Thomas Dekker
[John Marston suggested as a collaborator
on the strength of having written Histriomastix two years earlier]

SATIROMASTIX,
or THE UNTRUSSING OF THE HUMOROUS POET

1601
Note: This play is perhaps the final shot in the group of plays collectively known as the "War of the Theatres" plays, which includes Jonson's The Poetaster (1601) and Marston's Histriomastix (1599).

a synoptic, alphabetical character list

ASINIUS BUBO

As his name implies, Asinius Bubo is an ass, an uneducated and barely literate fool who is constantly in the company of Horace. It is Bubo who, on Horace's behalf, circulates Horace's satiric epigrams against his enemies amongst the city's gallants-an action that results in his being challenged to a duel by Tucca. Bubo is saved from having to fight with Tucca by Horace's disingenuous apology, which Horace immediately betrays. In the final scene Bubo, along with Horace, is taken before the king, William Rufus, and is subjected to a mock trial over which Crispinus presides. Like Horace, Bubo is bound and forced to wear horns "like Satyres." Bubo is forced to swear an oath that he will no longer hire Horace as a poet, pass off Horace's writings as his own, or call Horace his "Ningle"; he readily professes his oath and flees the court.

BLUNT

Blunt is a wedding guest at the marriage celebrations of CŠlestine and Sir Walter Terill. He initially acts as a kind of bridging character, as Terill asks him to visit the poet Horace to collect the nuptial songs commissioned for the occasion, and Blunt appears in the next scene at Horace's lodgings. There he exhorts Horace to complete the nearly finished songs quickly, but his dramatic function in the scene seems to be to facilitate Tucca's intrusion into Horace's lodgings, where Tucca proceeds to antagonize Horace. Blunt is often privy to the actions of the play, as one of the guests at Sir Adam Prickshaft's party and later as one of the masquers who presents CŠlestine's body before king William Rufus, but his presence has little bearing on the development of the plot.

CĂLESTINE

The daughter of Sir Quintilian Shorthose and the bride of Sir Walter Terill, CŠlestine is a paragon of chastity, constancy and virtue. Her happy marriage to Terill at the outset of the play is almost immediately threatened by the lecherous king, William Rufus, who commands Terill to present CŠlestine at court so that he may deflower her on her wedding night. Torn between honoring with constancy her wedding vows and her duty to the state, CŠlestine decides to drink poison rather than submit her body to the king. Terill presents the king with CŠlestine's body and, when William Rufus discovers that CŠlestine has taken poison rather than relinquish her chastity to any man other than her husband, he repents his actions. When he declares her a truly constant wife, however, CŠlestine revives, having unwittingly consumed a potion of her father's devising to make her only appear dead. The king is content now not to interfere between bride and bridegroom, and CŠlestine and Terill are happily reunited.

CRISPINUS

An allegorical representation of the contemporary playwright John Marston, Crispinus originally appeared in Ben Jonson's Poetaster as a satiric representation of Marston. In Satiromastix, however, Crispinus is presented as an honorable character who, like his friend and companion Demetrius, wishes to resolve his conflict with rival poet Horace on friendly terms, while also making it clear that he will defend his reputation if he must. His attempts to foster friendly relations are repeatedly betrayed by the hypocritical Horace, who disparages Demetrius and Crispinus (and their poetic abilities) behind their backs by satirizing them in epigrams circulated amongst the city's gallants. When the bald-pated Sir Adam Prickshaft discovers that his rival suitor for Mistris Miniver's affections, Sir Vaughan ap Rees, has hired Horace to present a poetic argument against baldness, he hires Crispinus to present a counter-argument defending baldness. Sir Vaughan and Horace, who take Crispinus' defense of baldness as a personal affront, interrupt Crispinus' defense, but the debate itself is soon forgotten when Tucca turns the party against Horace by exposing his hypocrisy. They decide to subject Horace to a mock trial before the court. The king, William Rufus, confers on Crispinus the authority to preside over the trial, where he humiliates Horace by forcing him to wear a crown of stinging nettles and swear an oath to cease and desist his bad behavior.

