Esdras, a kindly and philosophical old rabbi who is troubled because of his son’s guilt in withholding testimony in the Romagna case. Convinced of his past error in trying to protect Garth, Esdras decides to tell of Shadow’s murder.
Garth, his son, a witness to a murder committed years ago by Trock. His fear of Trock has kept him silent.
Miriamne (mih-ree-AM-nee), Esdras’ fifteen-year-old daughter, who is in love with Mio but, like Esdras, hopes to protect Garth. Rushing to Mio after he has been shot, she is killed when she runs into the line of fire of Trock’s machine gun. Like William Shakespeare’s Juliet, Miriamne is a virtuous, intense young girl whose love for her sweetheart conflicts with her loyalty to her family, and who chooses to die with the man she has loved.
Bartolomeo Romagna (BAHR-toh-loh-MEH-oh roh-MAHN-nyah), called Mio (MEE-oh), the classically tragic young son of Romagna, who was innocent of murder but condemned and executed because of prejudice against his being an anarchist. Mio lives only to prove Romagna’s innocence. He witnesses the shooting of Shadow. Torn between loyalty to his father and love for Miriamne, whose brother will be killed if Mio informs on Trock, Mio hesitates too long and is at last gunned down. The doomed Mio may be compared with Hamlet and other sons in earlier literature who sought to avenge a father’s murder and thereby brought on not only their own deaths but those of others as well.
Trock, a coldhearted murderer released from prison and dying of tuberculosis. With only six months to live, he is willing, if necessary, to protect his past guilt with additional murders. He resembles American gangsters and professional murderers of the 1920’s.
Shadow, his henchman, who is murdered by two other followers of Trock. He lives long enough to confront and accuse Trock.
Judge Gaunt, the elderly judge who sentenced Romagna to death. He is intermittently insane from brooding over his part in Romagna’s death.
Carr, a cynical teenage friend of Mio.
Lucia, a street-piano man.
Piny, an apple-woman.
Herman, a shoe salesman.
A radical, a symbolic character who complains of capitalistic oppression.