The Master and Margarita

Major characters

Contemporary Russians

The Master
An author who wrote a novel about the meeting of Pontius Pilate and Yeshua Ha-Notsri (Jesus of Nazareth), which led to the ruination of his career by the Soviet literary bureacracy. He is "detained for questioning" for three months by the secret police because of a false report by an unscrupulous neighbor. Later, he is committed to a psychiatric clinic, where Bezdomny meets him. Little else is known about this character's past other than his belief that his life had no meaning until he met Margarita.
The Master's lover. Trapped in a passionless marriage, she devoted herself to the Master, whom she believes to be dead. She appears briefly in the first half of the novel, but is not referred to by name until the second half, when she serves as the hostess of Satan's Grand Ball on Walpurgis Night. Her character was mostly inspired by Bulgakov's last wife, whom he called "my Margarita". Some inspiration may also have come from Faust's Gretchen, whose real name is Margarita, as well as from Queen Marguerite de Valois. The latter is the main character of the opera Les Huguenots by Giacomo Meyerbeer, which Bulgakov particularly enjoyed, and a novel by Alexandre Dumas, La Reine Margot. In these accounts, the queen is portrayed as daring and passionate.
Mikhail Alexandrovich Berlioz
Head of the literary bureaucracy MASSOLIT. He bears the last name (Берлиоз) of French composer Hector Berlioz, who wrote the opera The Damnation of Faust. Berlioz is particularly insistent that the Gospel Jesus was a completely mythical figure with zero historical basis, as opposed to a historic person whose biography was later "embellished" by Christians. Woland predicts that he will be decapitated by a young Soviet woman, which comes to pass when Berlioz slips on a puddle of sunflower oil and falls under a streetcar.
Ivan Nikolayevich Ponyryov (Bezdomny)
A young, aspiring poet. His pen name, Bezdomny (Иван Бездомный), means "homeless". Initially a willing tool of the MASSOLIT apparatus, he is transformed by the events of the novel. He witnesses Berlioz's death and nearly goes mad, but later meets The Master in asylum and decides to stop writing poetry once and for all.
Stephan Bogdanovich Likhodeyev
Director of the Variety Theatre and Berlioz's roommate, often called by the diminutive name Styopa. His surname is derived from the Russian word for "malfeasant". For his wicked deeds (he denounced at least five innocent people as spies so that he and Berlioz could grab their multi-bedroom apartment), he is magically teleported to Yalta, thereby freeing up the stolen apartment for Woland and his retinue.
Grigory Danilovich Rimsky
Treasurer of the Variety Theatre. On the night of Woland's performance, Rimsky is ambushed by Varenukha (who has been turned into a vampire by Woland's gang) and Hella. He barely escapes the encounter and flees to the train station to get out of the city.
Ivan Savelyevich Varenukha
House-manager of the Variety Theatre, whose surname refers to a traditional alcoholic fruit-punch resembling mulled wine. He is turned into a creature of darkness but is forgiven by the end of Walpurgis Night, restoring his humanity.
Margarita's young maid, later turned into a witch.
Nikanor Ivanovich Bosoy
Chairman of the House Committee at 302B Sadovaya Street (the former residence of Berlioz). For his greed and trickery, he is deceived by Koroviev and later arrested.

Woland and his entourage

Woland (Воланд, also spelled Voland) is Satan in the disguise of a "foreign professor" who is "in Moscow to present a performance of 'black magic' and then expose its machinations". This exposure never occurs; Woland instead exposes the greed and bourgeois behaviour of the spectators themselves.
An enormous demonic black cat (said to be as large as a hog) who speaks, walks on two legs, and can even transform to human shape for brief periods. He has a penchant for chess, vodka, pistols, and obnoxious sarcasm. He is evidently the least-respected member of Woland's team — even Margarita boldly takes to slapping Behemoth on the head after one of his many ill-timed jokes, without fear of retribution. In the last chapters it appears that Behemoth is a demon pageboy, the best clown in the world, who paid off his debt by serving Satan in his Moscow journey. His name (Бегемот) refers to both the Biblical monster and the Russian word for hippopotamus.
Also known as Fagotto (Фагот, meaning "bassoon" in Russian and other languages), he is described as an "ex-choirmaster", perhaps implying that he was once a member of an angelic choir. He is Woland's assistant and translator, and is capable of creating any illusion. Unlike Behemoth and Azazello, he does not use violence at any point. Like Behemoth, his true form is revealed at the end: a never-smiling dark knight.
Azazello (Азазелло) is a menacing, fanged and wall-eyed member of Woland's retinue, a messenger and assassin. His name may be a reference to Azazel, the fallen angel who taught people to make weapons and jewelry, and taught women the "sinful art" of painting their faces (mentioned in the apocryphal Book of Enoch 8:1–3). This connection could explain the magical cream he gives to Margarita. He also transforms into his real shape in the end: a pale-faced demon-assassin with black empty eyes.
Hella (Гелла) is a beautiful, redheaded succubus. She serves as maid to Woland and his retinue. Described as being "perfect, were it not for a purple scar on her neck" — the scar suggesting that she is also a vampiress.
Abadonna (Абадонна) is a pale-faced, black-goggled angel of death. His name is a reference to Abaddon.

Characters from The Master's novel

Pontius Pilate
The Roman Procurator of Judaea, a procurator in this case being a governor of a small province. The real Pontius Pilate was the prefect of Judaea, not the procurator.
Yeshua Ha-Nozri
Jesus the Nazarene (Иешуа га-Ноцри), a wanderer or "mad philosopher", as Pilate calls him, whose name in Hebrew means either "Jesus who belongs to the Nazarene sect" or "Jesus who is from a place called Nazareth", though some commentators dispute the latter interpretation.[12] The Master's version of Yeshua describes himself as an orphan, denies doing miracles, and apparently has only one full-time "Apostle", not twelve, among other departures from mainstream Christian tradition. The irony should not be overlooked that the Master's "secularized" Jesus proves to be more offensive to the atheist regime (including Berlioz) than a mystical, miracle-working Jesus would have been.
Head of the Roman Secret Service in Judaea.
Levi Matvei
Levite, former tax collector, follower of Yeshua. The Gospel of St. Matthew was not written by Matthew Levi, but by annonymous author. Although introduced as a semi-fictionalized character in the Master's novel, towards the end of The Master and Margarita the "real" Matthew makes a personal appearance in Moscow to deliver a message from Yeshua to Woland.
High Priest of Judaea. Kaifa is interested in Yeshua's death in order to "protect" the status quo religion and his own status as the High Priest from the influence of Yeshua's preachings and followers.
Judas Iscariot
A spy/informant hired by Kaifa to assist the authorities in finding and arresting Yeshua. In the Bible, Judas is a long-time member of Jesus's "inner circle" of Apostles, while Bulgakov's Judas meets Yeshua for the first time less than 48 hours before betraying him. He is paid off by Kaifa, but is later assassinated on Pilate's orders for his role in Yeshua's death.

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