Don Franco Maironi
Don Franco Maironi (mah-ee-ROH-nee), a patriot who seeks Italy’s independence from Austria. He has studied law, but he wastes his time with poetry and the piano rather than working. He loves Luisa Rigey, but his grandmother does not support the match and threatens to disinherit him if he marries Luisa. He secretly weds her anyway. Franco then finds out about a secret will under which he would inherit with no interference from his grandmother, but he chooses not to make it public and claim his inheritance. Luisa’s uncle Piero supports the couple until he is dismissed from his job. Franco and Luisa have a baby girl and go to live in a distanct province, where Franco finds work. He begins to send money to support Piero.
The Marchesa Orsola
The Marchesa Orsola, Franco’s grandmother, who staunchly supports Austria and thus is a political enemy of her grandson. She seeks a rich, well-born wife for Franco. Although Franco and Luisa try to keep their marriage secret, she finds out about it and cuts off his inheritance. Later, after the death of Franco and Luisa’s daughter, she offers to forgive Franco for disobeying her, still being unwilling to ask for his forgiveness.
Luisa Rigey (lew-EE-zah REE-gay), a poor, low-born girl from Franco’s neighborhood who is loved by him. She insists that Franco make the will public to punish the marchesa, but Franco refuses. Luisa leaves Franco over this issue and intends to approach the marchesa with a copy of the will. Before she can do so, their daughter is drowned, and Luisa nearly goes insane. Eventually, she returns to Franco.
Luisa’s mother, who at first keeps the lovers apart to please the marchesa. Later, after she discovers that she is dying, she permits the secret marriage.
Piero Ribera (PEE-eh-roh ree-BEH-rah), a government employee and the uncle of Luisa, who supports Franco and Luisa until the marchesa has him discharged.
A friend, who possesses a copy of a letter that proves that the marchesa is an immoral woman willfully cheating Franco out of the fortune left him by his grandfather.