A scheming, ambitious cardinal who, after the death of Pope Innocent, uses all the power at his disposal - including bribery, extortion, murder, and his children - to become the new Pope. Despite his willingness to use his family as pawns, he does care for them a great deal.
Adaptational Attractiveness: The real Rodrigo was an overweight Churchill-esque bulldog of a man. Jeremy Irons is really not. Irons himself has said that if they were aiming for authenticity in the looks department, they should have hired James Gandolfini.
YMMV: Rdorigo was extremely attractive in his younger days and you can still see traces of it in the fresko by Pinturrichio - he only gained some weight in his later years. Most rumors about Rodrigos obesity were both to paint him as corrupt and greedy and due to his body being bloated (due to the heat and maybe poison) when he was prepared for his burial.
Amicable Exes: With Vannozza, though he'd clearly still like to be sleeping with her. And does, in "The Purge".
Laser-Guided Amnesia: In season three, Rodrigo remembers who he is, the circumstances of his poisoning, and that della Rovere was probably behind it, but he doesn't remember that Cesare confessed to murdering Juan. This is likely due to his grief over Juan that still hasn't gone away.
Royal "We": It's rather telling to listen to when he chooses to use this, in how he keeps his personal and professional lives apart. As far as he is concerned, "I" am Rodrigo Borgia, and "We" are Pope Alexander VI.
"Only God forgives. We are Borgias, and we do not forgive."
Played By: Francois Arnaud
The oldest son of Rodrigo and Vannozza, and older brother of Juan, Lucrezia, and Gioffre. Cesare is as ambitious as his father, but while Rodrigo works through the church, Cesare wants political power. While he resents his father for refusing to allow him to leave the clergy, he is also Rodrigo's strongest ally.
Affably Evil: Though he is ruthless and calculating, he is also capable of great amounts of charm. He's also quite chivalrous and sweet to women and members of his family.
Ax-Crazy: Giovanni Sforza definitely got the worst of Cesare's occasional bouts with crazy.
Broken Ace: Those who start watching the show with zero knowledge of the real Cesare think that he's The Dutiful Son and/or The Ace. After a few episodes, it's quite clear that he's actually a walking storm of brilliance, charm, and crazy. His remarkably tenuous grasp on sanity/occasional lack of social skills is basically a running joke in the fandom.
Brother-Sister Incest: Kisses Lucrezia in "Siblings" and sleeps with her in the same episode. On her wedding night, no less.
Cool Uncle: To baby Giovanni. Well, you know. When he isn't killing people and stuff.
Dark Is Evil: The show very deliberately frames multiple shots wherein Rodrigo or Lucrezia is in the light, while Cesare is in the shadows/dark. (He likes lurking.) He also usually wears black to their white, when not in his cardinal robes.
Dating Catwoman: He engages in a sexual relationship with Caterina Sforza, an enemy of his family.
Death Glare: Is a big fan of this. It's usually directed at a relative.
Declaration of Protection: A lot of his less rational actions have to do with protecting/avenging Lucrezia, due to his incredible emotional dependency on her.
Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: "I prefer black myself." He almost always wears black when not in the cardinal's red. Especially justified in that the real Cesare Borgia often wore black to intimidate his enemies.
Faux Affably Evil: The jury is out on whether or not he was always this way, but the longer the show goes on, the more the cracks in Cesare's facade begin to show. He may not be consciously going through the motions, but watching him throw both of his parents' grief back in their faces makes things kind of clear.
Green-Eyed Monster: It's one of his defining traits. He wants Juan's position and job; he's explicitly envious of Paolo, Lucrezia's lover. Jealousy's kind of his thing.
It's All My Fault: Though rarely guilty about anything, he takes complete blame for having sex with Lucrezia though she initiated it.
Jizzed in My Pants: Implied to do this while getting Lucrezia off with EYE CONTACT as she has sex with her husband. And Cesare's pants are leather. It's an intense experience.
Kick the Dog / Pet the Dog: This guy can pet a dog with his left hand, kick one with each foot and shoot a fourth with his right all at the same time (sometimes all to the same dog).
Kick the Son of a Bitch: His murder of Giovanni Sforza, first stabs him in the hand with a fork, a blade to his throat, and multiple times in the stomach.
