The Picture of Dorian Gray Major Characters
Basil Hallward: The artist who wants Dorian to stay youthful and beautiful and act as his muse. His painting sets the story into motion, because it is such a true interpretation, not only of Dorian's appearance but of his soul: flawless and youthful at the beginning, it becomes increasingly ugly and ancient. Basil truly cares for Dorian and considers him a great friend, but while Dorian grows more corrupt and commits evil deeds, they lose touch with each other. When Basil and Dorian run into each other again many years later, Dorian reveals Basil's painting to him; Basil, shocked by the ugliness of the portrait, tries to make Dorian repent, to no avail, and he is killed by his muse.
Lord Henry Wotton: The high-society intellectual who corrupts Dorian. Though he promises Basil he will not influence Dorian, he is fascinated with Dorian's innocence and wants to have a hand in molding it; he has long talks with him during which he exposes him to his own ideas and opinions, all the while convincing Dorian that these new feelings were inside him the whole time. He gives Dorian a book which becomes a sort of manual for how he is to live his life, leading him down a path of corruption, sin, and evil, and finds it remarkable that Dorian does not appear to age at all.
Dorian Gray: The handsome youth whom the world worships, even as it gossips about him. He cares for Basil but is more drawn toward Henry, and therein lies his downfall. Upon seeing the newly painted portrait, Dorian curses it and claims that it will mock him, once he grows old and ugly and the painting still appears youthful and beautiful, and makes a fateful wish that it could be the other way around. After falling in love with a young actress, then leaving her when she decides to abandon her talent, causing her to commit suicide, Dorian starts to see that his wish has come true. Though upset at first, Dorian becomes fascinated by his ability to commit evil deeds without having any of it show on him, for the painting is absorbing all of his sin. For years, he vainly pursues physical pleasure and sin, helped along the way by Lord Henry, until he has finally had enough and tries to destroy the portrait, killing himself instead.
Sybil Vane: The beautiful and talented actress with whom Dorian falls in love. The world of the theatre is all she has known, and when she falls in real love, she realizes the falsity of the stage, acting very poorly on the night that Dorian brings Basil and Henry to watch her. Dorian is crestfallen, and leaves her, telling her that he loved her for her beautiful talent. She kills herself the night he leaves, knowing that she can no longer live a false life when she has had real love.
Lady Brandon: A woman of high society who hosted the party where Basil met Dorian. According to Lord Henry, she likes to introduce people with either every detail about their personal life or every detail except the one that you want to know.