Characters Discussed

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Irma, called The Queen, the proprietress of the Grand Balcony, a brothel specializing in role-playing games. Approximately forty years old, she wears severe clothing and jewelry that reflect her bent for business matters and the riches they bring. Predisposed to calling her wealthy customers “visitors” instead of “clients,” she fears a workers’ revolt that would threaten her establishment. Although she appears to have some genuine affection for one of her employees, Carmen, as well as for the Chief of Police, George, her good standing with them seems largely predicated on their usefulness to her. In scene 8, she becomes The Queen, wearing an ermine cloak and, on her brow, a diadem.

The Chief of Police

The Chief of Police, a man named George, a cigar smoker who wears a heavy fur-lined coat and hat. He wishes that “Chief of Police” would become one of the figures portrayed at the Grand Balcony. A politically ambitious freemason, he dreams of being enshrined in a tomb by the subjects of an empire he aspires to command. In scene 8, he becomes The Hero; later in the play, he seems to have achieved his goals. It is also revealed that he wears a toupee.

The Bishop

The Bishop and

The Judge

The Judge, clients at the Grand Balcony who first appear in versions of their customary garb, wearing garish makeup, twenty-inch tragedian’s cothurni, and other accoutrements that make them seem unusually large. Later in the play, they appear to have actually assumed their roles in Irma’s regime.

The General

The General, another client, a retiring-looking gentlemen who is first shown being dressed in a complete general’s uniform by The Girl, an employee of the Grand Balcony. He, too, appears to assume his role in Irma’s government.


Carmen, an employee, favored by Irma, who is in charge of bookkeeping at the Grand Balcony. Possibly the daughter of a cavalry colonel, she talks of bringing toys and perfumes to her own daughter, who lives at a nursery in the country. Proud of her skills, she is particularly attracted to playing female saints and other religious heroines. She uses her familiarity with clients and other employees to spy for Irma.


Chantal, a former employee who has left the Grand Balcony to join her lover, Roger. Her acting ability is coveted by the revolutionaries, who desire a fiery woman who will inspire their followers. She leaves Roger’s side to join them, only to be assassinated in a plot devised by The Bishop.


Roger, Chantal’s lover, who admires her spirit but also wishes to control her. After her death, he becomes the first client at the Grand Balcony to play the role of Chief of Police. Interrupting the fantasy by asking Carmen if she knew Chantal, he then appears to castrate himself.

The Executioner

The Executioner, a man named Arthur, a physically intimidating employee of the Grand Balcony who helps enact The Judge’s fantasy. At heart a retiring soul who clings to the security of his job and his sycophantic relationship with Irma, he is shot in the head at the end of scene 5.

The Envoy

The Envoy, who wears an embassy uniform styled as a tunic and speaks enigmatically of The Queen in his first appearance in scene 7. Unaffected by the revolt, he advises Irma on matters of state once she assumes the role of The Queen.

The Man

The Man, a nervous and sloppily dressed client who stands before three mirrors as he awaits the whip and louse-infested wig that are his costume props. His reflections are played by three actors....

(This entire section contains 708 words.)

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As The Beggar, he cries “Long Live the Queen” in scene 8; as The Slave, he partakes in Roger’s fantasy at the Grand Balcony.

The Woman

The Woman, also called Rosine, The Penitent,

The Thief

The Thief, and

The Girl

The Girl, young female employees who interact with The Bishop, The Judge, and The General and The Man, respectively.

Three Men with Machine-Guns

Three Men with Machine-Guns, rebels who lead Chantal away from Roger in scene 6.

Three Photographers

Three Photographers, earnest young men dressed in black leather jackets and blue jeans who take profile shots of The Bishop, The General, and The Judge in act 7.


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Arthur Arthur (also known as The Executioner) works at the whorehouse, playing the Executioner and other roles in the male clientele’s fantasy. Irma was forced to hire him by George, the Chief of Police. Though she was reluctant at first, she came to rely on him. Arthur cares solely about his own interests and money. He goes to find George for Irma, only because she will give him money for silk shirts he has ordered. Arthur survives the rebellion in the street, only to be shot dead by a stray bullet when he returns to the Grand Balcony. He is laid out in the Funeral Studio inside the brothel.

The Bishop The Bishop is one of the clients at the Grand Balcony. He is not actually a bishop, but a customer who plays one in his fantasy. As a client, he is rather fussy, concerned that the details of his fantasy are perfect and that he will survive in the streets after he leaves. Later, when Irma plays the Queen at the Envoy’s request to hold onto the loyalty of the people, the Bishop plays his role for real for a short time. He enjoys the power that comes with it, though he is totally unprepared. He is dismissed by Irma when the Chief of Police decides to entomb himself and the revolution heats up again.