Lack of Empathy: Didn't even try to empathize with his parents' grief for Juan. He didn't feel any guilt, either.
Laser-Guided Karma: Not only murders his brother, but brutally and matter-of-factly confesses his crime to his father and demands that Rodrigo see that he had been blind to Juan's faults. Rodrigo tells him that he had indeed been blind: he hadn't seen the monster Cesare was becoming until it was too late.
Like Father, Like Son: According to Rodrigo, this applies to Cesare. Indeed it does, if you take away virtually all of Rodrigo's redeeming qualities and add a good deal of ruthlessness.
Love Makes You Evil: Is pushed to the edge by Ursula's death. Murders Giovanni Sforza while avenging Lucrezia's honor. Partially murders Juan because of Lucrezia as well.
Momma's Boy: Doesn't have any of the traditional weaknesses involved with the trope, but he's definitely Vannozza's favorite of her children.
Siblings in Crime: With Lucrezia again; also occasionally with Juan, however unwilling they both may be.
Sibling Yin-Yang: Unlike Juan, he's startlingly efficient and cunning; also unlike Juan, he's almost completely devoid of human warmth (unless you're his Morality Pet or someone he's obsessed with. Or both.).
The Sociopath: Confirmed as of "The Confession". This was all a Foregone Conclusion, based on the fact that the historical Cesare was famed for his sociopathic nature and lack of deep feeling for anyone but Lucrezia. Almost all of his "good" behavior in season 2 was based on vengeance, personal gain, or the necessity of maintaining his father's affection. Once he stopped caring all that went out the window.
The Unfettered: Becomes this with his murder of Juan and subsequent release from the cloth, which is, after all, what he's wanted all along.
Coming of Age Story: Lucrezia goes from being a naive and idealistic teenage girl who has to grow up fast when she is used as a pawn in her father's political schemes and abused by her new husband.
Cute and Psycho: Lucrezia Borgia is the most loving and adorable of all the Borgias, but piss her off and she will do everything she can to end you. Just ask her ex-husband with the broken leg or Juan, whom she tried to drop a chandelier on. She also seems perfectly aware that Cesare murdered Juan and is not only fine with this, but still wants him to marry her to Alfonso.
Daddy's Girl: Very clearly Rodrigo's favorite of his children.
Fille Fatale: She's only 14, even as she's growing into her powers of seduction.
Magnetic Hero: She will befriend anyone, regardless of social standing or ethnicity and most people that meet her become attached to her quite quickly (Djem, Paolo, Francesca) to the extent that they would willingly hurt anyone that poses a threat to her. Not even her brother, who is a budding sociopath, or the French King who invades Rome are immune to her charms. Giovanni Sforza is a double subversion. He was perhaps the first time her charisma failed her but even he began to warm up to her towards the end. All it took was a broken leg to show him the error of his ways.
Mama Bear: She is very protective of her son, enough so that she contemplates poisoning her brother who threatened him and a man who keeps her from him.
Manipulative Bitch: Manipulates Paolo into injuring her husband; the French King into sparing Juan's life; her father into giving Paolo a Christian burial; and Cesare into... whatever she wants, for the most part.
Mercy Kill: Reluctantly poisons Alfonso at his request to end his suffering after he's stabbed by Cesare in a fight.
Sympathetic Adulterer: She cheats on her first husband with a stable boy after he physically and verbally abuses her. Then, when her father wants her to marry again and she is more attracted to her would-be fiance's brother, Vannozza suggests she have both. She tries to, though it doesn't work out. As it's the dominant ship, most fans don't mind her bedding Cesare on her wedding night either.
The Vamp: Played with. She's certainly using an innocent, helpless act to seduce Raffaelo, but her motives aren't exactly clear. She definitely doesn't love him, and is possibly going to marry his brother... It's probably a mixture of sticking it to her dad and having fun.
Token Good Teammate: Only in season 1. She quickly becomes just as corrupt and vice-ridden as the rest.
Took a Level in Badass: In "The Art of War", where she plays King Charles like a Stradivarius, keeping the French from invading Rome.
Villainesses Want Heroes: Takes an interest in men noticeably gentler/kinder/stupider than herself and her family, though this could be because she wants the upper hand in her relationships.
