Caravaggio was a thief before the Second World War (in Canada), and was used for this purpose during the war in Cairo and Italy. He was tortured and had his thumbs removed by a German inquisitor. He comes to the villa after discovering Hana is there as he knew her as a child and young woman in Canada.
Clifton is the husband of Katharine and both are referred to in the novel’s epigraph. Caravaggio reveals towards the end of the novel that Clifton had been working for British Intelligence.
During the war, Hana was a nurse and continues to nurse the English patient in the villa at the beginning of the novel. She is depicted as being mentally scarred by the war and is grieving for the death of her father.
Katharine’s affair with the English patient is a central back story of the novel.
He is most commonly referred to as Kip and during the war and through his stay at the villa he works in a bomb disposal unit for the British Army. After the death of his mentor, Lord Suffolk, he also helped to construct Bailey Bridges in the invasion of Italy. He leaves the villa in rage and disgust after learning of the dropping of atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Madox, like the Cliftons, does not appear in the present storyline in the villa. He was a colleague and friend of the English patient and committed suicide in church at the outbreak of war.
The English Patient/Count Ladislaus de Almásy
This eponymous anti-hero is also one of the main protagonists. The identity of this supposed English patient is revealed gradually and on Caravaggio’s prompting. Caravaggio believes correctly that this patient is not English but Hungarian, and worked for the German powers during the war.
The English Patient: Character Profiles