Victor is a bashful, shy, good-hearted young man who hails from a family of nouveaux riches, or "new money". His social-climbing parents have made a fortune, but hail from humble fish-mongering origins. They are eager to join the ranks of the aristocracy through the arranged marriage of their son with Victoria Everglot, the daughter of a titled, but penniless, family. Fortunately, Victor finds the charming young lady shares much in common with him and they fall almost instantly in love.
Throughout the movie, his heart is torn between the attentions of the sweet, shy, still-living Victoria and the free-spirited, beautiful, but dead, Emily. According to him, Victoria was like looking through a mirror, while Emily was the opposite that filled the areas that he lacked. As the movie progresses, Victor's character reveals a more coy side, suggesting more confidence than initially believed.
With pale skin, dark hair and sharp features, Victor appears to be a caricature of his voice actor, Johnny Depp. Similarly, it could be considered paying homage to Depp's other on-screen appearances (directed by Tim Burton), notably those of severely reclusive natures. These potential candidates of dedication are the pale hero of Edward Scissorhands and Ichabod Crane of Sleepy Hollow. In addition, his appearance might have been conceived as a physical manifestation of his situation: torn between representations of life and death (Victoria and Emily), he takes on features of both (pale, though unblemished, skin and sunken eyes, and, of course, the fact that he's actually alive). His physical appearance is also similar to that of Vincent, the titular character of a stop-motion short film Vincent by Tim Burton. At one point Lord Everglot actually refers to Victor as Vincent, possibly in homage to the film.
Emily is the titular character of the film. As the Corpse Bride, Emily is portrayed as kind and trusting, with a free spirit and a lust for un-life. Her outgoing persona acts as a foil for the more reserved, tentative Victoria. Despite being dead, Emily is capable of the same amount of love and emotion as any living person; she can fall in love, and her non-beating heart can just as easily be broken. Emily is also shown to be very naive as she couldn't figure out simple things like Victor abandoning her, Victor being afraid of her when they first met, her marriage being an accident, and how her marriage was unofficial since Emily was dead and Victor wasn't. Emily also has a lack of common sense since she wanted to marry Barkis even though they hardly knew each other which lead to her demise. She has been waiting for her real true love ever since her murder at the hands of her fiancé, which she did find when Victor came to meeting her. Like Victor, Emily can play the piano. She has a spider that follows her around and a maggot that lives in her head (occasionally knocking out her eyeball to speak to her).
Emily's overall appearance is a caricature of Helena Bonham Carter, her voice actress, with full lips and large dark eyes. Despite being a partially skeletonized, decomposing corpse, Emily is nonetheless hauntingly beautiful. She casts a striking figure in her flowing, rotted wedding dress and tattered veil. These were the clothes she was killed in as she waited for her groom.
Victoria is the daughter of Maudeline and Finis Everglot, a repulsive couple in a "sad, sad state of affairs." She has long dreamt of marrying a man that she loves, but is afraid that it seems silly to others. She wanted to learn how to play the piano, but her mother said that music is "too passionate for a young lady." However, Victoria breaks the mold of quiet as she displays a more outgoing nature contrary to the film's first introductions. Victoria's arranged marriage to Victor was supposed to be her parents' "ticket to [their] rightful place", which means that Victor's family's money would save them from the poor-house. Luckily, Victor and Victoria find much in common with each (unlike her parents, who view marriage as more of a contract or "partnership"), and fall almost instantly in love.
When Victor disappeared with Emily, Victoria was forced by her parents to marry Lord Barkis Bittern, parallel to Victor and Emily's own wedding ceremony even when she has no feelings toward him. Shortly after the ceremony, Barkis confronted Victor and Emily, then accidentally drank poisoned wine and died. This made Victoria a widow, leaving her free from him. The film ends before she presumably marries Victor, as they witness Emily's peaceful release.
Victoria is an unassuming but cheerful and good-natured person despite her somewhat umpleasant family. She also appears to be very beautiful as Victor immediately falls in love with her as she does with him.
Her name, Victoria, is obviously a feminine version of Victor, the name of her fiance and the main character of the film.
