John Fletcher

A Tragi-Comedy

Set in the Moluccan island of Sidore off the coast of India. The pagan Princess Quisara's brother, the King, has been imprisoned by a tyrant, the Governor of Terna. The Princess loves the Portuguese commander Ruy Dias but offers to marry whoever frees her father. Another Portuguese, Armusia, quickly carries out this rescue and returns to claim her as his bride. The Princess urges Ruy Dias to have him killed. Armusia is so noble in his attitude that Ruy Dias repents and saves him from execution while Quisara, equally impressed by Armusia's virtue, is converted to Christianity and marries him. The Governor is revealed as the tyrant from Terna and is imprisoned.


a synoptic, alphabetical character list


A valiant and noble Portuguese soldier. Armusia and his companions visit the island of Sidore (also called Tidore in the Cast List) only to discover that the king of the island country has been captured and is now the prisoner of the evil Governor of Terna, ruler of a neighboring island, and malicious would-be suitor to the Princess. The king's sister, the Princess Quisara, has offered herself in marriage to any brave man who rescues her brother and returns him to safely home. While Ruy Dias hesitates, Armusia, with his comrades-in-arms Soza and Emmanuel, acts. They disguise themselves as Merchants, travel to Terna, and purchase the building next to the prison. They set a powerful charge of dynamite against the common wall between the house and the prison, allowing them to gain access to the king's cell, and hurry him out and onto a waiting boat. Armusia then expects the Princess to marry him happily and willingly, but he discovers that she is in love with another man, Ruy Dias, and will only marry Armusia because of her promise. Armusia, being a noble and honorable soldier, wants a willing bride and a happy marriage so he decides to try to win her love with words. Emanuel and Soza tell him to act like a man and have sex with the Princess, by force if necessary, and she will then change her mind, as all women prefer rough treatment. Instead, Armusia takes the Princess's waiting-woman, Panura, into his confidence, and she lets him stay in her room to wait for the Princess. When Armusia first enters the Princess's chambers she is furious and defiant. However, he begins to win her over with a persuasive, sincere, and romantic speech. As he is leaving her room, Ruy Dias enters. The jealous Ruy Dias is determined to kill his rival and sends his nephew, Pyniero, to challenge Armusia to a duel. Reluctantly, Armusia agrees; since Armusia is a superior swordsman, Ruy Dias falls first. Armusia could kill Dias, but he spares his life at the request of the Princess. Seeing the quality of his character, the Princess asks him to meet her in the garden. She then tells him (on the advice of the Moor-Priest) that she is willing to be his wife, but only if he is willing to convert to her pagan religion and abandon his Christian faith. Armusia, honorable and committed to Christianity, refuses this offer and rejects her since he believes her request to be dishonorable in the extreme. As the king and the disguised Governor of Terna (the Moor-Priest) eavesdrop on the conversation, Armusia declares that his immortal soul is more valuable than any earthly treasure. While the king is hesitant about the morality of arresting his rescuer, the Moor-Priest convinces the king that Christianity and the destruction of their pagan religion will destroy the kingdom. The King is duped by Terna until Pyniero, with the help of his men and Panura, reveals the Governor's true identity and evil intentions. Armusia is released into the arms of his future bride and the Governor is imprisoned.


A Captain in the army of the Governor of Terna. He is with the Governor when the Portuguese soldiers, under the leadership of Armusia, blow up the prison and rescue the king. He then rallies the citizenry to fight the resultant fire.


A soldier and friend to Pyniero and Pedro. Christophero largely serves the function of observer and describer. He recognizes the beauty of the Princess and her chaste virtue, and in the same scene, the nobility of character of Armusia, foreshadowing their eventual marriage. He also describes the Kings of Bakam and Siana, calling one a blowhard and the other a "well-tempered fellow." He also informs Pyniero that the king is saved and the Princess must now marry his rescuer. Christophero is with Pyniero when the Moor-Priest's disguise is removed.


There are several citizens that figure in this play:
  1. The first citizen of Terna is first to cry out when the explosion set by Armusia, Emanuel, and Soza causes a fire to break out in the city, threatening all of their homes, businesses, and possessions. He heard a voice cry "Treason" when the fire started. He informs the Governor that the fire ignited from an explosion in the newly arrived Merchant's home, giving away the Portuguese plot and setting the Governor on his course of revenge.
  2. The second of the citizens of Terna brags about how brave he was to fight the fire until it was extinguished.
  3. The third of the citizens of Terna brags about the bravery of all of the citizens who fought the fires caused by the explosion.
  4. The other citizens are comic, common characters. The citizens of Terna run into the street when the prison explodes and the resultant fire quickly spreads through the town. They frantically try to put out the fire with water or wine or anything that might douse the flames.


