King Henry VIII: Married to Katherine early in the play, King Henry, in his obsession with having a male heir, divorces her and marries Anne Bullen. He is portrayed as a godlike presence in the play, rather than a character, representing the exalted view of kingship that was assiduously fostered by the Tudors.
Cardinal Wolsey: King Henry’s trusted advisor up until the king’s divorce from Katherine, Wolsey quickly fell from favor, partly because he objected to the king’s marriage to Anne Bullen and partly because he accidentally sent the king a list of his own vast holdings, angering Henry that Wolsey had gained so much power and wealth.
Cardinal Campeius: The pope’s emissary from Rome, Campeius arrives in London to assess Henry’s proposed divorce from Katherine.
Capuchius: A Spanish ambassador from Emperor Charles V, Capuchius becomes the messenger between Henry and Katherine as Katherine is on her deathbed.
Cranmer: The archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer pronounced the marriage of Henry and Katherine as null and void and the marriage of Henry and Anne as legal. Because of this and his other support of the king, he remains a close advisor throughout the play, is named Anne’s godfather, and predicts a noble and bright future for Anne and England.
Duke of Norfolk: One of the nobles surrounding the king’s court, Norfolk becomes in the play a commentator on the king’s actions.
Duke of Buckingham: An enemy of Cardinal Wolsey, whom he accuses of arrogance and of selling the king’s honor, Buckingham is falsely accused of treason by Wolsey and is executed.
Duke of Suffolk: Another of the nobles surrounding the king’s court, Suffolk also becomes a commentator on the actions around him.
Earl of Surrey: The duke of Buckingham’s son-in-law, the earl of Surrey is sent off to Ireland by Wolsey so as not to present a threat. He returns at the end to see Wolsey’s downfall.
Lord Chamberlain: The controller at Wolsey’s feaste, the Lord Chamberlain presents Anne Bullen to the king. He is also one of the council that tries Cranmer.
Lord Chancellor: President of the council that tries Cranmer
Gardiner: The bishop of Winchester, Gardiner is a petty, ambitious man who conspires with other nobles in the failed attempt to drive Cranmer out of favor.
Bishop of Lincoln: King Henry’s confessor, Lincoln was the first to suggest divorce to the king.
Cromwell: A servant to Wolsey, Cromwell is instructed by Wolsey to serve the king well. King Henry makes him master of the jewel house of the privy council, and he eventually becomes the king’s new secretary.
Griffith: Queen Katherine’s gentleman usher, Griffith is at her bedside when she dies.
Doctor Butts: Physician to King Henry, it is Doctor Butts who lets the king know how contemptuously the council is treating Cranmer.
Queen Katherine: The daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain and wife of Henry VIII, Queen Katherine soon falls into disgrace because she cannot produce a male heir. This leads to her divorce from Henry and eventually her lonely death. She is a noble, elegant, dignified woman who is victimized in a foreign country by a system in search of a future king.
Anne Bullen: A knight’s daughter, Anne Bullen is a lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine when King Henry sees her at a banquet and falls in love with her. Henry subsequently divorces Katherine and marries Anne who gives birth to the future Queen Elizabeth.