DEMETRIUS FANNIUS

Thomas Dekker's allegorical self-portrait, Demetrius originally appeared in Ben Jonson's Poetaster as a satiric representation of Dekker. In Satiromastix, however, Demetrius is presented as a well-meaning character who, with his friend Crispinus, repeatedly attempts to facilitate reconciliation between themselves and Horace. His attempts to foster friendly relations are repeatedly betrayed by the hypocritical Horace, who disparages Demetrius and Crispinus (and their poetic abilities) behind their backs by satirizing them in epigrams circulated amongst the city's gallants. Like Crispinus, Demetrius is at pains to convince Horace that they do not resent Horace's abilities or accomplishments but merely wish him to cease his satirizing attacks on others for his own good. In the play it is Crispinus who takes on the lion's share of the role of rival poet, while Demetrius acts more as a loyal companion to Crispinus. He does however aid Crispinus in the public humiliation of Horace at the end of the play.

DICACHE

One of the gentlewomen guests at the wedding celebration of CŠlestine and Sir Walter Terill, Dicache is also one of the guests of the party hosted by Sir Vaughan ap Rees, and later of the party hosted by Sir Adam Prickshaft. She is also among those who accompany CŠlestine and Sir Walter Terill to the court of King William Rufus. While Dicache sometimes comments on the action, she is primarily an on-stage audience and sometime dance partner whose presence otherwise has little bearing on the development of the plot. She is always in the company of Petula and Philocalia.

DRUSO

A "ghost character." Although he does not appear in the play, Horace mentions the gallant Druso as a recently acquired admirer. Horace enlists his companion Asinius Bubo to deliver a prefabricated letter to him to further impress the gallant with Horace's poetic abilities.

GENTLEWOMEN, TWO

Gentlewoman 1 and Gentlewoman 2 open the play by strewing flowers in preparation for CŠlestine and Sir Walter Terill's wedding celebration; as they work, they discuss the relative merits of marriage and maidenheads.

HORACE

The "humorous poet" of the play's subtitle, Horace is a satiric representation of contemporary playwright Ben Jonson, The character originally appeared in Jonson's Poetaster as a self-portrait, where he is presented as a poet determined to maintain the integrity of poetry in spite of its denigration at the hands of inferior poets or "poetasters." In Satiromastix, however, Horace is a jealous and status-obsessed poet who values his own abilities too highly and wishes to elevate his own reputation at the expense of others by disparaging their abilities. He initially appears in the play as the poet hired by Sir Walter Terill to pen nuptial songs for the wedding celebrations of his marriage to CŠlestine. He is visited by Crispinus and Demetrius, two "rival" poets who wish to lay to rest the animosity between them and Horace. Horace defends his actions by claiming to satirize general vices rather than specific people (a claim often made by Jonson himself), but Crispinus and Demetrius point out that his attacks are often too personal to be interpreted this way. They ask him to desist for his own good. Eventually they agree to be friends, but the arrival of the roisterous and disruptive Tucca, who is determined also to reconcile Horace with his fellow poets, insults and galls Horace. Horace reiterates his willingness to be friends with Crispinus and Demetrius, but secretly determines to satirize both them and Tucca in epigrams, which he has his oft-time companion Asinius Bubo circulate publicly among the city's gallants. Horace has also been hired by the Welsh knight Sir Vaughan ap Rees to compose a love letter to the widow Mistris Miniver. Mistris Miniver refuses to read or hear the contents of this love note, which is perhaps lucky for Sir Vaughan because Horace has earlier confided to Bubo that he has encoded in it a satire of Sir Vaughan's abuse of the English language. Undaunted, Sir Vaughan hires Horace again, this time to deliver an argument against baldness before Mistris Miniver in the hopes of winning her affection away from the bald-pated Sir Adam Prickshaft, whom Sir Vaughan believes is his chief rival. After Horace delivers his argument, Sir Vaughan's party is disrupted by the arrival of Tucca. Tucca has found out about Horace's satiric epigrams on him, and he has come to challenge Bubo to a duel for circulating them (Horace is protected from the challenge by Sir Vaughan, the suggestion being that the cowardly Horace hides behind the protection of his patrons). When Bubo arrives for the duel accompanied by Horace, Tucca is at first unswayed by Horace's promise never to satirize him again, but they eventually reconcile their differences verbally. Horace, however, immediately betrays this new peace by confessing that he will satirize Tucca again at the earliest opportunity. Meanwhile, Tucca has informed Horace that Sir Adam has hired Crispinus to deliver a counter-argument defending baldness. Tucca, Horace, and Sir Vaughan crash Sir Adam's party and interrupt Crispinus' defense of baldness, but when Tucca reveals to Sir Vaughan that Horace has hypocritically slandered him behind his back Horace loses the support of his patron and the party turns against him. They determine to subject Horace and his companion Bubo to a mock trial before the court, over which Crispinus presides. During this mock trial Horace is publicly humiliated, brought before the court bound and wearing horns. Found guilty, he is forced to wear a crown of stinging nettles and to swear an oath that he will cease and desist his bad behavior.

