Characters

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

John Rosmer

John Rosmer has been a man of faith and a pastor, but he left his position after his wife, Beata, died by suicide. (The deceased wife is referred to by others but does not appear in the play.) Having turned to politics as a substitute for religion, he naively believes that he can help mediate the several political rifts in his town. This conciliatory attitude combined with his relationship with Rebecca West place him at the center of a firestorm of public opinion. Unable to bring people together, Rosmer not only succumbs to despair himself but drags Rebecca down with him; at the end, as if married in death, both take their own lives by drowning in the pond as Beata had done. His estate, and the play’s namesake, is called Rosmersholm.

Rebecca West

Rebecca West, a widow, had moved to town to be a companion to the invalid Beata Rosmer. Her progressive positions, which apparently include liberated attitudes toward sex, are not welcomed by all the townspeople. She admits to Rosmer and Kroll that her growing love for John and resentment of Beata had contributed to the wife’s suicide. She even admits to having told Beata that she was pregnant with Rosmer’s child—emphasizing their “need” to marry and get Beata out of their lives. After she decides to leave Rosmersholm, John confesses that he has lost the will to live, and he then convinces her that the two of them should die together.

Rector Kroll

Rector Kroll, the schoolmaster, is a narrow-minded, conservative, and suspicious man who cannot forgive Rosmer for his sister’s death. As he proves equally intolerant of Rosmer’s changing political opinions, he encourages public scandal about his former brother-in-law’s relationship with Rebecca. His political arch-rival is Mortensgaard, whom he condemns for warping the minds of young people, including his own children. Kroll feels negatively about women in politics, particularly because his own wife sides with the liberal leanings of their children rather than his own conservative views. He despises Rebecca’s involvement and opinions.

Peter Mortensgaard

Peter Mortensgaard is a progressive thinker who publishes the Searchlight newspaper. While he seems passionately devoted to his cause, he is shown to be superficial and manipulative. Initially happy to have Rosmer’s backing when he thought him still a Christian, he rejects his help after learning of his lost faith. Mortensgaard’s hypocrisy is emphasized by censuring the former clergyman for his alleged affair.

Ulric Brendel

Ulric Brendel grew up in the town but has moved away. Down on his luck after enjoying some success as an author, the itinerant philosopher turns up again and sponges off Rosmer and Mortensgaard. He gains respect from Rebecca and Rosmer for his ideals and nobility of the soul. After learning of Mortensgaard’s duplicity, he doubts his own idealism and leaves town again.

Mrs. Helseth

Mrs. Helseth is the long-term housekeeper at Rosmersholm. She alerts Rebecca that the townspeople believe the rumors about her. She has the play's last line after she finds Rebecca’s and Rosmer’s bodies.

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