The Name of the Rose Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Umberto Eco

First published: Il nome della rosa, 1980 (English translation, 1983)

Genre: Novel

Locale: An abbey in northern Italy

Plot: Detective and mystery

Time: 1327

William of Baskerville, a Franciscan monk. This fifty-year-old English cleric and former inquisitor is tall and slender, with a hooked nose, sharp eyes, and a wry sense of humor. Reared in the skeptic tradition, he is a pre-Renaissance humanist, learned in letters, science, and philosophy; he is skilled, eloquent, and tolerant. Because of his interest in all knowledge, he finds it repugnant that anyone should bar others from acquiring it, either through censorship or, worse yet, murder. In addition to working on a compromise between Pope John XXII and Emperor Louis IV, William solves the serial death cases, although he is unable to prevent the abbey library from being burned to the ground. He dies of the plague sometime in the mid-fourteenth century.

Adso of Melk, a Benedictine monk. In the prologue, he is an old man, but in the novel he is a novice and Brother William's disciple and scribe. Eighteen years old, he is handsome and impressionable, even naïve, particularly in matters of love, sex, and bookish knowledge. In one compressed week, he acquires an entire education and, from his master, a sophisticated way of viewing people and truth.

Abo, the abbot. He is of refined and noble origins, and he enjoys showing off the wealth of his abbey, especially his famous library. By being less than forthright with William, he causes delays and difficulties in the investigation. Trapped in an airless room of the library, Abo becomes the sixth and last victim.

Berengar of Arundel, an assistant librarian, a very close, homosexual young friend of Adelmo. The handsome, pale, and lascivious Berengar was the last to see Adelmo, raving mad with guilt. Clever and unscrupulous, he is not beyond revealing library secrets to his friends or using his good looks in exchange for favors. He is the third victim.

Benno of Uppsala, a scholar of rhetoric. From his interest in the great pagan writers, he theorizes that a supposedly lost volume of Aristotle's Poetics, dealing with comedy and laughter, may have fallen into Berengar's hands. After he steals the book, he extorts his promotion to assistant li-brarian; desolate over all the destruction, he dies in the library fire.

Venantius of Salvemec (veh-NAN-shee-uhs), a Greek and Arabic translator. He has a discussion with Adelmo about fantasy in art and may have come to know too much. He is killed (he is the second victim), but not without first writing in code how to penetrate the library's inner sanctum, a message William later deciphers.

Severinus of Sankt Wendel (sehv-eh-RI-nuhs), an herbalist. Severinus has been in charge of the infirmary for some twenty-five years and knows about most poisonous plants and their antidotes, as well as the medicinal literature. Killed by a blunt instrument, he is the fourth victim.

Malachi of Hildesheim (HIHL-dehs-him), a librarian. He is tall, thin, and severe looking. Malachi has sole access to the library stacks. To protect these from curious monks, a complicated call-numbering system has been devised, which only he understands. He is poisoned, becoming the fifth victim.

Bernard Gui, a Dominican inquisitor. About seventy years old, he is slender, and his gray eyes are cold and angry. As inquisitor, he can be harsh, cruel, wily, and icily sarcastic when questioning heretics; as papal agent and head of the armed escort, he is a shrewd and tough arguer and negotiator. In both functions, he shows himself to be a subtle psychologist and a brutal enforcer.

Jorge of Burgos (hohr-HAY), a former librarian. Despite his advanced age (he is more than eighty years old), he is still very strong and mentally alert. As the oldest and most learned member of the abbatial community, he is rightfully named “Venerable.” His physical blindness parallels his fanatical blindness as he fights against laughter and pagan learning, going as far as killing to censor blasphemous writings and to manage truth as he sees it. He dies by eating pages of Aristotle's book, which he had deliberately poisoned.

Michael of Cesena, the minister-general of the Franciscans. In his discussion with John XXII's envoys, he shows subtlety, intelligence, and caution. His stand on ecclesiastical poverty puts him in direct confrontation with the pope and in probable danger.

Ubertino of Casale (ew-bayr-TEE-noh) a monk. Bald, skinny, and sixty-eight years old, Ubertino is an old friend and teacher of William. He is also a wise and learned author of a famous mystic work. Because of his uncompromising faith, he has been threatened with death and is hiding in the abbey. After the talks collapse, he flees from harm's way. Two years later, he dies in mysterious circumstances.

Remigio of Varagine (ray-MEEK-yoh), a cellarer. A former member of the heretical sect of Fraticelli, this jolly and vulgar fifty-two-year-old monk uses women from the village for his own pleasure. Now caught in Bernard Gui's trap, he confesses every imaginable sin and crime and dies at the stake.

Salvatore, Remigio's assistant. This former Fraticello is old, emaciated, and unkempt. Although almost crazy from all he has seen and done, he reveals, in his gibberish of languages, the horrible underside of a society abandoned by the Church. After being tortured, he is a complete wreck, hardly worth the bother of executing.

Nicholas of Morimondo, a master glazier. He tells William that monks who entered the stacks had hallucinations and went insane. After Remigio's death, he became the cellarer.

A village girl, between sixteen and twenty years old, beautiful and sexy, poor and wretched, who trades sexual favors for food scraps from the abbey's kitchen. When she and young Adso make love, she finds him much more attractive and tender than the disgusting Remigio. After Bernard Gui catches her with a chicken and a cat—in his mind, obviously indicating that she is a witch—she is to be burned at the stake.

Adelmo of Otranto, a master illuminator of manuscripts. Full of remorse over his sins, this young monk commits suicide and is the novel's first victim.

Cardinal Bertrand del Poggetto, the head of the papal legation, a learned debater in the dispute between proponents of Church property and those of poverty.

Categories: Characters