Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The Lord Chancellor

The Lord Chancellor, the husband of the supposedly dead Iolanthe. Highly susceptible to feminine charm, he hates to give away his lovely wards in Chancery in marriage. He is sometimes jocular, sometimes severe, and quite jealous of Strephon, who he does not know is his son. The return of Iolanthe keeps him from marrying Phyllis.


Iolanthe (i-oh-LAN-thee), a loving, gentle-hearted fairy, condemned to banishment instead of death by the kindness of the Queen of the Fairies. She has violated the fairy law by marrying a mortal. After her release by the Queen, she risks death a second time to save the happiness of her son.


Strephon (STREH-fon), an Arcadian shepherd, the son of the Chancellor and Iolanthe. He is a fairy down to the waist but human and material in the legs; therefore, he can accomplish none of the fairy tricks such as going through a keyhole or becoming completely invisible. He loves Phyllis, but in his anger at her jealousy, he takes revenge by going into Parliament and thwarting the will of the lords.


Phyllis, a beautiful shepherdess loved by the House of Peers to a man, as well as by the Lord Chancellor and Strephon. Finding Strephon kissing a beautiful girl who apparently is seventeen years old (Iolanthe), she refuses to believe the girl is his mother. Finally, she becomes convinced that he is truthful, and she consents to marry him.

The Queen of the Fairies

The Queen of the Fairies, a noble-hearted monarch in whom severity and mercy struggle for mastery. She forgives Iolanthe, but angered at the Peers, she sends Strephon into Parliament to destroy their privileges. When Iolanthe reveals herself to the Chancellor, the Queen sentences her to death, but she again relents on finding that all the other fairies have fallen in love with mortals. She is captivated by the manly charms of Private Willis but controls her passion until the fairy constitution is changed to make it a mortal crime not to marry a mortal.

Private Willis

Private Willis, a philosophical sentry who is willing to inconvenience himself to save a female in distress.

The Earl of Mountararat

The Earl of Mountararat (mount-AY-ruh-rat) and

Earl Tolloler

Earl Tolloler, suitors of Phyllis.