Victor's mother. She is often seen with expensive clothing, some kind of animal around her neck, and a folding fan. She dislikes her carriage driver Mayhew for his persistent coughing fits, and doesn't appear very remorseful about Mayhew's death later in the film (In fact, there is nothing to suggest she even knew that he died). Along with her husband, she dreams of standing alongside the upper echelons of society, believing that she deserves more than a fish merchant's life. When Victor disappears from the Land of the Living, Nell becomes desperate to find him before dawn arrives, although it should be noted that this seemed to be out of a desire to continue with the marriage that would have "elevated [her] to the heights of society", rather than showing any genuine concern for her son's safety. She also thinks quite lowly of Victor, asking her husband, "What corpse would marry our Victor?" in response to William van Dort's query about a possible marriage between their son and a corpse.
Victor's father. He appears far more concerned towards Victor's wellbeing than his wife, the latter who is constantly influencing his actions. He appears easily excitable and generally kindly and good-natured, and works as a successful fishmonger.
Victoria's father. A land-rich, cash-poor aristocrat whose fear of being forced penniless into the streets leads him to arrange a marriage for Victoria as to save their family from the poorhouse.Finis displays hardly any emotion throughout the entire film and is generally quite hard faced much like his wife and finds it very difficult to smile there is only one point were he displays emotion where he runs screaming in fear at the sight of his own dead ancestor. He is known to possess a musket, which he calls for twice in the film.
The dominant person in hers and Lord Everglot's relationship, Maudeline is Victoria's austere and hard-faced mother. She feels that love has nothing to do with marriage, as marriage is simply a partnership. She and Finis deny loving or even liking one another.
An employee of the Van Dort's fish business, and the family carriage driver. He has a persistent cough (aggravated by his constant pipe-smoking), which proves fatal during the second half of the film. As he dies and enters the Land of the Dead, he meets Victor and is the character who breaks the news of Victoria's and Barkis's wedding to Victor.
A servant in the Everglot house, and an aide of Victoria. The character portrayed is typical of the "surrogate mother" of a lone daughter of a rich family, similar to that of the Nurse in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Hildegarde appears genuinely concerned for Victoria and comforts her when Victoria laments Victor's fate and her upcoming (forced) marriage to lord Barkis Britten. Her physical appearance is that of an ancient woman, with her back crooked with age. And coupled with Victoria's trust by confiding in her despite her shy demeanor, further suggests that she had served as Victoria's maid much of the latter's life.
A butler in the Everglot house. He performs his duties with mechanical efficacy and accuracy stylishly, even being able to catch a goblet of wine on a tray as shown at the Wedding Rehearsal in the church. He has a constantly upturned and pointed nose and is often portrayed holding a tray, though he appears to have a snobbish behaviour and frequently wrinkles his nose at the sight and/or presence of disdained individuals. When a swarm of the deceased invade the Everglot home, he abandons his masters and flees.
The main antagonist of the film, Lord Barkis is a mysterious individual whom no one knows when he strolls into town. When he first arrives, he hears of rehearsal of the wedding between the Van Dort and Everglot families and attends it under the guise of a relative who had mistakenly arrived too early for the wedding, presumably to seek lodgings and food from the two distinguished families. Lord and Lady Everglot are immediately impressed by the charming, suave, sophisticated personality he projects. But his cultured exterior hides his true vicious nature; Barkis is an excellent con-man with psychopathic and narcissistic tendencies who has made a fortune by seducing and killing rich beautiful women then robbing them of their wealth. Decades ago, when Emily (the Corpse Bride) still lived as the daughter of a very rich family, Barkis charmed her into falling in love with him, and when her father didn't approve of their relationship, convinced her to elope with her mother’s dowry. Soon, he murdered her in the woods beneath an old oak tree and buried her body there, leaving her waiting for her true love to come set her free.
When he meets Victoria years later during the events of the film, he marks her as his next victim after mistakenly presuming her family's wealth to be viable. But he meets again with Emily at her wedding to Victor where her undead friends learn of how he had killed and abandoned her. In a moment of his presumed victory, he unknowingly drinks the poisonous “Wine of Ages" intended to kill Victor. Having died, the inhabitants of the underworld set upon him and avenge Emily's death.
