a synoptic, alphabetical character list


Atlanta is the alias under which the disguised Lorenzo appears as an Amazonian woman in his father's court. He is inspired to this particular disguise when he sees the threat to his sister Leonida, who is accused of treason, and overhears Swetnam's slanders against women. Incensed, he determines to defend the female sex in their own guise. At the trial of Lisandro and Leonida, Atlanta ably represents the female side of the question, arguing with fiery rhetoric that it is men who entice innocent women to sin. Although she seems to lose the argument to Swetnam, the tables are turned when the famous misogynist loses his heart to his Amazonian opponent and solicits 'her' favours in love. Atlanta pretends to accept his suit, then (once he lets his guard down) subdues him with some remarkably un-effeminate fencing and calls in the play's women to bind and punish their detractor. Having earlier helped to rescue Leonida from her apparent execution and Lisandro from his suicide attempt after Leonida's supposed death, Atlanta is also the one to present the resurrected pair to a relieved King Atticus. The whole court is then overjoyed by the revelation of the 'Amazon's' true identity–and sex.


King of Sicilia, husband to Aurelia, father to Lusypus, Lorenzo and Leonida. Grief-stricken by the death of the former and the disappearance of the latter, he refuses to speak to his courtiers and lives like one already dead. When the Captain appears to tell him that Lorenzo may have been captured in the midst of valiant action against the Turks, he turns all his attention to protecting his remaining daughter, Leonida. However, his notion of how to do this is questionable, as he chooses to lock her in her room to keep her away from his enemy's son, Prince Lisandro, and moreover to appoint his venal councillor, Nicanor, to guard her. When Nicanor discovers that Lisandro has visited Leonida in disguise, he reports the pair to King Atticus, who has them tried to discover whether the fault for this treason lay more with the woman or the man. The judges decide that the fault is Leonida's, at which Atticus condemns her to death and Lisandro to banishment, unwisely naming Nicanor his heir. When Aurelia accuses him of cruelty, he falls into greater melancholy but refuses to relent. In the end, however, the masque presented him by Nicanor in an effort to kill him with sorrow, succeeds in moving him to repentance. Lorenzo, dressed as an Old Shepherd, then presents him with the rescued Leonida and Lisandro, disguised as Claribell and Palemon. Atticus is thrilled to discover that they are still alive, and even more overjoyed when the Old Shepherd–previously Atlanta–is revealed as his long-lost son, Lorenzo. Allowing Nicanor to live despite his misdemeanours, Atticus ends the play convinced that "[i]n vaine we striue to crosse, what Heauens decree."


Queen of Sicilia, wife to Atticus and mother to Lusypus, Lorenzo and Leonida. She supports her maligned daughter, Leonida, against the tyranny of Atticus and the misogynist slurs of Swetnam. Having applauded the pleas of Atlanta at Leonida's trial, she then abets the plots by which the former saves the latter's life after Atticus condemns her to death. She awakens her husband's guilt by openly calling him a cruel tyrant, then joins in Atlanta's punishment of Swetnam before the Masque of Repentence restores Leonida and Lisandro to one another and Lorenzo to the court.


A boy, possibly a page, is present when the women attack Swetnam after Atlanta traps him and offers them "small Pins" enough to prick him to death.


The Captain appears at King Atticus' court to inform him of the sad news that his missing son, Lorenzo, has disappeared in a valiant battle with the Turks at Lepanto and is either dead or captured. He praises Lorenzo's valour as "above belief."


The disguise of a Sylvan Nymph in which Leonida appears before her father, Atticus, after the Masque of Repentance. He seals her marriage to her lover, Palemon, before realizing that the latter is really Lisandro.


Swetnam's servant, Swash, is also referred to as 'Clown' in speech prefixes.


The Court Crier of Sicily, he is assigned to ensure that there are no objections to either Swetnam or Atlanta as advocates in the trial of Leonida and Lisandro.


One of the characters in the Masque of Repentance by which Nicanor seeks to drive King Atticus to despair. Cruelty signifies Atticus' unnatural behaviour in sentencing his daughter, Leonida, to death.


One of the characters in the Masque of Repentance by which Nicanor seeks to drive King Atticus to despair. Detraction signifies the slanderous voices raised against Leonida, which the King was too quick to accept.


A "ghost character." According to the Captain, he is the Spanish general under whom Lorenzo fought manfully at the Battle of Lepanto.


A "ghost character"; Leonida's confessor. Lisandro manages to gain access to Leonida by disguising himself as the Friar, and even deceives Nicanor into confessing his plans to him in this guise.


A gentleman of Sicily confirms to Nicanor that Leonida has indeed been condemned to death and commiserates with him on his loss of a potential bride (a loss that does not, in fact, afflict Nicanor at all).


