Orlando, a young English nobleman of Elizabeth I’s reign. He is a descendant of fighting men but is himself a poet. He becomes a courtier, though scarcely growing older, during the times of Elizabeth, James I, and Charles II. Failing to find satisfaction in literature, he turns to materialistic goals, searching all Europe for furnishings to refurbish his great mansion. While serving Charles II as Ambassador Extraordinary at Constantinople, Orlando sleeps an entire week, during which he mysteriously changes into a woman. Although now female and beautiful, Orlando is still a restless soul, searching for satisfaction in the brilliant society of Queen Anne’s court and, as well, in the streets and pubs of London. During the Victorian period, Orlando, still a woman, marries and returns to literary pursuits. She comes to think of herself, now a woman of thirty-six during the 1920’s, as a symbol of English history.
The Archduchess Harriet of Roumania
The Archduchess Harriet of Roumania, a large, ugly woman who falls in love with Orlando and forces her attentions upon him. When Orlando, changed into a woman, returns to England in the eighteenth century, she finds the archduchess metamorphosed into Archduke Harry, still in love with Orlando but changed in sex.
Sasha, a Russian princess who comes to England in 1604. She fascinates the youthful Orlando, who falls in love and wants to marry Sasha. The princess, a fickle creature, toys with common sailors and finally deserts Orlando to return home to Russia.
Nicholas Greene, a seventeenth century poet who becomes a pensioner of the youthful Orlando while he is interested in literature. Greene is a man who loves city life; in the 1920’s, he turns up again as a successful literary critic and offers to help Orlando to find a publisher for her long poem.
Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine, Esq.
Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine, Esq., Orlando’s Victorian-era husband, who leaves his wife to go to sea. He returns in 1928 aboard an airplane, having become a renowned sea captain during his absence.