Catherine Petkoff, the mother of Raina and wife of Major Petkoff. The Petkoffs are an upper-class Bulgarian family. As the play opens, Catherine rushes into Raina’s bedroom in the late evening to tell her the news that Raina’s fiancé, Sergius Saranoff, led a victory in battle in the Russian-Austrian War, with the Bulgarians on the side of the Russians. Both women are thrilled, and both are very romantic in their attitudes.
Raina Petkoff, a twenty-three-year-old who idealistically believes herself to be in love with Sergius, to whom she is engaged. As the play develops, a series of shocks and learning experiences, such as seeing Sergius with his arm around Louka, move her away from idealism and toward realism.
Louka, a servant in the household who is engaged to another servant, Nicola. She comes in to tell Catherine and Raina that the windows and shutters are to be closed and fastened because the enemy is being chased through the town by Bulgarian soldiers. Catherine tells Raina to close them and leave them closed, then leaves to take care of the rest of the household; Raina, however, prefers the windows open, so Louka closes them in such a way that Raina can open them and then leaves.
Captain Bluntschli, a Swiss mercenary soldier of about thirty-five years. He is running away after his company lost the battle to Sergius. His father owns a chain of hotels in Switzerland. Although Bluntschli is in many ways a realist, his choice of the life of a soldier, a choice not forced upon him, is unrealistic. He startles Raina when she hears him climbing up to her balcony and coming into her room after she had blown out her candle in fright; he orders her not to expose him. She goes back and forth between treating him as an enemy and feeling sorry for him. When a Russian officer arrives searching for him, she hides and protects him, and eventually he falls asleep in her bed. Though shocked, Catherine and Raina finally allow him to sleep, and presumably he leaves safely the next morning.
Nicola, a servant engaged to Louka. They have a conversation at the beginning of act 2, as they do again later, and it becomes clear that they will almost surely never marry. Louka bitterly resents being a servant, but Nicola respects his role as a servant and respects the family, viewing them as a source of patronage when he saves enough money to open a shop.
Major Paul Petkoff
Major Paul Petkoff, a commander of the Bulgarian army who is about fifty years old. He arrives home in March, 1886, immediately after the servants’ conversation.
Major Sergius Saranoff
Major Sergius Saranoff, who arrives soon after Petkoff has greeted his servants and his wife in the garden. Raina makes a dramatic entrance, and when the others leave them, Sergius and Raina express their highly romantic (and false) idea of love for each other. When Raina returns to the house, Sergius attempts to make love to Louka. Bluntschli arrives to return Petkoff’s coat, which Raina had lent him. During a series of comical interludes, it is revealed that Sergius’ “heroism” was a stupid mistake that turned out luckily. It turns out that Sergius will marry Louka and that Bluntschli will marry Raina (with the approval of her parents, once they learn of his wealth); both couples feel genuine love, not false romanticism.