Two gentlemen visit Swetnam after his apparent triumph in the trial of Leonida and Lisandro and congratulate him on his victory. They tell him that the men of Sicily applaud him, but the women hate him. They recommend that he go and taunt the women, and promise to second him if he does so (so that the women won't tear him to pieces).


Two guards are charged with the task of ensuring that Lisandro leaves Sicily under sentence of banishment. He manages to convince them to allow him to see the 'executed' Leonida's body alone. At the sight, he is maddened with grief and attempts suicide. Convinced that he has succeeded in killing himself, the two guards flee for their own lives to Holland, hoping to join in the Spanish wars there.


An old nobleman of Sicilia, along with Nicanor and Sforza one of Atticus' three leading councillors. Alone among the three, Iago is completely honest and selfless in his dedication to the royal family, and doggedly insists that Prince Lorenzo will return from the wars even when the rest of the family has given him up. When the disguised Lorenzo does indeed return, it is Iago who meets him and who gives him an enthusiastic encomium of Sicilian royalty without knowing to whom he is speaking. Lorenzo tests Iago's loyalty by insulting the missing younger prince, but reveals his true identity when Iago offers to duel with him in order to defend Lorenzo's honour. He agrees to help conceal Lorenzo's true identity from the rest of the court. He argues vehemently against Atticus' and Nicanor's intended condemnation of Princess Leonida, and calls upon Lorenzo, now disguised as Atlanta, to help save her. When it seems that Leonida has been executed, he bitterly condemns King Atticus' actions to his face and meets royal disfavour because of it. Once the family is reconciled, however, Iago regains his place as the royal family's most trusted Councillor.


One of the characters in the Masque of Repentance by which Nicanor seeks to drive King Atticus to despair. Ignorance, also called 'Wilful Ignorance,' signifies the King's refusal to hear reason in the case of his daughter.


Two judges preside over the trial of Princess Leonida and Prince Lisandro. They initially encourage King Atticus not to be too hard on his daughter, "the only hope of all Sicily." When he demands that they try the case to the death, they are stymied by the question of which party, the man or the woman, committed the worse treason by tempting the other. They therefore propose that two advocates be found–one male, one female–to argue the case of each sex. Although they are swayed in turn by the arguments of both Swetnam and Atlanta, they finally decide that "women are the first and worst temptations / To love and lustful folly," thus condemning Leonida to death. At this, Atlanta declares them "partial" because they are both men, and demands a more indifferent and representative panel of judges that would include women. Her request is denied, and the judges condemn Leonida to death and Lisandro to banishment.


A "ghost character." Father to Lisandro, he is an old enemy of King Atticus of Sicily. Atticus feels sure that he is unaware of Lisandro's love for Leonida, as otherwise he would have come to speak for his son, or at least have sent ambassadors.


Two lawyers attend the trial of Leonida and Lisandro and comment on the arguments offered by Swetnam and Atlanta.


Princess of Sicily, daughter of Atticus and Aurelia and sister of Lusypus and Lorenzo. She is a beautiful paragon, pursued by many princes, but determined to marry only her true love, Prince Lisandro of Naples. For this reason she is known as disdainful and cold, and is said to have been the cause of "many [a] hopeful youth's untimely end." Her father forbids her to see Lisandro, and sets his councillor Nicanor (who also wishes to marry her) as her guardian. Lisandro manages to gain access to her, disguised as the Friar, but Leonida's maid Loretta accidentally reveals the deception to Nicanor's servant Scanfardo, and the lovers are betrayed. Leonida and Lisandro are then tried for treason; because each tries to take full blame for the offense, the trial comes to hinge upon the question of who is more at fault in sexual temptation, the man or the woman. The 'Amazon' Atlanta thus becomes Leonida's advocate, pleading that men are the greater tempters, but Leonida is pleased when her cause fails and she, not Lisandro, is condemned to death. She is apparently executed, causing Lisandro to attempt suicide and the court to plunge into mourning. In fact, however, she is rescued by the efforts of Atlanta (a.k.a. her brother Lorenzo) and Aurelia. After the Masque of Repentance moves her father to contrition, she appears before him in the guise of the Nymph Claribell, is joined to her lover Lisandro in the guise of Palamon, and all ends happily with the revelation of their survival.


