of Mauritania.
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