Last Updated on May 28, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 324
The Demon is a mysterious, unnamed figure who manifests as a human man in order to claim Tamara. He resembles Satan in that he was cast out of heaven. Rather than hoping to re-enter heaven, he becomes obsessed with mortal pleasures, such as love. Making Tamara the object...
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The Demon is a mysterious, unnamed figure who manifests as a human man in order to claim Tamara. He resembles Satan in that he was cast out of heaven. Rather than hoping to re-enter heaven, he becomes obsessed with mortal pleasures, such as love. Making Tamara the object of his desires, he tries his utmost to seduce her and thereby possess her soul along with her body. Despite his evil intents, he has sympathetic aspects, especially his alienation from society and his sufferings after having been rejected from heaven.
Tamara, the heroine, is a beautiful Caucasian princess. Her father, Prince Goudal, is a bandit chief. Her purity and joy in life compliment her lovely features. The plot follows Tamara from the eve of her wedding, through her fiancé’s death, to her decision to join a religious order, and, finally, to the Demon's attempted temptation of her. The Demon uses his handsome appearance, pitiful situation, and claims of repentance to seduce Tamara. Her decision to enter the convent occurs in part to escape his unnatural power, but he pursues her even there. Although their love is not consummated, the Demon claims she has sinned by loving him. She is ultimately saved, in part because of the guardian angel’s belief in her innocence.
The Guardian Angel
The guardian angel, resisting the Demon’s arguments, ultimately intervenes to save Tamara. He conveys that the Demon has been damned.
Prince Goudal is Tamara’s father. Although he leads a band of robbers, his religious beliefs lead him to support Tamara in entering the convent. After she dies, he builds a church in her honor.
The Young Bridegroom
The young bridegroom is engaged to Tamara. Riding to the wedding, he is distracted by the Demon and fails to follow local religious customs. He is killed while chasing a bandit.
The aged guardian, the convent’s night watchman, serves to record Tamara’s death and its significance.
Last Updated on May 14, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 665
The Demon, an unnamed demoniac power whose identity is a matter of some controversy, as Russian has no articles (hence, he may be either “the” or “a” demon, though commentators tend to agree that he is a specific demon). Like Lucifer or Satan, he has been expelled from heaven. His role apparently is to lead humans into evil and death, but unlike John Milton’s Satan, he longs for the lost paradise and has the capacity to fall in love with a mortal (Satan perceives Eve’s beauty and is filled with envy, but he has no romantic interest in her). Unlike Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Mephistopheles, the Demon is bored with the prospect of an eternity spent in deluding puny human beings. Although he is indifferent to the beauties of nature, he proves susceptible for some reason to the beauty of Tamara, and despite his coldness and his vicious will to destroy, he is somewhat sympathetic. Some commentators insist that Lermontov identifies himself with the Demon, so that his loneliness and alienation combined with his desire for beauty and love cause him to appeal to the reader even as he appeals, fatally, to Tamara. In his seduction of Tamara, the Demon shows himself to be a master of rhetoric.
Tamara, a beautiful Caucasian princess with bright, shining eyes. She is the only daughter of a famous bandit chief, Prince Goudal, a minor character in the poem. Her mother appears to have died. As she prepares for her wedding, she shows herself to be a graceful dancer, and she is described as “freedom’s joyous, willful pet.” She has misgivings about her new life, and when her intended is killed, her sorrow seems minimal. The Demon’s distant “voice” appeals to her quite swiftly, and she is moved by his “unearthly” good looks. Nevertheless, she does perceive that her lover is demoniac, and she has herself committed to a convent in order to avoid his almost vampiric attraction. Passionate by nature, she is unable to resist the Demon’s love, and when he confronts her guardian angel, the Demon is able to insist that she already has sinned in her heart and belongs to him. She succumbs to temptation not simply because he flatters her and offers her pleasure and power but also because she accepts the sincerity of his love for her, sympathizes with his forlorn condition, and believes his oath, in which he swears that he desires reconciliation with God. She is saved because she has been “severely tried” and because she “yearned for earthly love but lost it.”
The guardian angel
The guardian angel, a generic figure. The angel makes only a feeble effort to defend Tamara against the Demon when he comes to the convent to seduce her, presumably because she has indeed “sinned,” as the Demon claims. At the end, however, the angel disdainfully repudiates the Demon’s claims to Tamara’s soul and indicates that the Demon once again has been sentenced to damnation.
Prince Goudal, Tamara’s devoted father and a Caucasian robber chief. He is a conventionally religious man who grants his daughter’s wish to enter a convent, even though he would presumably prefer to marry her to another suitor after her intended is killed. Grief-stricken at Tamara’s death, he erects a church high in the mountains and eventually is buried there.
The young bridegroom
The young bridegroom, Tamara’s betrothed, who appears briefly in the poem as he rides toward his wedding in such haste that, tempted by the Demon with thoughts of his beloved, he passes up the local custom of praying at a roadside shrine. When he impulsively pursues an Ossetian bandit, he is shot.
The aged guardian
The aged guardian, who serves the convent as a night watchman. He appears very briefly in the poem so that the impact of Tamara’s mysterious death will be recorded at what one might call the subconscious level.