Characters Discussed

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Tito Melema

Tito Melema (TEE-toh meh-LEH-mah), an adventurer and pleasure-seeking young Greek who arrives in Florence in 1492. He quickly acquires a fortune through his talents, his charm, and the fact that he sells a number of gems that rightfully belong to his benefactor, Baldassare Calvo. He impresses the famous blind scholar, Bardo, so much that the latter willingly gives his daughter to Tito for a wife. At the same time, Tito is connected with a peasant woman with whom he has made a mock marriage in a carnival ceremony. Becoming powerful in Florentine politics, he carefully avoids aligning himself with either the Medici or the reformer, Savonarola. Because of his double dealing, he is both personally and politically discredited. He is chased by a mob and then strangled by Baldassare Calvo, the benefactor whom Tito had deceived, stolen from, and left confined in prison.

Romola de’ Bardi

Romola de’ Bardi, Bardo’s daughter and Tito’s wife. A sheltered young woman, she easily falls in love with handsome, charming Tito. Disillusioned when Tito attempts to sell her father’s library and antiquities, she leaves him, but Savonarola convinces her that her duty is to return to her husband. At first, she is strongly attracted to Savonarola’s moral reforms. Later, when her godfather, a supporter of the Medici, is executed, she loses faith in the evangelical government. She also discovers that her husband has betrayed Baldassare Calvo and that he has been keeping a peasant woman named Tessa and her two children. Saddened, she leaves Florence and goes to Viareggio. After Tito’s death, she returns and makes a home for Tessa and Tito’s two children.

Bardo de’ Bardi

Bardo de’ Bardi, Romola’s father, a famous scholar to whom she is devoted. Deceived by his secretary’s knowledge, charm, and apparent interest in scholarly studies, he encourages the marriage of Tito and his daughter; he regards Tito as a substitute for the lost son he believes dead, a young man who abandoned scholarship for mysticism. Bardo dies in 1494, before Tito’s crimes are revealed.

Baldassare Calvo

Baldassare Calvo (BAHL-dahs-SAH-reh), Tito Melema’s scholarly foster father and benefactor. He had given Tito some gems to sell in Florence, to raise money to ransom Baldassare from the Turks. Tito uses the gems to advance his own fortune and tries to forget Baldassare entirely. When Baldassare is brought, as a prisoner, to Florence, Tito rejects him. After a mob frees him from his fetters, Baldassare encounters Tessa and realizes her connection with Tito. By this time, Baldassare’s desire for revenge on Tito is implacable. He later denounces Tito’s deceitful ingratitude at a dinner party of the rulers of Florence, but Tito calls him mad and has him cast into prison. Released, Baldassare tells Romola the whole story. He pursues the fleeing Tito and strangles him.

Dino de’ Bardi

Dino de’ Bardi (DEE-noh), Bardo’s lost son, supposed dead, who has disguised himself as Fra Luca, a Dominican friar. He first carries a note from Baldassare to Tito requesting help, but Tito ignores the note. Later, when ill, he is reunited with his sister Romola, and he tells her of a vision he has had, a dire warning that she should not marry Tito. Dino dies before he can explain his specific and nonmystical reasons for not wanting her to marry Tito.


Tessa, a peasant woman, the daughter of a milk vendor, who falls in love with Tito after he rescues her from drunken revelers at a carnival. At a later carnival, she goes through a mock marriage ceremony with...

(This entire section contains 1234 words.)

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him. She then bears him two children and remains entirely loyal to him, even though he visits her only infrequently. She is a simple woman of generous nature and loving heart.

Bernardo Del Nero

Bernardo Del Nero, Bardo’s friend and Romola’s godfather. Disliking Tito, he tries to delay the marriage between Tito and Romola. Later, he remains friendly with Romola and tries to help her. A strong supporter of the Medici, he is executed by followers of Savonarola.

Monna Brigida

Monna Brigida (BREE-jee-dah), Bardo’s loquacious cousin. She reveals to Romola that her brother is not dead but is living as Fra Luca, a Dominican friar. At the end of the novel, she makes her home with Romola and Tessa.