JUSTICE CROP

Possibly a "ghost character." One of the wedding guests invited to celebrate CŠlestine and Sir Walter Terill's marriage. Sir Quintilian asks his servant Peter Flash if Justice Crop will attend, and is told that Justice Crop is coming. It is unclear whether or not Justice Crop actually appears in the play, as he is not mentioned again, but it is possible that he is among the "others" listed in the stage directions that attend the celebration.

MISTRIS MINIVER

A vivacious and attractive widow, Mistris Miniver is the love interest of rival suitors Sir Adam Prickshaft, Sir Vaughan ap Rees, Sir Quintilian Shorthose, and Tucca. She is a guest at the wedding celebration of CŠlestine and Sir Walter Terill, where she routinely uses her sharp wit to keep herself free of the romantic entanglements with which her suitors press her. In an effort to win her affection, Sir Vaughan invites her and other ladies to a party at his home under the pretense of further celebrating CŠlestine and Sir Walter's wedding. He hires the poet Horace to deliver an argument against baldness in order to persuade Mistris Miniver to prefer him to his main rival, Sir Adam Prickshaft. The bald Sir Adam responds in kind by holding another party at which he hires a rival poet, Crispinus, to defend baldness. Meanwhile, Tucca has promised to deliver the other rivals' love tokens to Mistris Miniver, but he instead uses the opportunity to pursue his own romantic interests in her. Tucca's wooing of the widow Miniver is bawdy and insulting but also apparently effective, as Tucca reveals in the final moments of the play that Mistris Miniver has accepted his proposal of marriage, much to the chagrin of her other suitors.

PETER FLASH or PETER SALAMANDER

A clever servant, Peter Flash begins the play in the service of Sir Quintilian Shorthose. It is Flash who has organized and invited the guest list for CŠlestine and Sir Walter Terill's wedding celebration, and his efficiency seems to attract the attention of the foolish knight Sir Vaughan ap Rees, who hires Peter Flash into his service. Sir Vaughan then christens him Peter Salamander and refers to him as such for the rest of the play. Peter Flash accompanies Sir Vaughan when he challenges Tucca to a duel, but Sir Vaughan and Tucca resolve their differences verbally. Why Peter Flash desires to switch service from the capable Sir Quintilian to the silly Sir Vaughan is never made explicit, but there are hints in the play that suggest Flash does this in order better to take advantage of his master. For instance, after the duel scene Sir Vaughan tells Flash to go home, and Flash confesses that he does so in order to raid Sir Vaughan's wine cellar. Peter Flash's presence in the play does not really effect the development of the plot, but he does contribute witty banter and highlight the folly of some of the other characters.

