Characters Discussed

Marquis de Sade

Marquis de Sade (mahr-KEE deh sahd), a French writer and libertine. While Sade, at the age of sixty-eight, is confined at Charenton asylum for his nontraditional views on sex and violence, he stages a play about Marat’s death, which took place on the same date fifteen years earlier. He both directs the actors—the asylum’s inmates, who are either mentally disturbed or confined for political reasons—and participates in the action. In his conversations with Marat, Sade expresses a certain amount of sympathy for the goals of the French Revolution, but he also shows himself as Marat’s philosophical opponent by professing an extreme form of individualism and strong faith in the power of subjective imagination.

Jean-Paul Marat

Jean-Paul Marat (zhah[n]-pohl mah-RA), a French physician and revolutionary leader. He is forty-nine years of age and spends many hours sitting in the bathtub to cool his skin, which is afflicted by an illness. Like the historical figure he represents, the actor playing Marat at Charenton suffers from paranoia and undergoes hydrotherapy. Although he is a strong advocate of the revolution, Marat has a vision of a just society directed toward the future. He is, nevertheless, perceived as the revolution’s central catalyst in the public eye because of his inflammatory speeches and articles, and he is killed by Corday in his bathtub on the eve of Bastille Day.

Charlotte Corday

Charlotte Corday (shahr-LOHT kohr-DAY), an attractive virgin, twenty-four years old. Because her role at Charenton is played by an inmate suffering from sleeping sickness, she must often be awakened and supported in her movements by two sister-nurses. As in the case of the historical figure, she repeatedly...

(The entire section is 784 words.)