Edmund Tressilian, an impoverished young gentleman, a friend of the earl of Sussex and an unsuccessful suitor for Amy Robsart’s hand. Generous, intelligent and honorable, he seeks to free Amy from Richard Varney, whom he believes to be her paramour. When Amy, secretly the wife of the earl of Leicester, refuses to leave Cumnor Place, he tries to put his case before Queen Elizabeth. Supported by Amy’s father and Sussex, he nonetheless makes a poor showing because of Varney’s cleverness and his own desire to protect Amy. Accused later of cuckolding the earl of Leicester, Tressilian is forced to duel with the earl but is saved by the timely intervention of two friends. He clears himself before the queen, though too late to save Amy from Varney’s treachery.
Robert Dudley, the earl of Leicester and master of Kenilworth Castle. Rivaled only by Sussex in Elizabeth’s esteem, he has the advantage of appealing to her femininity. Knowing his marriage to Amy would spoil his chance for advancement, he keeps her at Cumnor Place under Varney’s supervision. Basically noble, he is also quite gullible. When he tries to tell Elizabeth of his marriage, Varney convinces him Amy has been unfaithful. In a rage, he orders Varney to kill her and fights a duel with Tressilian. On learning the truth, he reveals his marriage and tries in vain to save Amy. He suffers the loss of his wife and temporary court disfavor.
Amy Robsart, Leicester’s unfortunate wife. Deeply in love with him, she wants recognition as his lawful wife but hesitates to ruin his life at court. Imprisoned at Cumnor Place, she escapes with Tressilian’s servant, Wayland Smith, to Kenilworth after Varney gives her a mild dose of poison. There, she tries to see her husband and reveal her true identity, but she is deemed insane by Queen Elizabeth. Through Varney’s scheme, she is sent back to Cumnor Place and tricked into falling to her...
(The entire section is 821 words.)