PETULA

One of the gentlewomen guests at the wedding celebration of CŠlestine and Sir Walter Terill, Petula is also one of the guests of the party hosted by Sir Vaughan ap Rees, and later of the party hosted by Sir Adam Prickshaft. She is also among those who accompany CŠlestine and Sir Walter Terill to the court of King William Rufus. While Petula sometimes comments on the action, she is primarily an on-stage audience and sometime dance partner whose presence otherwise has little bearing on the development of the plot. She is always in the company of Dicache and Philocalia.

PHILOCALIA

One of the gentlewomen guests at the wedding celebration of CŠlestine and Sir Walter Terill, Philocalia is also one of the guests of the party hosted by Sir Vaughan ap Rees, and later of the party hosted by Sir Adam Prickshaft. She is also among those who accompany CŠlestine and Sir Walter Terill to the court of King William Rufus. While Philocalia sometimes comments on the action, she is primarily an on-stage audience and sometime dance partner whose presence otherwise has little bearing on the development of the plot. She is always in the company of Petula and Dicache.

SIR ADAM PRICKSHAFT

Sir Adam is a wedding guest at the marriage celebrations of CŠlestine and Sir Walter Terill and one of the suitors pursuing the widow Mistris Miniver. Sir Adam's defining physical characteristic is his baldness, which occasions the poetic debate over the merits and shortcomings of baldness that occupies much of the middle of the play. Sir Vaughan ap Rees, one of Sir Adam's rival suitors, hosts a party at his home under the pretense of further celebrating CŠlestine and Sir Walter's wedding, but he hires the poet Horace to deliver an argument against baldness in order persuade Mistris Miniver to prefer him to Sir Adam. Sir Adam responds in kind by holding another party at which he hires a rival poet, Crispinus, to defend baldness. The baldness debate is largely an occasion to showcase the conflict between the rival poets Horace and Crispinus, however, and is largely forgotten when the plot begins to focus on the public humiliation of the poet Horace. When Tucca reveals in the final moments of the play that he is to be married to Mistris Miniver, Sir Adam seems to take the disappointing news graciously.

SIR QUINTILIAN SHORTHOSE

The father of CŠlestine and father-in-law of Sir Walter Terill, Sir Quintilian is the proud host of the wedding celebration that opens the play. He is also one of the suitors of Mistris Miniver. Little is made of his interest in the widow in the play. This is perhaps due to the fact that Sir Quintilian is soon distracted by the news that his daughter is commanded to submit herself sexually to the king, William Rufus, on her wedding night. Sir Quintilian sees the harsh reality of duty and fealty to the king, and agrees that CŠlestine must go to the court as commanded, but he devises a plan whereby they may fulfill their side of the bargain while preserving CŠlestine's constancy. He concocts a potion that makes CŠlestine appear dead for a short while. However, he tells his children that the potion is poison, and CŠlestine drinks it believing she is committing suicide rather than submit her body to the king, and her bridegroom Terill believes that she is dead. After Terill confronts the king with CŠlestine's body and the king repents, CŠlestine revives and Sir Quintilian reveals his part in the plot. He explains that his intention in keeping the harmless effects of the potion secret was to test the bride-groom's love and the bride's constancy. Terill and CŠlestine pass Sir Quintilian's test, and he announces himself doubly happy in having a constant daughter and loving son.

SIR REES AP VAUGHAN

Although he is listed as Sir Rees ap Vaughan in the dramatis personae and some of the stage directions, Sir Vaughan introduces himself as "Sir Vaughan ap Rees" in II.i. He is also called Sir Vaughan ap Rees by Sir Quintilian, "Ap Rees" by Tucca, and is usually only addressed as "Sir Vaughan" elsewhere in the play. This discrepancy is present in the quarto versions of the play, and it is unclear which name order is most appropriate, the order of Welsh names being often interchangeable. Because the character would be known as "Sir Vaughan ap Rees" by an audience listening to the play, Sir Vaughan's full entry has been listed under "Sir Vaughan ap Rees" (q.v.)

