Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 339

Elyot Chase

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Elyot Chase, a handsome, thirtyish man. When the play begins, he is honeymooning at Deauville, France, with his second wife. Five years earlier, he had divorced Amanda, to whom he had been married for three tumultuous years, and then traveled around the world. When he sees Amanda again, he realizes that she is his true love. Together, they flee to Paris. Despite their bickering and fisticuffs, they remain reunited. Elyot, first performed by the playwright himself, represents the witty, irreverent, sophisticated Englishman that the playwright admired and saw himself as exemplifying.

Amanda Prynne

Amanda Prynne, Elyot’s first wife, newly married to Victor Prynne. She, too, is honeymooning at Deauville as the play opens. She is the most vivacious character in the work. She is not only beautiful but also spirited, independent, and unconventional—a fit partner for Elyot.

Sibyl Chase

Sibyl Chase, Elyot’s blond, attractive, twenty-three-year-old bride. Conventional, unimaginative, and innocent, she is Amanda’s antithesis and suggests the playwright’s dim view of the “nice” English girl. She implies to Elyot that she will tailor life to suit his whims.

Victor Prynne

Victor Prynne, a handsome man a few years older than Elyot. Stuffy and stodgy, he lacks a sense of humor. Like Sibyl, he is shocked by the elopement of Elyot and Amanda; when he and Sibyl catch up with the other couple, he chivalrously offers to divorce Amanda even though he deeply loves her. He wants to make over someone’s life and takes it upon himself to do so for his new wife. This drives her back into the arms of Elyot. Sibyl is his true soul mate, and their fierce quarreling at the end of the play, mirroring the battles between Amanda and Elyot, indicates that the conventional Victor will end up paired with her.


Louise, Amanda’s French-speaking maid. She makes a brief appearance in the third act. Her inability to speak English and her incomprehension of the bizarre occurrences in the apartment provide a number of laughs.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 810

Elyot Chase
The witty and cynical Elyot is the male lead, whose love/hate relationship with Amanda forms the centerpiece of Private Lives. Though his occupation (if any) is unidentified, he is wealthy and fashionable, accustomed to luxury, and self-indulgent In conversation, his habit is to "be flippant" and mock traditional social conventions; if he has a philosophy, it lies in his refusal to ever be serious, in defiance of "all the futile moralists who try to make life unbearable." He holds to no Great Truths; everything is "nonsense'' in the long run, nothing is eternal, and the intelligent response is to live for the moment and savor all pleasures, to "be superficial and pity the poor philosophers" who search for higher meanings and moral truths.

For all his eloquent rebellion, however, Elyot has his insecurities, and is not unaffected by social expectations. At the play's beginning, he has willingly entered into a conventional marriage; though it appears doomed and promises to be unfulfilling for him, he is resigned (before meeting Amanda again) to acting out the shallow role of husband. Confronted by Victor in Act HI, he doesn't defend his actions, admitting that he is completely in the wrong, and that his flippancy is meant "to cover a very real embarrassment." Though he is wise to its hypocrisies, Elyot is not immune to society's demands—just as he is not immune to his attraction for Amanda, despite the bitter history of their marriage, and the violent jealousies they inspire in each other.

Sibyl Chase
Sibyl is Elyot's second wife, seven years younger than her husband; but although she is the newly wed "Mrs. Chase," she is quickly thrown...

(The entire section contains 1149 words.)

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Critical Essays