Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Jaffeir (JAF-yur), a Venetian citizen who wins the undying animosity of Priuli by secretly marrying his daughter, Belvidera. After three years of being thus disowned, Jaffeir and his wife are heartbroken and penniless, their only joy being in their deep love for each other and for their baby son. When their household is seized at the father-in-law’s vindictive order, Jaffeir is most amenable to a suggestion that he avenge the abuse to his wife by joining a conspiracy against the Senate of Venice. Revolted by the crudity of the conspirators, he informs the council of their plans and thus incurs the scorn of his noble friend Pierre. Jaffeir has woven a tangled web by abusing his wife and betraying his friend. He can regain his self-respect only by stabbing his friend and himself.


Pierre (pyehr), a gentle philosopher and an honored citizen of Venice. By his own candid estimate, he is a villain; though he sees how the government is enslaving the people, he remains passive and does little to correct the situation. Intrigued by the conspirators’ plot, Pierre concludes that he is as free to be a foe as to be a friend of Venice. His decision is inspired as much by his desire for personal vengeance as by any sense of altruism. Sensing his contempt for the bullying cowardice of the conspirators as they imply Jaffeir’s disloyalty to the conspiracy, he nevertheless continues with the cause. Complex circumstances conspire to shatter the friendship of Jaffeir and Pierre, but in the end the men reunite. In a gesture of mutual forgiveness, Pierre, on the executioner’s stand, asks Jaffeir to stab...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Brown, Laura. English Dramatic Form, 1660-1760: An Essay in Generic History. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981. An interesting discussion, within the context of “affective” tragedy, of Otway’s two best-known plays, The Orphan and Venice Preserved.

Kelsall, Malcolm. Introduction to Venice Preserved, edited by Malcolm Kelsall. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1969. Kelsall’s is the best modern edition of Venice Preserved. His introduction is first-rate in its discussion of Otway’s main source, the many problems attendant upon viewing the play as a political satire, and its long life on the English stage.

Milhous, Judith, and Robert D. Hume. Producible Interpretation: Eight English Plays, 1675-1707. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985. Highly recommended for anyone interested in Restoration drama. The chapter on Venice Preserved provides a lucid and interesting introduction to the play, as well as a fascinating history of the many different stagings Otway’s play received over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Stroup, Thomas B. “Otway’s Bitter Pessimism.” In Essays in English Literature of the Classical Period Presented to Dougald MacMillan. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1967. A classic general study of Otway. Stroup sees all of Otway’s dramatic works as cynical and frustrating and finds Venice Preserved to be a moral chaos marked by “broken oaths and curses.”

Taylor, Aline MacKenzie. Next to Shakespeare: Otway’s “Venice Preserv’d” and “The Orphan” and Their History on the London Stage. New York: AMS Press, 1966. Though originally published in 1950, this remains the most exhaustive and most reliable account of Venice Preserved and its stage history.