Dolly Gallagher Levi
Dolly Gallagher Levi, a friend of Vandergelder’s late wife, living in a sort of impoverished elegance as a matchmaker. Of an uncertain age and possessing considerable charm, she also offers music lessons and physical therapy. A meddlesome busybody and fun-loving schemer, she would like New York to be more like Vienna, from which her late husband Ephraim had come. After skillfully pulling a number of strings, she finally gets her wish to become the second Mrs. Vandergelder, with the aim of using her husband’s money to spread joy in the world.
Horace Vandergelder, the merchant of Yonkers (the title of the 1938 version of this play), a wealthy sexagenarian, described as the most influential citizen of Yonkers—where, it is said, nothing ever happens. He is the president of the Hudson River Provision Dealers’ Recreational, Musical, and Burial Society. This irritable, vain, shrewd, foppish, complacent, mildly misanthropic, and rather curmudgeonly man is called Wolf-trap by his employees. Having been widowed, he is eager to remarry. At the end, he proves soft-hearted enough to facilitate three marriages, including his own.
Cornelius Hackl, the hardworking longtime chief clerk, thirty-three years old, in Vandergelder’s hay, feed, provision, and hardware business. An inhibited Presbyterian who never learned to dance, he closes the store in his master’s absence and goes to New York in search of adventures. Having experienced women only as customers, he begins to enjoy their perceived mysteriousness and to live up to the matchmaker’s preposterous pretense that he is a man about town. He winds up as the business partner of Vandergelder and the husband of Mrs. Molloy.
Irene Molloy, a milliner who hates hats. She is nostalgic for her late husband, Peter, because he was so good at marital fights. She believes that Vandergelder would be a fitting replacement. Starved for adventure, she finally marries Hackl, her male counterpart in this respect.
Flora Van Huysen
Flora Van Huysen, a prosperous New York spinster of fifty, florid and sentimental. Vandergelder wants her to detain his niece and her boyfriend and keep them from eloping, but this rather literal-minded lady is opposed to keeping young lovers apart and thus works at cross purposes with the merchant. It is at her home that everyone finally gathers. After some confusion caused by the bumbling Flora, her imperturbability and old-fashioned common sense contribute to the unraveling of the tangled skein.
Malachi Stack, a man of fifty with a checkered background who claims to have had about fifty different employers. Vandergelder hires him as an apprentice and immediately sends him to New York to help him win a wife and prevent the elopement of his niece and her beau. The worldly-wise and rather sardonic Stack tends toward dishonesty and drink, but he believes in limiting himself to one vice at a time.
(The entire section is 2,600 words.)