Signora Frola (FROH-lah), an old woman and the mother-in-law of Ponza. She causes talk by living alone in a fine apartment rather than with Ponza and her daughter, by never exchanging visits with her daughter, and by not allowing the neighbors to pay a social call. When she finally confronts the neighbors, she explains that Ponza is mad and must be humored into believing that his wife is, indeed, a second wife taking the place of the one he is convinced he has lost.
Ponza (POHN-zah), the secretary to the provincial councilor. He causes talk by living with his wife, whom no one ever sees, in a fifth floor tenement, and by visiting Signora Frola every day, alone. When he finally confronts the neighbors, he explains that Signora Frola is mad, that her daughter is dead but that she refuses to believe it, and that his second wife humors her in this belief by pretending to be her daughter and fostering the illusion by communicating with the old lady from the fifth floor balcony.
Signora Ponza, who, veiled, confronts the gossiping neighbors and informs them that she is the daughter of Signora Frola, that she is the second wife of Ponza, and that, for herself, she is nothing. She is, in short, the person she is believed to be.
Commendatore Agazzi (ah-GAHZ-zee), the provincial councilor.
Amalia Agazzi (ah-MAH-lee-ah), his wife.
Dina Agazzi (DEE-nah), his daughter.
Centuri (chehn-TEW-ree), a police commissioner. The Agazzis and Centuri are gossiping fellow townsmen bent on solving the mystery of the Ponza-Frola domestic arrangements.
Lamberto Laudisi (low-DEE-see), Commendatore Agazzi’s brother-in-law, who insists that the Ponza-Frola domestic arrangements are their own business. When Signora Ponza gives the solution to the mystery, he laughs and says that now everybody knows the truth.