• Dorothea Brooke — Is an intelligent, wealthy woman with great aspirations. Dorothea avoids displaying her wealth and embarks upon projects such as redesigning cottages for her uncle's tenants. She marries the elderly Reverend Edward Casaubon, with the idealistic idea of helping him with his research project, The Key to All Mythologies. However, the marriage was a mistake, as Casaubon does not take her seriously and resents her youth, enthusiasm, and energy. Her requests to assist him makes it more difficult for him to conceal that his research is years out of date. Because of Casaubon's coldness during their honeymoon, Dorothea becomes friends with his relative, Will Ladislaw, Some years after Casaubon's death she falls in love with Will and marries him.
  • Tertius Lydgate — An idealistic, talented, but naïve young doctor, but though of good birth he is relatively poor. Lydgate hopes to make great advancements in medicine through his research. However, he ends up in an unhappy marriage to Rosamond Vincy. His attempts to show that he is not answerable to any man fails and he eventually has to leave town. He ends up sacrificing all of his high ideals in order to please his wife.
  • Rev. Edward Casaubon — A pedantic, selfish, elderly clergyman who is obsessed with his scholarly research. Because of this his marriage to Dorothea is loveless. His unfinished book The Key to All Mythologies is intended as a monument to the tradition of Christian syncretism. However, his research is out of date because he does not read German. He is aware of this but will not admit this to anyone.
  • Mary Garth — The practical, plain, and kind daughter of Caleb and Susan Garth, she works as Mr. Featherstone's nurse. She and Fred Vincy were childhood sweethearts, but she refuses to allow him to woo her until he shows himself willing and able to live seriously, practically, and sincerely.
  • Arthur Brooke — The often befuddled and none-too-clever uncle of Dorothea and Celia Brooke. He has a reputation as the worst landlord in the county, but stands for parliament on a Reform platform.
  • Celia Brooke — Dorothea's younger sister is a great beauty. She is more sensual than Dorothea and does not share her sister's idealism and asceticism, and is only too happy to marry Sir James Chettam, when Dorothea rejects him.
  • Sir James Chettam — A neighbouring landowner, Sir James is in love with Dorothea and helps her with her plans to improve conditions for the tenants. When she marries Casaubon, he marries Celia Brooke.
  • Rosamond Vincy — Is vain, beautiful, and shallow, Rosamond has a high opinion of her own charms and a low opinion of Middlemarch society. She marries Tertius Lydgate because she believes that he will raise her social standing and keep her comfortable. When her husband encounters financial difficulties, she thwarts his efforts to economise, seeing such sacrifices as beneath her and insulting. She is unable to bear the idea of losing status in Middlemarch society.
  • Fred Vincy — Rosamond's brother. He has loved Mary Garth from childhood. His family hopes that he will advance his class standing by becoming a clergyman, but he knows that Mary will not marry him if he does so. Brought up expecting an inheritance from his uncle Mr Featherstone, he is spendthrift. He later changes because of his love for Mary, and finds, by studying under Mary's father, a profession through which he gains Mary's respect.
  • Will Ladislaw — A young cousin of Mr Casaubon, he has no property because his grandmother married a poor Polish musician and was disinherited. He is a man of great verve, idealism and talent but of no fixed profession. He comes to love Dorothea, but cannot marry her without her losing Mr Casaubon's property.
  • Humphrey Cadwallader and Eleanor Cadwallader — Neighbours of the Brookes. Mr. Cadwallader is a Rector. Mrs. Cadwallader is a pragmatic and talkative woman who comments on local affairs with wry cynicism. She disapproves of Dorothea's marriage and Mr. Brooke's parliamentary endeavours.
  • Walter Vincy and Lucy Vincy — A respectable manufacturing family. They wish their children to advance socially, and are disappointed by both Rosamond's and Fred's marriages. Mr. Vincy's sister is married to Nicholas Bulstrode. Mrs. Vincy was an innkeeper's daughter and her sister was the second wife of Mr. Featherstone.
  • Caleb Garth — Mary Garth's father. He is a kind, honest, and generous businessman who is a surveyor and land agent involved in farm management. He is fond of Fred and eventually takes him under his wing.
  • Camden Farebrother — A poor but clever vicar and amateur naturalist. He is a friend of Lydgate and Fred Vincy, and loves Mary Garth. His position improves when Dorothea appoints him to a living after Casaubon's death.
  • Nicholas Bulstrode — Wealthy banker married to Mr. Vincy's sister, Harriet. He is a pious Methodist who tries to impose his beliefs in Middlemarch society; however, he also has a sordid past which he is desperate to hide. His religion favours his personal desires, and is devoid of sympathy for others.
  • Peter Featherstone — Old landlord of Stone Court, a self-made man who married Caleb Garth's sister and later took Mrs. Vincy's sister as his second wife when his first wife died.
  • Jane Waule — A widow and Peter Featherstone's sister; has a son, John.
  • Mr. Hawley — Foul-mouthed businessman and enemy of Bulstrode.
  • Mr. Mawmsey — Grocer.
  • Dr. Sprague — Middlemarch doctor.
  • Mr. Tyke — Clergyman favoured by Bulstrode.
  • Rigg Featherstone — Featherstone's illegitimate son who appears at the reading of Featherstone's will and is given his fortune instead of Fred. He is also related to John Raffles, who comes into town to visit Rigg but instead reveals Bulstrode's past. His appearance in the novel is crucial to the plot.
  • John Raffles — Raffles is a braggart and a bully, a humorous scoundrel in the tradition of Sir John Falstaff, and an alcoholic. But unlike Shakespeare's fat knight, Raffles is a genuinely evil man. He holds the key to Bulstrode's dark past and Lydgate's future.

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