Portuguese soldier and companion to Armusia and Soza. Emanuel disguises himself as a Merchant and, under Armusia's command and with Soza's help, they rescue the king. Emanuel suggests that Armusia bed the Princess when she seems reluctant to marry Armusia. He is a key figure (along with Christophero, Pedro, and the Kings of Bakam and Siana) in revealing the Monk-Priest's true identity.


Malicious and tyranical ruler of the island of Terna. The Governor desires the territory of the island of Sidore and takes the King captive, imprisoning him, starving him, and keeping him in the most miserable circumstances possible. One way to "win" the island is to marry the Island Princess Quisara, but she will have nothing to do with him. When Armusia, Emanuel, and Soza rescue the captive king of Sidore and in the process burn part of Terna down, destroying and crippling his nation's economy, the governor of Terna determines to revenge himself on the island nation. He disguises himself as a Moorish (Pagan) priest and enters the court of Sidore. He convinces the king that Armusia, now in line to marry the king's sister, the Princess, is plotting to destroy Sidore by marrying Quisara, having children, and converting the nation to Christianity. In the end, and with the help of Panura, Ruy Dias, and his men, Pyniero reveals the priest's true identity and the Governor is arrested and imprisoned.


A mute character. A guard in the service of the Governor who is attacked by Armusia and his men during the rescue operation.


The Keeper of the prison in Terna. He keeps guard over the king of Sidore while the king is imprisoned. The Keeper has developed a deep respect for the prisoner who maintains his humanity no matter how badly he is treated. The king sings in his miserable surroundings, seemingly unaffected by the inhumane treatment he receives and this nobility of character affects the attitude of the Keeper who watches over him. The keeper listens to his prisoner's songs and tells the other guards (Moors) to listen too.


A foreign king and suitor to the Princess. Pyniero describes this king as "A fellow that farts terror." He is a loud, bellowing man. A foil to the King of Siana, he is part of the company of men. An ally to the King of Sidore, he helps to arrest and imprison Terna.


A foreign king and suitor to the Princess. Unlike his cohort, this king is tall, dignified, brave, and valiant. A foil to the King of Bakan and ally to the King of Sidore. He also helps to bring down the governor of Terna.


A wise, brave, and valiant Christian king of the Island nation of Sidore and brother to the Princess Quisara. He is captured and imprisoned by the Governor of Terna and kept in inhumane and miserable conditions. Still, he sings during his imprisonment, winning the admiration of the Keeper and the guards. When Terna taunts the king by insulting his sister, the Princess, the prisoner-king refuses to be affected, enraging Terna even further and increasing the prisoner's discomfort. The king is ultimately rescued by Armusia and supports him in his quest to marry the Princess until the Governor of Terna, disguised as a Moorish priest, convinces the king that the marriage must not happen since Armusia is a Christian. After Armusia spares the life of Ruy Dias in a duel, and the Princess defends him to her brother and to the "priest," Panura and Pyniero reveal the true identity of the Moor-Priest as the Governor of Terna and the King of Sidore arrests and imprisons the Governor, giving his blessing to the marriage of his sister to Armusia.


After Armusia is imprisoned for being a Christian, Ruy Dias comes to rescue him, this Messenger announces the happenings to the King of Sidore and the Governor of Terna. He tells the king that Dias will not leave a stone standing unless Armusia is released.


There are three moors at the prison where the King of Sidore is kept. The stage directions say "2 or 3 Moors" but only two moors speak.
  1. The first moor describes the conditions under which the King of Sidore is imprisoned. Still, he says, the prisoner-king seems not to be affected by the conditions of his jail, saying that he smiles and keeps his mood up by singing. This moor waits to hear the king sing.
  2. The second is a partner to the jail keeper. The second moor remarks that the king never curses his captors nor does he place blame on anyone, "With what Majesty he heaves his head up!"
  3. The third is a mute character who watches the king with the Keeper and 2 other Moors.


The disguised Governor of Terna. Armusia, the Portuguese soldier rescues the King of Sidore, removing the Governor's one hold over the Island Princess, Quisara. To exact his revenge, the Governor of Terna dresses as a Moor-Priest and, using a skillful deceit, sneaks into the castle via a secret passageway and enters the service and the confidence of the King of Sidore. He secretly advises the king not to trust the Portuguese, and the king considers that the Moor-Priest might be right. The Moor-Priest convinces the king that as a holy man, he should have access to the Princess and the king agrees. At the instigation of the Moor-Priest, the Princess challenges Armusia to give up his Christianity and convert to her pagan religion. Pyniero, with Panura's help, reveals the true identity of the Moor-Priest, and with the help of the Kings of Bakam and Siana, and the Portuguese soldiers, the Governor is arrested and imprisoned.


