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...
(The entire section is 688 words.)