The Prologue/Epilogue comes forward to set the tone at the beginning of the play, explaining to which sectors of the audience the play may be expected to appeal, and asking the audience to lend its minds a little to imagining those aspects that the players cannot present.
King Henry VIII is not exactly the Holbein portrait yet. A young man still growing into his rule, he relies much too much on the advice of Cardinal Wolsey, but grows to be a worthy king over the course of the play.
Cardinal Wolsey is King Henry’s Lord Chancellor and chief adviser. He is deeply ambitious, thoroughly corrupt, and very generous.
Cardinal Campeius is sent by the Pope to act as co-judge with Wolsey in the matter of the validity of the King and Queen’s marriage.
Lord Capuchius is the ambassador of Queen Katherine’s nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor.
Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury is a priest won over to the reforming side of the church.
The Duke of Norfolk is a cautious friend of Buckingham’s who attempts to keep him for acting or speaking too rashly.
The Duke of Buckingham is a loyal and hot-tempered lord who detests and despises Cardinal Wolsey, and suffers for it.
Charles, Duke of Suffolk is one of King Henry’s close friends and game partners.
The Earl of Surrey is Buckingham’s son-in-law and is delighted to be able to join a plot to topple Cardinal Wolsey, who caused Buckingham’s fall and sent Surrey to rule Ireland so that he could not be around to plead for him.
Lord Chamberlain is the head of the King’s household, an old-fashioned, conservative chauvinist who doesn’t want to see English noblemen dressing like Frenchmen and who has an eye for the ladies.
Lord Chancellor is King Henry’s head of government, a position held by Cardinal Wolsey until his downfall.
Gardiner, King Henry’s secretary and later Bishop of Winchester, is entirely Wolsey’s creature, placed as the King’s secretary by the Cardinal because he will obey the latter before the former.
Gardiner’s Page lights his way when he walks about at night, and keeps track of the time.
The Bishop of Lincoln attends Queen Katherine’s trial.
Lord Abergavenny is Buckingham’s son-in-law, and detests Cardinal Wolsey’s as much as the older man, particularly because the terms of the peace with France.
Lord Walter Sands is a blunt country lord who despises the French fashions invading the English court.
Sir Henry Guilford is a young man who serves Cardinal Wolsey and acts as his master of ceremonies.
Sir Thomas Lovell is a knight close to the King, who appreciates Wolsey’s generosity and despises French fashion.
Sir Anthony Denny is sent by the King to fetch Archbishop Cranmer to the King.
Sir Nicholas Vaux is charged with taking custody of the Duke of Buckingham from Lovell, and leading him to his execution.
Cromwell is Cardinal Wolsey’s protégé.
Wolsey's First Secretary follows the Cardinal with his paperwork, including the deposition of Burckingham’s Surveyor.
Wolsey's Second Secretary follows the Cardinal with his paperwork, and informs Wolsey that Buckingham’s Surveyor is ready to be interrogated.
Griffith is Queen Katherine’s Gentleman Usher, in charge of walking before her to official functions and of controlling access to her presence.
Doctor Butts is the King’s personal physician.
Garter King-of-Arms is the chief Herald of the realm. As such he is part of the coronation procession of the new Queen, and announces the Princess Elizabeth to the world.
Buckingham’s Surveyor lost his job when the Duke’s tenants complained about him.
Brandon is charged with arresting the Duke of Buckingham and Lord Abergavenny, a task he finds distasteful, along with the others accused of plotting with him.
The Sergeant-at-Arms is brought by Brandon to arrest the Duke of Buckingham. He carries the silver mace into Queen Katherine’s trial.
Doorkeeper of the Council Chamber is under orders not to let Archbishop Cranmer into the Council Chamber until he is called, despite his rank.
The Porter is in charge of keeping people out of the palace, but is not having much luck the day of Princess Elizabeth’s christening.
The Porter’s Man has been trying to beat back the crowds pressing in to see the Princess Elizabeth’s christening, but has only succeeded in breaking his cudgel and being pelted with pebbles by boys.
The Crier is an official at Queen Katharine’s trial, whose office is to summon the participants.
Queen Katherine is King Henry’s wife of twenty years, a Spanish princess, widow of his elder brother Arthur, and the mother of his daughter.
Anne Bullen is a young lady at court, one of Queen Katherine’s gentlewomen.
Old Lady is Anne Bullen’s chaperone.
Patience is Queen Katherine’s waiting-woman.
First Gentleman is an everyday Londoner who likes to keep up with what’s going on.
Second Gentleman arrives too late to actually witness the Duke of Buckingham’s trial, and must hear of it secondhand from the First Gentleman.
The Third Gentleman arrived early enough at Queen Anne’s coronation to get a good place to see it all, though he ends up escaping from the press of people and the stench of their sweat and bad breath.
Tipstaves [mute roles] are officers of the court who precede Buckingham as he is led from court to execution; one carries an axe with its blade towards Buckingham, signifying that he is condemned.
Halberdiers [mute roles] guard the Duke of Buckingham as he is led to execution.
The Archbishop of Canterbury [mute role] attends Queen Katherine’s trial, which he agreed the King might hold. He is later replaced by Cranmer.
Two Gentlemen Bearers [mute roles] bear silver pillars into Queen Katherine’s trial. They later carry bowls for receiving gifts in Princess Elizabeth’s christening procession.
Gentleman Purse-Bearer [mute role] follows the Lord Chancellor with a purse containing the Great Seal of England.
Two Priests [mute roles] carry silver crosses into Queen Katherine’s trial, marking the court as a religious one.
The Bishop of Saint Asaph [mute role] attends Queen Katherine’s trial.
The Bishop of Rochester [mute role] attends Queen Katherine’s trial.
The Bishop of Ely [mute role] attends Queen Katherine’s trial.
The First Scribe is an official at Queen Katherine’s trial, and begins the proceedings by ordering that the King be called into the court. He is dressed as a doctor (scholar).
The Second Scribe is an official at Queen Katherine’s trial, and begins the proceedings by ordering that the Queen be called into the court. He is dressed as a doctor (scholar).
Two Noblemen [mute roles] carry the Sword of State and the Mace, respectively, into Queen Katherine’s trial, marking it as a high State occasion.
Six Vision Dancers, [mute roles] dressed in white, crowned with bays, wearing gold masks and carrying branches of bay or palm dance in a vision Queen Katherine has as she approaches death, seemingly promising her entrance into heaven.
A Messenger informs Queen Katherine that Capuchius has come to see her.