John Fletcher and Philip Massinger
THE LITTLE FRENCH LAWYER
a synoptic, alphabetical character list
Champernell's niece. Her presence is not announced until the "bed trick." She pretends to be her sleeping uncle while Cleremont pretends to be Lamira in the marital bed. Neither are aware of the other's true identity. The "bed trick" is a ruse to allow Lamira to have her vengeful assignation with Dinant. While in bed, Anabell falls in love with Cleremont. Later, kidnapped on her way to the summerhouse, she is threatened with rape by the Second Gentleman, draws a knife, but is knocked down and disarmed. Defiant in captivity, Anabell finally calls out to Cleremont, and the ruffian gentlemen bring him before her in chains. Assuring Cleremont she wishes she had slept with him when she had the chance, Anabell is locked in a vault by the villains and continues to defy her captors. She confesses that her pride is the cause of her imprisonment. Seeing Beaupre and Verdoone being taken away to be hanged, she offers to trade places with one of them. Cleremont enters in disguise and, after seizing her, reveals his identity to her. She kisses him, to the dismay of Lamira who assumes he is one of the ruffians. Anabell leaves with Cleremont, returning to the vault after Dinant confesses his love for Lamira. When Anabell is reunited with her uncle, her blushes reveal that she and Cleremont have become intimate, and her uncle consents to their marriage.
Vertaigne's son and Lamira's beloved brother. Beaupre decides to avenge the insult done to his sister when Dinant confronts her on her wedding day. Challenging Dinant to a duel in honorable fashion, Beaupre is prevented from fighting with him when Lamira tricks Dinant into avoiding the duel. Instead, Beaupre and his second Verdoone fight with Dinant's second Cleremont and La-writ, the little French lawyer, who happens to be walking in the park near the dueling site. When Champernell hears that Beaupre has lost the duel, he orders the young man out of his house, but, hearing that Dinant did not duel, relents. Beaupre is a witness to Lamira's humiliation of Dinant, and is kidnapped along with Lamira and others as Dinant works his counter-revenge. Bound, wearing a halter, and forced to march past his sister, Beaupre becomes part of Dinant's plot to humble Lamira. Beaupre is reunited with his sister once Dinant has succeeded in humbling Lamira.
An elderly gentleman and former pirate who lacks the use of one leg and one arm, Champernell marries Lamira much to the dismay of her former suitor Dinant. Unable to defend himself and his bride against Dinant and Cleremont's cruel imprecations, and falling in the street when he attempts to attack Dinant, Champernell weeps on his wedding day, to his bride's disgust. Champernell defends his previous piracy by pointing out that Dinant's grandfather earned his money in the same way, and he provides a compelling account of a fight at sea. When Beaupre loses the duel against Cleremont and Dinant's unwilling substitute La-writ, Champernell is furious and orders Beaupre out of his house, excoriating the young man's fighting skills. Hearing that Dinant did not show up for the duel, Champernell relents. When Lamira defends Dinant's courage, Champernell becomes jealous despite the fact that Lamira genuinely loves him and has given up all interest in Dinant. Lamira responds to her husband's jealousy with defiance, and a repentant Champernell offers her exceptional liberty and agrees that Dinant is as courageous as she asserts he is. Champernell overhears the end of a secret conference Lamira has arranged with Dinant in order to expose the latter's lust. Champernell sees through the plot and admires his wife's efforts to humiliate her former suitor. On the way to their summerhouse to celebrate Lamira's triumph over Dinant, Champernell and his party are kidnapped by ruffian gentlemen in Dinant's employ. Champernell tries to reason with the kidnappers by describing his piratical past, and he asks them to take the goods but leave the people unharmed. He and Vertaigne are left behind, in part because Champernell, with only one leg, has trouble walking. Encountering La-writ in the woods, Champernell insults and beats the lawyer, which has the effect of returning La-writ to his senses and his former profession. Having summoned the Provost, Champernell is delighted to find the kidnapped party returning safely from the woods, and having received Lamira's assurances that there was no foul play, consents to the marriage of his niece Anabell with Cleremont.
Lamira's lascivious waiting woman. Charlote engages in bawdy conversations with her mistress about Lamira and Champernell's love life. When, after Lamira's defiant response to her husband's jealousy leads him to give her exceptional liberty and Charlote announces that her mistress has "won the breeches," Lamira strikes her. After Lamria arranges her false assignation with Dinant, Charlote carries pillows and nightclothes across the stage. On her way to the summerhouse with Lamira and others, Charlote is enticed by the sound of music to leave the party and go dance; she is kidnapped along with the others by two ruffian gentlemen who are disguised as dancers. She offers herself sexually to the kidnappers, and later compares notes with Lamira's Nurse about their sexual encounters with the ruffian gentlemen.
