Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 367
Charles Condomine, a novelist in his forties. Charles is bright, sophisticated, articulate, and debonair but somewhat at the mercy of his wives, past and present. His interest in spiritualism as a subject for a novel leads Charles to ask Madame Arcati to dinner and a séance. He is skeptical but becomes a believer when the ghost of his first wife appears—and stays. From then on, poor Charles is a shuttlecock between the women battling for his affections: Ruth, his living wife, and Elvira, his dead one. Charles prefers Elvira.
Ruth Condomine, Charles’s second wife. Like her husband, Ruth is witty and sophisticated, and she is quite the society matron. Ruth is a bit stuffy and a little predictable. She is convinced that Charles has lost his mind when Elvira appears, because at first she can neither see nor hear Elvira. Throughout much of the play, Ruth acts as a concerned wife, trying to restore Charles to normalcy.
Elvira, the ghost of Charles’s first wife. Elvira is gray from head to toe, and only Charles can see or hear her. In life, Elvira was spirited, outgoing, wild, and carefree. In death, she is no different; she has cocktails with Genghis Khan. She does love Charles, if somewhat casually, and is jealous of Ruth. Her attempts to monopolize the attention and conversation of Charles after she reappears form the central tension of the play.
Madame Arcati, the local spiritualist and medium. Elderly but spry, Madame Arcati bicycles into the play wearing slightly outlandish clothes and talking to an eight-year-old contact on the other side. As everyone soon finds out, Madame Arcati is no fraud. She truly is in contact with the other world and inadvertently is the “medium” through which Elvira is called back to this one. The problem is that Madame Arcati cannot figure out how to return Elvira to the other side.
Edith, the maid. Edith plays a tiny part in the bulk of the play but turns out to be a central character. Edith, not Charles, has the extrasensory powers that called Elvira back from the dead, and only Edith can make Elvira return.
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