Fra Girolamo Savonarola

Fra Girolamo Savonarola (jee-roh-LAH-moh sah-voh-nah-ROH-lah), the prior of the Dominican convent of San Marco, a reformer who bitterly assails the corruption of the Medici and becomes the leader of a strong Florentine faction. In addition to his political activity, he also befriends Dino and persuades Romola to return to her husband. He and Romola are spiritually attracted to each other.

Piero di Cosimo

Piero di Cosimo (pee-EH-roh deh KOH-zee-moh), a famous painter, friendly with Tito, who puts his friends into his pictures. He uses Tito and Romola as models for Bacchus and Ariadne, and he paints Bardo as Oedipus. He also helps to reveal Tito’s duplicity to Romola.

Bartolomeo Scala

Bartolomeo Scala (BAHR-toh-loh-MEH-oh SKAH-lah), the powerful secretary of the Florentine Republic. He buys many of Tito’s gems and helps start him on his spectacular career in Florence.

Alessandra Scala

Alessandra Scala, the beautiful daughter of Bartolomeo Scala.


Marullo (mah-REWL-loh), her husband, a Greek soldier and poet.


Nello, a barber and town gossip who helps to introduce Tito to important people.

Bratti Ferravecchi

Bratti Ferravecchi (fehr-rah-VEH-kee), a rag merchant and tradesman whom Tito meets after arriving in Florence. He buys Tito’s ring.

Bernardo Rucellai

Bernardo Rucellai (rew-CHEHL-lah-ee), the wealthy Florentine and political leader who orders Baldassare arrested when the latter accuses Tito at the dinner party.

Lorenzo Tornabuoni

Lorenzo Tornabuoni (tohr-nah-BWON-ee), a wealthy citizen friendly with Tito. He is at the dinner when Baldassare is arrested. He is imprisoned later for his support of the Medici.

Niccolò Ridolfi

Niccolò Ridolfi (neek-koh-LOH ree-DOHL-fee) and

Giannozzo Pucci

Giannozzo Pucci (jee-ahn-NOHZ-zoh PEW-chee), Florentine aristocrats and supporters of the Medici, imprisoned and executed.

Maestro Vaiano

Maestro Vaiano (vah-ee-AH-noh), an astrologer and mountebank from whom Tito rescues Tessa at the carnival.

Dolfo Spini

Dolfo Spini (SPEE-nee), a false and conniving Florentine with whom Tito deals.

Niccolò Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli (MAH-kee-ah-VEHL-lee), a young Florentine thinker and man of ideas.

Niccolò Caparra

Niccolò Caparra, an iron worker who makes a thick coat of mail for Tito to wear after the latter encounters Baldassare in Florence.

Fra Salvestro Maruffi

Fra Salvestro Maruffi (mah-REWF-fee), Savonarola’s friend, a Dominican friar who aids Romola.

Menico Cennini

Menico Cennini (meh-NEE-koh CHEHN-nee-nee), a Florentine goldsmith and moneylender.


Maso (MAH-soh), Bardo’s old servant, always loyal to Romola.


Politan (POH-lee-tahn), a scholar, the rejected suitor of Alessandra Scala.

Monna Ghita

Monna Ghita (GEE-tah), Tessa’s mother, a fierce milk vendor in the market.

Piero de’ Medici

Piero de’ Medici (deh MEH-dee-chee), the rash and ineffectual son of the famous Lorenzo de’ Medici. He rules Florence after his father’s death in 1492.

Giovanni de’ Medici

Giovanni de’ Medici (jee-oh-VAHN-nee), the luxury-loving younger son of Lorenzo de’ Medici. He becomes Pope Leo X.

Alamanno Rinuccini

Alamanno Rinuccini (ree-new-CHEE-nee), a scholar friendly with Bardo. He is Romola’s suitor before her marriage to Tito Melema.

Monna Lisa

Monna Lisa, a deaf old woman whom Tito hires as a servant to Tessa.


Lillo, Tessa’s sturdy son by Tito.


Ninna, the baby daughter of Tessa and Tito.




Critical Essays