Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Count Lamoral Egmont

Count Lamoral Egmont, who was born in Flanders and who serves the Spanish as a capable general and an excellent statesman. When Philip II, the main instrument of the Inquisition, sends the duke of Alva to The Netherlands to prevent disorders that have arisen as a consequence of Dutch displeasure with Spanish rule, Egmont freely speaks his mind in spite of warnings given by trusted friends such as Count Oliva. He urges Alva to use patience and tact in his affairs with the burghers. Alva, however, accuses Egmont of treason and orders his execution.

William of Orange

William of Orange, the founder of the Dutch Republic, an intelligent, cautious man admired by Charles V but hated by Philip. There is outward harmony between Egmont and William, and Alva tries to trap them both. William, however, keeps his distance, is not so outspoken as is Egmont, and escapes the latter’s fate.

Margaret of Parma

Margaret of Parma, Philip’s half sister, named by him as regent of The Netherlands. She is firm but not cruel toward the Protestants. She does what she can to keep order, but she knows that she is only the titular head of Holland and that Alva actually will rule.

The duke of Alva

The duke of Alva, the cruel emissary of Philip II. He has no patience with the Dutch commoners’ claims for their rights and believes that force has to be used to keep them in line. He garrisons an army and turns Holland into a police state.


Clärchen, a commoner of lowly station who loves and is loved by Egmont. When he is arrested, she attempts to rally the people to rescue him. When she fails, she goes to her house and drinks poison.

Fritz Brackenburg

Fritz Brackenburg, a citizen who loves Clärchen. Clärchen’s mother supports his suit, but the young woman has eyes only for Egmont.


Machiavel, Margaret’s shrewd, wise, and capable secretary.


Ferdinand, Alva’s natural son, who is given a small part to play in the plan to trap William and Egmont. He actually sympathizes with Egmont.


Silva, the official who reads Egmont’s sentence to him in prison.