Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 426
Emilia Galotti is an attractive young woman who awakens the interest of the work’s antagonist, Prince Hettore Gonzaga. She is the prize over which male characters in the work, such as the prince and her father, compete throughout, and she fits perfectly the medieval archetype of the feminine, as shown by her submissive reaction to being kidnapped.
Prince Hettore Gonzaga
This lecherous prince has made many enemies due to his evil ways—not only political enemies, such as Emilia’s father and her fiancé, but also personal enemies, such as his former lover Countess Orsina. He is a capable schemer, endeavoring to disguise his true intentions with Emilia by making out he is acting in her best interests. He is dependent to a great extent, however, on his intelligent and devious servant, the Marquis Marinelli.
Emilia’s father is a soldier with nationalist beliefs, having opposed the prince’s endeavor to occupy his homeland in the past. His decision to kill his daughter rather than see her sexually assaulted reflects his belief in strong principles being more important than love or other human emotions. He is portrayed as winning a moral victory at the culmination of the work in that while he has lost both his land and his daughter, he has at least deprived his enemy of the latter and can die with his honor intact.
Emilia’s mother evokes a different kind of feminine archetype than her daughter. Where Emilia is submissive and passive, Claudia is frantic and highly emotional, especially when her daughter is kidnapped. Her accusal of the Marquis Marinelli demonstrates her courage and a keen understanding of the intentions and motives of others.
The Marquis Marinelli
The prince’s chamberlain, this character is the brains behind his master, devising the plan to kidnap Emilia and successfully heading off her father when he comes to rescue his daughter.
Emilia’s betrothed, the count is murdered for his defiance of the prince. He has a keen intuition for other people’s intentions, as demonstrated by his seeing through the prince’s orders that he go on a mission on his wedding day.
The countess was once involved in a happy and reciprocal relationship with the prince. His dismissal of her on seeing Emilia leaves her bitter and disillusioned, and she even shows herself capable of murder when she plans to stab him. She is instrumental in the work’s climax, when she informs Emilia’s father of the prince’s true intentions.