Ring around the Moon

by Jean Anouilh

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Patrice Bombelles
Patrice Bombelles is male secretary to the wealthy industrialist, Messerschmann, and also the object of Messerschmann’s mistress’s (Lady India) attentions, which Bombelles has reciprocated for two years. Unsurprisingly, Bombelles does not want Messerschmann to find out about the secretive affair, since Bombelles believes it would mean his firing. So preoccupied is Bombelles to keep the affair with Lady India a total secret, he is constantly agitated, often forgetting or missing the subject of conversation and the latest change in the main character’s (Hugo) ever-evolving plans.

Geraldine Capulat
Capulat is, as Anouilh describes her, Madame Desmermortes’s ‘‘faded’’ servant/companion. She has a minor role until she is recognized by Isabelle’s mother as a long-lost friend with whom she once played piano duets. Capulat is both a hopeless romantic and a loyal friend and so cannot help but satisfy Isabelle’s mother in the attempt to get Madame to unite Hugo and Isabelle.

Madame Desmermortes
Desmermortes is the elderly, overly familyand class-conscious aunt of Hugo, Frederic, and Lady India. She is interested in her nephews and niece getting married to the right companions. By helping Hugo with his plans, by acting according to her own lights, and partly through sheer luck, Madame is successful. With a sometimes cruel, sometimes sober realism, Madame parries the hopeless romanticism of her servant/companion, Capulat. Madame’s somewhat hardened view of life is at least partially due to her age and confinement in a wheelchair.

Frederic is the identical twin brother of Hugo and played by the same actor. He is also the nephew of Mme. Desmermortes, and the zealous pursuer of Diana Messerschmann. He lacks confidence, and is self-deprecating, He constantly fawns over Diana from whom he cannot bear to be separated for a moment. Perhaps for this reason, Diana is not in love with Frederic, but Frederic’s confident twin, Hugo. However inept Frederic is with women, Hugo thinks Frederic ‘‘good, sensible, kind, and intelligent.’’ Frederic eventually becomes disillusioned with Diana’s domination of him and falls for Isabelle.

Hugo is the identical twin of Frederic, but unlike Frederic, Hugo is a confident ladies’ man and according to his own assessment, a kind of evil twin to Frederic. Hugo is the play’s main character because the major action of the play revolves around his scheme to lure Frederic away from Diana, who does not love Frederic, but the more confident Hugo. While Hugo knows Diana loves him, he is convinced he doesn’t love her because, he says, she is rich and ‘‘badly spoilt.’’ Hugo views himself as the enemy of upper-class vanity, and for this reason, some of the characters remark that he seems ‘‘capable of absolutely anything.’’ The observation is not without merit since Hugo blackmails Romainville, attempts to bamboozle Frederic away from Diana, pays Isabelle to act interested in Frederic, and finally, blackmails Patrice Bombelles to fake jealous love for Isabelle in order to stir up Frederic’s desire. In the end, Hugo finally confesses his love for Diana after learning she is poor.

Lady Dorothy India
Lady India is the niece of Madame Desmermortes, cousin to the twins, Hugo and Frederic, and the mistress of both Messerschmann and Patrice Bombelles. She thinks she is in love with danger, and fantasizes about getting caught by Messerschmann in the arms of Patrice. Part of Lady India’s attraction to danger is an unreal desire to be poor. She is at least partially sincere: at play’s end, her love for Messerschmann is rekindled after learning he has just become penniless.

Isabelle, a young and attractive ballet dancer, has a somewhat uncertain relationship with the character of Romainville:...

(This entire section contains 1228 words.)

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it appears he furnishes her with money in the guise of ‘‘patron of the arts.’’ Whatever her motives, she accepts his attentions. At root, Isabelle is honest and considerate, but she becomes swept up in playing the part of Romainville’s niece because, like so many women, she is irresistibly drawn to Hugo. Along with Hugo, Isabelle shares a certain contempt for money, which she shows when refusing Messerschmann’s offers to pay her off, and when joining him in tearing up his stacks of bills. Through the aid of Mme. Desmermortes’s matchmaking, Isabelle realizes she loves Frederic, not Hugo.

Isabelle’s Mother
Isabelle’s mother is the only character in the play fully romanticizing money and culture, partly because she once had both. She pushes Isabelle to play the part in Hugo’s charade so that Isabelle might have a chance to marry him, or at least marry someone with money. Isabelle’s mother also turns out to be an old friend of Capulat. Fool that the mother is, she stands to give away Hugo’s scheme through Capulat. To prevent her from subverting Hugo’s plot, Mme. Desmermortes gives Isabelle’s mother the character of ‘‘Countess Funela’’ to play at the ball. This fulfills the mother’s fantasies of wealth and status. In the final distribution of partners, the mother gets her wish when Isabelle wins Frederic.

Joshua has been the respectful butler at the Desmermortes family estate for thirty years. He makes sure Hugo’s plans to separate Frederic and Diana is well executed. Joshua adds comic relief not only for his dignified language befitting the stock character of the butler, but also because he often loses his composure in the face of the unexpected. As Anouilh says, Joshua is ‘‘crumbling.’’

A wealthy industrialist, Messerschmann is also an insomniac and eats only one thing: noodles without butter and salt. He has four primary roles in life: Diana’s father, paramour of Lady India, Patrice Bombelles’s boss, and owner of the pig-iron company managed by Romainville. Messerschmann represents money and the rich man’s belief that every person has his or her price. When he finds Diana is jealous of Isabelle, he attempts to blackmail Romainville and bribe Isabelle to get her to leave the house. When his efforts fail with Isabelle, Messerschmann’s rage and sudden disenchantment with money lead him to attempt to ruin himself financially, which, unexpectedly, makes him more attractive to Lady India.

Diana Messerschmann
Diana is the attractive daughter of the wealthy industrial magnate, Messerschmann; the aloof love object of Frederic; and the thwarted pursuer of Hugo. She settles for Frederic because Hugo does not love her. Diana becomes jealous of Isabelle for stealing the glances of the men at the ball and complains to her father. It is only when Messerschmann is reported to have lost his fortune that Hugo confesses his love for the now seemingly impoverished Diana.

Romainville is an older man who studies butterflies, probably intent on making Isabelle his next specimen. He also heads a pig-iron company owned by Messerschmann. To guard against a possible smudge on his reputation, Romainville tries to keep his pursuit of young Isabelle a secret, and so is blackmailed by Hugo into getting Isabelle to pose as Romainville’s niece, out to steal Frederic from Diana. But when Messerschmann finds that Isabelle is provoking his daughter’s jealousy, Messerschmann threatens Romainville with financial ruin unless Romainville removes Isabelle from the house. In the last moments of the play, Romainville decides to confess his love and propose to Isabelle. He is, however, too late. Isabelle and Frederic have already become paired.




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