Mercy Chant is the pious young neighbor Mr. and Mrs. Clare desire should marry their son instead of Tess. She marries his brother Cuthbert instead.
Angel Clare is a young man who is determined not to follow in the family tradition. He therefore gives up a university education and a career in the church to become a gentleman farmer. He falls deeply in love with Tess the milkmaid at Talbothay’s Dairy where he works to learn about farming. He marries Tess but rejects her when he finds about her past life and realizes that she is not the pure woman he thought her to be. He travels to Brazil, but eventually, having become less rigid in his views, returns to Tess, saying that he forgives her. However, he is too late to avert the tragedy.
Mrs. Clare, Angel Clare’s haughty mother, thinks her son’s marriage to the milkmaid, Tess, is socially beneath him. She has negative views of Tess at first but in time she manages to change her mind and at the end comes to admire her.
Reverend Clare is Angel Clare’s highly-regarded and very kind father. He is the parson instrumental in converting Alec d’Urberville.
Reverend Cuthbert Clare
Reverend Cuthbert Clare is one of Angel Clare’s two older brothers. He is a dean at Cambridge University, who scorns his brother’s choice of Tess for a wife. He marries Mercy Chance.
Reverend Felix Clare
Reverend Felix Clare is Angel Clare’s older brother who works as a village curate. Felix looks down on his brother for marrying Tess.
Richard Crick is the owner of Talbothays Farm. He hires Tess as a dairymaid after the death of her child.
Car Darch is a village woman who is jealous of Tess’s relationship with Alec D’Urberville. She is also known as the Queen of Spades.
Manipulative and vain, Alec goes by the surname d’Urberville but it is a name bought and paid for by his Stokes family to gain social recognition. He employs young Tess as a servant, seduces and impregnates her. She has the baby without his knowledge. Later, Alec seems to undergo a reform and becomes a traveling preacher. But when he meets Tess again, he begins to pursue her. He treats her with kindness and for a while they live together as man and wife. But after Angel returns, Tess hates Alec for coming between them, and she stabs him to death in his sleep.
Mrs. d’Urberville is Alec’s d’Urberville’s blind mother who prefers birds to people. Before her death, she employs Tess to care for her beloved fowls.
Joan Durbeyfield is Tess’s simpleminded mother who consistently gives her daughter the wrong advice and fails to tell her what she needs to know to protect her from abusive men. After Joan becomes ill, Tess must support the family.
Also known as Sir John Durbeyfield, the last remaining male in the ancient noble d’Urberville family line, he is Tess’s proud, drunken father whose failure to provide for his family leads Tess to calamity.
Liza Lu Durbeyfield
Liza Lu Durbeyfield is Tess’s innocent younger sister. Before Tess dies, she urges her husband Angel Clare to marry Liza Lu.
Tess Durbeyfield/d’Urberville is a beautiful, bright and vulnerable milkmaid. Although Tess is a simple country maid, her father learns that his family is of noble lineage, and Tess is sent to work for the wealthy Stokes-D’Urbervilles, hoping this will improve the family fortunes. Tess eventually gets caught between two men who are keen to possess her. She loses her virginity to Alec d’Urberville under unpleasant circumstances. She spends the rest of her life suffering the consequences that include the loss of her son Sorrow and her beloved husband, Angel Clare, great poverty, and ultimately the loss of her own life on the scaffold. She uses both the Durbeyfield and d’Urberville
Farmer Groby is the hard-hearted owner of Flintcomb-Ash farm, where Tess works after her desertion by Angel Clare.
Izz Huett is the friendly Talbothay’s Dairy milkmaid who loves Angel Clare. She is willing to run away with him to Brazil when he feels dejected after learning the truth about Tess.
Marian is the plump friendly milkmaid employed at Talbothay’s Dairy who turns to drink after Angel Clare weds Tess. She helps Tess at her lowest point in Flintcomb-Ash.
Retty is the third milkmaid at Talbothay’s who is also smitten by a love for Angel Clare. She attempts suicide after he weds Tess.
Sorrow is the name given by Tess to her short-lived baby who was buried by his own mother’s hands in the corner of the churchyard.