Giovanni Altofronto (jee-oh-VAHN-nee AHL-toh-FROHN-toh), the deposed duke of Genoa. Disguised as Malevole (mah-LEH-voh-leh), the Malcontent, he hurls insults at the dissolute courtiers and ladies around him while he inwardly laments the misfortunes that have forced him to play this role. His feigned eccentricity enables him to learn of the court intrigues and eventually to engineer the recovery of his dukedom.
Celso (CHEHL-soh), Altofronto’s friend and his spy at the usurper’s court.
Pietro Jacomo (pee-EH-troh JAH-coh-moh), the usurper duke. He dotes on his faithless young wife and pampers his adopted heir, Mendoza, until Malevole tells him of their disloyalty and helps him avenge this dishonor. Chastened by the recognition of his own blindness to others, he gratefully relinquishes his title to the rightful duke.
Mendoza (mehn-DOH-zah), his ambitious protégé, the duchess’ lover. His ruthless plans to destroy all those who stand between him and the dukedom are foiled only by Malevole’s intervention.
Ferneze (fehr-NEH-zay), a handsome, unprincipled courtier, Mendoza’s rival for the favors of the duchess.
Aurelia (ah-ew-REH-lee-ah), Jacomo’s young wife, who succumbs to both Mendoza and Ferneze. She repents when she believes her husband has committed suicide, and she is happily reunited with him after Malevole has exposed Mendoza’s treachery.
Maria, Altofronto’s virtuous wife. She repulses Mendoza’s advances, preferring death to disloyalty to her husband.
Bilioso (bee-lee-OH-soh), a foolish old courtier, regularly deceived by his young wife. Malevole taunts him for his fluctuating allegiance to each new claimant to the dukedom.
Maquerelle (mah-kew-REHL-lay), Aurelia’s aging lady in waiting. She aids and abets the duchess and her ladies in their infidelities.
Biancha (BEE-ahn-kah), the duchess’ attendants.