Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The Dwarf

The Dwarf, the narrator. He is twenty-six-inches tall but of good physical proportions, save for a slightly oversized head, and of exceptional strength. His wrinkled and beardless face, bristly red hair, and broad but low brow make him look older but less diabolical than he is. He is addressed once as Piccolino, but this instance may be a descriptive mode of address (it means “little fellow” in Italian) and not his actual name. His service to the Prince consists largely in doing the Prince’s dirty work. His penchant is for treachery, violence, bloodshed, and evil. He is incapable of love, and he never laughs. In his admiration of the Prince’s amoral pursuit of power, he personifies Machiavellianism. His own brutality is manifest in his killing of two dwarfs; beheading a kitten; poisoning a rival of the Prince, along with the rival’s personal attendants and a courtier who loves the Princess; and causing the beheading of the young man loved by the Prince’s daughter, who then, grief-stricken, drowns herself.

The Prince

The Prince, the ruler of an Italian state. He is modeled on Cesare Borgia, duke of Romagna and the exemplar for Niccolo Machiavelli in his book The Prince (1560). He is unscrupulous in his quest for power. He dispenses with the services of the Dwarf after the deaths of his daughter and wife. When the Dwarf refuses under torture to disclose the nature of his consultations with the Prince’s wife, the Prince has him chained in a dungeon; the Dwarf is confident, however, that the Prince cannot be without his Dwarf for long.


(The entire section is 666 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Although his position permits him access to privileged information, the Dwarf is about as unreliable as a narrator can be. Stunted emotionally as well as physically, he imagines himself central to the life of the court, when in fact, if the Prince notices him at all, he considers the Dwarf a disposable lackey. “Reality is the only thing that matters,” declares the Dwarf, who admits that he cannot perceive the stars or value dreams. He also concedes that he cannot understand love, yet love, whether that of Angelica for Giovanni or that of Teodora for God, is crucial to the events he narrates. The Dwarf’s version of reality is so circumscribed as to be almost solipsistic, like Pä Lagerkvist’s final image of him, chained in the darkness of a solitary cell. Some of the Dwarf’s most confident assertions are immediately refuted by events, as when, seeing them during the military truce, he proclaims that Angelica and Giovanni, clandestine lovers, are obviously bored with each other. “It is difficult to understand those whom one does not hate,” says the Dwarf, who succeeds in hating everyone but the Prince and understanding no one, including himself.

Bernardo, a brilliant scientist, artist, and inventor, is a fictional version of Leonardo da Vinci and, more generally, the archetypal Renaissance man. Animated by boundless curiosity, he might have adopted the Humanist motto “humani nihil a me alienum puto” (nothing that is human is alien to me)....

(The entire section is 425 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Ramsey, Roger. “Pä Lagerkvist: The Dwarf and Dogma,” in Mosaic. V (1972), pp. 97-106.

Scandinavica. X, no. 1 (1971). Special Lagerkvist issue.

Spector, Robert Donald. Pä Lagerkvist, 1973.

Vowles, Richard P. “The Fiction of Pä Lagerkvist,” in Western Humanities Review. VIII (Spring, 1954), pp. 111-119.

Weathers, Winston. Pä Lagerkvist: A Critical Essay, 1968.