Marial is the voice of reason to Catherine’s unbridled idealism. When she catches the young empress about to slit her wrists, she points out that it will be quite messy and ruin the carpet and they need a proper bucket to catch it, and it would be a shame to see her do that, when she could just stage a coup and take over the government instead, and here’s how you do that. She often cautions Catherine against saying the wrong thing and tells her how to “get by” in court. When slapping Marial will get Catherine back in the good graces of the old biddies at court, Marial tells her to do it. She tends to be blunt, factual, and full of information, but also has a more sensitive side that she shows a handful of people. She knows how “these things are done,” even if Catherine does not. Marial is down to earth and practical. She points out which of Catherine’s notions are not going to fly and why. She also tells her how to go about making people like her, how to use the political mechanisms already set up at court, which ladies to watch out for, and how you go about seducing generals to your side. (Catherine does none of it her way, but that’s all right.) She simply wants her old life back, and a new reality for Russia that doesn’t involve beating surfs, burning pox-laden servants, or having to eat dinner beside severed heads. She can be quite tender to her cousin, and to the servant boy that she has a particular fondness to (even considering whether or not to give him a pity … ah… bedroom experience).

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Why is Marial, a former lady of the court, now a servant? Because she shot off her mouth and insulted the wrong people. Why does she get beaten on a regular basis? Because she shoots off her mouth and refuses to bend her will to other people. Marial calls things as she sees them, in blunt, brutal terms – idiots are idiots, after all. She can be angry, belligerent, aggressive, and happy to knee someone between the legs. She also has a protective stance toward “pathetic” souls who are too naïve or innocent to make their way in the world. She often gets into quarrels with Orlo in which she insults him as a virgin. But she can also tone it down, go along to get along, and put up with it, if it means getting them “ahead.”