Marcella Ardeati Sarte
Marcella Ardeati Sarte (mahr-CHEHL-lah ahr-DEHAH-tee SAHR-teh), Dr. Alessandro Sarte’s wife. She is separated from him and living with Massimo Iacofleff. She declares herself as realizing her vocation in her revolt against authority, law, and justice, as established by rulers such as Julius Caesar and Benito Mussolini. Marcella’s true vocation is to feel allied to all those who are humiliated, oppressed, and committed to rebellion. She is demoniacally bound to her mission of assassinating Mussolini. Her harshness is in response to that dictator’s authoritarian willfulness. Destruction fascinates Marcella, and Dr. Alessandro Sarte repeatedly sees her as a medusa or a vampire.
Dr. Alessandro Sarte
Dr. Alessandro Sarte, a famous surgeon and the husband of Marcella. He has failed in both of his functions, however, as he cannot heal Lina Chiari’s breast cancer and he cannot understand his wife. The doctor hides behind the mask of social success and exploits his patients financially. He seems to be cold, hard, bitter, and distressed. He likes hunting for deer with royalty and driving beautiful sports cars to attract women. For him, all women are interchangeable. Dr. Sarte, who sees the film Sir Julius while sitting next to Angiola, makes love to her but despises her.
Ruggiero di Credo
Ruggiero di Credo (rew-gee-EHR-oh dee KRAY-doh), the former Italian consul to Biscra. He married a vulgar Jewish Algerian woman, and they have two children, Rosalia and Angiola. His baroque domain of Gemera, in Sicily, which he inherited, is decaying. Faithful to the Bourbons, he disdained the dynasty of the Savoys; living in Sicily, he had no interest in the fall of papal Rome to the north. His hats resemble either halos or helmets. When he joins the army for four years, his wife betrays him. The splendor of Gemera remains but a dream for him and his family, and after it is destroyed, they leave for Rome, in the hope of exploiting his aristocratic ancestors and relatives. Life has stolen his dreams, but it is Ruggiero’s constant misinterpretation of reality that leads to his isolation in an asylum, then death.
Rosalia di Credo
Rosalia di Credo, the uneducated daughter of Ruggiero di Credo who becomes a votive candle vendor in Rome. Rosalia remains devoted to the dream of her past, to Gemera, and to both her father and her sister, Angiola. Her own wishes are seldom granted, and her solitary destiny without love and happiness is her immediate reality. Rosalia and Angiola propose two opposed ways of understanding life. While Rosalia takes care of her father until she has to put him into an asylum, she continues to weep for all the sorrows of love, and she suffers for both her father and her sister. Her life is sustained by the hope that her sister will return to her, when, in fact, Angiola will destroy herself in many love affairs.
Angiola (ahn-gee-OH-lah), Rosalia’s sister. Although educated in a fashionable school run by aristocratic nuns in Florence, Angiola takes lovers and marries men from all classes, from tailor to maharaja. She is unfaithful to all of them—even to her husband Paolo Farina, who pays the mortgage for Gemera until she leaves him.
Paolo Farina (pa-OH-loh fah-REE-nah), a young lawyer. He is married to Angiola, but she leaves him for another lover. Paolo then immediately hopes to possess Lina Chiari.
Lina Chiari (LEEN-ah kee-AH-ree), a prostitute. She soon realizes that true love cannot be bought. When Lina discovers that she has breast cancer, her future seems to be stripped of all hope. Her lipstick and artificial smile cover her despair.
Old Giulio Lovisi
Old Giulio Lovisi (jee-EW-lee-oh loh-VEE -see), the owner of a cosmetics store and a villa in Ostia. He is married to Giuseppa, and their daughter, Giovanna, is married to the writer Carlo Stevo, a socialist whom Giulio would like to “own.” Carlo disappears while in jail for crimes against the state. Giulio often lights votive...
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