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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

John Anthony

John Anthony is the founder and chairman of the Trenartha Plate Tin Works. He is seventy-six years old and has run the company for thirty-two years. Anthony is stubborn and autocratic, refusing to reach any compromise with the strikers, whom he regards as his natural enemies. He insists that there can only be one master in any organization and is contemptuous of the other directors, whom he regards as weak and cowardly. He shows respect only for David Roberts, as he thinks Roberts is a worthy adversary.

Edgar Anthony

Edgar Anthony is John Anthony’s thirty-year-old son and one of the company directors. He is earnest, principled, and sympathetic towards the strikers. Edgar is torn between respect for his father and his determination to end the strike. When he hears about the death of Annie Roberts, he finds the courage to speak out against the directors for their lack of imagination and compassion in condemning the strikers and their families to starvation.

Frederic Wilder

Frederic Wilder is one of the directors of the Trenartha Plate Tin Works. He is a cantankerous and sardonic character who has no sympathy for the strikers but comes to believe that the strike must be ended for practical and commercial reasons.

William Scantlebury

William Scantlebury is a director of the Trenartha Plate Tin Works. He is a large, lazy man who is primarily concerned with his own comfort and prosperity and is particularly interested in food. He feels sorry for the workers and also thinks that reaching an agreement with them would be the easiest course of action.

Oliver Wanklin

Oliver Wanklin is a director of the Trenartha Plate Tin Works. He is pragmatic and wants to settle the strike with as little friction as possible. Wilder accuses him of having “radical views,” but Wanklin’s own words suggest that he is a hard-headed businessman who thinks mainly of profits and shareholders when he attempts to reach an agreement with the workers.

Henry Tench

Henry Tench is the company secretary of the Trenartha Plate Tin Works. He is a small, nervous, and humble man who is concerned about losing his job if the company performs badly.

Francis Underwood

Francis Underwood is the manager of the Trenartha Plate Tin Works. He is a calm, quiet man who, unlike the directors, lives in Trenartha and is aware of the strikers’ suffering. He gives little indication of his own feelings but thinks that the workers are not underpaid.

Enid Underwood

Enid Underwood is the daughter of John Anthony and the wife of Francis Underwood. She feels sorry for the strikers and takes a particular interest in Annie Roberts, who used to be her maid. However, she is offended and loses sympathy for the workers when her attempts to help Annie with gifts of food are rebuffed and when Madge Thomas is hostile towards her. Enid’s primary loyalty is to her father, and she is very worried that it will destroy him if the other directors rebel against his authority.


Frost is John Anthony’s manservant and has been with Anthony since Frost was fifteen years old. He is devoted to his master and seriously concerned about the effect the labor dispute has on the older man’s mental and physical health.

Simon Harness

Simon Harness is the official representative of the labor union. He has a calm manner and tries to mediate between the directors and the workers, but his sympathies are principally with the latter. He sometimes refers bitterly to his working-class background and difficult life, which contrast sharply with the luxury the wealthy directors enjoy.

David Roberts

(This entire section contains 1042 words.)

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David Roberts

David Roberts is a member of the working men’s committee and has emerged as the driving force behind the strike. He is a fiery orator who uses his eloquence to persuade the men that they must stand up for their interests or be crushed by those of Capital. Roberts is as stubborn as Anthony, and the two enemies have grudging respect for each other. He discovered a process that made £100,000 for the company, though he only received £700 for his efforts. Nonetheless, this made him better off than the other workers, and he points out that he has less to gain and more to lose than any of them from the strike, which he supports and leads as a matter of principle.

Henry Thomas

Henry Thomas is an older member of the working men’s committee. He withdraws his support for the strike when it is no longer backed by the Chapel and says that it is against nature and God to prolong the dispute.

George Rous

George Rous is a young member of the working men’s committee who hopes to marry Madge Thomas. She persuades him to break with Roberts’ faction and speak out against the strike because of the damage it is doing to the women and children in the community. Under her influence, he becomes an enthusiastic opponent of Roberts and the strike.

Annie Roberts

Annie Roberts is the wife of David Roberts and was once Enid Underwood’s maid. She is seriously ill and dies in the middle of act two. Annie loves her husband but thinks he is wrong to be so stubborn in prolonging the strike, charging him with heartlessness for putting his pride before the lives of women and children.

Madge Thomas

Madge Thomas, an attractive young woman of twenty-two, is the daughter of Henry Thomas. She is angry with Roberts for his stubborn willingness to continue the strike and persuades George Rous to oppose him. However, she is even more bitter in her attitude towards Enid Underwood and John Anthony, whom she blames for Annie’s death.


Jago is one of the strikers at the tin works. He is an enthusiastic supporter of the strike and of Roberts personally, and he deprecates any attempt at strike-breaking or compromise.


Evans is one of the strikers who supports Roberts even when the other men turn against him. He is motivated by a fierce hatred of blacklegs (workers who are willing to work while their peers strike) and thinks it is wrong to use the death of Roberts’s wife as an excuse for withdrawing support for the strike.


Act Summaries


Critical Essays