Prince of Naples. Although he is the son of King Atticus of Sicily's enemy, the King of Naples, he is in love with Atticus' daughter Leonida and is beloved by her in return. Unfortunately, Atticus has forbidden their marriage and barred Lisandro from visiting his daughter on pain of death. Despite this command, Lisandro disguises himself as Friar Anthony, Leonida's confessor, in order to visit her. In this same disguise, he hoodwinks Nicanor into confessing his nefarious plans for the Princess. Leonida and Lisandro meet, and all seems well until Loretta lets slip the 'Friar's' true identity to Nicanor's servant, Scanfardo. Lisandro and Leonida are caught and put on trial for treason, each insisting that the other is completely innocent of wrongdoing. When the question cannot be proved, the trial turns to an effort to decide whether men or women are more at fault for temptation. Lisandro is devastated when women are found guilty and Leonida is sentenced to death while he himself receives only a sentence of banishment. He convinces his guards to allow him to see Leonida's executed 'body' and, convinced that she is indeed dead, tries to kill himself. He is rescued by Atlanta, who has in fact also rescued Leonida, and in the end both are restored to life and happiness, presented to the repentant King Atticus in the guises of Palemon and Claribell, and blessed in their marriage.


Prince of Sicilia, younger son of King Atticus and brother to Leonida and the dead Lusypus. Believed either killed or captured after a valiant fight in the Battle of Lepanto, he reappears at the court of Sicily in disguise, revealing his true identity only to Iago. He declares that as he is now the heir to the throne, it behooves him to observe the chief weaknesses of the court when none can recognize him and attempt to deceive him. Discovering his sister Leonida's plight in having been accused of treason, he disguises himself as the Amazon Atlanta in order to help her. In Atlanta's guise, he defends women against Swetnam's slurs; takes charge of Leonida's 'execution' and rescues her from it; rescues Lisandro from death at his own hand; and thoroughly punishes Swetnam for his presumption and hypocrisy. He then reappears in the guise of an Old Shepherd after the Masque of Repentance, presents Leonida and Lisandro to Atticus as Claribell and Palemon, and finally, having brought a blessing on their marriage, reveals his own identity and is received with joy as a worthy future King of Sicily.


Pert maidservant to Princess Leonida, she also speaks the Prologue to the play, in which the audience is invited to witness the triumph of women over the misogynist Swetnam. She pretends to support both Lisandro and Nicanor in their efforts to win the heart of Leonida (collecting a number of bribes in the process), but her real allegiance lies with the Princess' own preference for Lisandro, and she reveals Nicanor's plans to Leonida in order to help her thwart them. She is delighted when Lisandro manages to reach the Princess in the guise of Friar Anthony, but then makes the cardinal error of betraying the trick to her own lover, Scanfardo. Although she swears Scanfardo to secrecy, he passes her confidence on to Nicanor, bringing out the arrest and trial of Leonida and Lisandro. She tries to help to defend her mistress at the trial, and is incensed by Swetnam's misogynist arraignment of her. She likely makes one among the women who attack him after he is trapped by Atlanta.


A Sicilian Lord, sometimes referred to as 'Third Lord' in comparison with Nicanor and Iago, enters at the opening of the play to tell Nicanor and Iago about King Atticus' grief-stricken state at the death of Lusypus and the disappearance of Lorenzo. He is present when the Captain comes to report Lorenzo's fate to the King.


A "ghost character." Eldest son of Atticus, King of Sicilia, and brother to Lorenzo and Leonida. A "virtuous and hopeful Prince," he has died some time before the play begins, leaving his father grief-stricken.


The less-than-subtle alias under which Joseph Swetnam is living at the court of Sicily, having been hounded out of England by women incensed at his pamphlet, The Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women.


A number of mourners–two in front, others behind–accompany Leonida to her supposed execution, helping to sing a dirge for her.


An aging nobleman of Sicilia, one of King Atticus' leading councillors and charged by him with the guardianship of Princess Leonida. At the outset, Nicanor appears as loyal and dedicated to the crown as Iago and Sforza. However, we soon discover that he has designs on the crown and wishes to be made Atticus' heir at any cost. At first he tries to reach this goal by courting Princess Leonida. However, the fact that he unknowingly reveals his plots to her lover Lisandro, who is disguised as a Friar, does nothing to further his suit. When he discovers from his servant Scanfardo that Lisandro and the Princess have been meeting in secret, he is delighted to revenge himself by accusing them of treason before the King. At the trial, he recommends the use of torture to force Lisandro and Leonida to admit one another's guilt; Iago accuses him of cruelty and tyranny, but he laughs the accusation off. He abets Swetnam's arraignment of Leonida and helps to bring about her condemnation. He pretends grief at Leonida's supposed death, but is in fact thrilled, as he stands next in line for the throne. He decides to bring the day of his good fortune closer by designing a masque that will bring the King to despair by showing him his own guilt. However, he unwisely invites the help of the 'Amazon' Atlanta in this regard, and she introduces the figure of Repentance into Nicanor's masque of sin. Nicanor himself is moved to grief by Repentance's appearance. Confronted with the apparent resurrection of Lorenzo, Leonida and Lisandro, he professes himself contrite–although he blames Leonida's rejection of him, rather than lust for power, for his sins, suggesting that some of Swetnam's misogyny lives on.


A notary records the charges, pleas and sentences at the trial of Leonida and Lisandro.


