Death in Venice

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Gustav von Aschenbach

The main character of the novella, Aschenbach is a successful, celebrated German writer who lives in Munich. An old man, he has lived an austere, disciplined life dedicated to his writing. He rarely indulges in… (read full character analysis)

The Red-Haired Man

While out for a walk in Munich, Aschenbach sees a mysterious red-haired, foreign-looking man. The man looks directly at Aschenbach, and inexplicably awakens in him a desire to travel to faraway, exotic places. It is… (read full character analysis)

The Old Man

While traveling by boat to Venice, Aschenbach sees a pathetic-looking old man who is wearing makeup, a wig, and dentures in a desperate attempt to appear young. The old man is drunk and offends Aschenbach’s… (read full character analysis)

The Gondolier

A mysterious character who transports Aschenbach to his hotel but refuses any monetary payment, saying simply, “You will pay.” He is reminiscent of the Greek mythological character Charon, who ferried souls across the river Styx… (read full character analysis)


Aschenbach actually knows little about Tadzio, a fourteen year-old Polish boy vacationing with his family in Venice, but idealizes and fantasizes about him endlessly. Aschenbach is taken by Tadzio’s youthful, “godlike” beauty and continually compares… (read full character analysis)
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The Hotel Barber

The barber encourages Aschenbach to dye his hair, wear makeup, and alter his appearance late in the novella, as Aschenbach becomes more and more obsessed with youth and begins to despise his aged appearance. By… (read full character analysis)

The Guitarist

The guitarist performs at Aschenbach’s hotel one night. He seems to have no self-restraint and entertains the audience by behaving ridiculously and vulgarly. In one performance, he and his fellow performers laugh hysterically until the… (read full character analysis)

The Englishman

Aschenbach speaks to this Englishman at a British travel agency in Venice. The Englishman is the only person who tells him the truth about the mysterious disease spreading throughout Venice, and explains that city officials… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
One of Tadzio’s friends, who Aschenbach sees him playing with. Jaschu is larger and rowdier than Tadzio, and at the end of the novella he tackles him and pins him to the ground, causing Tadzio to go off angrily by himself into the ocean.