The Ring and the Book Characters
by Robert Browning

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

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Count Guido Franceschini

Count Guido Franceschini (GWEE-doh frahn-chehs-KEE-nee), the oldest male member of a destitute noble family of Arezzo. Knowing that he is the last hope for continuing the family name, because his two brothers are priests, Guido seeks a wife to bear him a son. Impoverished, he needs a woman with an attractive dowry. His brother finds a likely prospect, and Guido’s family name attracts the girl’s mother. Inept as a husband and angered by denial of the dowry after the wedding, Guido abuses his wife. To retain the last vestige of honor as a husband, after he has driven her to extramarital affections, Guido, with four men from his village, kills his parents-in-law and fatally wounds his wife. The court hearings and the gossip relating to the affair, presented from various viewpoints, point to Guido’s instability, he representing an old family without means of sustenance or continuation—no wealth, no prestige, no progeny. He is sentenced to be hanged, by rulings of both church and state.

Pompilia Comparini

Pompilia Comparini (pohm-PEE-lee-ah kohm-pah-REE-nee), his seventeen-year-old wife. Bought as a newborn infant from a prostitute, Pompilia was brought up by aged foster parents. Trapped in an incompatible marriage not of her choice, she flees to Rome with Caponsacchi, a priest. Overtaken, she and the priest disavow that they are lovers. After hearing that Pompilia, who has returned to her foster parents, has given birth to a son, Guido returns to Rome with four ruffians and attacks the Comparinis. Pompilia, mortally wounded, lingers for four days, time enough for her to identify her attacker.

Violante Comparini

Violante Comparini (vee-oh-LAHN-teh), her foster mother. Violante’s warped sense of values leads to bizarre behavior. She feigns pregnancy, presents Pompilia to her husband as his child, negotiates Pompilia’s marriage, and convinces her husband, who has objected to the marriage, that the status achieved by the union will be worth the promised dowry. Realizing her bad bargain and attempting to keep Guido from profiting by the marriage, Violante divulges Pompilia’s parentage and disqualifies her from inheriting Comparini’s money.

Pietro Comparini

Pietro Comparini (PEE-eh-troh), Violante’s husband. Naïve and browbeaten, he is governed by his wife’s whims and desires.

Giuseppe Caponsacchi

Giuseppe Caponsacchi (jee-ew-SEHP-peh kah-pohn-SAHK-kee), a handsome priest, Pompilia’s gallant lover. Excommunicated for his part in the affair, Giuseppe wishes himself dead but looks forward to the day when he will be returned to the grace of the church.


Margherita (mahr-geh-REE -tah), Pompilia’s maid, who advises and encourages Pompilia to throw off the drudgery of her life with...

(The entire section is 646 words.)