Bérenger the First
Bérenger the First, the king. Costumed in a deep crimson coat and a crown, and carrying a scepter, Bérenger is both a human and a mythic figure. He stole fire from the gods, invented gunpowder, and split the atom. He built Rome, New York, Moscow, and Geneva and wrote tragedies and comedies under the name of Shakespeare. On this day, however, he is dying, and his kingdom and all nature are likewise coming to an end. Bérenger struggles mightily against death, passes through many stages, and finally fades into the mist.
Queen Marguerite, Bérenger’s first wife. Queen Marguerite’s cloak is a bit shabby and her expression is severe, for she is the older wife, no longer loved. She constantly forces the reality of death on Bérenger and assumes some of his power as she leads him to his death. She disappears into nothingness at the play’s end.
Queen Marie, Bérenger’s second wife, who is first in his affection. Younger and more beautiful than Marguerite, Queen Marie wears jewels, and her cloak comes from a high-class fashion designer. Marie loves Bérenger and implores him to live, but her power over him diminishes as he moves away from her toward death. Seemingly at Marguerite’s command, Queen Marie is the first of the characters to disappear.
The Doctor, who is also the king’s surgeon, executioner, bacteriologist, and astrologer. The Doctor is dressed in red, wears a pointed hat with stars on it, and carries a telescope. He joins with Queen Marguerite in insisting that Bérenger will die. As the death nears, however, he backs out of the room, bowing and scraping and excusing himself.
Juliette, the domestic help in the palace and also a registered nurse. An overworked and blunt-speaking serving woman, Juliette nevertheless shows sympathy for the dying king and tries to help him. “We’ll stay with you,” she affirms just before she disappears.
The Guard, who is stationed in the royal palace. An overworked and overly earnest figure carrying a halberd, the Guard turns all action into official proclamations. The Guard lists all the king’s deeds and is exceedingly loyal. “I swear we’ll never leave you, Majesty,” he says just before he disappears.