Recha, his adopted daughter, in reality the orphaned niece of the Sultan Saladin. Under her devoted foster father’s tutelage, she shares many of his virtues. She is beautiful within and without. Her attraction for the young knight, Conrad von Stauffen, is merely sentimental and not romantic, a fact that is more understandable when they prove to be brother and sister. Grateful to Conrad for saving her life, she and Nathan wish to reward the young man, but he, though poor and a stranger, takes a strange view of charity and rebuffs all attempts to aid him. Recha’s touching naïveté and innocence form an interesting contrast to the intrigue and cruelty that exist in a world torn by religious prejudice and conflict.
Conrad von Stauffen, a disillusioned young Templar who strongly opposes religious wars, in reality a Saracen prince. High-minded, open-hearted, and yet reserved, the Templar seems truculent at first, especially in his boorish refusal to accept a reward after he saves from death by fire the girl who later proves to be his own sister. He questions, though he also admires, the Jewish merchant; at the same time, he honors, though he does not understand, the sultan who spares his life. As events turn out, his stubborn pride reveals his exalted birth, and his impetuosity proves more pagan than Christian.
The Sultan Saladin, the son of the Saracen ruler and a generous, impulsive prince who is revealed as Conrad von Stauffen’s uncle. Although seemingly prejudiced against the Jewish merchant, he is in reality only testing Nathan’s wisdom and lamenting his own reliance on the merchant’s generosity. His wisdom in saving the knight’s life because of a family resemblance is further noted in his ability to live among the many factions that plague Jerusalem. He is quick-witted in dispute and often stern in action but always capable of magnanimity when it is deserved.
Sittah, his sister and royal housekeeper. What her brother lacks in common sense, she makes up for without being particularly shrewish, though she is shrewd in business dealings and has a quick tongue. Although she suggests the trap to ensnare Nathan, the parable that he tells moves her as much as it does her brother. She is devoted to her generous brother and tries to protect him.
Daja, the Christian servant in Nathan’s house and companion to Recha. Essentially a good person, grateful for a good home, and fond of her Jewish master and his adopted daughter, Daja is nevertheless a bigot who believes there is only one true faith. She very nearly causes a tragedy through her divided allegiance.
The patriarch of Jerusalem, a sycophantic fanatic who plots the destruction of Nathan the Jew. He arouses the ire of the Templar and the rebellion of a lay brother, who are to assist him in taking Recha from her kind benefactor.
Al Hafi, a dervish who humorously and ineptly attempts to manage the sultan’s affairs. His thoughts dwelling constantly on his home in India, he wishes to exchange the luxury of the court for the rigors of the wilderness where he can renounce the worldly to realize the contemplative life.