Nicholas Stavrogin (stav-ROH-gihn), who is strong, intelligent, handsome, and an aristocrat by birth. He is capable of the most noble actions and the most heinous crimes. In a gesture of remarkable generosity, he has married the crippled, feebleminded Maria Lebyatkin and supports her and her drunkard brother, Captain Lebyatkin. Later, he allows the two to be murdered by the convict Fedka, although he could have prevented the crime easily. He seduces a number of women, including Lisa Drozdov, Dasha Shatov, and Maria Shatov, each of whom he is incapable of loving. An extraordinarily charismatic man, Nicholas allows himself to be exploited as the figurehead of a local terrorist group organized by Peter Verkhovensky. Profoundly nihilistic, Nicholas is tortured by his inability to believe in any political doctrine or moral order. He hangs himself in despair at the end of the play.
Varvara Stavrogin (vahr-VAH-rah), a proud, domineering, and sensitive woman, incapable of showing love or affection, although hers is a very passionate nature. Through wealth and influence, she manipulates others to protect her son, Nicholas. Although she is in love with Stepan Verkhovensky, she arranges his marriage with Dasha Shatov as a way of keeping Dasha away from Nicholas, whom Dasha loves. Varvara confesses her love for Stepan only when the latter is dying at the end of the play.
(The entire section is 629 words.)