Your Cheating Heart: Her marriage to Giovanni Sforza was hardly a good relationship, so her seeking comfort with Paolo doesn't seem to count. Her fling with Raffaelo while betrothed to his brother was similarly flimsy. Her passionate relationship with Cesare while married to Alfonso, however, is more of a full-fledged affair.
Vannozza dei Cattanei
"Don't you want them to hear that you have a new whore?"
Played By: Joanne Whalley
Rodrigo's former long-time mistress and mother to his children, actually married to a commoner named Theo. She is quite displeased when Rodrigo casts her aside and takes up with Giulia.
Amicable Exes: What she and Rodrigo settle into eventually. So amicable that they end up sleeping together in "The Purge".
Apron Matron: Surprisingly enough, Juan is the one to acknowledge this. Regardless, she is a fierce mother and counselor to her children.
Berserk Button: Don't lie to Vannozza, or she'll come charging into the Vatican itself to smack you around.
Brainy Brunette: She seems to be the one whom all the Borgias go to for advice; season two has Giulia asking her former rival's advice multiple times.
Christmas Cake: After bearing four children and growing older, she is replaced by a younger mistress.
Ethical Slut: Advises her daughter point-blank to do as she likes regardless of any wedding vows; case in point - marry Rafaello Paloviccini, and sleep with Calvino Paloviccini.
Evil Matriarch: Rome sees her as such, even daring to call her a whore to her childrens' faces. She actually is one of the least "evil" of the Borgias.
High-Class Call Girl: The 15th/16th century version, anyway; Vannozza was a renowned courtesan in Spain.
Insistent Terminology: Courtesan, not whore/streetwalker/prostitute. Truth in Television, as the distinction was an important one, and courtesans were afforded privileges and status above everyday prostitutes - it's discussed in "The Choice".
The Mistress: She was Rodrigo's mistress for years before the series opens.
Only Sane Woman: Rodrigo-related jealousy aside, she seems to be the peacemaker in the Borgia family; at the very least, she's accustomed to breaking up fistfights at the dinner table.
Where Did We Go Wrong?: In contrast to Rodrigo, Vanozza is all too aware that Juan is an idiotic coward, Cesare is a ruthless monster-in-the-making, and Lucrezia is as lustful as her father. She even seems suspicious of Cesare and Lucrezia's relationship, as seen in "The Confession".
Woman Scorned: Mostly in early season one; she's accepted it in season two.
Women Are Wiser: She is often schooling Cesare, Juan, and Rodrigo on how to handle situations.
"I am the gonfaloniere of the Papal Army, brother! Go back to the College of Cardinals."
Played By: David Oakes
The second Borgia brother, chosen by his father to follow the path of a soldier, a role envied by his older brother Cesare. He is sadistic, spoiled, jealous, and extremely quick-tempered. His inadequacies are obvious to everyone except Rodrigo.
Adaptation Name Change: Giovanni Borgia becomes Juan, likely due to the large number of Giovanni's already in the show.
Boomerang Bigot: Feels insecure because of his illegitimacy and insists on defending his privileges as a "noble" from commoners and illegitimate children.
Break the Haughty: The combination of his sexually transmitted disease and his loss to the Sforza's really do a number on him.
Cain and Abel: Despite his own sadistic nature, Juan is probably the Abel to Cesare's Cain. In "World of Wonders" he is killed by Cesare.
Cassandra Truth: He's the only member of the family to suspect the depth of Cesare's dark side, and all but predicts his own murder at his brother's hands. He's also the only person to pick up on the developing incestuous romance between Cesare and Lucrezia.
Death Seeker: One interpretation of his actions on the night of his murder. He was quite possibly trying to provoke his siblings into killing him, as he was pretty much guaranteed to die from syphilis anyway.
He loudly complains about his family home being a "whorehouse" because of Lucrezia'sromantic affair with a commoner in it, even though he is a reliable patron of actual whorehouses.
He derives his fortune from being the Pope's illegitimate son and brutally beats his mother's (common) husband at the thought he might be a legitimate child of his. Only to go to great lengths insisting he is "too good" to be married to a(nother) bastard of noble birth.
Kick the Dog: Several, most significantly when he beats the crap out of his mother's husband because of rumors that Theo was actually his father.
