Leonato is the governor of the Italian city of Messina, living with his only daughter Hero, her cousin Beatrice and his brother Antonio, Beatrice's and Hero's uncle. Margarete and Ursula are two of Hero's attendants.
Don Pedro is the prince of Aragon and a friend of Leonato. He arrives in Messina after having won a battle nearby.
Don John is Don Pedro's half-brother, recently reconciled to him. His two followers are called Conrade and Borachio, the latter being the lover of Margarete.
Benedick is a gentleman in the company of Don Pedro. His brother-in-arms is the young Claudio. Both of them are distinguished soldiers.
Balthasar is Don Pedro's musician.
Friar Francis is the priest in Leonato's house, and has known Hero since her childhood days.
Dogberry and Verges are two policemen from the city, assisted by the watchman Seacoal and supervised by the Sexton.