Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 708


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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. 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,...

(The entire section contains 1963 words.)

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Critical Essays