Only a Flesh Wound: Averted realistically when he is shot in the thigh at Forli. The wound causes him considerable pain and incapacitates him to the point that his father forces him out of his position as head of the Papal army.
Opium Den: Frequents one on the advice of his physician to cope with his wounded leg and STD.
Properly Paranoid: In season two, he questions Cesare's love for him and in previews for episode 2x08, implies to his father that he thinks Cesare is out to get him. Needless to say, Rodrigo doesn't take Juan's concerns seriously enough. Needless to say, Juan was right.
Royal Brat: He sees himself as above others because of his status as the son of the pope.
Sanity Slippage: In the second season, he contracts a sexually transmitted disease and must rely on drugs to temper the pain. The combination of this leads him to lose his grip on reality.
The Strategist: That was supposed to be the plan - in reality, Juan sucks at long-term strategy.
Too Dumb to Live: Right, Juan. Dangle Lucrezia's baby over a balcony in front of Cesare, who is not only extremely protective of said baby and its mother, but desperate to find a reason to kill you. And this is made worse by the fact that Juan believes that Cesare is the kid's father.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Joffre disappeared along with Sancia by the time the second season rolled around and was only mentioned once in passing. But come season 3, the show is treating the character as though he never existed. The Showtime website even notes that his mother only has three children instead of four.
Hidden Depths: In "Paolo", Rodrigo appoints her to the Consistatorial Council, in charge of Vatican finances. You'd think it was simply Rodrigo being his usual indulgent self, but then Giulia starts lecturing Piccolomini on Florentine bookkeeping.
Worthy Opponent: Considers Vannozza this, and seeks out her counsel on matters both financial (such as how to ferret out the unscrupulous Cardinals) and personal (how to keep Rodrigo's attentions).
"I think someone as pitiless as you, Cardinal, may have need of someone as pitiless as me."
Played By: Sean Harris
An extremely skilled and apparently emotionless assassin who is recruited by Cesare after failing to poison him and his father. Becomes The Dragon to Cesare.
Ambiguously Bi: Is usually seen with men, but he has slept with a woman onscreen. Nobody knows if that was just for the job or if he is attracted to females.
Ax-Crazy: Subverted: he's not actually unstable, but he's so paranoid and ruthless that he'll emotionlessly kill people for almost any remotely practical reason.
Micheletto: I have murdered infants in their beds... but only when the parents paid me.
Badass Gay: Perhaps subverted, not the badass part, but simply that he is at the very least bi enough to engage in the act with a woman. Though he does kill her immediately afterwords, and it is part of a plot to frame and freak out Della Rovere.
Battle Butler: His relationship with Cesare sometimes veers into this.
Birds of a Feather: To Cesare. They hit it off quite well despite meeting under rather unfortunate circumstances.
Micheletto: I think someone as pitiless as you, Cardinal, might have need of someone as pitiless as me.
Bond One-Liner: He doesn't say much, but when it does it's often an excellent mic-drop moment. In season two, Cesare allows Benito Sforza to go home to his mother, and Micheletto warns "that dog will come back to bite," and his existence does indeed cause problems. A full season later, they finally kill him:
Don't Tell Mama: When Micheletto and Cesare visit the former's hometown Forli, Cesare discovers Micheletto not only has a mother, but she's rather doting and completely oblivious about what her son really is, believing he is studying to become a doctor. Cesare plays along with this lie by posing as his mentor, out of his own amusement.
Even Evil Has Standards: Separating a child from its parent is the only act that Michelleto expressedly disgusts. In fact, this causes him to murder the King of Naples out of his own will, something uncharateristic for Micheletto.
Faux Affably Evil: Because of his role as The Sociopath, he never raises his tone and is always polite to his victims before he murders them in the most brutal of ways.
Foil: Plays the stoical, methodical professional to Cesare's dark, charismatic genius.
Lightning Bruiser: Perhaps not particularly strong, but so fast that Cesare, no slouch with a sword, is stunned by his quickness, and that he can stoically endure torture.
Morality Pet: In the third season, he had a lover named Pascal that allowed him to connect with his more human side. It doesn't end well for either of them.
Not So Stoic: His stoicism goes through the window When he discovers Pascal's betrayal, to the point he actually cries
Photographic Memory: Implied to have one. He cannot read, but is able to remember the shapes of the letters he sees and copy them perfectly.
