Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Claire Zachanassian

Claire Zachanassian, one of the richest and most powerful women in the world and a former resident of Güllen. She is a sixty-three-year-old redhead smartly dressed in black, a grotesque figure with an artificial leg and an ivory hand. Eccentric and extravagant, she rides around in a sedan chair, carries a coffin with her, owns a black panther, smokes cigars, and picks up and discards husbands at will. Once a wild and vivacious young girl in love with Alfred Ill, she lost a paternity suit against him through his deceit and left Güllen in disgrace to work in a brothel, where she was found by a millionaire. Incredibly wealthy, she has sought vengeance by buying up Güllen and shutting off its progress. Cold and menacing, she offers the town a large sum of money to kill Ill.

Alfred Ill

Alfred Ill, known as Anton Schill in the English translation, Güllen’s leading citizen and the town’s next mayor. He is a shabbily dressed, overweight, sixty-five-year-old shopkeeper with gray hair. As a young man, he had a passionate love affair with Claire but failed to meet his obligation to her when she became pregnant. Having bribed two witnesses to brand her as a whore, he abandoned Claire and married Matilda to get Matilda’s father’s general store. When Claire offers money for his life, he feels secure that the town will support him. When he sees his townsmen spending lavishly on credit, however, he flees in panic but is stopped at the train station. Betrayed by his friends, stripped of his position of honor, and branded as a criminal, he courageously accepts the responsibility for what he has done to Claire and goes to his death with an air of tragic dignity.

The mayor of Güllen

The mayor of Güllen, a stodgy and long-winded man always trying to orchestrate events and create the appearance of propriety. Although he is the first to turn down Claire’s proposal, on humanitarian grounds, he is later seduced by wealth. Eventually, he threatens Ill to...

(The entire section is 835 words.)