William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle
and James Shirley


circa 1639–circa 1640

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


A singer at the tavern. He sings a short song about the merits of various kinds of drinks.


Captain Sackbury is a former drinking buddy of Underwit, invited by him to the country retreat to teach him military skills. Captain chides Courtwell for his serious and studious nature. Underwit and the Captain spend a good deal of time drinking together and a very little time practicing military commands. Captain is instrumental in getting Engine locked up for insanity, and sending him back to London.


Master Courtwell is brought to the country to meet Sister by his uncle, Sir Francis. A serious and studious lawyer, he is initially shy towards Sister, then courts her with poetic language. She rejects him because she wants a handsome cavalier, not a boring lawyer. Rejected and angry, he goes to the tavern with Underwit, Captain, Thomas and Device, becomes inebriated and denounces love and women. In this state, he meets Sister, who has also been drinking. He declares his distaste for love and all women, including her. They argue, but are friendly again when they meet the next day and are sober. Courtwell meets Device's feigned challenges for Sister's affection with valor that is appreciated by Sister. Courtwell and Sister make up and marry.


Irritating to Sir Francis and amusing to Sir Richard, Monsieur Device is a foolish dandy who speaks in frivolous verse to impress the ladies. He is mocked by Dorothy and Sister, who invite him to Sir Richard's country estate for amusement. Device tries to court Sister. She enjoys his tall tales but thinks him an amusing fool. Upon hearing that she likes a man of valor, he tells her he will bring he the sword of Courtwell. He challenges Courtwell, but backs down when confronted and steals the sword, which he presents to Sister as if he had won it. Courtwell challenges him again, in front of Sister, and Device pretends to have been joking.


Lady Huntlove's chambermaid. She flatters Underwit on being made captain and mocks the entertaining Device with Sister. Underwit makes advances toward Dorothy, but is not interested in marriage. Dorothy deceives Underwit, through a letter from the fictional Sir Walter Littleland, that she is the long-lost daughter of the knight. Thinking she isn't beneath him in station after all, Underwit marries her. She threatens him with a charge of rape if he nullifies the marriage.


The bartender at the tavern where Underwit, Thomas, Captain, Courtwell and Engine go to drink. On Captain's orders, he locks up the insane-acting Engine.


A "ghost character." Lady Huntlove suggests that Sir Richard might be jealous of him.


An entrepreneur and con artist. Tries to get Underwit and Sir Francis to invest in his latest scheme involving a monopoly on periwigs. When he realizes they are suspicious of him, he feigns a migraine. At the tavern, Engine vomits all kinds of strange things, possibly related to "monopolies" or swindles that were common in Newcastle's time. He feigns madness in order to escape persecution for his scams. Device orders Drawer to lock him up. When Sir Richard and Sir Francis head back to London, Engine is sent along, and escapes when Sir Francis falls and breaks his shoulder.


Supposed to be a servant of Sir Walter Littleland, he brings a phony letter to Sir Francis, allegedly from Sir Walter, actually written by Dorothy. Eats and drinks heavily in the kitchen with Thomas, then disappears before he can be questioned about the letter.


Sir Francis Courtwell is a friend of Sir Richard and Lady Huntlove who joins them in the country, bringing his nephew Master Courtwell. Sir Francis and Lady Huntlove make three attempts to have an affair, all of which are thwarted by circumstances. In the third attempt, he plans to feign an injury when falling from his horse on the way back to London, so he can go back and make love to Lady Huntlove while Sir Richard goes on. He really does dislocate his shoulder, and Sir Richard comes back with him. Sir Francis and Lady Huntlove take it as a sign that they should forget the affair.


A "ghost character." Humfrey is the stableman.


Sir Francis' footman. He tells Courtwell that Sir Francis wants speak to him.


Lady Huntlove, wife of Sir Richard. Attracted to and courted by Sir Francis, she schemes with the help of Dorothy to spend the night with him. Their plans are thwarted on three occasions. Loans Dorothy a jewel to help in her deception of Underwit. Plans to stay behind in the country when Sir Richard and Sir Francis go back to London, so that she and Sir Francis can be together, but when he is really injured in the fall from his horse, she takes it as a sign that the affair should not happen.


A "ghost character." He made Underwit a Captain of the Trained Guard in return for a land deal. Underwit has sold him 200-300 acres between their houses.


Sir Richard Huntlove, husband of Lady Huntlove, invites his friends Sir Francis and Underwit to the country for a weekend of hunting, and for his son-in-law (by a previous marriage,) Underwit, the new Captain of the Trained Guard, to practice maneuvers. Nearly cuckolded by Sir Francis, but the affair is thwarted by unfortunate circumstances.


Announces the arrival of Device at Sister's.


Only mentioned. Thomas brings Underwit a book of Shakespeare's plays.


Sister to Lady Huntlove. Courted by Device and by Courtwell. Jokes about Device with Dorothy. Initially refuses them both. She thinks Device is an amusing fool and tells Courtwell that she will not marry a lawyer. Sister and Courtwell meet when they are both drunk and have an argument when he tells her he is swearing off love and women, including her. Device tries to win her but Sister becomes interested in Courtwell when he shows valor in confronting Device. Sister and Courtwell marry.


Servant to Underwit. Gets Captain's regalia and books for Underwit. Since Underwit is "playing' at being a Captain, Thomas brings him a book of Shakespeare's plays. Entrusted with the care of the "insane" Engine. Drinks with the group at the tavern and with the footman sent with a letter for Sir Francis.


Sir Richard's son-in-law by a previous marriage. Underwit has been given the honorary office of Captain of the Trained Guard by his neighbor, the Lord Lieutenant of the County, in return for selling him some land. Underwit takes it seriously, and in comic fashion, with the help of his servant Thomas, he acquires military trappings. He invites Captain Sackbury to the county where they (briefly) practice at military maneuvers, and drink heavily at the tavern. He is romantically interested in Dorothy, but not in marrying her, until she tricks him into thinking that she is the daughter of a wealthy knight. He marries her. When she tells him she is not the daughter of a knight, and threatens him with a charge of rape if he nullifies the marriage, he decides to stand by his commitment and make her a lady in reality.


A "fictional character." Dorothy pretends that he is a wealthy knight from an old family, and claims in a phony letter to Sir Richard that he is her long-lost father.