Martin Luther, a brilliant university scholar, capable of considerable worldly success as a lawyer or political adviser to the powerful. He chooses instead to join the Roman Catholic order of the Eremites of St. Augustine. Physically unprepossessing, he is subject to severe attacks of constipation, which he attributes to his spiritual difficulties—also manifested in feverish nightmares—and deep depression. His spiritual excesses and complaints seem to other members of his order something of a joke, but he is deeply respected for his learning and his contribution to the reputation of the University of Wittenberg, where he teaches. He is not satisfied by scholarship and is constantly questioning his own spiritual worth and the public practices of the Catholic Church. He is also a dangerously persuasive orator.
Hans, Martin’s father, a miner, proud of his son’s gifts but outspoken in his disappointment in Luther’s choice of the church when so much could have been made of his gifts in the lay world. Although uneducated, he is not stupid, and he becomes a part owner of the mine in which he works. He is talkative, unawed by the clergy, and, though rather vulgar in argument, somewhat persuasive.
Brother Weinand, a monk friendly to Luther but determined to break him of his dramatic sense of sin. Educated in Latin and Greek but bearing his learning...
(The entire section is 599 words.)