Carmen Carmen is Irma’s most loyal and favorite employee. At one time, Carmen worked as a whore in the brothel, but now only keeps the books and assists in preparing the studios for the clients’ fantasies. Carmen realizes the futility of the fantasies and can no longer do it, though Irma offers her a choice assignment. Carmen has a daughter who lives in the country. She desperately wants to see and be with her child, but she cannot. Carmen stays at the Grand Balcony to the end, even after it is bombed and the Chief of Police locks himself in his tomb. She regards this place as her lot in life.

Chantal Chantal worked as a whore at the Grand Balcony at one time. She left the brothel with Roger to join the rebellion. Chantal and Roger became lovers. In scene six, it is revealed that she has become a symbol of the rebellion. Though Roger does not want her to go, Chantal is chosen to represent the revolution and goes with some men to be present when the Royal Palace falls. Later, Chantal is assassinated at the Grand Balcony when Irma makes her appearances as the Queen on the brothel’s balcony. In death, Chantal is made to be a martyred saint for Irma as Queen.

Chief of Police The Chief of Police (also known as George) is Irma’s lover and protector. Rather self-centered, his primary focus is increasing his own power and importance. He does arrange to ensure the safety of the Grand Balcony. But he is upset through most of the play because no one who has come to the brothel has wanted to play him. George regards this as the ultimate symbol of his prestige in the eyes of the world. He has Irma build him a tomb, a preeminent symbol of honor for the kind of conqueror he aspires to be.

George does play a key role in putting down the rebellion, though he is annoyed that Irma, as the Queen, has a higher place than him. He is even more peeved that the men who play the Judge, the General, and the Bishop take their roles too seriously when they are forced to play them in real life as well. All these people cut into his ‘‘more real’’ power. After Roger comes in and asks to play the Chief of Police, George is satisfied, even though Roger castrates himself at the end. He decides to be locked in his tomb for 2,000 years, as the revolution begins again.

The Court Envoy A hard-to-understand character, the Envoy appears in Scene Seven enigmatically describing the situation in the Royal Palace. It finally becomes clear that the Queen is dead, and the Envoy con-

The ExecutionerSee Arthur

The General The General is one of the clients at the Grand Balcony. He is not really a general, but a customer who plays one in the fantasy he acts out. As a client, the General tries to take charge, but he is very selfinvolved and pompous. Later, when Irma plays the Queen at the Envoy’s request, the General plays his role for real for a short time. He enjoys the power that comes with it, and tries (and fails) to act like a general should. He is dismissed by Irma when the Chief of Police decides to entomb himself and the revolution heats up again.

GeorgeSee Chief of Police

Irma Irma (also known as The Queen) owns and runs the brothel, The Grand Balcony. She is first and foremost a businesswoman, concerned with keeping costs down while making customers happy. Irma is rather callous towards the feelings of her employees, as long as they are in fine physical form for their work. Her favorite employee is Carmen, who used to be a whore but now only does bookkeeping and handles details. Carmen is a source of information and reliable ally for Irma.

Irma becomes increasingly worried about the bloody revolution that is going on in the streets. She is worried that it will affect her business, if not shut her down entirely. Her protector and lover, George, the Chief of Police, promises to protect her and her business, but employees are killed and the Grand Balcony is damaged.

Because the Queen is dead, the Court Envoy calls on Irma to play the Queen to appease the masses. She takes on the role, and some of her clients continue to play their lofty roles. Though this seems to quell the rebellion temporarily, the revolution flares up again. After the Chief of Police decides to lock himself up in his tomb, Irma realizes this role is over and closes up the brothel, and will start it up again later.

The Judge The Judge is one of the clients at the Grand Balcony. He is not actually a judge, but a customer who plays one in his fantasy. As a client, the Judge is very into his role—to the point that he scares the whore who plays the thief—though the revolutionrelated events outside clutter his conscience. Later, when Irma plays the Queen, the Judge plays his role for real for a short time. He enjoys the power that comes with it, though he is flustered and unsure of himself. He is dismissed by Irma when the Chief of Police decides to entomb himself and the revolution heats up again.

The QueenSee Irma

Roger Roger was employed at the Grand Balcony as a plumber at one time. He became involved with Chantal, and is now part of the revolution. Though he supports that cause, he does not want Chantal to be the greater symbol of the rebellion. After she is assassinated and the revolution quelled (at least temporarily), Roger appears at the Grand Balcony. He wants to play the Chief of Police in his fantasy. He does so, but clumsily. He does not understand how he should act. When the fantasy is deemed over by Carmen, Roger refuses to end it and leave. He wants the destiny of the Chief of Police and himself to be intertwined. Roger castrates himself and is dragged out by Carmen.




Critical Essays