Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Although the god Indra is not present on stage, he is important within the drama as the father of Agnes and as a symbol and concept. Within Hinduism and Buddhism, Indra is a sky god, somewhat like the Greek Zeus, associated with weather and the heavens. In Indian sacred literature, he has two daughters.
Daughter of Indra: Agnes
This daughter of Indra, incarnated as a human woman Agnes, is the protagonist of the play. In her human form, the Daughter interacts with humans and shares their passions and suffering, functioning almost as a Christ-like figure, a divine being who lives and suffers in mortal form. She is trying to learn about humanity’s pain while also attempting to uphold her beliefs that love can overcome any obstacle. Her experience leads her to compassion for human suffering. The other characters in the play are ones she encounters in her sojourn as a human and are, in a sense, part of her dream of mortal life from which she awakens at the end of the play as she returns to Heaven.
The Officer, named Alfred, represents the romantic belief in the saving power of love. He is an idealist who believes that love will provide a solution to how to be happy in a world in which injustice and suffering are common. He becomes disillusioned over the course of the play, always unsatisfied with life because his love for the opera singer, Victoria, is unrequited. Believing that love can save him, he attempts to bring Agne to Fairhaven, a romantic location. Along the way, he ends up in a hellscape called Foulstrand which is the polar opposite of his romantic ideals.
Axel, who marries Agnes, is a figure who also represents the goodness of humanity. Although himself a victim of injustice, he attempts to protect the poor and powerless and has a strong sense of duty. He is portrayed as a Jesus figure: he suffers on behalf of the less fortunate to uplift them. The Lawyer is a realist. He does not have a romanticized view of humanity but is instead especially aware of its shortcomings. He and Agnes eventually marry.
This character represents literature as the human striving toward the spiritual. Although aware of the often flawed nature of the world and its inhabitants, the Poet believes in the possibility of redemption and sees suffering as having a spiritual purpose rather than simply being pointless misery. The Poet often experiences these lofty, spiritual thoughts and a longing for something beyond human life on Earth. To ground himself after these revelations, he bathes in mud and is protected from the flies in his vicinity.
The four Deans in this play represent the futility of a particular type of human knowledge and pride. They represent medicine, theology, law, and philosophy. Petty and arrogant, they are blind to spiritual truths. Their haughty elitism in their respective fields is contrasted with their lack of understanding of much else outside of themselves.