a synoptic, alphabetical character list

The sub-genre of the debate drama in which abstract conceptions or inanimate objects engage in a kind of literary debate or verbal contest seems to have been especially popular at the universities during the early seventeenth century. Andrea Guarna's Grammar War, in which the characters were warring parts of speech is an early popular example, first performed in 1591 and printed in 1635. The abstract conception literary debate play could be highly elaborate and complex, as is the anonymous Lingua, or the Combat of the Tongue and the Five Senses for Superiority, first published in 1607, but simpler versions of the genre were also popular. A Merry Dialogue Between Band, Cuff, and Ruff(1615); Work for Cutlers, or a Merry Dialogue Between Sword, Rapier, and Dagger (1615); Wine, Beer, Ale, and Tobacco, contending for Superiority (1630); Boot and Spur (1611-1617); and Gown, Hood, and Cap (about 1611) are some of the most illustrative of the genre. Where plays such as Lingua might occupy an entire evening, these works tended to be shorter and more comic, performed as parts of shows or entertainments.

The stiffly starched collar of linen or cambric surrounding the neck. Two styles of band predominated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the falling band and the standing band. The falling band, fashionable from the 1540's to the 1640's, laid flat over the shoulders and was usually fastened by band strings that were visible and ornate or small and hidden according to the fashion. The standing band, known in Spain as the golilla, is a semi-circular collar that stands up stiffly around the back of the head while the straight edges in front meet under the chin and tie with band-strings. Both types of band may be decorated with lace, embroidery, or cut-work. Bands replaced ruffs in fashion around the time that James I's reign ended, and their plainness made them acceptable to the Puritans. As the embodiment of the style that eventually replaced the elaborate ruff, Band attempts to start a fight with Ruff by teasing him.


The part of an article of clothing that encircles the neck, or a separate detachable piece worn to cover the neck. Collar is referred to as an ally of band, and during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the terms were frequently interchangeable. Ruff seems threatened by the late appearance of Collar, and alludes to the fact that bands and collars came into fashion at about the same time: bands did not "peep out" before "Collar came to town." If we accept the definition of collar as being part of the shirt, it is possible that Ruff is referring to the fact that bands fastened on the collar, thus could not be seen without the collar, or perhaps that the prominent standing band was not in fashion before the collar was there to support it.


The lower part of the sleeve, turned back, giving extra cover to the wrist, either for ornament or warmth. From the mid-sixteenth to mid-seventeenth centuries, it was fashionable to wear detachable cuffs in an inverted funnel shape with falling or standing bands and ruffs, trimmed with matching lace or embroidery. Cuffs were replaced with ruffled sleeve ends that were a part of the shirt or chemise. As a constant, rather than fashionable, item of men's clothing, Cuff functions as a mediator in the debate between Ruff and Band and eventually settles their argument at the end of the play, declaring that the fashions are equal, though Band will be more popular with the young gallants of the day. Lawyers, judges, and councillors will support Band and Ruff's equality, wearing one of each.


A "ghost character." She is a seamstress. While she never appears on stage, Cuff reminds Band and Ruff that Mrs. Stitchwell "was the very maker of [them] both," though current fashion encourages them to forget "from what house [they] came."


The large circular, stiffly starched, pleated collar popular during the reigns of Elizabeth I, and to a lesser degree, James I. Ruffs are generally made from linen, lawn, or cambric, in the form of a frill radiating from the neck. The stiffly pleated ruff was popular until about 1610, although the less fashionable continued to wear it for another decade. Starched folds called sets are formed by heating a setting or poking stick and applying it to the starched fabric. Strips of wire or bone are used to support and prop up these types of ruffs. After about 1615, the falling ruff became fashionable, a style in which the ruff is gathered or pleated in several layers but not set, and falls loosely upon the shoulders. Ruff's character in the play is somewhat hot-tempered, and leaps to the challenge when Band tries to instigate a fight.