Ysé, a wife and mother. Thirty years old, beautiful, and the mother of two children, Ysé is a bundle of contradictions: She is a pragmatist and a dreamer, she is strong and weak, and she is free and yet easily controlled. Lonely, fickle, passionate, guilty, and driven, she struggles to find her place in the world and yet remains always aware of the unsuitable nature of each choice she makes.
Mesa, the commissioner of customs in China. In his thirties, Mesa is of medium height, rather undistinguished physically, and not particularly handsome. A successful government officer, he is plagued by his awareness of the superficiality of his success. He has attempted to renounce the world to seek spiritual fulfillment but felt rejected by God. A virgin and a loner, he is an unhappy person who has a highly philosophical perspective on life. His meeting with Ysé seems an act of destiny, and the attraction between the two of them is the motivating action for the play.
Amalric, a businessman. Perhaps forty years old, Amalric has no distinguishing physical qualities. He is a realist among a group of dreamers. Though in love with Ysé, he is not controlled by the passion of love. He seeks a means to make money to live comfortably, and he is not controlled by strict ethical or moral codes. In act 3, he is living with Ysé, even though she is legally married to de Ciz and has a child by Mesa.
De Ciz, an adventurer and entrepreneur. Married to Ysé, he is young and adventurous, though without a great sense of personal strength. Although he is intelligent and clever, he is easily manipulated by both Ysé and Mesa because of his need for risk, riches, and success.