Porgy, an old, crippled black beggar who travels about Charleston in a goat cart. He is frail in body, but his hands are powerful. He says little but observes much. When Bess moves in and becomes his woman after Crown has fled following Robbins’ murder, Porgy is transformed from an impassive observer of life to a lover of children as well as of Bess. Fearful of losing Bess to Crown, Porgy kills him, but he loses her anyway.
Crown, a stevedore, slow-witted, powerful, brutal, and dangerous, especially when drunk. He is stabbed by Porgy when he breaks into Porgy’s room. Crown’s body is later found in the river, but the loyalty of Porgy’s friends prevents his being identified as Crown’s murderer.
Bess, his woman, who lives with Porgy during Crown’s absence but who returns briefly to Crown. While living with Porgy, she is less immoral than amoral; neither she nor her friends see anything improper in such conduct. Made drunk by stevedores during Porgy’s absence in jail, she is taken to Savannah. Supposedly she returns to her old life.
Robbins, a weekend gambler but otherwise a good provider. He is murdered by Crown, who falsely suspects him of cheating at dice.
Serena, his wife, who adopts Jake and Clara’s baby after Porgy is jailed on a contempt charge.
Peter, an old man arrested as a witness to Robbins’ murder.
Sportin’ Life, a flashy New York drug dealer.
Maria, Porgy’s friend, operator of a small cookshop.
Jake, a fisherman drowned when a hurricane wrecks his boat.
Clara, his wife, also drowned during the hurricane. Bess and Porgy keep her baby after her death until the baby is taken by Serena.
Simon Frasier, a black “lawyer” who grants illegal divorces for a dollar.
Alan Archdale, a white lawyer, Porgy’s friend.