Valentine The first of the "gentlemen"; Valentine is early described by his friend Proteus as one who "after honor hunts" rather than after love. While abroad in Milan, Valentine succumbs to the charms of Silvia, the Duke's daughter, but before he is successfully united with her, he must suffer the indignity of betrayal by a friend and subsequent banishment to the forest, where he joins a band of robbers.
Proteus The second "gentleman"; he transforms rapidly from a loyal friend and faithful lover into something of a villain when he too is struck by the charms of Silvia. He deserts Julia, plots to have Valentine banished, and is about to physically attack Silvia before he is interrupted at the last minute. His sudden remorse elicits Valentines pity; all is forgiven, and Proteus is reunited with Julia.
Julia In the early scenes of this play, Julia wrestles with her feelings for Proteus; within the context of youthful courtship, these feelings give way to later ones filled with the agony of rejection and the protracted spectacle of her beloved debasing himself out of love for another woman. Julia shows the spunk and charm of later Shakespearean heroines, especially in the scenes in which she disguises herself as a page (to Proteus) in the strange city of Milan.
Silvia The Duke of Milads high-spirited daughter; she is sought after by a number of eligible gentlemen, but the one whom she prefers, Valentine, does not have her father's approval. Having been foiled in her attempt to elope with her lover, she is appalled at the behavior of his closest friend, who claims to love her. In the end, she is united with Valentine, whose bravery has impressed the Duke.
Duke of Milan A conventional nobleman; the Duke tries to protect the interests of his daughter by securing the most favorable husband possible for her. Ultimately, their choices coincide.
Thurio This foolish rival to Valentine loses the Duke's favor at the end of the play, when he is quick to relinquish his claim to Silvia.
Eglamour Another of Silvia's suitors, Eglamour is sympathetic in that he aids her in her escape from Milan in pursuit of Valentine.
Speed Valentine's witty servant; he takes great pleasure in aggravating his master. Together with Launce, he offers a comic reflection of the concerns of the main characters.
Launce Proteus's servant; he functions exactly as Speed. The character is justly famous for his monologues on the subject of his ungrateful, ill-behaved dog, Crab.
Lucetta Julia's waiting woman; she acts as a sounding board for her mistress's emotions in the early part of the play, coaxing her along to recognize the direction of her affections and, at the same time, playfully teasing her about her feelings.