Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 547
Wilhelm Meister (VIHL-hehlm MIS-tur), a philosophical gentleman who, upon becoming a Renunciant, has pledged to wander the earth, never stopping any one place for more than three days. Meister, having deserted the world of commerce and the stage, is trying to form some spiritual conclusions. The novel’s end finds him still on the road, furthering his final purifying sacrifice.
Felix, Meister’s son, who travels with his father except for a period of years spent in a school learning the value of labor and art. He injures himself in a fall and is last seen receiving medical attention from his father.
Lenardo (lay-NAHR-doh), Meister’s friend, who discovers that part of the money an uncle had given him to use in traveling had come from a farmer and his daughter whom the uncle had found it necessary to dispossess. The Nut-Brown Maid, the farmer’s daughter, becomes a point of conscience for Lenardo, and he spends a great deal of time traveling in an effort to learn what has become of her. Meister, fortunately, discovers her and sends word to Lenardo that the girl is well and safe; Lenardo is then free to return home.
Hersilia (hur-SIHL-yah), Lenardo’s cousin, much admired by Felix. When Hersilia shoves Felix during some innocent love play, Felix is offended. Dashing off wildly, he injures himself in a fall on some stones beside a stream.
Flavio (FLAH-fee-oh), a young man for whom his father, a major, has arranged a marriage with his sister’s daughter, Hilaria. After many misunderstandings—Hilaria wants to marry her uncle instead of the son, for example—Flavio finally marries her and becomes a prosperous merchant.
Makaria (mah-KAH-ree-ah), a wise old woman who keeps a castle from which she dispatches advice that solves the problems of friends and relatives, and in which lives a savant who studies the stars and explains their secrets to Meister.
Joseph (YOH-sehf) and
Mary (mah-REE), a couple with a beautiful baby whom Meister and Felix encounter on the road. Joseph is a woodworker who has done artistic holy panels for a local chapel in which the family resides. He had rescued Mary from a band of robbers who had killed her husband. He married her shortly after her child was born. When Meister and Felix meet him, he is a prosperous rent collector who lives happily with his family.
Jarno (YAHR-noh), often called Montan (mohn-TAHN), a geologist friend of Meister whom he encounters on his travels. Jarno had known Meister during their acting days. Like Meister, he has become a Renunciant.
Fitz, a beggar boy and a friend of Felix. He knows the country and serves as a guide for a while for the father and son. Fitz leaves the party when he is able to escape from a beautiful garden in which Meister and Felix are taken captive by men who, it turns out, mean them no harm.
Hilaria (hih-LAHR-ee-ah), a young girl met by Meister as he travels with an artist friend in the Italian lake country, the home of Meister’s foster daughter, Mignon. Hilaria travels with a pretty widow. When her education is completed, she marries Flavio.
Julietta (yew-lee-eh-TAH), Hersilia’s older, plain sister.
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