Abe Lincoln in Illinois Characters

Characters

Jack Armstrong
Armstrong is the leader and the most aggressive of the Clary’s Grove Boys, a gang of bullies in New Salem. When the gang enters the Rutledge Tavern, Armstrong speaks roughly to Ann Rutledge and tries to pick a fight with Ninian Edwards. He stops when Lincoln enters, though. He respects Lincoln, in part because Lincoln is a man of the people and not a rich sophisticate like Edwards, but mostly he respects Lincoln because Lincoln is the only man in the territory who can beat him in a fight. Lincoln shows respect for Armstrong, too, preferring to joke with him rather than threaten him. Years later, Lincoln mentions that he is defending Armstrong’s son Duff on a murder charge, even though Duff seems to be hopelessly guilty. Armstrong is the one to bring Lincoln to the aid of Seth Gale when Jimmy Gale falls sick as the family is passing through New Salem.

Billy
See William Herndon

Stephen A. Douglas
Douglas was a politician who ran against Lincoln for the Senate. He was a skilled orator, only slightly less persuasive than Lincoln. The series of debates that the two men had in 1858, primarily over the issue of slavery, became national news, giving Lincoln the fame that he needed across the land to run for president. Scene 9 presents one of those debates.

Ninian Edwards
Edwards is the son of the governor of Illinois. Although he comes from a wealthy background, he is not afraid to stand up for himself and fight Jack Armstrong, if necessary, although it is likely he would lose. He is the one to introduce Lincoln to his sister-in-law, Mary Todd. During the debate between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in Scene 9, Ninian Edwards is the narrator.

Seth Gale
At the very start of the play, Seth Gale plans to move with Lincoln out to the open territory west of the Mississippi river, where land is cheap and political systems are not yet established. He has to drop out of the plan, though, when he receives a letter saying that his father is ill and that he has to return to run the family farm. Ten years later, when his parents are dead, Seth finally does move west. While passing through New Salem with his wife, child, and a free Negro servant, Gale’s son Jimmy becomes ill, and Lincoln and Jack Armstrong help out his family. Seth’s family is an inspiration to Lincoln, who sees how important it is to stop slavery before it spreads to the new territory, so that people like the Gales do not have to worry about what kind of morals with which their children will be raised.

Gobey
A free Negro who works for Seth Gale’s family. His father had been a slave, but was freed by Seth’s father twenty years earlier. While they lived in Maryland, there was always the danger that kidnappers might abduct Gobey and take him to the South, where they would sell him as a slave.

Mentor Graham
Mentor Graham only appears in the first scene, tutoring Lincoln. The examples that he uses reflect the political attitudes that Lincoln shows later in the play, particularly the selection from Senator Daniel Webster about whether the South has a right to secede from the Union.

Bowling Green
One of Lincoln’s oldest friends, Green is a judge whose influence guides Lincoln’s early political career. He brings Edwards, the son of the state’s governor, to see Lincoln and to consider him as a possible candidate for the state assembly. It is partially because of his grief when Bowling Green dies that Lincoln breaks off his engagement to Mary Todd and goes off for nearly two years to think.

William Herndon
A young clerk in Lincoln’s law office in Spring- field, Herndon is driven by two strong compulsions. The first is alcohol; there is not a scene in which he is not either drunk or on his way to get himself a drink. Lincoln notes in Act IV that when Herndon leaves to take some papers to the clerk’s office, which is downstairs in the same building, he takes his hat, which is a sign that he intends to go to the saloon. Herndon’s other driving passion is his staunch opposition to slavery. He functions as Lincoln’s conscience on the slavery issue. While Lincoln himself takes a tolerant attitude toward the laws of the South, Herndon is more radical, constantly pushing him to speak out against slavery, to refuse to associate with slaveholders or with supporters of slavery. Although Lincoln privately opposes slavery, he resists Herndon’s efforts to get him to speak out against it at political gatherings.

Kavanagh
Kavanagh is a secret service agent who moves in to protect Lincoln immediately after he is elected president. His presence indicates the way that the office...

(The entire section is 1950 words.)