Urbain Grandier (ur-BAYN grahn-DYAY), the vicar of St. Peter’s Church in Loudun, France. Grandier is a brilliant, proud, and sensuous man who is obviously superior, intellectually and emotionally, to most of his parishioners, yet he is a persistently religious person as well. He struggles with his libertine impulses and passionate appreciation of physical beauty, which threaten to deify flesh over spirit. He makes powerful enemies in a deliberate attempt to bring about his own destruction, to test his capacity for suffering and as a way of doing penance to God for his rebellious spirit. Women are drawn to him, a fact of which he often takes advantage but that ultimately destroys him. When he is accused of witchcraft, he receives the excruciating trial he sought, enduring torture and painful death with a fortitude and grace equal to his former arrogance and sensuality.
Sewerman, a workman with whom Grandier often converses in the street. He is a foil for Grandier’s philosophic meditations on the nature of humanity, casting doubt on Grandier’s aspirations and comparing human beings to walking sewer systems. His is a materialistic and skeptical but honest voice that Grandier respects.
Sister Jeanne of the Angels
Sister Jeanne of the Angels (zhahn), the prioress of St. Ursula’s Convent, the ultimate weapon for Grandier’s destruction, though one he did not choose. He never meets the pathetic, hunchbacked mother superior, except to decline an invitation to be her father confessor. She has observed him longingly, however, from the grating of her barren room. His crime against her is the culmination of a more pervasive one to which she is particularly vulnerable—part of the...
(The entire section is 754 words.)