Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 290
Maria Maddalena (mahd-dah-LEE-nah), a Sicilian woman. An orphan reared by aunts who make of her a drudge, she is married to an old man who dies shortly thereafter, leaving her pregnant. She works to support her son and to send him through a seminary to become a priest. She is troubled when her priest-son appears to have an affair with a beautiful young woman. A superstitious soul, she believes the ghost of the former parish priest is trying to drive her and her son away. When her son’s sweetheart confronts him in his church, the poor mother falls dead.
Paul, Maria Maddalena’s son, a priest. He has a sensual nature; while in seminary he is fascinated by a prostitute, whom he visits often one summer. At his first parish, he falls in love with a beautiful young parishioner and has a strong sensual urge that causes him to consider leaving the Church in order to run away and marry his sweetheart. When he puts down the temptation, the spurned woman threatens to denounce him publicly as a seducer.
Agnes, Paul’s sweetheart. She is the last member of the family that owns the big house in the village that is Paul’s parish. She loves Paul and does not seem to realize what she asks him to do in urging him to leave the Church and his responsibilities to it. She sees him only as a man.
Antiochus (ahn-tee-OH-kews), Paul’s server, who wishes to become a priest.
King Nicodemus (nee-koh-DEH-mews), a misanthropic hunter who lives in a cabin on the mountain near the village. He has left the village so that his hate will not cause him to kill anyone.