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- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Just before "My Junk," all of the girls swoon over Melchior's intellect, atheism, and most of all his general lack of caring.
- Big "NO!": On discovering Wendla's freshly-dug grave. Often repeated by the Groff (and Austin Mc Kenzie), but other Melchiors just went for one.
- Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Though Moritz is far more brooding of the two male heroes, Melchior certainly has some Byronic characteristics, particularly in contrast with Wendla's gentleness and innocence.
- Byronic Hero
- The Cynic
- Deadpan Snarker
- Grief Song: "Left Behind", for Moritz.
- Hands-On Approach: Even after giving him a graphically detailed manual, Melchior tries this in teaching Moritz sexuality lessons during "Touch Me."
- Hollywood Atheist: Contrary to his culture and era's staunch Christianity, Melchior is an atheist, as well as a careless cynic and believer in free love.
- "I Want" Song: "All That's Known."
- Pretty Boy: Melchior is traditionally played by slender, attractive actors with a defined bone structure.
- Survivor Guilt: Expresses this for Moritz in "Left Behind," and once again for Wendla just before "Those You've Known," so much so he considers suicide.
- Trauma Conga Line: Starts out as a cynic doubting his faith in God, loses his best friend to suicide and his love interest to a botched abortion, is sent to a boarding school where he's bullied relentlessly, and attempts suicide himself. "Those You've Known" suggests that this earns him Iron Woobie status.
- Played by John Gallagher, Jr. (OBC), Daniel Durant and Alex Boniello (2015 revival)
- Abusive Parents: His dad beating him, verbally abusing him, and kicking him out of his own home for failing an exam is one of the reasons of his suicide.
- Adults Are Useless: Many ways for Moritz. Firstly, he is made to fail by Herr Knochenbruch an Fraulein Knuppeldick, then is kicked out of his home by his own father who beats him AND, if that wasn't enough, is then refused his thousand bucks to escape to America by Melchior's mother whom shrugs off his problems.
- Age-Appropriate Angst
- Anime Hair
- Ate His Gun: The stage directions specifically call for this.note
- Break the Cutie
- Counterpoint Duet: "Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind"
- Cry Laughing: Some incarnations have Moritz do this during, appropriately, "Don't Do Sadness".
- Driven to Suicide
- Forgotten Fallen Friend: To a certain extent, for Melchior. His funeral produces one of Melchior's most emotional moments, the Grief Song "Left Behind", but for Melchior's closest relationship in the play he's turned aside pretty quickly when being accused of causing Moritz's suicide spurns the largely comical "Totally Fucked". Sadly, this is fairly representative of their whole relationship, including when Moritz was alive.
- Ghost Song: He and Wendla appear to Melchior as ghosts. They float out of their graves and everything.
- "I Want" Song: "The Bitch of Living."
- Love Triangle: Type 3 with Martha and Ilse. They both have feelings for him; he may or may not be oblivious, but his main struggle is trying and failing to cope with his feelings about anyone.
- Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality: Played for laughs at first, but it quickly slides into genuine Tear Jerker.
- Sanity Slippage Song / B.S.O.D. Song: Moritz has two, the first being "And Then There Were None," where he devolves into a suicidal state ("Another day of utter shit/then there were none", and the second being "Don't Do Sadness," where he's already in the throes of it.
- Played by Lea Michele (OBC), Sandra Mae Frank and Katie Boeck (2015 revival)
- Babies Make Everything Better: Averted.
- Kill the Cutie
- Dr. Feelgood: "Who lives in this house, Mama?"
- Ghost Song: "Those You've Known", and arguably to some shade "Whispering". The latter seems as if Wendla is predicting the consequences of her actions and eventual death.
- "See the father bent in grief/The mother dressed in mourning/Sister crumbles, and the neighbours grumble/Preacher issues warning." Coupled with Tear Jerker.
- The Ingenue: Wendla's virginity and excessive naïveté drives much of the plot: it's played for drama in that it is directly correlated to her rape and later pregnancy, and it's exploited by her parents who desire her to continue to remain one.
- Pajama Clad Heroine: Although, because of her... anemia. It is what she appears in in "Those You've Known" as it is what she probably died in. She changes into her normal clothes for "The Song of Purple Summer."
- Purity Personified: Throughout her tragic narrative, she has experiences that would normally result in Innocence Lost, but she manages to hold on to her idealism and goodness throughout it all, even in death.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: She is virtually Purity Personified, and is killed by, in short, a combination of her mother's lies and being sexually taken advantage of.
- Played by Lauren Pritchard (OBC), Krysta Rodriguez (2015 revival)
- Abusive Parents: "Ilse! Storytime!"
