Beatrice-Joanna (beh-ah-TREES-hoh-AHN-yah), the beautiful daughter of Vermandero, a wealthy government official. Her sudden infatuation for Alsemero, a handsome Spaniard, precipitates her rapid moral degeneration, which culminates in the grotesque irony of her wedding night: She spends it with De Flores, a man whom she loathes, while her servant enjoys the husband for whom she entered on her career of deceit and murder. She proceeds boldly in her villainy and professes love she does not feel to procure De Flores’ help in the murder of her fiancé, Alonzo. She is so completely unaware of the implications of what she is doing that she is almost stunned when De Flores demands the fruits of this feigned love as his payment. Dying of the wounds he has inflicted on her, she wonders at the evil influence this strange lover has exerted over her, drawing her into his power in spite of her intense loathing of him.
De Flores (FLOH-rehs), her strange partner in crime, Vermandero’s servant. His life revolves around a single obsession, his passion for this young woman who shows him nothing but scorn and loathing. Although he is not convinced of the sincerity of Beatrice-Joanna’s blandishments, he sees in her request for help the means to satisfy his desire. Her wishes are, for him, sufficient justification for all of his crimes, and he dies defying the hell into which he has brought himself, satisfied by the few moments when he possessed her.
Vermandero (vehr-mahn-DEH-roh), Beatrice-Joanna’s father, the governor of the castle of Alicante. Although he seeks the best possible marriage for his daughter, he sternly expects her to follow his wishes. Struck by the full horror of the crimes of his daughter and De Flores, he sees himself and his companions circumscribed within the hell the guilty pair have created.
Alsemero (ahls-MEH-roh), a Spanish nobleman who falls in love with Beatrice-Joanna at first sight, wins her father’s favor, and quickly weds her after Alonzo’s strange disappearance. He dabbles in magic and produces a liquid to test the virtue of his betrothed, for he is determined not to marry her unless she can be proved chaste. He, too, is appalled by his wife’s villainy and sees only justice in her death. His sympathy is reserved for his father-in-law, to whom he offers himself as a son to replace the lost daughter.
Alonzo de Piracquo
Alonzo de Piracquo (pee-RAHK-kwoh), Beatrice-Joanna’s husband, a trusting man who is insensitive to his bride’s lack of feeling for him. He goes blindly to his death, completely unaware of De Flores’ villainous intentions.
Tomaso (toh-MAH-soh), Alonzo’s brother, who perceives at a glance that Beatrice-Joanna is indifferent to Alonzo and warns him of the danger of a loveless marriage. Certain that his brother was murdered, he presses the investigation of Alonzo’s death. His instinctive impressions of individuals are invariably accurate. He is overwhelmed with a sense of evil and corruption when he meets De Flores.
Jasperino (hahs-peh-REE-noh), Alsemero’s servant, sensitive to his master’s moods and watchful over his affairs. It is he who discovers the bizarre liaison between De Flores and Beatrice-Joanna and brings about their deaths.
Diaphanta (dee-ah-FAHN-tah), Beatrice-Joanna’s waiting woman, who is virtuous in spite of her witty, worldly-wise conversation. Ignorant of the fate that De Flores has in store for her, she agrees to substitute for her mistress on her wedding night.
Alibius (ah-LEE-bee-ews), a jealous old doctor who keeps his lovely young wife confined at home with his patients, a crew of fools and madmen.
Lollio (LOH -yee-oh), his servant, who is responsible for keeping order among the inmates of the house, watching his mistress as well as the doctor’s patients. His sharp eyes quickly see through the disguises of Antonio and Franciscus, but he disregards his master’s orders to seek money...
(The entire section is 2,332 words.)