|[She] has a profound understanding of human weaknesses, she plays on ambition, fear and desire, whether they are those of individuals like Lord Boreal or Metatron, or institutions like the Church.|
|Luca, Re: The incredible Mrs C|
Everything she does is calculated to her advantage, every gesture of kindness is performed only to be repaid later on.
Marisa is a very attractive thirty-five year old (at the end of the trilogy) who uses her appearance and "gentle musical voice" to entice all ages to her will. Her dæmon is an unnamed golden monkey. While Marisa is not a witch, she and her dæmon can be further apart than must humans and dæmons which allows The Golden Monkey to spy for her. When angered, her skin has the smell of heated metal hidden under her perfume.
In the companion book Lyra's Oxford, a catologue of "Books on travel, archaeology, and related subjects" is provided by Smith and Strange, Ltd., Globetrotter House. It lists a book by Marisa Coulter called the Bronze Clocks of Benin. Although the publication date is unknown, it alludes to some sort of scholarship on Mrs. Coulter's part that becomes relevant in the Golden Compass, when Lyra is attacked by two mechanical spies that run by clockwork, which Farder Coram describes as "Afric things." She is a member of Dame Hannah's women's college.
She is also a member of the Royal Arctic Institute -- very rare for a woman.
Introduction in His Dark Materials
|A lady in a long yellow-red fox-fur, a beautiful young lady whose dark hair falls, shining delicately, under the shadow of her fur-lined hood, is standing in the doorway of the oratory… The young lady's daemon is moving out from beside the fox-fur coat. He is in the form of a monkey, but no ordinary monkey: his fur is long and silky and of the most deep and lustrous gold.|
|Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass|
After Lyra flees, we do not see Mrs. Coulter again until in the room of the silver guillotine, where she saves Lyra and Pan in the nick of time from being severed. Seeing her daughter about to be harmed in so horrible a way - which she herself created and has used against other children - the cold-hearted Coulter for the first time feels a deep love for and need to protect her daughter, although she does not act upon it until The Amber Spyglass.
By the time of the third book she seems a changed woman, her love for Lyra coming before all else - even the Church's orders. After changing sides countless times and engaging in a good deal of back-stabbing, Mrs. Coulter at last, using her skills of deception and corruption, convinces Metatron, the regent of Heaven, to follow her into the Abyss where she and her lover/Lyra's father Lord Asriel sacrifice themselves for their daughter and the good of all living creatures.
The Cocktail Party
In the film adaptation of the Golden Compass, Mrs. Coulter is played by Nicole Kidman.