- Counterpoint Duet: "Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind"
- Innocence Lost: "Until this morning, when he woke me with a gun, set against my breast. He said: 'One twitch and it's the end.' Really gave me the goose bumps."
- Lonely Together: "The Dark I Know Well" for her and Martha.
- Love Triangle: Type 3 with Martha and Moritz. She and Martha have feelings for Moritz, who can't quite handle his feelings for anyone.
- MacGuffin: The flowers she carries are, you guessed it, purple summer flowers—the name of the song of redemption and new life that Ilse leads the whole cast in at the end of the show. But before this and when Moritz rejects her, she runs back to Priapia. These flowers become the flowers the teenagers place on Moritz's open casket one by one, and the actress playing Ilse must drop them in an exact place as she runs off.
- Mad Artist: The men she models for. One of them isn't that bad (chasing her around and dabbing her with paint), but the other one... see Innocence Lost above.
- Quirky Curls: Most renditions of Ilse have this, beginning with Lauren Pritchard.
- Stepford Smiler: Most incarnations have her smile and be playful despite all the terrible, terrible things happening to her.
- Sexy Shirt Switch: For her last scene with Moritz, she wears nothing but a man's white shirt. Less sexy when you consider she's a teenager, and who that shirt belongs to.
- Unkempt Beauty: Ilse is a disheveled, beautiful wanderess.
- Wild Hair: In her original incarnation.
- Played by Jonathan B. Wright (OBC), Andy Mientus (2015 revival)
- All Gays Are Promiscuous: Hanschen is by far the most overtly forward and flirtatious character in the play.
- Bury Your Gays: Averted. He and Hanschen survive the play completely intact (if by virtue of disappearing from the action for a bit when Melchior's story comes back into focus) and the original play was strongly censored because it did not show the boys as criminals receiving inevitable punishment. (As well as, y'know, Wendla's rape and... the general plot.)
- A Date with Rosie Palms
- Double Entendre:Hanschen: (suggestively, to Ernst) We'll huddle over the Homer. Maybe do a little Achilles and Patroclus...
- Foil: To Melchior. Both are striking, charismatic young boys who hold power and maturity over their respective significant others. Though Hanschen is typically played as more comical than Melchior, he, at the very least, is more conscious of his partner's consent or lack thereof than the latter.Ernst: On my way here, I thought perhaps we'd only talk.Hanschen: (pulling back) So, are you sorry we-Ernst: No, I love you, Hanschen!
- Urban Legend Love Life: Though it's never explicitly stated, Hanschen's behavior and language heavy with double meanings and suggests he presents himself as something of a casanova, though the girls seem more interested in either the rebellious Melchior or brooding, neurotic Moritz. Possibly, they view him as a Handsome Lech; perhaps he never actually invests in seducing his female classmates at all. Only once do we see him in action, and he is quite successful.
- Played by Gideon Glick (OBC), Joshua Castille and Daniel David Stewart (2015 revival)
- Abusive Parents: In the 2015 revival, Ernst follows along silently in sign language throughout "The Dark I Know Well," implying he too was molested or raped as a child.
- All Gays Are Promiscuous: Subverted, with Ernst, who is pure, wholesome, and almost childishly enthusiastic (his solo in "Touch Me" notwithstanding). His monologue before "The Word of Your Body (Reprise)" says it all:Ernst: Sometimes...I imagine myself as a country pastor. With my red-cheeked wife, my library, my degrees...Boys and girls, who live nearby, give me their hand when I go walking...
- Foil: To Wendla. Both are kind, innocent adolescents only just beginning to mature who are seduced and get, to an extent, taken advantage of by their more mature love interests.
- Played by Skylar Astin (OBC), Alex Wyse (2015 revival)
- Hormone-Addled Teenager: To an extent, all of the characters fulfill this trope, though Georg the most prominently.
- Likes Older Women: He's characterized primarily by his lust for his piano teacher.
- Played by Brian Charles Johnson (OBC), Miles Barbee and Sean Grandillo (2015 revival)
- Played by Remy Zaken (OBC), Amelia Hensley and Lauren Luiz (2015 revival)
- Played by Lilli Cooper (OBC), Treshelle Edmond and Kathryn Gallagher (2015 revival)
- Abusive Parents: "You say 'Time for bed now, child"/Mom just smiles that smile.../Just like she never saw me/Just like she never saw me..."
- Amped up from the stage play in a very chilling way.
- Innocence Lost
- Lonely Together: She and Ilse are a platonic version; "The Dark I Know Well" ends on the two of them alone on stage, clinging to each other until the lights black out.
- Love Triangle: Type 3 with Moritz and Ilse.
- Minor Character, Major Song: "The Dark I Know Well".
- Parental Incest: Implied to be occurring in "The Dark I Know Well".