Boris Godunov (boh-RIHS goh-do-NOHF), a privy counselor who manages to have Tsarevitch Dimitry assassinated without having to take the blame for the murder. As the new czar, Godunov exacts strict obedience from his subordinates, treats the masses cruelly, and puts down ruthlessly any attempt to unseat him. While engaged in a war against a pretender, he is suddenly taken ill and dies, naming his son the new czar before his demise.
Grigory Otrepyev (grih-GOH-rihy oht-REH-pyehf), a young monk turned rebel who pretends he is the late Dimitry. He marshals armies in Poland and, eventually, marches against Godunov. The struggle is bitter, and Grigory, finally triumphant, is disturbed because the populace stands silent when asked to acclaim him.
Basmanov (bahs-MAH-nof), a general interested in military victory, not political complexities. First, he supports Godunov’s son as czar; then, persuaded by Pushkin, a Grigory supporter, he leads his troops over to the other side. It is Basmanov’s defection that spells victory for Grigory.
Maryna (mah-RIH-nuh), a girl who holds Grigory’s army idle in Poland because Grigory, having fallen in love with her, is loathe to give the order to advance against Godunov. Maryna, although repelled because Grigory is only an unfrocked priest and not Dimitry, as he claims to be, still consents to become Grigory’s wife if his armies overthrow Godunov.
Feodor (feh-O-dohr), Godunov’s son, who is czar for a short time before, according to the Grigory followers who last saw him, he takes poison.
Pushkin (POOSH-kihn), a Grigory supporter who persuades Basmanov to defect to the pretender’s side and who, making a violent speech in the great square, inflames the people against Godunov.
Father Pimen, an old monk, formerly a soldier, who counsels Grigory to put worldly ambitions out of his thoughts.