Babo A small, coarse-featured Senegalese around thirty years old, Babo, who was once the slave of a black man, follows Don Benito like a faithful dog and gives the impression of complete devotion to his master's physical comforts. Babo, a flagrant cutthroat, leads the slave revolt, chalks "Follow your leader" below Aranda's skeleton, and orders atrocities, but commits no murder himself.
Captain Amasa Delano The commander of a large sealer and general merchant ship, Delano, a native of Duxbury, Massachusetts, is "incapable of satire or irony" and demonstrates a trusting, altruistic nature. Fluent in Spanish, he voices racist attitudes, but displays a hearty benevolence toward a fellow captain in need.
Don Benito Cereno A reserved, richly dressed Spanish grandee in his late twenties, Cereno, tall and gaunt, bears a noble face marred by lack of sleep, trauma, and ill health. During the resolution of the plot, Cereno is referred to as "the deponent."
Alexandro Aranda Don Benito's friend and the former owner of the slaves, Aranda was a citizen of Mendoza.
Doctor Juan Martinez de Rozas Councilor of the royal court who presides over the taking of depositions.
Infelez A monk who attends Benito Cereno at the City of Kings refuge.
The Mate of the Bachelor's Delight An athletic, determined man, the chief mate, who once was a naval mercenary, leads the Americans against the rebels aboard the slave ship and is wounded in the chest.
Atufal A gigantic black man with a regal air who treads slowly about the ship, iron collar about his neck and padlocked to a waistband of iron. Every two hours during his sojourn, Atufal pretends to refuse to ask his master's pardon for an unnamed offense which occurred two months earlier. As Babo's lieutenant, he commits no murder and is shot to death in the raid by the American sealers.
Francesco A tall, magisterial mulatto wearing an Oriental turban who proposes poisoning Delano's food.
José Eighteen-year-old servant of Aranda who, previous to the revolt, spied on the captain, reported to Babo, and stabbed his mutilated master.
Lecbe One of the most vicious of the Ashantis who wounds Delano's mate and strikes Masa with a hatchet. Lecbe joins Yan in riveting Aranda's skeleton to the bow.
Negresses These unnamed women sing songs and dance solemnly during periods of violence against the Spaniards and urge the rebels to torture them to death.
Yan Lecbe's cohort who prepares Aranda's skeleton for display.
Bartholomew Barb Attempts to stab with a dagger a shackled black man who had assaulted him.
Cabin-boy Has his arm broken by the rebels and is struck with hatchets.
Cook Babo has the cook tied, ready to throw him overboard, then relents and spares him.
Juan Bautista Gayette The ship's carpenter.
Juan Robles Boatswain whom Babo orders drowned and who remains afloat long enough to make acts of contrition and to beg for a mass to be said for his soul.
Luys Galgo A sixty-year-old Spanish sailor who tries to convey tokens to Delano.
Martinez Gola A Spanish sailor who attempts to kill a man with a razor after the man is returned to shackles.
Raneds The mate, the only navigator left among the decimated crew, is killed by the rebels while handing a quadrant to Cereno, an act they interpret as suspicious.
Ship-boy Struck with a knife by a young slave boy for expressing hope of rescue.
Don Alonzo Sidonia An elderly resident of Valparaiso and Peruvian civil official, Sidonia is a passenger aboard the San Dominick when it is overrun. Hearing cries from Aranda's berth opposite his own, Sidonia leaps through the window and drowns in the sea.
Don Francisco Masa A middle-aged resident of Mendoza, Masa, who is Aranda's cousin, is struck with a hatchet, then thrown overboard at Babo's orders.
Don Joaquin, Marques de Aramboalaza A youthful passenger aboard the San Dominick and recent arrival from Spain, he carries a jewel for the shrine of our Lady of Mercy in Lima. He is forced to dress as a sailor; Lecbe pours hot tar on his hands. Later, the rebels tie a hatchet to his hands so that he will appear to support the revolt. During the boarding, he is shot as a confederate of the rebels.
Ponce Servant to Aramboalaza who is drowned on Babo's orders.
Three Clerks from Cadiz José Mozairi, Lorenzo Bargas, Hermenegildo Gandix. Babo orders the drowning of Mozairi and Bargas. Gandix, who is forced to dress like a seaman, hints to Delano the shipboard situation. He is shot with a musket ball, falls from the mast, and drowns after urging the Americans not to board.