The duke of Florence
The duke of Florence, a lecherous, ruthless ruler. Capturing Leantio’s wife with the aid of Livia and Guardiano, he takes her partly by force and partly by seduction. Later, having sworn an oath to his brother, the Lord Cardinal, that he will no longer live with her in adultery, he carries out his promise by having her husband killed and marrying her immediately thereafter. There is poetic justice in his death, for his new wife prepares poison for the good brother and a servant mistakenly serves it to the duke. He dies in agony.
The Lord Cardinal
The Lord Cardinal, the duke’s brother. He preaches morality with vehemence and at length but has little or no effect on the multipresent evils of the corrupt court. He remains alive to deliver a last blast of morality after the holocaust at the play’s end.
Fabricio (fah-BREE-chee-oh), the father of Isabella. A foolish, ineffectual man, he insists on marrying his daughter to the rich ward of Guardiano. He is stunned with horror in the final scene but is alive at the play’s end.
Hippolito (eep-POH-lee-toh), Fabricio’s brother. Devoured by incestuous lust, with the aid of his sister Livia he corrupts his niece. He kills Leantio for family pride after the duke has let him know that Leantio and Livia are having an illicit affair. Just before his own death, he speaks lines that give the tone of the play: “Lust and forgetfulness has been amongst us,/ And we are brought to nothing.”
Livia (LEE-vee-ah), the sister of Fabricio and Hippolito. The essence of evil in a play crawling with evil, she aids the duke in his plan to ravish Bianca. She lies to Isabella, telling her that she is not the daughter of Fabricio and therefore not the niece of Hippolito. She is swept away by obsessive lust for Leantio, whom she takes as a lover and showers with wealth. Her rage...
(The entire section is 849 words.)