Mikhail Kostilyoff (mih-hah-IHL kohs-tih-LYOHF), the greedy and corrupt landlord of the flophouse in which the characters live and the action takes place. Suspicious of his wife, he trails her constantly. A superstitious hypocrite, he says pious platitudes and then raises the rent on Kleshtch, an impoverished tenant. He cowers before Pepel, to whom he owes money for stolen goods, and he bullies his sister-in-law, Natasha. No one misses him in the slightest when he is killed during a brawl.
Vassilisa Karpovna (vah-sih-LIH-sah kahr-POHV-nah), his wife, a malicious woman who cuckolds Kostilyoff in an affair with Pepel. Plotting her husband’s death, she tries to involve Pepel by offering him Natasha. She is intensely jealous of Natasha, however, and whips the girl at every opportunity. When her husband is killed, Vassilisa readily turns Pepel over to the police, but both Pepel and Natasha accuse her of complicity in the crime, and she sits in jail as the play closes.
Natasha (nah-TAH-shah), Vassilisa’s sister, a decent, pretty girl who is little more than a servant in Kostilyoff’s flophouse. She yearns for dignity but despairs at her hopeless position. When Pepel offers to take her away, she is hesitant. Natasha later gets the impression that Kostilyoff’s death was premeditated by Pepel, and she goes into a fit of hysterics. She disappears after her release from the hospital where she was taken after being beaten by Vassilisa.
Vaska Pepel (VAHS-kah PEH-pehl), called Vassily (vah-SIH-lih), a young thief burdened by his past and his relationship with Vassilisa. He hopes to overcome his squalor by beginning a new life with Natasha....
(The entire section is 832 words.)