The ill-tempered village pastor, he is highly impatient to the point of bludgeoning Victor over the head with his staff for dilly-dallying even a little. During the climax of the film, Galswells tries to drive away the living dead from his church, but is easily bypassed when the corpses shower him with good manners much to his shock.
An elderly woman who lives in the village. Her husband, Alfred, has been dead for 15 years. They're reunited when the dead come up to the surface.
A boy who lives in the village, usually seen with a toy boat. He meets his deceased grandfather during the invasion of the dead.
The village's green grocer. His head resembles that of an onion.
Supposedly the head of the Land of the Dead. He resides in a tower filled with books and dust. He also seems to have a habit of periodically consuming medicine. The top of his skull is cracked, and can thus be slightly opened. His name is derived from the German expression "guter Knecht", meaning 'good menial'. Considering the quasi-European backdrop of the movie and how strongly Burton's works are influenced by early German expressionist films, incorporating such names is an appropriate means of enhancing atmosphere.
The cook of the Ball and Socket pub. She immediately introduces herself when a recently-deceased person has arrived. She is apparently looking for a mate, as evidenced when Victor arrives in the Land of the Dead ("Does he have a dead brother?").
The Maggot is the small green worm who lives inside the dead bride's head, giving her advice which she often ignores. For example, when the Maggot suspects that the character Victor is abandoning her, he says inside her head, "I have a bad feeling about that boy. He--" But before he can continue, the Corpse Bride knocks him out of his ear and says, "Go chew someone else's ear for a while." And yet he still goes back into the dead bride's ear. He often shoves her eye out of its socket when he speaks with her.
His features and voice are caricatures of the actor Peter Lorre. The Maggot joins Corpse Bride and the Widow Spider in the song, "Tears to Shed", which is about the Corpse Bride's sadness of being dead.
A self-proclaimed black widow. She appears to have a good relationship with the Corpse Bride (alongside the Maggot). She is responsible for fixing Victor's clothing, along with a group of other spiders.
A diminutive skeleton general impaled by a sabre through his chest. He is usually accompanied by a taller skeleton, apparently the victim of a cannonball. He is an obvious caricature of Napoleon Bonaparte.
A skeletal general with a large cannonball hole in his abdomen. He is usually seen with General Bonesaparte. He wears a highly stylized version of a British Napoleonic Dragoon's uniform. His name is a reference to Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington.
If not for the unique shape and features of his skull, Bonejangles might look just like all the other skeletons. He has a large jaw that often dislocates itself. His one eye can be interchanged within both sockets and is removable. He also wears an old-fashioned bowler hat that is black and snazzy. His character is quite vaguely portrayed, his one lime-light focus being the main singer of "Remains of the Day" at the "Ball and Socket" pub of the Land of the Dead. He is assumed to be the star performer or the owner of the pub, with his Bone Boys in tow.
It appears that he has a Broadway show tunes personality; he’s not afraid to flaunt his talent. As he is rather musical, Bonejangles could have been some sort of Broadway/Vaudeville performer. Perhaps the only item left of his living days is his bowler hat. His name is never mentioned in the movie, but in the script and merchandise, he is referred to as "Bonejangles" (an obvious parody of the dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson) or "The Skeleton Band Leader".
On a video podcast concerning the production of the film, Danny Elfman compared Bonejangles to Sammy Davis Jr.
A skeleton who is frequently seen smoking a pipe. His wife Gertrude is still alive, and reunites with her for Victor's wedding, tipping her back and kissing her with the iconic phrase "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" when his wife comments on the fact that he is dead.
A young boy in a sailor outfit, and a young girl with a pink dress and pigtails. They are usually seen with a toy boat.
A dog formerly owned by Victor. Scraps is deceased, but Emily gives him to Victor as a wedding present. A picture of him when he is still alive with Victor in his youth can be briefly seen at the opening credits, behind a frame in Victor's bedroom.