SIR VAUGHAN AP REES

A Welsh knight whose malapropisms and butchery of the English language was no doubt a great source of topical humor, Sir Vaughan is a wedding guest at the marriage celebrations of CŠlestine and Sir Walter Terill and one of the suitors pursuing the widow Mistris Miniver. Having perceived the bald-pated Sir Adam Prickshaft to be his most formidable rival for Mistris Miniver's affections, Sir Vaughan invites her and other ladies to a party at his home under the pretense of further celebrating CŠlestine and Sir Walter's wedding. He hires the poet Horace to deliver an argument against baldness in order persuade Mistris Miniver to prefer him to Sir Adam. Sir Adam responds in kind by holding another party at which he hires a rival poet, Crispinus, to defend baldness. In the meantime, Sir Vaughan decides to challenge Tucca to a duel over his mishandling of a monetary love token meant for Mistris Miniver. Tucca and Sir Vaughan reconcile their differences verbally, however, and Tucca tells Sir Vaughan of Sir Adam's plan to present to the widow a poetic counter-argument on baldness. Sir Vaughan and Horace, with the aid of Tucca, crash Sir Adam's party in order to disrupt Crispinus' defense of baldness, but the baldness debate is soon forgotten as Tucca turns the company against Horace instead by revealing Horace's hypocrisy. The party determines to subject Horace to a mock trial before the court. In it, Sir Vaughan plays the role of the court prosecutor, reading off the list of offences. When Tucca reveals in the final moments of the play that he is to be married to Mistris Miniver, Sir Vaughan seems to take the disappointing news in a fairly good-natured way.

SIR WALTER TERILL

Sir Walter Terill is the bridegroom of CŠlestine and the son-in-law of Sir Quintilian Shorthose. This character's name is borrowed from a real historical figure, Walter Tirel, lord of Poix, who was rumored to have assassinated king William Rufus, but in Satiromastix Sir Walter Terill is rendered as a noble and virtuous character. His happy marriage to CŠlestine at the outset of the play is almost immediately threatened by the lecherous king, William Rufus, who commands Terill to present CŠlestine at court so that he may deflower her on her wedding night. Terill is tortured by the conflict between his duty to the king and preserving his bride inviolate, but ultimately sees himself as forced to submit to the king's wishes. CŠlestine, however, decides to drink poison rather than submit her body to the king, viewing the alternative as a stain of sin that will taint both her marriage and the state, and Terill nobly assents to her suicide. Terill presents the king with CŠlestine's body and confronts him with the horror his lechery has engendered. When William Rufus discovers that CŠlestine has taken poison rather than relinquish her chastity to any man other than her husband, he repents his actions. When he declares her a truly constant wife, however, CŠlestine revives, having unwittingly consumed a potion of her father's devising to make her only appear dead. The king is content now not to interfere between bride and bridegroom, and CŠlestine and Terill are happily reunited.

