The Princess of Clèves

by Marie-Madeleine Pioche de la Vergne

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The Princess de Clèves

The Princess de Clèves (deh klehv), a beautiful young woman married to a prince of the royal household. She is a virtuous, even passionless, woman who disappoints her husband with her lack of ardor. Unlike most courtiers, she has no extramarital affairs. When she meets the duke de Nemours, she feels emotion for him but tries to put it down, even enlisting her husband’s aid. After her husband’s death, she refuses to marry the duke and withdraws from society, even to the point of entering a convent for a time.

The Prince de Clèves

The Prince de Clèves, a member of the royal family. He tries to help his wife suppress her love for the duke de Nemours. When he thinks his wife has fallen from virtue, he becomes ill of a fever and, rather than stand in his wife’s way, languishes and dies.

The Duke de Nemours

The Duke de Nemours (new-MEWR), the handsomest and most gallant courtier in France. He is even spoken of as a possible consort for Elizabeth I of England. He falls in love with the princess de Clèves, but cannot turn her from being faithful to her husband.

The Queen Dauphine

The Queen Dauphine (doh-FEEN), Mary, Queen of Scots, who is a friend of the princess de Clèves.

The Vidame de Chartres

The Vidame de Chartres (vee-DAHM deh SHAHRT-reh), an uncle of the princess de Clèves. He tries to bring his niece and the duke de Nemours together after the girl is widowed.

Mme de Chartres

Mme de Chartres, the mother of the princess de Clèves. She is ambitious to see her daughter marry a prince.

Henri II

Henri II (ah[n]-REE), the king of France.

Diane de Poitiers

Diane de Poitiers (dee-AHN deh pwah-TYAY), the duchess de Valentinois, King Henri’s adviser. She was his father’s mistress and is now the center of a court clique.

Catherine de Mèdicis

Catherine de Mèdicis, the queen of France and wife of Henri II. She leads the faction opposed to her rival, Diane de Poitiers. She seeks the friendship of the Vidame de Chartres.

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