Waiting-woman to Princess Quisara. Armusia takes Panura into his confidence and she helps him try to win the Princess. She allows Armusia to enter the Princess's chambers at night and then leaves them alone. Panura is enamored of Pyniero and declares that she will willingly help him. She tells him about the secret passage through which the Moor-Priest entered the palace and together they reveal the true identity of the disguised governor.


Portuguese soldier and friend to Chistophero and Pymiero. Primarily a soldier figure who acts as a foil to the other soldiers. He discusses the Princess's unsurpassed beauty with Christophero, and the virtues of soldiering with Soza and Emanuel and Christophero.


Spelled "PINIERO" in the Cast List. A Captain in the Portuguese army and nephew to the commander, Ruy Dias. Pyniero is a comrade of all the Portuguese soldiers, including Christophero, Soza, and Pedro and he thinks he understand the ways of women: he thinks they are out to trap men and use whatever wiles they have at their disposal to accomplish this feat. Because he is the nephew of Ruy Dias, he acts as a messenger between the Princess and Ruy Dias, although he tries to advise his uncle against fighting with Armusia: a proven champion who will surely best his uncle in any kind of dual. He works with an enamored Panura to discover the secret passageway and true identity of the priest. He offers her a kiss and a piece of jewelry to secure her loyalty. Pyniero and Ruy Dias reveal the true identity of the Moor-Priest and it is Pyniero who tears off the Governor's disguise of the beard and the wig.


Aunt to Princess Quisara. She is experienced in the ways of love and thinks she understand male motivations. She attempts to explain women to Pyniero but he already understands—or so he thinks. Quisana acts as chaperone to the Princess and cares deeply for her. She desires nothing less than to care for her niece, offering to sing to her or read to her to help her sleep.


The lovely, virtuous, and noble Island Princess: sister of the King of Sidore and niece to Quisana. She has many suitors, but she prefers Ruy Dias above all the others. She issues a proclamation that she will marry any man who is able to rescue her brother, the king, from the Terna prison where he is being held by the evil Governor of Terna. Ruy Dias hesitates, but Armusia and his Portuguese soldier/comrades disguise themselves as Merchants, blow up the prison, and rescue the king. The Princess has made a promise, but she still prefers Ruy Dias and does not want to marry Armusia. The valiant Armusia courts her gently, refuses to renounce his Christian religion when she asks him too, and stands on his honor and courage through all his adversities, even torture and imprisonment. With the helpful intervention of her waiting-woman, Panura, and her aunt Quisana, Armusia and the Princess are united and, once the Governor of Terna is exposed, it is apparent that she will marry Armusia, convert to Christianity, and live on as his devoted wife.


A Captain in the Portuguese army, uncle to Pyniero, and suitor to the Princess Quisara. When the Princess, who initially claims that she loves the valiant Ruy Dias, makes a proclamation that she will marry the man who rescues her brother the king, Dias hesitates too long and in so doing, loses face with the Princess who decides that he is a coward. To make up for the insult, and because he is jealous of Armusia, he challenges the latter to a duel. Armusia bests Dias, but stops short of killing him. After that, Dias recognizes the noble character of Armusia and fights alongside him. When Armusia is imprisoned for professing his Christian faith, Pyniero and Ruy Dias together attack the kingdom of Sidori with the intention of rescuing Armusia. Together, however, they reveal the Moor-Priest's true identity, thereby saving the kingdom instead of destroying it.


One of the Governor's men. He reports that the Guard saw Armusia's men and boat ready to escape with the king, but it all happened so fast, they were powerless to stop them.


A Portuguese soldier and companion to Armusia, Soza valiantly defends his leader. Soza follows Armusia and Emanuel to the island of Terna to rescue the king. He disguises himself as one of the Merchants, sets the dynamite, and helps spirit the king away. When he hears that Armusia has been arrested in Sidore, he follows Christophero, Pedro, and Emanuel to rescue their leader. Soza is level headed and advises a sure course based on a well-thought-out plan. He helps Pyniero reveal the Governor's true identity, arresting him, taking him before the king, and off to prison.


When Ruy Dias rescues Armusia, he attacks the town of Sidore with cannon thereby drawing the townsmen out.
  1. Townsmen One complains of the strength of the canon's barrage and asks what can be done.
  2. Townsmen Two describes the damage being done to their town and suggests that they should do whatever it takes to "appease this thunder."
  3. Townsman Three suggests that they go to the king and deliver up the prisoner in order to stop the Portugese from bombarding their town.
  4. Townsman Four asks if the attackers of their village are Portuguese.


There are three citizen wives who enter the scene when the town of Terna is set on fire.
  1. The first wife declares with relief that her husband is alive.
  2. The second wife is the most outspoken of the three. She curses her husband for a drunk. Her main concern is saving the Ale and sparing herself her husband's anger.
  3. The third wife is the quietest, concerned only for the welfare of her husband and her friends.