Paulina is Gerardo Escobar's wife and she is around 40 years of age. Unlike her husband, Paulina is incapable of looking towards the future, so shackled is she by the horrors of her past. Years before, during the military dictatorship in her country, she was studying medicine and becoming involved in the resistance. As a result, Paulina was kidnapped by the government's secret police and subjected to days of sexual and physical torture, during which she refused to give up the names of her colleagues, including Gerardo. Although she was ultimately freed, Paulina never fully recovered from the psychological effects of her captivity. She never finished school, and has spent the intervening years married to Gerardo without entertaining any of her own professional or personal aspirations. She is deeply private, paranoid, and fragile, suffering through the social appearances that her husband's position demands.
Gerardo Escobar is a lawyer in his mid-40s and Paulina's husband. The new president has recently appointed Gerardo to a commission that will examine human rights abuses during the former military dictatorship. Motivated by a theoretical ideal of justice, Gerardo is shocked by Paulina's attempt to take justice into her own hands and put Roberto on trial in their home. He repeatedly attempts to convince Paulina to let Roberto go, maintaining his optimistic belief that the only new government can serve its citizens' demand for justice. Equally focused on his own reputation and career, Gerardo is horrified by the thought of what will happen to his new position should anyone find out what Paulina has done to Roberto.
Gerardo's excitement over his appointment and the promise of his burgeoning career represent his hope for the future; his ambition outweighs his desire and ability to examine the past. He has always had great difficulty discussing Paulina's experience, a guilt that is compounded by the fact that he had an affair during Paulina's absence and she found him with another woman when she returned from captivity. His suggestion that Paulina record her experiences on tape is clearly part of Gerardo's plan to free Roberto, but it also may also be his way of finally attempting to confront and accept his complicity in Paulina's pain.
Roberto Miranda is a doctor who is around 50 years old. He has a wife and two children and appears to be fairly well-off, since he owns a beach house.
For the majority of the play, Roberto consistently affirms his innocence in the crimes of which Paulina is accusing him. However, Roberto's sub-conscious correction of a few of facts that Paulina deliberately mis-represents in her recording ultimately sheds doubt on this innocence.
During his "confession," Roberto explains that the previous regime previously engaged him as a sort of medical supervisor to the police's torture sessions; he was meant to advise torturers on how much pain they could inflict on the prisoners without killing them. At first, Roberto was able to convince himself that he was there for humanitarian reasons - in many cases he stopped the police from torturing people who were not actually in danger of dying - but Roberto was eventually seduced by the power that he wielded; he suddenly began to actually enjoy himself.
Despite the physical clues and Paulina's ultimate conviction that Roberto is guilty, he maintains his innocence to the end. After recording what he claims to be a "false confession," he still refuses to admit to any of the crimes and begs Paulina to stop the cycle of violence.
Death and the Maiden Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Death and the Maiden is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
A major dramatic device in Death and the Maiden is Dorfman's use of the mirror in Act 3, Scene 1. At the moment of the play's climax, the stage directions indicate that a giant mirror descends in front of Paulina and Roberto, forcing the audience...
"Death and the Maiden"is the title of the Schubert quartet that the doctor played for Paulina while he was torturing her. For her, it represents the beauty in society that was stripped from her by the cruelty of her torturers. Paulina longs to...
"Death and the Maiden"is the title of the Schubert quartet that the doctor played for Paulina while he was torturing her. For her, it represents the beauty in society that was stripped from her by the cruelty of her torturers. Paulina longs to be...