Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 644

Paul Rockoffer

Paul Rockoffer, a disillusioned artist. In a time of increasing dehumanization and mechanization of society, Rockoffer finds the pursuit of art meaningless. Forty-six years old, the fair-haired artist, dressed in black, mourns the waste of his life and the isolation and futility of his existence as an artist. In the face of eternal gray boredom, Rockoffer succumbs to the enticements of bourgeois contentment in his engagement to Ella. He is, however, torn by past yearnings as represented by the sensual statue. At the same time, Pope Julius II offers him a life of total devotion to art and Hyrcan IV attempts to convince him of the possibilities of absolute power. Despite his waverings between a life of art and a life of power, Rockoffer (having killed Hyrcan IV), as Hyrcan V, intends to create a reality in which art, philosophy, love, and science will become “one huge mishmash,” thereby fulfilling the Nietzschean notion of the artist as superman.

Julius II

Julius II, a sixteenth century pope and patron of the arts. A projection of Rockoffer’s mind, he is a visitor from the past and represents Renaissance values of strength, intelligence, commitment, and belief in individualism. As a patron of the arts in his support of such artists as Raphael and Michelangelo, Julius II believes that art transcends all ideological absolutes. Dressed in the Renaissance robes from his portrait by Titian, he serves as a reminder of the waning of Humanism and individualism. At times, his viewpoint is caricatured; in the face of contemporary choices, he chooses a more pragmatic point of view.

Hyrcan IV

Hyrcan IV, the king of Hyrcania. Hyrcan IV is the ruler and creator of the imaginary kingdom of Hyrcania, constructed to justify his synthetic philosophy of power. An ultimate pragmatist and believer in the absolutes of power, Hyrcan IV represents the coming age of numbing dictatorship over individual creativity. His costume projects the trappings of power: He appears carrying a sword and wearing a purple cloak and a helmet with a red plume; underneath the cloak, a golden garment glimmers. As he throws off these garments in the last scene and appears in a well-tailored cutaway, the sham of his Hyrcanian worldview is revealed as yet another ideology that pragmatically suits selfish desires.

Alice d’Or

Alice d’Or, the statue. Dressed in a tight-fitting dress, the fabric of which resembles alligator skin, the blonde, twenty-six-year-old statue reclines on a pedestal on her stomach. As Rockoffer’s former mistress, she attempts to entice him by recalling their former sensuality; however, at this point she exists only as a symbol of his atrophied desire.


Ella, Rockoffer’s eighteen-year-old fiancée. Ella represents bourgeois domesticity; she comes in carrying parcels to furnish their small apartment, with its small gold sofa where their matrimonial bliss will be lived out in the daily rituals of meals and pleasantries. She is the play’s cuttlefish, an insidious predator who clouds perspective by diffusing an inky substance. In the last scene, she sheds her bourgeois limitations, showing the courage to join Rockoffer in his attempt to build a new Hyrcania.

Two Matrons

Two Matrons, one of them Ella’s mother, the other Hyrcan’s. Both mothers project the sentimental belief in the right of mothers to be taken care of by their children. Both are taken along to Hyrcania by Rockoffer: Hyrcan IV’s mother, as Rockoffer’s adopted mother, and Ella’s, as mother-in-law.

Two Old Gentlemen

Two Old Gentlemen, Ella’s uncles. They are minor characters representing bourgeois complacency in the face of social change.


Grumpus, the footman. He is old and wears a gray livery coat with large silver buttons and a gray top hat. In his acceptance of the transition of power lies a suggestion that there is no essential change as far as he is concerned.

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