Self-Made Orphan: He told Cesare he killed his father for very good reasons but still not clear what age he was when he killed him.
Would Hurt a Child: Let's just say that if there's a type of person Micheletto won't kill, he hasn't met them and declined to kill them yet. Though it does perhaps make it somewhat more understandable that the child in question had helped him with a potential assassination.
Sancia of Aragon
Played By: Emmanuelle Chriqui
The duchessa of Squillace, illegitimate daughter of the king of Naples, and the wife of Joffre Borgia. She carries on an affair with her husband's older brother, Juan.
Affably Evil: She's nice enough to Joffre ... even though she has sex with his brother right outside their bedroom before going to consummate their marriage.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: After being Put on a Bus during season 2, Sancia essentially tops existing come season 3, just like her husband, Joffre. Neither of them are mentioned even though Sancia's brother became engaged to Joffre's sister during season 2.
Sibling Triangle: During season 1 she is at the center of one with Joffre and Juan Borgia, though Joffre seems blissfully unaware of this.
Sympathetic Adulterer: She cheats on Joffre repeatedly before and after they marry. But he's 12. And she's a grown woman. It's not that hard to sympathize with her attraction to his older brother, Juan.
Played By: Jemima West
A youthful apprentice artisan whose cleverness and talent draws Rodrigo's attention, and is shortly thereafter promoted to master. In reality a young woman disguised as a boy because women, of course, can't become artisans. Rodrigo is taken with her, probably because he knows she is very capable of discretion.
Ambiguously Bi: She didn't seem at all unwilling or surprised when Giulia kissed her. She also didn't mind when Rodrigo joined them.
For Your Own Good: His likely justification for revealing the cache's whereabouts, as it’s in Piero de Medici’s best interest not to piss off Rome.
Hypercompetent Sidekick: Despite officially being recognized as the Medici family banker, the way he handles Piero when the Pope comes to Florence makes him look more like a glorified babysitter. And as he puts it to Cesare; "Signor de Medici values my opinion; especially as he does not have one of his own."
Knowledge Broker: Machiavelli is Cesare’s go-to man for news on Florence and Savonarola.
Mentor Archetype: Something of one to Cesare, who puts his ruthless philosophy to practice.
Only Sane Man: In all of Florence, he's the only person to realize the idiocy of surrendering the city to the French King and the excesses of Savonarola's theocratic regime.
Punch Clock Villain: So far his 'villainy' has amounted to advising/dealing with Cesare and, to the Florentines, serving the Medicis and opposing Savonarola. He treats his ruthless philosophy as theory and he’s one of the few characters on the show who has not performed, solicited, actively consented to or ordered an act of violence. Otherwise, he seems like a decent enough guy, if also very sardonic.
Shout-Out: As they watch a woman being burnt at the stake for witchcraft, Machiavelli educates Cesare on the use fear has as a tool. This is likely a nod to Machiavelli’s (in)famous adage that it is "better to be feared than loved" from The Prince, which was inspired by his interactions with the real-life Cesare.
The Stoic: Even watching his hometown fall under the control of a zealot who hates everything he and those he serves represent fails to elicit much, if any, visible reaction from him. He does lament the destruction of a Botticelli painting during the Bonfire of the Vanities, however.
Played By: Sebastian de Souza
Lucrezia's young, innocent suitor. He appears somewhat naive in the world of Italian politics thus far, and is instantly taken with Lucrezia though he at first has no idea that it's her. He soon becomes betrothed to Lucrezia, and will, according to history, be her second husband.
Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Probably what induced him to provoke Cesare into a "sparring" contest. And ask him about his very dead brother. Not that he doesn't have good reason to be mad.
A Man Is Not a Virgin: Subverted. He's made a vow to Saint Agnes that he will stay chaste until marriage, much to Lucrezia's displeasure.
Betty and Veronica: Cesare, of all people, invokes this trope when talking about Alfonso. He's a sharp contrast to Lucrezia's first husband, and more specifically, Cesare himself. Lucrezia's sweet, chaste dance with Alfonso versus her close, intimate dance with her brother illustrates their differences. Basically, he's the Betty to Lucrezia's very, very, Veronica brother. And he doesn't miss it.
