Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 273
Donatello is the Count of Monte Beni who is described as an uneducated and naive man who seems out of place in his society. He is fascinated by the artists who reside in a colony in Rome and finds true happiness only in nature. Donatello is changed after murdering a man to prove his love for a woman. He no longer has interest in nature, but he gained a depth of character and a sense of morality.
Miriam Schaefer is the women for whom Donatello commits murder. She is a beautiful and wealthy inhabitant of the artist colony. She is stalked by a man who seems to be a subject of many of her paintings. To stop his harassment, Donatello kills him by throwing him off a rocky cliff.
Brother Antonio is a Capuchin monk and the man who stalks Miriam. He is also Miriam's former fiancé. Based on his perceived morality and good character, the Capuchin Order grants Brother Antonio freedom to leave monastery grounds, which he uses to torment Miriam until he is murdered.
Hilda is an American student studying painting in Rome. She is close to Miriam and is well aware of Brother Antonio's stalking. She witnesses his murder and is asked by Miriam to deliver a package. She is caught and held as a suspect. Her experiences cause her to lose all passion for painting.
Kenyon is another American who works in Rome as a sculptor. He falls in love with Hilda, and eventually the two are married. After the murder of Brother Antonio, he reunites Donatello and Miriam, who were both ridden with guilt and suffering in isolation.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 675
Donatello, in reality the Count of Monte Beni, at first a naïve young man who seems to be almost dim-witted, with little formal education and almost no intellectual, moral, or emotional depth. He appears almost a creature out of the mythical past, a faun out of his time and place associating with the painters and sculptors of an artists’ colony in nineteenth century Rome. Feeling a kinship with nature and its inhabitants, he is truly happy only in the woods and gardens. He falls in love with Miriam Schaefer, a beautiful but mysterious young painter. One night, at her unspoken behest, Donatello murders a man. This crime brings about a change in the young Italian nobleman, who for a time retires to his ancestral home in Tuscany. He finds that he is no longer akin to nature, but in exchange for this loss, he acquires new depth of soul under the torment of his crime and awakes to moral values. In the garb of a penitent, he returns to Rome, where he is reunited briefly with his beloved during the carnival season. At the end of that time, he is seized by the authorities and imprisoned.
Miriam Schaefer, an exotically beautiful young woman of wealth who appears mysteriously among the people of an artist colony in Rome. She is also a painter, and her life is haunted by a man who appears to be an artist’s model. He seems to have a strange hold over the girl and causes her great uneasiness. Miriam’s lover, Donatello, rids her of the presence of this troublesome man by throwing him from the famous Tarpeian Rock. Because her eyes had commanded Donatello to commit the crime, Miriam feels as guilty as if the act had been her own. Also, she feels a bond with her companion-accomplice as strong as marriage ties. She, like Donatello, suffers the pangs of conscience fiercely. She and her lover, reunited after his return from a period of retirement in Tuscany, find a brief period of happiness before he is committed to prison. Miriam, who goes free, is really a member of an aristocratic Italian family and was at one time engaged to marry the man who haunted her. Her real name is never mentioned.
Brother Antonio, a Capuchin monk, the man who haunts and hounds Miriam Schaefer until he is murdered by Donatello. Having shown himself to be of great merit, at least on the surface, he is granted unusual freedom by his order, a freedom he uses in order to dog the girl’s footsteps. Once her fiancé, he had committed a crime in which Miriam, though innocent, was implicated.
Hilda, a pretty, virtuous American girl studying painting in Rome. Because she is Miriam’s friend, she becomes involved in the intrigue surrounding Miriam. She witnesses the midnight murder committed by Donatello, and at Miriam’s request, she delivers a strange parcel that causes her to be held in a convent as a possible accessory to the crime. Hilda is much affected by the terrible deed she witnesses, even though she has no guilt. The weight of her knowledge drives the overly sensitive girl to lose all interest in her work. Though she is faithful to and proud of her Puritan heritage, she becomes so disturbed that she enters a confessional in St. Peter’s Cathedral and tells her story to a priest. In the end, her experiences cause her to love Kenyon, a young American in love with her.
Kenyon, a young American sculptor working in Rome. He loves Hilda and is one of the little circle of friends surrounding Miriam Schaefer. He brings Donatello and Miriam together again after they have suffered alone following the murder of Brother Antonio by Donatello. Kenyon’s love for Hilda is eventually rewarded, for she comes to love him, and they are married. Once after their marriage, they encounter Miriam, who both blesses and repulses them silently. They do not disturb her expiation and grief.
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