neus (EE-news), the king of Calydon. He has neglected his sacrifice to Artemis, goddess of the hunt. The wild boar sent by Artemis into Calydon, in punishment, is the object of the fateful hunt. Finally, after much tragedy, neus rules alone in Calydon.
Althæa (ahl-THEE-uh), his wife, a woman of strong will. To avert a prophecy that her newborn son would live and prosper until the brand on the hearth was consumed, she extinguished the brand and hid it. Years later, after her son has slain her brothers, she returns the brand to the fire to be consumed. After her son’s death, she dies of sorrow.
Meleager (meh-LEE-gur), the son of neus and Althæa. Strong and valiant, he is afflicted with great pride and lacks a proper submission to fate. He slays the boar and gives the spoils of the hunt to Atalanta. This results in a fight in which Meleager, protecting Atalanta, kills his uncles. He dies hoping his name will live among men.
Atalanta (a-tuh-LAN-tuh), an Arcadian maiden of great beauty and a priestess of Artemis. She joins the hunt, and Meleager, though strongly warned against an infatuation, falls in love with her. Her laugh of pleasure on being given the spoils of the hunt is misinterpreted as a taunt by the Calydonians, who attack her. At last, hailing Meleager’s greatness, she returns to Arcadia.
Toxeus (TOK-sews) and
Plexippus (plehk-SIH-puhs), Althæa’s brothers, who are slain by Meleager.
Leda, Althæa’s sister.
The Chorus, whose philosophizing on life and love, and comments on the action, illuminate the poem.