TUCCA

Captain Pantilius Tucca is a loud, coarse, and riotous military man who, despite being essentially a "good" character, seems to delight in instigating conflict and disruption. He initially appeared as a character in Ben Jonson's Poetaster, and is considered to be loosely based on a contemporary London personage, Captain Jack Hannam (see Dekker's Induction to the play). In Satiromastix, Tucca first appears in the play at the poet Horace's lodgings, ostensibly to reconcile Horace with his fellow poets Crispinus and Demetrius, although he spends most of his time antagonizing Horace and his companion Asinius Bubo before exacting a pledge of friendship from Horace. The galled Horace determines to revenge himself by satirizing Tucca in epigrams, which he has Bubo circulate among the city gallants. Tucca is also one of the guests celebrating the wedding of CŠlestine and Sir Walter Terill. During the party he agrees to deliver love tokens from rival suitors Sir Adam Prickshaft and Sir Vaughan ap Rees to the widow Mistris Miniver, but he uses the opportunity to woo the widow for himself. When Tucca is informed by Crispinus and Demetrius that he has been publicly satirized by Horace, he interrupts Sir Vaughan's party (where Horace is delivering an argument against baldness) to issue a challenge to Bubo for having circulated the epigrams. When Bubo arrives for the duel accompanied by Horace, Tucca is at first unswayed by Horace's promise never to satirize him again, but they eventually reconcile their differences verbally. Horace, however, immediately betrays this new peace by confessing that he will satirize Tucca again at the earliest opportunity. Sir Vaughan then arrives on the scene to challenge Tucca over his mishandling of the monetary love token meant for Mistris Miniver. Tucca convinces Sir Vaughan that all is well, however, and they reconcile amicably. Tucca then informs Sir Vaughan and Horace that Sir Adam has hired Crispinus to deliver a counter-argument defending baldness. Tucca, Horace, and Sir Vaughan crash Sir Adam's party and interrupt Crispinus' defense of baldness, but when Tucca reveals to Sir Vaughan that Horace has hypocritically slandered him behind his back Horace loses the support of his patron and the party turns against him. They determine to subject Horace to a mock trial before the court, during which Tucca rails at him and confronts him with the portraits of the original Roman poet Horace and the character Horace [a portrait of Jonson himself?], pointing out the current Horace's relative shortcomings. Throughout the play, when Tucca is not harassing Horace he is hard at work attempting to seduce Mistris Miniver. Tucca's wooing of the widow Miniver is bawdy and insulting but also apparently effective because Tucca reveals in the final moments of the play that Mistris Miniver has accepted his proposal of marriage, much to the chagrin of her other suitors. Although he admits to abusing the suitors by pretending to woo on their behalf, he offers gamely to return their love tokens. Tucca also delivers the epilogue, in which he offers his wish to part friends with the audience and recants the opinions he professed in Jonson's Poetaster. He also encourages the audience to applaud the play so that Horace (i.e. Jonson) will be spurred to write a rebuttal satire that will provide the audience with more sport.

TUCCA'S BOY

A servant who accompanies Tucca in several scenes. He is with Tucca when Tucca issues his challenge to Asinius Bubo, and by extension Horace, and he helps arm his master in the duel scene. He warns his master to arm himself when he sees Bubo approaching, and warns Tucca that Horace is lurking in the background. Tucca's boy also appears with Tucca in the final scene when Horace and Bubo are led in for their mock trial at court. He carries with him two pictures, one of the character Horace and the other of the original Roman poet Horace; Tucca later uses them to highlight the differences between the original Horace and the "counterfeit" Horace of the play.

WILLIAM RUFUS

The king, William Rufus is based loosely on the real Norman king of the same name (William II of England, 1087-1100) who had a reputation for lechery. William Rufus is the honoured guest at CŠlestine and Sir Walter Terill's wedding celebration. Taken with CŠlestine's beauty, he exercises the ancient privilege of "first night," which grants him the right to sleep with any newly married bride on her wedding night. He commands Terill to bring CŠlestine to court that night as proof of his loyalty. When William Rufus discovers that CŠlestine has taken poison rather than relinquish her chastity to any man other than her husband, he repents his actions. When he declares her a truly constant wife, however, CŠlestine revives, having unwittingly consumed a potion of her father's devising to make her only appear dead. Content now not to interfere between bride and bridegroom, William Rufus invests Crispinus with the authority to preside over the mock trial of Horace and Asinius Bubo. The king ends the play by leading the others in a dance to honor the announced marriage between Tucca and Mistris Miniver.