Foreshadowing: Lucrezia's repeated declaration of "poor boy". This is specific to him because he is destined to be the victim of Cesare's jealousy, and will be murdered at his order. That is, if the show sticks to history, which it most likely will in this case. Confirmed in 3x10, albeit accidentally
Sexless Marriage: Implies in "Tears of Blood" that aside from their consummation, he and Lucrezia have this.
Smarter Than You Look: He comes off as kind of ditzy for most of "The Confession." Yet, his suspicious expression as he watches Lucrezia and Cesare dance indicates that he's sharper than he looks, and is beginning to wonder what he got himself into.
Their First Time: Well, not Lucrezia's, but his. And he gets to do it with his uncle watching and his wife getting off to eye contact with her brother. Good times for Alfonso.
Played By: Melia Kreiling
Bianca is introduced in season 2 as a mistress of Rodrigo Borgia's. He later discovers that she has married Francesco Gonzaga, an ally of Rodrigo's.
Bath Suicide: What Cardinal Sforza sets her death up to look like, instead of having slit her throat in the Pope's rooms.
Driven to Suicide: Realizing Rodrigo wants to send her to a convent rather than let her stay with him and have his "child".
Establishing Character Moment: When Rodrigo mentions that Giulia will be jealous if she found out about them, her response is "Why?" She does not care about monogamy and even seems to find it funny.
The Mistress: She is introduced as a secondary mistress to Rodrigo.
Sanity Slippage: In "The Wolf and the Lamb", her forced abortion by Francesco makes her believe she is still pregnant, carrying Rodrigo's child. She seems to be on her way to stealing baby Giovanni before things get worse.
Charlotte d'Albret is introduced in season 3 as Cesare's wife and a key to his political alliance with France. Depending on how closely the show follows history, we may not see her much, as the historical Charlotte married Cesare, got pregnant by him, and never saw him again.
Establishing Character Moment: In her first meeting with Cesare, she states that she wants a child, a hot husband who can ensure that the kid will be beautiful, and to be left in France with her own relative independence. She's exceedingly practical and witty.
Friends with Benefits: Seems to share this relationship with Cesare. They get along quite well both platonically and sexually, and she has no problem with the fact that he doesn't love her.
Happily Married: Though he leaves after the wedding night and there's no deep love between them, Cesare and Charlotte easily have the most functional marriage on this show.
Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Cesare and Rodrigo don't exactly love King Louis [specially since he seeks to claim Milan for himself], nor does Louis, but they have a [rather uneasy] alliance over the Sforza Problem.
The Sforza Family
Affably Evil: They all have it in them to very dark degrees.
Even Evil Has Loved Ones: They might be pretty unscrupulous, but for the most part, they seem to care about each other. Ascanio might be the exception since he basically tells Rodrigo he has no problem with him going after Caterina because she is a woman who doesn't know her place.
Cardinal Ascanio Sforza
"I would say that the one who would be suitable to become vice-chancellor would be wise to support the vice-chancellor who would be pope."
Played By: Peter Sullivan
Part-time Dragon to Rodrigo, in the first two seasons, Ascanio's loyalties seem to lie with his family and the church in general. Things look to be changing in season three.
The Dragon: Maneuvers himself into being Rodrigo's, in exchange for taking over Rodrigo's old position.
"Get Out of Jail Free" Card: In exchange for helping the Borgias purge the Vatican of many of the corrupt cardinals and turning his back on his family, Ascanio becomes an even more trusted Dragon to Rodrigo and Cesare and given more power.
Heel-Face Turn: However begrudgingly he kept himself from murdering Rodrigo when he had the chance, he still warned Cesare about the plot against Lucrezia, Vannozza, and Giovanni, and has served the Borgias well ever since.
Hypercompetent Sidekick: Seems to be growing into this, if his actions after Bianca's suicide in "The Wolf and the Lamb" are any indication.
Only Sane Man: Seems to be the sole Sforza who doesn't want to go for broke when it comes to killing the Borgias. Whether that's because he's nicer or because it's not politically expedient or whether Ascanio's only in it for himself is anyone's guess.
Pet the Dog: He's not known for his warm, fuzzy feelings towards the Borgias, but in "The Confession", he handles the search for Juan's body with surprising sensitivity, even breaking the news to Rodrigo gently.
