Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The Narrator

The Narrator, a learned man enslaved to the memory of a woman whose powerful will once triumphed over death itself to return to him. Half insane through grief after Ligeia’s death, and addicted to opium, he nevertheless remarries. Forgetful of Ligeia for a month, he abandons himself to Lady Rowena; but memory returns, and love turns to hatred and loathing. He witnesses (or so he believes) the dropping of poison into some wine he gives Rowena when she is ill. After Rowena’s death, he is awed by the rising of her corpse, which he recognizes not as that of Rowena but of his lost Ligeia.


Ligeia, his first wife, a beautiful woman of rare learning and musically eloquent voice. Tall and slender, she is quietly majestic whether in repose or walking with “incomprehensible lightness and elasticity.” Her features are “strange” rather than classically regular: the skin pale, forehead broad, luxuriously curly hair glossy and black. Her nose is slightly aquiline; when her short upper lip and her voluptuous under one part in a radiant smile, her teeth gleam brilliantly. Her eyes are most notable: unusually large and luminously black, with long and jetty lashes and slightly irregular black brows. Though Ligeia is outwardly calm and speaks in a low, distinct, and melodious voice, a passionately intense will shows in the fierce energy of her wild words. Her knowledge of classical and modern European languages leads her (and her worshiping husband) into extensive metaphysical investigations. When Ligeia falls ill, her wild eyes blaze, her skin turns waxen, and the veins in her forehead swell and sink. With her dying breath she murmurs that humans submit to death only through feebleness of will. When Lady Rowena later dies, Ligeia, through the power of her will, returns from death and enters the body of her successor.

Lady Rowena Trevanion

Lady Rowena Trevanion, the second wife, fair-haired and blue-eyed. She falls ill and slowly dies, wasting away while she becomes increasingly irritable and fearful, her fear being increased by mysterious sounds and sights. (Her illness may be compared to that which for five years tortured and finally killed Virginia Poe, the author’s young wife.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Edgar Allan Poe's celebrated "Ligeia"— one of his finest treatments of romantic love frustrated by death—may be a story that asserts the...

(The entire section is 1360 words.)