Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Roxana, a woman left penniless by her husband at the age of twenty-two. To support herself and her children, she becomes her landlord’s mistress and bears him a child. After his death, she becomes the mistress of a prince, out of vanity rather than need. She bears the prince a child during the eight years of their alliance. She then takes other lovers, receiving riches from them, until she is fifty years old. She finally leaves her role as a courtesan to marry and become a respectable wife.

Mr. ———

Mr. ———, Roxana’s landlord and first lover. He helps Roxana when her husband leaves her, becoming a boarder in her house and then her lover, treating her generously during their five years together. He wants children badly and, when Roxana does not at first bear him a child, Roxana’s maid does so. Mr. ——— is robbed and murdered. He leaves his wealth to Roxana.

The Prince de ———

The Prince de ———, Roxana’s second lover. He protects her after her first lover’s untimely death in Paris. He remains her lover for eight years and rewards her with rich gifts. Upon his wife’s death, however, he repents his sinful life and leaves Roxana.

A merchant

A merchant, who takes care of Roxana’s wealth for her during the years after she parts from the Prince de ———. Roxana bears the merchant a son, after a brief affair. Later, he and Roxana are married, legitimize their son, and settle down to respectability in Holland.


Amy, Roxana’s faithful maid. She serves her mistress without pay while Roxana is poor. She even bears a child for Mr. ——— when it seems that Roxana cannot. Loyal to the end, she is finally dismissed by Roxana when she threatens to murder Roxana’s legitimate daughter to quiet her tongue about Roxana’s past.

Roxana List of Characters

She is the protagonist, a lively, intelligent daughter of refugee French parents who are forced to leave France because they are Protestants in a predominantly Roman Catholic county.

Roxana's Father
A jeweler by profession, he does very well in business when he moves to London. He brings up his daughter happy and well-to-do.

The Brewer
Roxana's father-in-law, he is decent man and a good businessman but leaves behind a ne'er-do-well son.

Roxana's Husband
He is a stupid, handsome, good-for-nothing fool. A brewer's son, he squanders the brewery and the money he inherits from his father and eventually runs away to France and joins the army. He dies foolishly in a misadventure.

Roxana's maid servant, she is a bright, intelligent young woman who is more than just a maid to Roxana. She is her adviser and confidant, and partner in most of Roxana's adventures throughout the story.

The Landlord
He is the landlord of the house Roxana rents with her husband. After she is abandoned by her husband, the landlord is at first cruel and mercenary with her, but soon falls in love with her and makes her his mistress. He is fair and faithful to Roxana until his death in France. He is a jeweler by profession

The French Lord
He is a nobleman of the French Royal family, and an acquaintance of Roxana's lover, the landlord who deals in jewelry with him. He falls in love with Roxana after the landlord's death and makes her his mistress, lavishing his love and wealth on her. He treats her very fairly until his own wife dies. Stricken with remorse, he gives up Roxana.

The Jewish Businessman
He hounds Roxana and tries to strip her of all her wealth. Apparently he goes as far as to plot Roxana's death.


(The entire section is 552 words.)

Roxana Characters

To discuss the characters in a novel or a play assumes that it has characters to discuss. Roxana does not have traditional "characters" although it certainly has persons who act to carry the story forward. In literature, "character" refers to a person represented in a story, novel, play, or poem. Characters in a novel are realistic imitations of people in a recognizable social setting who, like people in real life, develop their personalities. Through plot they come into conflict with other characters and with themselves, and they grow from simple to complex human beings.

Defoe's Roxana does not have characters in that complex, novelistic sense. Strictly speaking, they are persons in action, carrying the story forward. The protagonist tells the story of her life in the first person and, for that reason, a prolonged discussion of the characters ends up as a retelling of the story itself. Before the first English novel (Samuel Richardson’s Pamela) was published in London in 1740, prose fiction in England was entirely about action and adventure, not about character. Against this literary background, Roxana's characters should be considered as “personae,” as in “dramatis personae," rather than as characters.

Roxana, protagonist of this fictional work, is the dominant figure of the entire story. Indeed, one may go as far as to say that one of the reasons Defoe's Roxana cannot be considered a novel is because the relationship of Roxana to the story completely outweighs that of any other person.

Roxana is the only daughter of French immigrant parents in London. They had come over the channel as refugees from France because they were persecuted for being Protestants in a heavily Roman Catholic country. Roxana was two years old at that time.

She grows up a sprightly, bright, handsome young woman, good in conversation and excellent in dancing. She is brought up with love and among plenitude.
Defoe's pseudo-history, written in the first person, about Roxana has her married to a good for nothing brewer's son who squanders the family wealth and eventually abandons her. Thereafter begins the adventures of the “fortunate mistress.” They begin first, by her desperate struggle for survival, giving her body to the man who was willing to protect her and give her shelter. Thereafter, however, Roxana understands the value of her body, and the value of money. She goes from being mistress to mistress, and from wealth to wealth.
Like most of Defoe's main characters, Roxana is interesting because of her capacity at self-reflection and self-criticism. She is an extremely intelligent woman, and is never under any illusion that what she is doing is by any means the right thing to do. She is fully aware that she is (in her own words) a "whore." Her only, and...

(The entire section is 1202 words.)