First published: 1733 (English translation, 1736)
Time: During the reign of Osman, Sultan of Jerusalem
Zaïre (zah-EER), a slave of the sultan Orosmane, captured in infancy. Zaïre finds that she can love the Muslim ruler in spite of his religion. She discovers, however, that the Christian leader, Lusignan, is her father and Nerestan is her brother. She then vows to become a Christian and, counseled by her brother, postpones her nuptials. Torn between her love for Orosmane and her loyalty to her family, Zaïre goes to meet her brother and is killed by the jealous Orosmane.
Nerestan (nay-reh-STAHN), Zaïre's brother. A prisoner of the Muslims since the age of four, Nerestan escaped to fight against the Turks, only to be captured at Damas. Because of his bravery, he is released to secure the ransom of the Christian prisoners. He learns that Lusignan is really his father and that Zaïre is his sister. A devout Christian, Nerestan attempts to persuade Zaïre to abandon her plans to marry the sultan.
Orosmane (oh-rohs-MAHN), also called Osman, the sultan of Jerusalem. Captivated by his slave Zaïre, he decides to make her his sultana. Ignorant of the relationship between Zaïre and Nerestan, he thinks they are lovers and murders her in a fit of jealousy.
Lusignan (lew-zeen-YAHN), a French prince in the line of the kings of Jerusalem. Because of Lusignan's title, Orosmane refuses to ransom him, but Zaïre is able to secure his release. After he is liberated, he learns that Nerestan and Zaïre are his long-lost children.
Chatillon (shah-tee-YOHN), a French captive ransomed by Nerestan.
Fatima (fah-TEE-mah), a slave of the sultan, captured in adulthood. Fatima is a devout Christian who exerts her influence on Zaïre.
Corasmin (koh-rahs-MAN) and Meledor (may-lay-DOHR), officers of the sultan.