Nana (nah-NAH), an ignorant courtesan whose beauty, selfishness, and erotic cunning prove disastrous to the men of fashion who patronize her. A product of the Paris streets, she is discovered by a theatrical promoter and becomes a success by captivating men with her sexual charm. Soon she has a clientele that includes the richest men in Paris. Tiring of this life, she goes to live with a brutal comic actor. When her fortunes reach a low ebb, she is reduced to streetwalking. Later, an infatuated nobleman becomes her protector. Her financial and sexual extravagances achieve new extremes as she acquires a lavish mansion, new lovers, and a lesbian prostitute. Many of her lovers ruin themselves; one goes to prison, and two commit suicide. Ironically, she dies of smallpox, her beautiful and notorious body ravaged by the disease.
M. Fauchery (foh-sheh-REE), a second-rate journalist who writes about Nana in the press, at first favorably and later adversely. A hanger-on of the theater and society, he spends his time seducing other men’s wives.
M. Steiner (SHTI-nehr), a wealthy and crooked Jewish banker who pursues actresses. He is twice Nana’s lover, the first time providing her with an estate. His financial career roughly parallels Nana’s erotic career; he is spectacularly successful, suffers heavy losses, and then regains his fortune before he falls again, this time to bankruptcy.
Georges Hugon (zhohrzh ew-GOH[N]), a pampered, effeminate, silly young aristocrat who enjoys Nana, plays the part of her fool, and fatally stabs himself when she refuses to marry him.
Philippe Hugon (fee-LEEP), his brother, a dashing army officer who falls in love with Nana when sent to rescue Georges. After stealing army funds for her sake, he is arrested and imprisoned.
Madame Hugon, the indulgent mother of Georges and Philippe. Hating Nana, she is crushed when both her sons are ruined.
Fontan (fo[n]-TA[N]), a satyr-like actor who lives with Nana, beats her, and leaves her when she has no more money.
The Comte Muffat de Beuville
The Comte Muffat de Beuville (mew-FAH deh bew-VEEL), a pious aristocrat whose passion for Nana leads him to ruin his home life, squander all his possessions, and submit to the humiliations she forces upon him.
Sabine de Beuville
Sabine de Beuville (sah-BEEN), his attractive wife. She takes Fauchery and other men as her lovers.
The Marquis de Chouard
The Marquis de Chouard (deh shew-AHR), Sabine de Beuville’s aged father, a man with a dignified appearance and a reputation for lechery. His affair with Nana is a great humiliation to his son-in-law.
The Comte Xavier de Vandeuvres
The Comte Xavier de Vandeuvres (zhah-vyay deh vahn-DEWV-reh), a reckless and wealthy man whose passion for Nana and horses leads him to gamble away his wealth and to commit suicide.
Hector de la Faloise
Hector de la Faloise (ehk-TOHR deh lah fahl-WAHZ), a rich, stupid young man from the provinces who spends all his means on Nana in order to appear fashionable.
Mignon (meen-YOH[N]), a stage manager who procures for his wife.
Rose Mignon, his pretty wife and Nana’s rival, a clever comedienne who takes Fauchery for a lover.
Bordenave (bohr-deh-NAHV), the coarse theatrical producer who discovers Nana and later goes bankrupt.
Daguenet (dahg-NAY), a well-to-do young rake who spends his time and money on Nana, marries the comte de Beuville’s daughter, and turns outwardly respectable.
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Estelle, his plain, awkward, strong-willed wife.
Satin (sah-TA[N]), a lesbian prostitute of innocent appearance. Nana supports her and uses her to humiliate her male lovers.
Prulliére (prewl-YEHR), an actor who enjoys Nana’s favors.
Labordette (lah-bohr-DEHT), a theatrical hanger-on who does favors for the actors and actresses.
Lucy Stewart, a fashionable member of the theater crowd, plain, middle-aged, but given to love affairs.
Madame Maloir (mahl-WAHR), Nana’s old friend and parasitic confidante.
Zoé (zoh-AY), Nana’s maid, a competent, rather homely woman.
Madame Lerat (leh-RAH), Nana’s aunt, who takes care of Nana’s small son.
Louis (lwee), Nana’s son, from whom she catches smallpox.