King Edward IV: Brother of George and Richard, father of the two young princes Edward and Richard, and husband to Elizabeth, he is on his deathbed as the play begins. His brother, Richard, hopes for his untimely death so that he may be one step closer to the throne.
Edward, prince of Wales: The eldest son of King Edward IV and thus the heir to the throne, he is king for a short time after his father dies. However, his uncle and regent, Richard, sends him to the tower and has him murdered before he can even be officially crowned.
Richard, duke of York: The youngest son of King Edward IV and second in line to the throne, he is also sent to the tower and murdered by Richard.
George, duke of Clarence: Brother to King Edward and to Richard, he is third in line to the throne. Richard also causes his murder. He is referred to generally as the duke of Clarence or simply Clarence.
Richard, duke of Gloucester: Brother to King Edward and to George, he manipulates and murders his way to the throne to be crowned as Richard III, only to be overthrown by Richmond at the end of the play. His enemies call him “foul, bunch-backed toad,” reflecting not only his physical deformities, but his profoundly evil character. His standard is a boar’s head, and for that reason his enemies also at times call him “the hog.” His only desire is to be king, and to do so he eliminates everyone who stands ahead of him in the succession, all the time maintaining the appearance of absolute trustworthiness, sincerity, and goodness. His delight in his evil deeds is so great that he is constantly inviting us, the audience, to share his good time. He is referred to generally as the duke of Gloucester or simply Gloucester.
Edward Plantagenet, earl of Warwick: A young son of George, duke of Clarence.
Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond: A Lancastrian, he has a claim to the throne and thus mounts an army in Brittany, invades England, and slays Richard. At the end of the play he is crowned King Henry VII and proposes to marry Elizabeth, daughter of King Edward, thus uniting the two warring households: the Yorkists (white rose) and the Lancastrians (red rose).
Cardinal Bourchier: Archbishop of Canterbury.
Thomas Rotherham: Archbishop of York.
John Morton: Bishop of Ely.
Henry, duke of Buckingham: Born a Lancastrian but raised (his father died in battle) by King Edward to be a Yorkist, he is closest in keenness and ambition to Richard. Loyal to Richard, he learns too late that he has judged falsely, and, after fleeing for fear of what Richard has done and will do, is taken prisoner and executed.
Duke of Norfolk
Earl of Surrey: A son of Norfolk.
Earl Rivers: Also known as Anthony Woodvile, he is a brother of Queen Elizabeth.
Marquess of Dorset: A son of Queen Elizabeth.
Lord Grey: A son of Queen Elizabeth.
Earl of Oxford
William, Lord Hastings: A supporter of King Edward in the Wars of the Roses, he is in an awkwardposition: he is loyal to the king, but the king’s wife hates him, while the king’s mistress is his good friend. He is loyal to Edward’s children and fails to notice until too late that that makes him Richard’s enemy.
Lord Stanley, earl of Derby: An opportunist, he jumps from side to side as he sees it will do him good (and he always comes out on the winning side).
Sir Thomas Vaughan
Sir Richard Ratcliffe
Sir William Catesby
Sir James Tyrrel
Sir James Blunt
Sir Walter Herbert
Sir Robert Brakenbury: Lieutenant of the Tower.
Sir William Brandon
Christopher Urswick: A priest.
Queen Elizabeth: Wife of King Edward IV, she appears to yield to Richard’s blandishments; however, since she survived to see her daughter become queen of England, she may have been far wiser and stronger than Richard thought.
Margaret: Widow of King Henry VI and mother of the murdered Prince Edward, she was once a schemer and a warrior, but now all that she fought for is gone. She can, however, utter curses against her enemies and watch as they go to their dooms.
Cicely Neville, duchess of York: The mother of King Edward IV, George, and Richard, is the only person whose bad opinion even faintly concerns Richard. She endured grief most of her life, including the deaths of her three sons during the course of the play. She also endured the agonizing realization that Richard was one who was “damned” and who deserved even his mother’s “most grievous curse.”
Lady Anne Neville: Widow of Prince Edward, one of Richard’s victims, yet later the wife of Richard. She hates Richard with all her heart, yet is fascinated by him and marries him even while knowing his past evils and suspecting the harm he plans for her.
Margaret Plantagenet, countess of Salisbury: A young daughter of Clarence.