The Canterville Ghost Characters
by Oscar Wilde

The Canterville Ghost book cover
Start Your Free Trial

The Canterville Ghost Characters

The main characters in "The Canterville Ghost" are Sir Simon, Virginia Otis, and Horace Otis. 

  • Sir Simon became a ghost after murdering his wife. He has haunted Canterville Chase for hundreds of years. 
  • Virginia Otis is the only daughter of the Otis family. Unlike the rest of her family, Virginia takes pity on Sir Simon and helps him find peace in the afterlife. 
  • Horace Otis is the new American owner of Canterville Chase, representing modern practicality and consumerism. Unlike the previous tenants, Mr. Otis is unconcerned by the presence of the ghost and employs various modern household products to deal with the haunting.


(Short Stories for Students)

Download The Canterville Ghost Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Sir Simon Canterville
See Ghost

See Duke of Cheshire

Duke of Cheshire
Desperately in love with the fifteen-year old Virginia Otis, the boyish Duke of Cheshire proposes after watching her win a pony race. However, his guardians pack him off to Eton, and he must wait to marry. But his impetuousness cannot be quelled. When Virginia vanishes, he insists on being part of the search party. As soon as she reappears, he smothers her with kisses. His devotion is rewarded, and Virginia consents to become the Duchess of Cheshire.

The Ghost, or Sir Simon Canterville, has haunted Canterville Chase since he was starved to death in 1584 by his dead wife's brothers. They murdered him because he had murdered his wife for the trivial reasons that she was plain and a bad housekeeper. For three hundred years, Sir Simon has frightened the inhabitants of Canterville Chase and has relished his role as resident ghost. He has appeared as ‘‘The Headless Earl," "The Corpse-Snatcher of Chertsey Barn,’’ and ‘‘The Blood-sucker of Bexley Moor’’ as well as other incarnations. However, when the rational American Otises arrive, the Ghost realizes that his audience does not appreciate his performance. No matter what he tries, he cannot frighten the Otis family. Weary and despairing, Sir Simon begs Virginia Otis to pray for him so that he can finally achieve eternal rest. Initially the butt of the twins' s pranks and an annoyance to the practical Otises, the Ghost becomes an object of sympathy. Before he goes quietly to his grave, he gives Virginia a box of priceless jewels.

Mr. Horace B. Otis
The boisterous head of the Otis family, Mr. Otis first dismisses tales of a ghost in his newly purchased English house, arguing that the modern country of America has already bought up anything of value from the Old World. Sir Simon is stunned when Mr. Otis demands that the ghost use Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator to quiet his haunting chains so that the family may get some sleep. Mr. Otis is a calm man who scolds the twin Otis boys for throwing pillows at the ghost, and then reasons that if the ghost will not use the lubricator, the family will take away his chains. Mr. Otis leads the search for the missing Virginia and eventually consents to letting her marry into the aristocracy.

Mrs. Lucretia Tappan Otis
The spirited matriarch of the Otis clan, Mrs. Lucretia Tappan Otis, a former New York beauty, is renowned for her ‘‘superb profile.’’ Sir Simon views her as a gross materialist because she offers him Dr. Dobell's tincture for indigestion; she has misunderstood his ghostly laugh as a sign of a medical disorder. Generally undisturbed by the Ghost's performances, Mrs. Otis introduces her neighbors to such American pleasures as clambakes. Except for understandable anxiety at Virginia's disappearance, Mrs. Otis possesses a ‘‘really wonderful amount of animal spirits.’’

Virginia Otis
Virginia Otis, the somewhat puritanical, beautiful fifteen-year old daughter of the American Minister, has already inspired the love of the young Duke of Cheshire as the story begins. In the first part of the story, the reader does not learn much about Virginia's personality. She hangs back as the rest of her family either plots against the Ghost or attempts to cure him of his clanking chains and scratchy voice. When...

(The entire section is 1,615 words.)