Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 576
Lord Claverton, formerly Richard Ferry, the “elder statesman” who occupies the center of this drama. He has spent his life climbing the social ladder, first through marriage to Lady Claverton, whose name he adopted, and then through politics and public service. Unfortunately, this climbing has led him to discard or step on people as he has found necessary and has resulted in his becoming a hollow man. As a young man, he ran over a corpse with his car and never faced the police to clear himself. He also had a brief affair with Maisie Batterson, whom he later refused to marry, at the price of a lawsuit that was settled out of court. At the beginning of the drama, he is disillusioned about his accomplishments as a public servant. As he encounters his ghosts from the past—including Fred Culverwell, Maisie Batterson, and Michael Claverton-Ferry—he learns to confront his own hollowness, confesses his sins, and becomes a more real person. In the end, he becomes like Oedipus at Colonus as he was translated from this life to the next.
Monica Claverton-Ferry, Lord Claverton’s daughter, whose name means “nun” in Italian. She represents selfless love as she postpones her engagement and marriage to help her dying father. Monica proves herself to be deeply loving of her father when she discovers his past failures and still accepts him. She represents Lord Claverton’s capacity for genuine love.
Michael Claverton-Ferry, Lord Claverton’s son, who has been badly spoiled by his mother. He is a very manipulative and irresponsible spendthrift, continually excusing his own failings as the product of other people’s shortcomings, especially his father’s. In the course of the drama, he reveals his utter contempt for his father. He seeks to leave England, where his father is well known, and escape to some place, like San Marco, where he can learn how to live by his wits in a less than scrupulous society. Michael represents the irresponsible, selfish side of his father.
Charles Hemington, the fiancé of Monica Claverton-Ferry. Charles is a very patient and helpful man. He supports Monica and Lord Claverton in facing the latter’s ghosts, and he creates with them a triangle of love.
Federico Gomez, formerly Fred Culverwell, a college friend of Lord Claverton. As a young man in Oxford, Fred was poor and greatly enamored of Richard Ferry’s expensive habits of smoking and drinking. In an effort to support his expensive habits, Fred took to stealing and forgery, which eventually led to his imprisonment and exile from England. In the South American country of San Marco, Fred changed his name to Señor Gomez and became well established, probably through corrupt activities. His effort to blackmail Lord Claverton into befriending him once again is cunningly sinister. In seeking to tutor Michael Claverton-Ferry, Señor Gomez exacts a terrible revenge on Lord Claverton.
Mrs. Carghill, formerly Maisie Batterson and also known as Maisie Montjoy, a long-forgotten girlfriend of Lord Claverton. She once filed a lawsuit against Richard Ferry for refusing to marry her after suggesting an engagement. As an act of revenge, she keeps all of his love letters and reads them over and over, dreaming of a time when she can use them to blackmail Lord Claverton emotionally. She joins Señor Gomez in acting out revenge through corrupting Lord Claverton’s son, Michael.