Vivian Grey, an ambitious young Englishman who desires a political career. His unscrupulous conduct ends that career. Traveling in Germany afterward, he learns how terrible politics can be and realizes how immoral his own conduct has been.
Mr. Dallas, the proprietor of a school from which Vivian Grey is expelled.
Sidney Lorraine, the marquess of Carabas, an incompetent who has been turned out of office. His support in politics is sought by Vivian because the man has a title and represents the aristocracy.
Mrs. Felix Lorraine
Mrs. Felix Lorraine, Sidney’s fashionable sister-in-law. Vivian attempts an affair with her, but she falls in love with Frederick Cleveland.
Frederick Cleveland, a retired minister of state. He gives his support for a time to Vivian. After Vivian insults him, the two fight a duel, and Cleveland is killed.
Baron Eugene von Konigstein
Baron Eugene von Konigstein, a worldly German nobleman who becomes Vivian’s friend for a time while the two are studying at Heidelberg. The baron cheats at cards.
Essper George, a conjurer. He becomes Vivian’s valet. He is killed during a storm, and his death has a sobering effect on Vivian.
Lady Madeleine Trevor
Lady Madeleine Trevor, a friend of Vivian’s father.
Mr. St. George
Mr. St. George, Lady Madeleine Trevor’s brother.
Violet Fane, a friend of Lady Madeleine. She dies of natural causes in Vivian’s arms, causing him to be grief-stricken.
Mr. Beckendorff, a recluse who is host to Vivian. He conspires to become prime minister of the Duchy of Reisenberg. When Vivian falls in love with Sybilla, Beckendorff plans to kill him but relents on condition that Vivian leave the duchy.
The prince of Little Lilliput
The prince of Little Lilliput, a guest at Beckendorff’s home. He becomes Vivian’s friend and introduces the Englishman to court circles in Germany.
Sybilla, a beautiful young baroness. Vivian falls in love with her, but he is disillusioned when he learns that for political reasons the woman must marry a deformed, half-witted prince.