One of the play's central characters, Isabella is a principled young woman in the process of becoming a nun. When her brother, Claudio, receives a death sentence from Angelo for engaging in premarital sex… (read full character analysis)
Isabella's brother. He is good-hearted and insightful, but his inability to resist his sexual impulses causes him to receive a death sentence for impregnating his soon-to-be wife, Juliet, before the wedding. He escapes this… (read full character analysis)
The benevolent ruler of Vienna who has asked Angelo to govern in his stead to impose law and order. Though his subjects believe he has left town, the Duke disguises himself as a friar and… (read full character analysis)
Angelo is the clear antagonist of the play. As regent of Vienna, he imposes a draconian regime in the name of restoring morality. However, he ends up being as duplicitous and immoral as his discipline… (read full character analysis)
A friend of Claudio's whose over-the-top behavior symbolizes the more indulgent aspects of Viennese society. He works to convince Isabella that aiding her brother is the right choice.
A one-time fiancée of Angelo's, whom he abandoned after her dowry was lost in a shipwreck. Mariana helps Isabella and the Duke's plot to free Claudio by seducing Angelo while pretending to be Isabella.
A virtuous nobleman who repeatedly counsels Angelo against acting unjustly or too harshly, and to think of one's own sins when meting out justice.
The woman whom Claudio impregnates.
The madame of a Viennese brothel.
A quick-witted "bawd" employed by Mistress Overdone, who is skeptical of any attempt to enact laws that will eliminate prostitution.
The warden of the prison who, at the disguised Duke's behest, disobeys Angelo's orders to behead Claudio and instead presents the head of a dead pirate.
An irritable, lazy, drunken prisoner, sentenced to die the same day as Claudio. His laziness is so great that he refuses even to appear for his own execution, and as such the authorities give up on trying to execute him.
The alter ego the Duke adopts by disguising himself as a friar.
Friar Thomas and Friar Peter
Two friars who help the Duke craft his disguise.