[a.k.a. WIT AND WILL?]

Recorded in the Stationer's Register in 1569

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


A servant of Instruction. He tells Wit that he must work four years. He goes with Wit and Will to fight the giant, Tediousness, even though Wit is not ready. In the fight, he fears that Wit is slain. Later, when Wit has reformed, Diligence cheers him in defeating the giant.


Mother of Science, wife to Reason. Her part initially is mainly seconding anything Reason says. Before Wit's trial to win Science, she advises him to pause and first be tutored by three counsellors: Instruction, Studie, and Diligence.


A woman who comes to ease Wit after Recreation has left. She sings to him and lets him sleep in her lap. When he is asleep, she and her son, Ignorance, rob him of his clothes and leave him with Ignorance's coat.


Idleness's son. He comes with his mother to ease Wit after Recreation has left. When Idleness lulls Wit to sleep, he helps his mother steal Wit's clothes and leaves him his own coat.


A gentleman retainer in the house of Reason and Experience. He dwells with Wit to be his tutor and advises him to rid himself of Will. He does not approve of Wit's rash desire to face the giant, Tediousness, before he has been fully instructed. Later, when Wit has reformed, he assists him in defeating the giant.


Mother of Wit. She tells her son that she cannot make Science love him. She can give him only the mettle he needs, but he must earn his right to the fair lady with toil. She gives him her blessing and a servant, Will.


Father of Science and husband to Experience. He encourages Science not to give up on marriage but to look for a worthy partner. He likes the message Will brings from Wit and encourages Science to meet him. He gives Wit a crystal mirror (glass) that will show him all the defects that Wit must learn to remedy. When he later comes upon Wit dressed in Ignorance's coat, he does not at first recognize him. When he does realize that this is Wit, Reason calls for Shame and then reminds Wit of all he has squandered that Nature had given him. At Science's request, Reason shows Wit lenience, gives him a new coat, and sends him back to Instruction to be reformed.


A healing woman. She arrives to heal Wit after he is struck down in the fight with Tediousness. She then chastises Wit when he rails against Science for sending him to fight. She advises him to rise and dance with her and her woman before returning to Studie and Instruction.


Daughter of Reason and Experience, beloved of Wit. She has great renown but has grown weary of the many suitors who have tried to win her, failed, and now blame her for their inadequacy. She despairs of marriage. She like the message and picture Wit sends her via Will. She tells Wit that he must defeat her adversary not by force but by flight. She sends Wit into the wood to fight the giant, Tediousness. When she later comes upon Wit dressed in Ignorance's coat, she at first does not recognize him. When, however, she does (and Wit is overcome by Shame), Science asks Reason to pity Wit's youth. Later, she watches Wit, now reformed, defeat Tediousness and leads Wit in to marry her.


Reason calls Shame "a merchant." He comes to deal with Wit after Wit is found wearing Ignorance's clothes. He helps Reason berate Wit for squandering the gifts of Nature.


A servant of Instruction. Spelled Studie in the play. He tells Wit that he must work four years. He prefers taking a nap to helping Wit fight the giant, Tediousness, before Wit is ready. Later, when Wit has reformed, Studie cheers him in defeating the giant.


A giant and Science's mortal foe. Wit, Will, and Diligence go into the wood to fight the giant, who taunts them and makes short work of defeating them. He knocks Wit to the ground and leaves him for dead, laughing at him. Later, a reformed Wit returns and with the aid of Will and advice from Instruction, Wit defeats and decapitates Tediousness.


Servant to Wit. Spelled Wyll in the play. He is a saucy boy of eleven or twelve years and proud that he can do whatever he likes. He must first be won over to helping Wit and makes a good job of delivering Wit's message to Science. He suggests, though, that Wit first consider sewing some wild oats, though Wit rejects the notion. He worries that Wit's new wife, Science, and her father, Reason, might be harsh with him and extracts promises from Wit to protect him against them. He also worries about being made a servant to Experience after the marriage. He cannot abide the long delays proposed by Instruction, Studie, and Diligence, and encourages Wit to risk all on a rash wooing of Science. When she balks, he suggests leaving her, and Wit for a moment believes that Will is his enemy. Nevertheless, Will accompanies Wit on the quest to defeat the giant, Tediousness, but when Wit falls, Will runs for aid. He returns with Recreation and her woman, who heal Wit. Will is away when Wit falls into the clutches of Idleness and Ignorance and thereby loses his master. He finds Wit again when Wit returns to Instruction for reformation. Will is made ultimately to obey Wit. Will assists Wit in the final, decisive battle against Tediousness and trips up the giant to allow Wit to win.


Son of Nature. Spelled Witte in the play. He is about seventeen years old according to Will, a green youth looking to find his place in the world. He has heard men speak of a fair lady named Science and wishes to marry her. He sends his servant, Will, to her with his picture and a message and is delighted when Will returns bearing the lady's good will. Reason, Experience, and Science welcome him and Experience gives him three tutors: Instruction, Studie, and Diligence. Reason gives him a mirror wherein he can see his true self. Soon, Wit rails against having to tarry with the tutors for four years and refuses Instruction's advice to rid himself of Will. Instead, he and Will go to woo Science, who sends them on a quest. They are to battle Science's great foe, the giant Tediousness. He fails against the giant and is supposed killed until Will brings Recreation to heal him. When Wit recovers, he rails against Science for sending him to fight, but Recreation reproaches him. He dances with Recreation, but soon grows tired. Idleness and Ignorance arrive to ease him. They lull Wit to sleep, steal his clothes, and leave him in the coat of Ignorance. When Reason and Science find him so attired, they do not at first recognize him. Wit hardly recognizes himself when he looks into the mirror. Reason calls on Shame, who upbraids him for squandering Nature's gifts. Wit goes back to Instruction, learns, defeats Tediousness, and wins Science.


Non-speaking part, a singer. The dramatis personae calls for "three other women" to accompany Recreation though the text consistently refers to Recreation and only one other–Will says he found the "twain" of them, and Wit refers to them as "worthy Damsels both." Also, the song that they sing in IV.iii is marked for only two parts.

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