Martha Bessell is the friend of Wendla, Anna, and Thea.
In both the play and the musical, she accidentally reveals that she is being physically abused by her father, As well as sexually in the musical, expressed in her song; 'The Dark I Know Well' Her mother is either oblivious or uncaring. She begs the girls not to tell anyone because she is afraid she will end up like Ilse, a childhood friend who is homeless because her parents kicked her out of the house.
She has a crush on Moritz, calling him a "sad, soulful sleepyhead."
- played by Lili Cooper in the original
- Deaf in the revival (by Treshelle Edmond with Kathryn Gallagher as her voice.)
- In the Deaf West production, she is always separated from her voice (except for at Moritz's funeral).
- Implied to have a want to be a boy in the play, likely to stop her father's attraction to her.
- It may be implied that Martha was able to admit to the physical abuse she endured, but not the sexual abuse, according to a line in her song " There's a part I can't tell, About the dark I know well'
- In the Deaf West she signs "bruise" on Anna's forehead center stage and they have a brief moment together during the staging of Word of Your Body Reprise with romantic implications. In addition other implications in staging during the production imply romantic tension but we cannot know for sure.
- Says she will dig up her family's roses and plant them for Moritz on/near his grave in the play.
- She begs Ilse for the gun Moritz used to kill himself