Last Updated June 7, 2023.
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, is a man of great ambition and passion but weak character. He marries Amy out of passionate love but refuses to accept the consequences of his action. Instead, he wants to keep the marriage a secret, mindless of its effect on his wife, whom he is willing to expose to danger. Leicester is Queen Elizabeth's favorite, and he so desires to stay that way that he sacrifices his wife. The Earl is also easily influenced. He allows Varney to play off his ambition and even believes Varney's accusations against Amy without proof. Leicester only confesses to the Queen when it is too late to save Amy. The narrator hints that he never actually learns his lesson, for he dies of a poison he intended for someone else.
Richard Varney is a scoundrel who wants to rise to the top on Leicester's coattails. He is determined that nothing will get in the way, including his lord's marriage. Varney manipulates the Earl at every step, boosting his ambitions and turning him against Amy. Ultimately, Varney resorts to murder when he and Foster rig the trap door and send Amy to her death. Unwilling to face the consequences of his evil actions, Varney kills himself.
Amy Robsart Dudley
Amy Robsart Dudley was pampered and coddled as a child, so much so that a man's attentions and love easily take her in. She runs away with Leicester, not thinking of how her actions affect her father and friends. Amy is not adept at thinking for herself at all or maintaining self-control. She acts on her feelings rather than reason. She realizes that her husband is not treating her right, but she does not understand the situation's complexities. Amy is, of course, the victim of Varney's schemes. She shows moments of true virtue when she encourages her husband to confess to the Queen and refuses to obey unjust commands.
Edmund Tressilian ends up a broken man. He truly loves Amy and does everything he can to protect and help her. He is honorable and kind, generous and sincere, and he cares little for ceremony when serious problems occur, as he shows when he pleads with the Queen. Amy's death breaks Tressilian to the point that he must leave England behind. He dies far from home, but perhaps nowhere could be home for him without Amy.
Elizabeth, Queen of England
Elizabeth, Queen of England, is a volatile woman with a short temper and a decided jealousy for her honor. Anyone who dares even hints at crossing her feels her wrath. She flies in rage at Leicester at the mere mention that he knows Amy's story. The Queen expects to be obeyed immediately when she gives an order, severely punishing people who cross her. Yet there is another side of Elizabeth just below the surface. She is a sensitive woman who writes a line of poetry to Raleigh, blushes at Leicester's hints, and even sheds tears of pain. Elizabeth's external sharpness is a cover and a defense of her internal vulnerability.
Wayland Smith is intelligent, loyal, and protective. He is a kind man and a good servant who sincerely cares about people and wants the best for Amy. Wayland's skills in medicine and deception save more than one life. Even when he wants to run in the opposite direction, he perseveres for the sake of others.
Dickie Sludge is a young boy with a hideous face and a massive intellect. Dickie's quick thinking saves the day several times. Dickie...
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does have a stubborn streak, though, and he can be vindictive, as when he steals Amy's letter because Wayland refuses to share his secret. Dickie's conscience pokes him, and he spends much effort trying to set things right.
Michael Lambourne is, for the most part, a vicious drunk. He cares for no one but himself and nothing but money and liquor, and he is usually prepared to sell his services to the highest bidder. His way of life backfires on him in the end when he becomes a liability to Varney, who unemotionally murders him.
Anthony Foster is a weak man who wants money. He pretends to be religious and perhaps thinks he is, but he is willing to do just about anything to obtain wealth. He goes along with Varney the moment Varney reminds him of his potential ownership of Cumnor Place. Foster has little integrity, but he does have some limits. Anthony cannot force Amy to take the potion, for instance, and sincerely seems to want to protect the young woman. In the end, though, his greed wins out, and he participates in murder, only to ironically die locked away with his chest of gold.
Janet Foster is a devout young woman who serves Amy with love and care. She wants only the best for her mistress. Janet is willing to sacrifice herself to help Amy escape when she becomes aware of the real danger facing the young woman. Janet proves herself thoughtful and shrewd, for she quickly evaluates Wayland's character and decides she can trust him. Janet is rewarded with her happy ending when she marries Wayland and inherits Cumnor Place.
Doctor Demetrius Doboobie
Doctor Demetrius Doboobie, also known as Alasco, is a dangerous man whose services are for hire. He is an alchemist who thinks he will soon be able to turn base metal into gold, but he also deals in poisons and mayhem. Ironically and fittingly, Doboobie is killed by his own "art" when he inhales too much of the poisons in his experiments.
Walter Raleigh is a wit but no fool. He is the kind of man who can turn a mistake into an advantage and do so with style, as he does when he offers his cloak as a stepping stone for the Queen. Beneath his smooth, charming exterior is a quick brain that discerns the reality of a situation and a quick will that acts accordingly. Raleigh stands as a foil to Varney, for Raleigh knows and practices what will make him rise to a high position in the court.