Shed the Family Name: Only metaphorically, but as of "The Purge", Ascanio admits he's more of a Borgia now than a Sforza.
"Good, then we need hardly see each other except when marital duties call. Then I will keep them brief and businesslike."
Played By: Ronan Vibert
A noble from a formidable Roman family, married to Lucrezia for the benefit of political connections.
Humiliation Conga: Rodrigo puts him through one in front of the entire College of Cardinals and later, the people of Rome, for abusing Lucrezia.
Pet the Dog: The part where, after his "accident" he accepts that he "was not kind" to Lucrezia and "forgives [her] for the accident of her birth" (ie. being lower-born than him) may be a combination of massive understatement and truly staggering arrogance, but it is at least some attempt by him to be nice to his wife.
"I will never, NEVER bend my knee to the whoremaster of Rome!"
Played By: Gina McKee
Cousin of Giovanni, Lodovico, and Ascanio; she emerges as a force to be reckoned with.
A Fate Worse Than Death: At least in her conception. She wanted to go out in a blaze of glory in a legendary way, instead she was stripped of all her lands, titles, riches and carried in chains towards her worst enemy, completely humiliated.
More Deadly Than The Male: The Sforza men tend to be overblown, blustering physically-imposing lugs; Caterina runs rings around them and is acknowledged by the Borgias to be the most dangerous of the lot.
Out-Gambitted: Twice by Cesare. One when Cesare manages to sneak through the entire french army without her realizing, leaving her unable to prepare for a siege, and then when Cesare repeatedly fires at the ground in front of the gate, with her failing to realize that he's trying to make the ground collapse until it's too late.
Took a Level in Badass: Several. From simpering before Charles to taunting Juan from the battlements of Forli to masterminding two plots on the lives of the Borgia family. She's definitely not done yet.
Villainous BSOD: When Cesare reaches the gates of Forli in a surprise attack, Catarina is practically catatonic. She does manage to recover briefly, but she never quite returns to her normal mood ever again, spending the entire episode with a emtpy gaze.
Played By: Ivan Kaye
Cousin of Caterina, Ascanio, and Giovanni, Ludovico is the Duke of Milan.
Death by Adaptation: Type II. In the show's canon, he dies in 1498 in an open field at the very start of the Italian Wars, but in real life Ludovico was merely captured along the same period, and only died, still incarcarated by the french, in 1508.
Hannibal Has a Point: Pulls this in the season 3 opener on Cesare - he's failed to kill Rodrigo, but what will happen when someone eventually succeeds? Who, if not Cesare, will protect the Borgia family?
Not So Different: A man of the cloth who sees innocent men killed to further his goals, uses deceit and manipulation, often allies himself with monsters and used poison as a weapon more than once. It's hard to say if that's Rodrigo's/Cesare's description, or his.
Properly Paranoid: At the beginning of season 2, the Borgias poison his communion wine. From that point on he refuses to eat or drink anything that has not been tested by a Capuchin monkey he acquires. Which is a Call Back to Cesare's monkey from "The Assassin" that drinks the poisoned wine.
Blood Knight: He even warns Della Rovere about this when the latter wants to sic him on Italy. Later on, he sacks Lucca without provocation (apparently not Truth in Television) and then berates the horrified cardinal when the latter gets cold feet.
Butt Monkey: He really is unattractive, but people take great pains to point out his shortcomings. However, he insists on Brutal Honesty from everyone around him. He has no interest in polite lies, and refuses to talk to della Rovere until he acknowledges his ugliness.
Dropped a Bridge on Him: In-universe, his death is considered so ignominious (bashing his head on a door frame, which he somehow managed despite being very short), that the cardinals can't help but chuckle.
Pay Evil unto Evil: He believes Alfonso of Naples set the plague on his own city. In return he hunts him down, forces him to give him a tour through his father's torture chambers, and then subjects him to them.
Pragmatic Villainy: Willing to use whomever comes his way, whether it be della Rovere, Giulia Farnese, or Lucrezia.
Worthy Opponent: Rodrigo clearly considers him this. The fact that he doesn't see anything remotely amusing about his rather pathetic end, and tells the chuckling cardinals that Charles had more steel in him than both the cardinals put together, almost brings him into Antagonist in Mourning territory.
