George Aurispa (ah-ew-REES-pah), a wealthy young Italian independent of his family. He takes the beautiful Hippolyte as his mistress but comes to distrust her and his love affair with her as leading him into the same kind of gross sensuality that had ruined his father. His distress leads him to consider suicide and, later, the murder of the woman who has overpowered his emotions. Finally, he leaps to his death on a rocky coast, taking his mistress with him in his embrace.
Hippolyte (eep-POHL-ee-teh), a beautiful married woman who falls in love with George Aurispa. She leaves her husband and returns to her family to take George as her lover, but she is disturbed many times by the thought of her mortality, a thought frequently suggested to her by an inclination toward epilepsy. From being almost frigid, she becomes, through George Aurispa’s lovemaking, a passionately sensual woman.
Signor Aurispa, George’s father. He is a worldly man who leaves his wife to take up with a mistress, by whom he has two illegitimate children. He squanders his fortune, though he refuses to help his wife and their daughter. He is regarded by his wife and son as a gross sensualist.
Signora Aurispa, George’s mother. As a woman deserted by her husband, she has her son’s deep sympathy. It is partly her unenviable position that enables her son to see that he is slipping into the same kind of sensuality that ensnared his father.