The final disguise in which Lorenzo appears before his father, Atticus, as part of the Masque of Repentance. He plays the father of the Silvan Nymph Claribell, aka his own sister Leonida, who he begs Atticus to join in marriage with her lover Palemon, aka Lisandro. When Atticus does so, he reveals the true identities of the lovers before finally disclosing his own.


One of the women who joins in attacking Swetnam after Atlanta traps him, she offers to "mumble him."


Two old women catch Swash when he tries to escape the punishment of Swetnam. He is relieved that neither have teeth to bite him, but remarks that one granddame scratched him very effectively.


The disguise in which Lisandro appears before King Atticus after the Masque of Repentance. Atticus seals his marriage to his supposed beloved, the Nymph Claribell, before realizing that the latter is really Leonida.


Apparently thanks to the intervention of Atlanta, the figure of Repentance appears at the height of the masque planned by Nicanor to drive King Atticus to despair. She moves both Atticus and Nicanor himself to repent their parts in the condemnation and apparent execution of Princess Leonida. Their repentance opens up the opportunity for Lorenzo, Leonida and Lisandro to enter in disguise and to gain the blessing of the King.


Nicanor's servant, he is aware of all his master's plots to gain the throne of Sicily. He is also the suitor of Loretta, Leonida's maid, although Swetnam, whom he respects as a tutor in fencing and the other ways of the world, encourages him to abandon her as a mere false woman. Before he does so, he learns from Loretta of Leonida's meetings with the disguised Lisandro. He betrays Loretta's confidence to Nicanor, bringing about the trial of Leonida and Lisandro. He is one of Swetnam's supporters at and after the trial, vowing to protect him from the wrath of Sicily's women.


One of the women who join with Atlanta to punish Swetnam for his insolence to women.


Along with Nicanor and Iago, Sforza is the third of the aging Sicilian lords who attend on King Atticus as councillors. While Nicanor is scheming and disloyal, and Iago honest and loyal, Sforza steers a middle course by trying to avoid conflict. He is present at the trial of Leonida and Lisandro and reports its outcome to Iago. Although he despises Swetnam's misogyny, he feels that Leonida's fate may be deserved as her coldness and disdain have made her unpopular with the nobles. He rebukes Iago for distressing the King by condemning Leonida's execution, but he joins in the celebrations when Leonida, Lisandro and Lorenzo turn out to be alive.


One of the characters in the Masque of Repentance by which Nicanor seeks to drive King Atticus to despair. Suspicion signifies the King's quickness to assume that Leonida would behave traitorously and unchastely.


Swetnam's servant, also referred to as 'Clown' in speech prefixes. He has followed his master from England, having been tied to Swetnam by a mother who foolishly hoped that the misogynist would make a scholar of him. He claims actually to detest his master and to disagree with his misogynist slanders, but hopes to gain credit from Englishwomen by staying in Sicily until Swetnam is hanged and then bringing the good news back to his native country. He bears Swetnam's billet doux to Atlanta. When Atlanta and the other women begin to punish Swetnam for his misdemeanours, Swash tries to escape, but is trapped by two old women. The women promise to reward him if he will collect all copies of Swetnam's book in order to help them burn it, and he cheerfully agrees, his last words being "Pish, pish," to his master's complaints.


Alias Misogynos. According to his servant, Swash, Swetnam is a poor English scholar who ran away from the university and masqueraded as a fencer in Bristol, although he actually lacks any skill at fencing. In Bristol he wrote his book, The Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women and was hounded first out of Bristol, then out of London and England on its account. He has now set up shop as a fencer at the court of Sicily, and dedicates himself to converting young men such as Nicanor's servant Scanfardo away from their affection for women. When Princess Leonida and Prince Lisandro are accused of treason and a trial set up to discover whether the woman or the man is more guilty of causing temptation, Swetnam happily takes the job of prosecuting women. His bitter taunts against them at the trial seem effective, as Princess Leonida is condemned to death. Well pleased with his work, Swetnam nevertheless loses some face when he falls in love with his courtroom opponent, the Amazon Atlanta (actually Prince Lorenzo in disguise). He invites Atlanta to a romantic assignation, but is horrified when her sweet demeanour changes to aggression and she easily beats him at fencing. Atlanta, Aurelia and a number of Sicilian women beat Swetnam to punish him for his insolence to their sex, and declare their intention to destroy his book and to publish their own arraignment of him as a disgrace to the male sex.


This woman bears the proclamation of Atlanta's determination to defend Princess Leonida and her sex against the unjust charges that have been laid against her.


A number of women–"as many as may be," according to the stage directions–attend Aurelia, Loretta and Atlanta at the trial of Princess Leonida. These same women are likely to be those who reappear to bind Swetnam and to join in Atlanta's punishment of him at the play's end.