Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 944

Michael Marthraun

Michael Marthraun (MAR -thrown), a grasping and stingy man in late middle age who has the good fortune to own some peat bogs that will increase his modest fortune. Eager to squeeze every ounce of profit from his peat, Michael bitterly resists Sailor Mahan’s efforts to raise...

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Michael Marthraun

Michael Marthraun (MAR-thrown), a grasping and stingy man in late middle age who has the good fortune to own some peat bogs that will increase his modest fortune. Eager to squeeze every ounce of profit from his peat, Michael bitterly resists Sailor Mahan’s efforts to raise the price of hauling the peat to town, an act that would allow Mahan to pay his drivers a more respectable wage. Michael has recently remarried, but he resents his young wife, Lorna, especially when she dares to disagree with him and support the drivers’ pleas for higher wages. He is even more suspicious of the modern ways of his lovely daughter, Loreleen, whose short dresses, nylons, and cosmetics make her a disturbing presence in the parish. Michael is particularly bedeviled by the mysterious enchantments of the mythic rooster, or cock, a symbol of sexuality.

Sailor Mahan

Sailor Mahan (MAY-an), at one time a sailor but now the owner of a fleet of lorries (trucks). He is a middle-aged man whose experience in various seaports has made him less puritanical than Michael. Though more tolerant of Loreleen than are Marthraun and the priest, he is also a hypocrite and a lecher. When Loreleen desperately needs a loan to leave the parish, he arranges a meeting with her but uses the occasion to attempt to seduce her; she is given a reprieve by the intervention of an angry mob. Mahan is another person bedeviled by the appearances of the mysterious demoniac rooster.

The Mysterious Cock

The Mysterious Cock, a magical black rooster that appears and disappears somewhat capriciously. Representing the power of sexuality, he bothers and torments the puritanical men of the parish of Nyadnanave, causing them to hear strange sounds and see frightening sights, such as whiskey boiling and dishes being thrown about. His most important moment comes when he causes a tremendous wind in scene 3.

Lorna Marthraun

Lorna Marthraun, Michael’s pretty young wife. She is a woman of spirit who supports her stepdaughter, Loreleen, and finally rebels against Michael’s mean-spirited stinginess. Lorna apparently married Michael only because her paralytic sister, Julia, needed money for a trip to Lourdes, where she hoped she would find a miraculous cure. At the end of the play, Lorna decides to leave the parish when she sees that Loreleen has been driven away.

Loreleen Marthraun

Loreleen Marthraun, Michael’s daughter by his first marriage. Loreleen is a lovely young woman of about twenty who has adopted more modern manners and clothes as the result of living in London. Her makeup, short skirts, and nylons make her a bewitching presence in the dour parish of Nyadnanave. Many of the people, including her father and the priest, consider her to be so disturbing that they begin to believe that she is a witch. After a mob led by Father Domineer tries to stone her for alleged sexual immorality and after Sailor Mahan tries to seduce her, she packs her belongings and leaves on foot, without shoes.

Marion

Marion, the maid in the Marthraun household, a saucy and pretty young woman of about twenty-five. She is a familiar character type who comments satirically on the action, and her charms contribute to the sexual confusion of the puritanical males. She is loved by the Messenger and loves him in return; however, this romance is not sufficient to keep her in the parish. She follows Loreleen and Lorna into exile at the end of the play.

The Messenger

The Messenger, Robin Adair, the bringer of news and telegrams who serenades Marion on his accordion. A jaunty young man, he is sometimes more like an incarnation of the Greek god Hermes than a real person; however, he can merely observe the foolish behavior of the men of the parish, not change it. Robin comforts Loreleen when she is persecuted by the villagers and shows the ability to control the demoniac cock with ease. At the end of the play, he pronounces judgment on Michael Marthraun and prepares to follow Marion to a more tolerant environment, leaving the parish to its folly.

Father Domineer

Father Domineer, the parish priest of Nyadnanave. The priest is a harsh and brutal man who views Loreleen, with her modern manners and clothes, as the veritable incarnation of Satan. A middle-aged bigot and reactionary, he strikes one of Mahan’s truck drivers and kills him, merely because the man is living out of wedlock with a local woman. After leading an angry mob that abuses Loreleen, he confronts her and demands that she repent and abandon her liberated ways. Father Domineer sees the demoniac cock as his mortal enemy and tries to exorcise the unruly rooster from the parish.

Shanaar

Shanaar (shah-NAR), an elderly itinerant sage who travels about the parish spreading suspicion and dark peasant superstitions. Full of pagan fears of mysterious forces, Shanaar advises Michael to ignore whatever he cannot understand or finds frightening.

One-Eyed Larry

One-Eyed Larry, an ignorant peasant youth who follows Father Domineer around and tries to assist him at the exorcism.

The Sergeant

The Sergeant, a beefy middle-aged man who represents the civil authority of the parish. He pursues the demoniac rooster across the country but is embarrassed by losing his trousers in the mighty wind conjured up by the cock’s supernatural power.

Julia

Julia, Lorna’s younger sister, a paralytic girl without much time to live. In desperation, she sets out on a trip to Lourdes, hoping for a miraculous cure by the Virgin. Despite Father Domineer’s blessing, she returns home in despair with her condition unchanged. As she faces a bleak future, the Messenger counsels her to have courage.

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