The Matchmaker Characters

This Study Guide consists of approximately 38 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Matchmaker.
This section contains 2,051 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)

August

August is the younger waiter at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant. He is so nervous that he bursts into tears at the slightest provocation.

Cook

Miss Van Huysen's cook has waited all day with her for Ermengarde to arrive. She watches out the window and reports to Miss Van Huysen whenever anyone approaches the house.

Minnie Fay

Minnie works in Mrs. Molloy's hat shop. She is amazed that the older woman would even consider marrying a man whom she does not love. Minnie is not very worldly and has to ask if the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant is "what they call a 'cafe."'

Cornelius Hackl

Cornelius is the thirty-three-year-old chief clerk at Horace Vandergelder's store. Early in the play, Vandergelder announces to him that, after much consideration, he has decided to promote Cornelius to the position of chief clerk. The announcement that he has been promoted to the position he already holds makes him realize that he is in a rut, so he convinces Barnaby to join him for a night on the town in New York. There, he runs into Irene Molloy in her hat shop while he is pretending to be a wealthy socialite shopping for a hat, and he falls in love with her.

To keep Mrs. Molloy from finding out that Cornelius is just a clerk, Dolly Levi concocts an extravagant story about him being one of the most sought-after bachelors in New York, explaining that he comes from a wealthy family and that he only works in Vandergelder's store because he wants to. When Mrs. Molloy sees him next, she insists that he and Barnaby take her and her assistant to an expensive restaurant. Cornelius goes along, not wanting to tell her the truth, but he is frightened about being arrested when he cannot pay the bill until a stranger finds Vandergelder's wallet filled with money and gives it to Cornelius, assuming that he dropped it. A series of mistaken identities causes Miss Van Huysen to spend most of act IV thinking that Cornelius is Ambrose Kemper and that Ambrose is Cornelius, but in the end Cornelius and Mrs. Molloy plan to marry.

Dolly Levi

Dolly is one of the play's central characters and the one after whom it is named. She is a manipulator and schemer who does not mind making up stories to get the results she wants. Her business cards claim skills in reducing varicose veins and in giving instruction on guitar and mandolin, but she states her principal occupation as "a woman who arranges things." Although she plans to marry Vandergelder for his money, her intentions are good; as she says to the audience in the last act, she plans to spread his money around to make the world a better place.

Mrs. Levi is a widow, an old friend of Vandergelder's late wife. As she points out later in the play, she and Vandergelder danced together at each other's weddings. Vandergelder brings her into the situation because he wants her to chaperone Ermengarde, whom he plans to send to New York while he goes to marry Mrs. Molloy. Mrs. Levi starts planning against him almost immediately. She works to help Ermengarde and Ambrose get together, and she disrupts Vandergelder's intention to propose to Mrs. Molloy by making up a fabulously wealthy, sophisticated woman whom she says is interested in him. When she finds Cornelius in Mrs. Molloy's shop, she helps him hide from Vandergelder, and she makes up a ridiculous story so that Mrs. Molloy will not realize that he is a lowly clerk. This serves two purposes: she wants to help the lovers, and she wants to keep Mrs. Molloy from Vandergelder. At dinner with Vandergelder, she carefully but obliquely states the case for his marrying her so that he will think that the idea was his own. Her strategy works, in part because he is a willing victim, which becomes obvious when announces that she has agreed to become his wife and she has him change his announcement to "finally agreed," as if he had been begging her for a long time.

Rudolph

The senior waiter at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, Rudolph is a snob who tries to maintain dignity when dealing with the antics of the play's main characters. He speaks with a German accent.

Malachi Stack

Malachi arrives at the store in Yonkers with a stack of letters of recommendation from employers in different trades, including a letter from one of Vandergelder's friends named Joshua Van Tuyl. Vandergelder hires him and sends him to New York on a train that is leaving immediately, so that he does not meet the other clerks. Therefore, when he runs into Cornelius and Barnaby at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant, he does not know them, and he gives Cornelius the wallet he finds on the floor, which is Vandergelder's. Malachi explains his honesty in trying to return a wallet full of money to its rightful owner: he used to be a thief, then took to drink, and has found that a person can only handle one vice well, so he drinks but doesn't steal. Later, his drinking clouds his judgment, and he and the Cabman abduct Cornelius and Barnaby instead of Ermengarde and Ambrose.

Flora Van Huysen

An old friend of Ermengarde's deceased mother, Miss Van Huysen is a very old spinster who lives with her servants at 8 Jackson Street, New York. Vandergelder sends Ermengarde to live with her so that she cannot marry Ambrose, but they follow Miss Levi's advice and go to the restaurant instead, leaving Miss Van Huysen to wait in vain all day for Ermengarde's arrival. When they do arrive, it turns out that Miss Van Huysen has no intention of keeping them apart. She considers herself "a friend of all young lovers," hinting that her own love life was ruined by "obstacles and disappointments." She is easily confused, fooled into thinking that Barnaby is Ermengarde, but her good intentions are essential to everything coming out all right in the end.

This section contains 2,051 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)
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Drama for Students
The Matchmaker from Drama for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.