Winterset Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First produced: 1935

First published: 1935

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Tragedy

Time of work: Twentieth century

Locale: New York

Characters DiscussedEsdras

Esdras, Winterseta 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

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

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 radical, a symbolic character who complains of capitalistic oppression.

BibliographyAbernathy, Frances E. “Winterset: A Modern Revenge Tragedy.” Modern Drama 7 (September, 1964): 185-189. Provides a careful comparison of the play to Renaissance revenge tragedies, with special emphasis on Hamlet. Contrasts the Hebraic code of eye for an eye in Hamlet with the Christian gospel of love and forgiveness in Winterset.Hazelton, Nancy J. Doran, and Kenneth Krauss, eds. Maxwell Anderson and the New York Stage. Monroe, N.Y.: Library Research Association, 1991. A collection of essays in honor of Anderson’s centennial in 1988. Contains an insightful interview with George Schaefer regarding a production of Winterset.Shivers, Alfred S. The Life of Maxwell Anderson. Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.: Stein & Day, 1983. Provides numerous details about the writing and staging of Winterset.Shivers, Alfred S. Maxwell Anderson. Boston: Twayne, 1976. The best brief critical introduction to Anderson and his works. Sees Winterset as a continuation of Anderson’s compulsion to portray an idealistic central character “marked for some kind of self-willed defeat for the sake, usually, of a worthwhile cause.”Shivers, Alfred S. Maxwell Anderson: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Works. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1985. A very complete listing, often with annotations, of works by and about Anderson, including numerous citations about Winterset.
Categories: Characters