Played By: Steven Berkoff
Badass Preacher: "World of Wonders" shows him walking through a pathway of fire, and even when he fails and is brought to Rome in chains, he still retains his badassitude.
Cult: The people of Florence are still Catholics, but they are so devoted to Savonarola they probably count.
Bath Suicide: Rather than allow the pope's assassin to kill him, he took his own life.
Didn't See That Coming: Rodrigo laughs when he finds out that Julius didn't just take his dismissal from the college of cardinals well and had a fiery response.
He-Man Woman Hater: The two times he speaks in season 2, it's to complain about having his position as accountant taken from him (rightfully so, given his corruption and embezzlement of Papal finances) and given to Julia Farnese, and then later complain about letting Lucrezia sit on the pope chair while Rodrigo is away. He is polite to the nuns he gives money to in season three, but seeing how he's doing that to get back at Rodrigo...
Sinister Minister: He uses his position in the church to make a profit while the Roman poor go hungry. After Rodrigo is poisoned, he is among the cardinals who tries to position himself to benefit.
The Smart Guy: As an expert on canon law and precedent, he is the one with the answers to all the questions either Rodrigo and Della Rovere have during their powerplay.
Played By: Elyes Gabel
An Ottoman prince who stays with the Borgia family as a hostage so his brother no longer has to worry about him taking his throne. He develops close relationships with the family, but his brother pays Rodrigo to murder him.
Implied Love Interest: To Lucrezia. Though their romantic inclinations toward each other are never stated, they develop a close relationship where they share each other's cultures and Djem promises to avenge her should her husband harm her. The dance they share also heavily implies romance, scaring Rodrigo to the point where he agrees to have Djem killed, and after his death Lucrezia tells Giulia she dreamed about kissing him.
Sacrificial Lamb: After forming positive relationships with most of the Borgia family members, Rodrigo has Juan kill him for the money Djem's brother will pay them.
Played By: Luke Pasquelino
A young stable boy in the employ of Giovanni Sforza. Falls in love with Lucrezia and is the father of her child. Killed by Juan when his affair with Lucrezia is discovered.
Good Is Dumb: Yes, Paolo, it's a fantastic idea to wander the streets of Rome declaring your love for the Pope's daughter.
Never Suicide: Juan's one mistake - writing a suicide note for the kid who couldn't even write his own name.
Played By: Ruta Gedmintas
A beautiful woman who caught Cesare's eye at Lucrezia's wedding, she was married to an abusive husband. Cesare takes care of that, but it drives Ursula to a convent. Even though she is a nun, she cannot escape Cesare's influence.
Morality Pet: For Cesare; he certainly goes off the rails when she is murdered.
Naughty Nuns: Subverted. Ursula takes vows to escape Cesare's possessiveness, and she makes it clear she no longer returns his affections.
Replacement Goldfish: Let's see - blonde, mostly innocent, married to an abusive husband, in need of rescue, attracted to Cesare . . . who else does she remind you of?
Stuffed into the Fridge: Ursula's death is purely meant as a means to get to Cesare and cause him pain. This is all but lampshaded in-universe, with Cesare actually stating "[her death] has released my heart of all emotions but one: vengeance".
Raffaello di Pallivinci
Played By: Tom Austen
A season two recurring character who is the brother of Lucrezia's suitor, Calvino di Pallivinci. Though Calvino is the older brother and therefore the better catch, Lucrezia is more attracted to Raffaello.
Eating the Eye Candy: Lucrezia is so enchanted the first two times she sees him, she can't hear her mother speaking directly in her ear and his brother doesn't seem to exist for her.
Nice Guys Finish Last: He does the right thing and tells his brother about his relationship with Lucrezia before they marry instead of carrying on an affair with her behind his brother's back. Both brothers go home alone.
Sibling Triangle: Raffaello/Lucrezia/Calvino — though Calvino is oblivious to it at first.
Starving Artist: He isn't exactly starving, but he is not as well off as his brother and is completely dependent on his family.
Calvino di Pallivinci
A season two recurring character who is Lucrezia's suitor and the brother of Raffaello. Though Lucrezia accepts his proposal, he withdraws his off when he finds out she slept with his brother.