Ferdinand, King of Navarre The King of Navarre wishes to turn his court into "a little Academe," to which end he elicits a vow from his closest followers to remain with him for three years as celibate scholars. Like his friends, however, the king soon finds the vow impossible to keep, especially when he meets the beautiful daughter of the King of France. Cupid is revenged, and to do penance for his actions at the end of the play, Navarre must wait for a year before he is allowed to be united with his beloved.
Biron Biron is the most outspoken of the king's followers, the one who first expresses reservations about Navarre's scheme; he sees through the hypocrisy of his friends' vows. He reluctantly agrees to take the vow, and, like them, he eventually breaks it.
Longaville and Dumain Navarre's other two attendant lords; the first to pledge chastity and the first to fall.
Boyet An elderly lord attending the Princess of France; he acts as advisor and go-between.
Princess of France The Princess has been sent by her father to Navarre to negotiate a debt owed for past years. Navarre retains possession of Aquitane, to the consternation of the French king. The Princess is a high spirited and witty lady, a perfect match for the king, as it turns out. But before the match can be made, she, together with her ladies, chastises the young courtiers of Navarre for their rude behavior and for their absurd rejection of the laws of love.
Rosaline, Maria, and Katherine These ladies attending the Princess playfully engage in the game of rejecting their suitors, and, with her, demand a waiting period of one year before they will allow Biron, Longaville, and Dumain to approach them again.
Don Adriano de Armado Shakespeare describes him as a "fantastical Spaniard." Armado is the parody of a courtly lover; he vies with the "clown" Costard for the favors of the country girl Jaquenetta.
Moth Don Armado's diminutive, sharp-tongued page.
Holofernes The pedantical schoolmaster. He and his sidekick, the curate Nathaniel, make their appearance in Act IV. They provide a comic reflection of the sophisticated language in the play; their odd conversations are filled with pompous elocutions and convoluted attempts at wit. All of the secondary characters take part in a courtly performance at the end of the play, a mock-reflection of the "masque" engaged in by the main characters.
Costard He is Don Armado's rival for the country wench Jaquenetta.
Dull The country constable whose name describes his facility with language and therefore places him in sharp contrast with the genteel and witty central characters.