Orlando is the main character of the book. In the beginning, Orlando is a young man coming from a noble family who dreams of exploring the world and having many adventures. Orlando’s life is a continuous quest for fulfillment, but he is unable to find happiness that lasts for more than a few years. Orlando is changed into a woman, which allows her to experience the world through both a man’s eyes and through a woman’s. Orlando eventually finds a lover, Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine, who makes her truly happy. She also finds stable love in nature and literature.
Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine
Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine ("Shel") is the man who finds Orlando near the lake after she breaks her ankle. Orlando and Shel fall in love and they get engaged almost immediately. After Shel finds that Orlando was a man, he confesses that he is not a man but a woman. They spend a little time together, but Shel leaves to sail again when the winds change. Just like in the case of many other characters, Shel is torn between her love for Orlando and her love for the sea.
The Countess of R-
The Countess of R- is a wealthy woman in London. She is known for organizing lavish parties, and Orlando goes to these parties. It is during her parties that Orlando meets with Pope and other influential writers.
Nelly is a prostitute who meets Orlando in a park and mistakes Orlando to be a man. When she finds that Orlando is a woman, Nelly takes Orlando with her anyway; she enjoys telling her stories and introducing her to her friends.
The character Pope represents the British writer Alexander Pope. In Orlando, Orlando venerates Pope and meets him while she is in London.
Sasha is a Russian princess whom Orlando meets during the Great Frost. They become friends because Orlando is one of the only people who can speak French with her. They begin a relationship that others frown upon, but Sasha eventually grows tired of Orlando and runs away with another man.
Nick Green is a writer whom Orlando admires. However, Nick Green proves to be the complete opposite of what Orlando expected him to be. Mr. Green is bitter and unhappy with the situation he is in, while also believing that there are no great writers in his time and that all the great writers are dead. After he meets with Orlando, Green writes a parody based on Orlando’s character, which causes Orlando to feel very self-conscious and to stop writing poetry.
Euphrosyne is the woman Orlando chooses to marry while he is at court. He chooses Euphrosyne because she is the member of a noble family and because he believes that her status will help him as well. The relationship between Orlando and her doesn’t result in marriage because Orlando cheats on her with Sasha.
Queen Elizabeth I
Queen Elizabeth I met Orlando for the first time when he was just a boy and was enchanted by him. A few years later, she made him her steward and treasurer thus offering him a privileged position. It is hinted that maybe the Queen liked him as more than just a servant and that it is because of this that she got mad when she found Orlando kissing another girl. The Queen died after a few years after Orlando’s arrival at the court; her successor was King James I.
King Charles II
The narrator mentions this other King in the second chapter, shortly after she tells the reader that King James was the deceased Queen’s successor. King Charles sends Orlando to Constantinople as an ambassador.
Rosina Pepita is a dancer whom Orlando is said to have married and had children with. This is only briefly mentioned, and the reader never directly encounters Rosina Pepita.
The Ladies of Purity, Chastity, and Modesty
The Ladies of Purity, Chastity, and Modesty are the spirits that appear in Orlando’s room in Constantinople and try to claim him. After this experience, Orlando awakens as a woman.
Captain Nicholas Benedict Bartolus
Captain Nicholas Benedict Bartolus is the captain on the ship that takes Orlando from Constantinople to England. He treats Orlando with respect because she is an upper-class woman.
Harriet is a Romanian archduchess and a cousin of the Queen with whom Orlando falls in love. Because of her, he asks the King to send him to Constantinople. When Orlando returns back to England, he meets Harriet again but finds that Harriet is actually a man named Harry who wanted to get close to Orlando. Since Orlando changed into a woman, Harry reveals his true gender. Harry asks Orlando to marry him, but Orlando does not consent.
Orlando Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Orlando is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.