The introduction of Ettore Moretti brings Henry’s character into greater focus by juxtaposing him with a sharp contrast. The Italian-American soldier is boastful, ambitious, and arrogant; he is quick to insult others, such as the tenor at whom, he claims, audiences throw benches, and equally quick to sing his own praises. Henry, on the other hand, is reserved, detached, and disciplined. Suspicious of, or simply uninterested in, the glory for which the army awards medals, Henry maintains a calm levelheadedness that helps to convince the reader that his feelings for Catherine are indeed genuine.
Henry’s words about cowards echo Julius Caesar’s defiant utterance in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar: “Cowards die many times before their deaths; / The valiant never taste of death but once” (II.ii.32–33). Although Caesar’s stoicism carries an arrogant refusal to believe that any harm can actually befall him, Henry, like Caesar, remains philosophical and unafraid in the face of potential peril. His inability to contextualize the reference suggests shortsightedness about the development of his relationship with Catherine. His failure to recognize that Caesar dies a few scenes after making this bold declaration seems to foreshadow disaster for Henry.