Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 795
Priest Grigoris, the priest of Lycovrissi. He is a cruel man who compromises God and the gospels for his own ends. He vents his rage at unexpected times and in inappropriate settings. He indulges his gluttony at his parishioners’ expense. He jealously protects his position as sole Christian leader. Without compassion, he orders Fotis, a priest and leader of refugees fleeing Turkish cruelty, to take his people elsewhere. To frighten them, he announces an outbreak of cholera. Grigoris tries every trick to advance his own interests. He accuses Michelis and Manolios of stealing food from Archon Patriarcheas’ cellar to feed refugees. His approval of his daughter’s marriage to the archon’s son is a political move to enhance his political power.
Manolios, the most interesting character in this novel. He is betrothed to the chief magistrate’s illegitimate daughter Lenio. He is a handsome, well-liked, and good-hearted shepherd chosen to play Christ in the forthcoming Easter Passion Play. He tries all manner of purification to become worthy of the role. The young shepherd casts away all worldly things and appears saintlike to villagers. Eventually, Manolios takes his role even more seriously, trying to engage in Christ-like projects, one of which is to help Fotis’ desperate people. Manolios leads them to the top of Mount Sarakina, where they can settle in caves protected from wind and cold. He camps there and begins his purification process. He remains alone, fighting the desires of the flesh. He is successful in fighting his weaknesses, but his dreams are full of sinful imagery involving the village harlot, Katerina. His face breaks out in putrid sores. He tells his friends that the sores are given by God as punishment for his lewd dreams. He believes he must suffer martyrdom. He offers to give his life to save the elders of the village from being killed by Agha. He falsely claims he is the unknown killer of Agha’s pretty boy, but the real killer is exposed and Manolios is released. He evolves from a compassionate Christ to a furious Christ who advocates revolution and revenge. He and some of the refugees storm Lycovrissi. He is badly wounded and later dies.
Captain Fortounas, a rough old sailor, enjoying his pleasant retirement while reminiscing about his seafaring days. His past is his most treasured possession. He and Nadji Nikolis are considered the wise elders of Lycovrissi. Most of the time, Fortounas is too drunk to give worthwhile advice to anyone.
The Agha, the Turkish lord of Lycovrissi. His main preoccupations are with enjoying his oriental splendor, eating rich foods, drinking raki, receiving gifts from his Greek subjects, and leading a sensuous life with beautiful young boys. When Youssoufaki, a dimpled, gentle boy, is killed, Agha imprisons all the town elders and threatens to kill them one by one until the killer is found.
Lenio, the handsome, bright love child of old Patriarcheas. She is engaged to Manolios. Her desire for love and passion is urgent. She waits impatiently to be married but is dismayed to discover that Manolios is taking his role as Christ too seriously and has chosen celibacy for the rest of the year, or perhaps even for the rest of his life. Full of passion, and with her wedding plans unrealized, she fulfills her burning desires with Niolio, an equally passionate and impetuous young lad.
Panayotaros, a red-bearded buffoon known as “plaster-eater,” the village saddler. He is a cunning, undisciplined man who has been chosen to play Judas in the Passion Play. He is always waiting to exact revenge and customarily hates almost everyone. Currently, he hates Manolios for teaching virtue to Katerina, the only prostitute in the village. Living up to his Judas character, he betrays Manolios in the raid that ends in Manolios’ death.
Michelis, who is chosen to play the role of the apostle John. He is the handsome son of the archon. Unlike his wealthy family, he is deeply sensitive, always questioning the treachery of the oppressors he witnesses on both the Turkish and Greek sides. He is engaged to Mariori, the divinely fair, charming daughter of Priest Grigoris who always hears angels’ wings fluttering around her. Michelis, affected by Manolios’ passion to imitate Christ, leaves family, future wife, and wealth behind and joins Manolios on Mount Sarakina.
Katerina, Lycovrissi’s kindhearted prostitute, chosen to play the role of Mary Magdalene. She is generous with her possessions and her body. With her husky voice and voluptuous beauty, she has attracted many men before she is moved by Manolios’ plea and closes her door to transient lovers. She haunts Manolios’ dreams so often that he decides to give his life as a gesture of penitence.
Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 233
Bien, Peter. Nicos Kazantzakis, Novelist. Bristol, England: Bristol Classical Press, 1989. Gives personal and philosophical background for Kazantzakis’ novels. Helpful for tracing the historical and social motivations for most of his works, including The Greek Passion.
Dombrowski, Daniel. “Kazantzakis and the New Middle Ages.” Religion & Literature 26, no. 3 (Fall, 1994): 19-32. Helpful background on Kazantzakis’ basic sources and the motivations for creating his elaborately rich novels and characterizations. Describes his varied interests and studies to explain his ability to create an epic such as The Greek Passion, with more than forty diverse and colorful characters.
Levitt, Morton. The Cretan Glance: The World and Art of Nikos Kazantzakis. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1980. One chapter explains the historical, social, and political contexts for the novel. Describes Kazantzakis’ own history as it relates to the creation of many characters. Identifies the locations where he worked as minister of public welfare.
Levitt, Morton. “Homer, Joyce, Kazantzakis: Modernism and the Epic Tradition.” Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora 10, no. 4 (Winter, 1983): 41-45. A thorough comparison of the works of Homer, James Joyce, and Kazantzakis. Shows many of the subtleties of Kazantzakis’ works, and his indebtedness to both the modern and ancient authors.
Raizis, M. Byron. “Symbolism and Meaning in Kazantzakis’ The Greek Passion.” Ball State University Forum 11, no. 3 (Summer, 1970): 57-66. Clear, thorough analysis of the varied symbols and motifs found in the novel from both Christian and ancient Greek mythological perspectives.
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