Dinant's close friend. Cleremont is a merry gentleman whose initial commitment to peaceful solutions to problems turns out to be part of a three-hour penance assigned after his most recent confession. Cleremont helps Dinant confront Lamira, who rejected Dinant's suit, at her wedding to Champernell, and comforts his friend by announcing that marriage is the perfect front for those who want "To play the wanton, without losse of honour." Agreeing to serve as Dinant's second in a duel against Beaupre and Verdoone, Cleremont is shocked when his friend fails to arrive in time to fight. He hastily seeks a replacement, stopping an Old Gentleman who has no sword, two other gentlemen who are on a way to a duel of their own, and finally La-writ, whom Cleremont forces to take part in the fight. La-writ proves a fine fighter, much to his own and Cleremont's amazement, and they defeat Beaupre and Verdoone. Cleremont then stops La-writ and Dinant from fighting, and tries to keep Dinant from keeping an appointment with Lamira. Meeting La-writ, Cleremont accepts the task of delivering the newly fierce lawyer's challenge to the judge Vertaigne even though he fears arrest for doing so. Cleremont gracefully explains that the challenge is from a madman, and Vertaigne decides to send his nephew Sampson in his place, which Cleremont arranges. Dinant asks for Cleremont's help in his assignation with Lamira: Cleremont is to climb in bed with Champernell so that the old man will not suspect that his wife is elsewhere. After many objections, Cleremont agrees to do this; he enters above several times to express his terror that Lamira and Dinant are being too loud, which is part of Lamira's plan, and is later extremely embarrassed to discover that he has, as another part of Lamira's plot, actually been in bed with the 16-year-old Anabell, with whom he promptly falls in love. Cleremont assists with Dinant's counter-revenge, coaches La-writ on his upcoming duel with Sampson, and uses that duel as an excuse to leave the two lawyers in their shirts and steal their swords. Cleremont pretends to come to the rescue of the kidnapped party and pretends to be defeated by the kidnappers. He reminds Anabell that she once had a chance to sleep with him and asks her if she regrets not doing so. After she is threatened with rape by the second gentleman, Cleremont enters in disguise, seizes Anabell, and then reveals himself to her. They kiss and leave the vault, abandoning Lamira who is later rescued by Dinant. Cleremont offers a long, improbable account of the "kidnappers" and how he got free of them. After Champernell discovers that Cleremont and Anabell have had sex, he consents to their marriage.
Three clients are bewildered by La-writ's sudden transformation from lawyer into duelist, and shift their business to Sampson who promises to use his family connections to get their cases heard. After La-writ's beating by Champernell and subsequent reform, two clients become the lawyer's loyal "Mirmidons" and defend La-writ from Sampson's mockery.
A French gentleman. Dinant has unsuccessfully courted Lamira who, obedient to her father's will, marries the elderly Champernell instead. Dinant waits for the wedding party outside the church and hurls violent insults at the bride and groom, questioning the ability of the one-armed, one-legged Champernell to consummate the marriage. Challenged to a duel by Lamira's brother Beaupre, Dinant is tricked by Lamira into defending her honor against imaginary slanderers on the other side of town and so misses the duel. As he waits for the non-existent slanderer to arrive, Dinant encounters La-writ, the little French lawyer, who has recently discovered his prowess as a fighter. Both men draw, and Cleremont stops the fight by explaining that La-writ took Dinant's place in the duel against Beaupre and won. Lamira decides to seek her own revenge against Dinant and has her nurse summon him again to arrange an assignation. Dinant asks for Cleremont's help with this project, which involves Cleremont taking Lamira's place in bed with the elderly Champernell so that he will not notice his wife's absence. The assignation begins in disaster as Lamira talks and laughs loudly and calls for music, noise that Dinant fears will rouse her husband, and ends in catastrophe as Lamira delays their encounter until she is able to expose Dinant's lust to the entire household. After an exchange of bitter insults, Dinant leaves to plot his counter-revenge. He arranges for Lamira, her friends, and her servants to be kidnapped, pretends to lead an unsuccessful rescue effort, has his hired ruffians bring him chained to Lamira and asks her to consider whether being his mistress isn't better than being raped by the ruffians. He then returns to "rescue" Lamira with an elaborate fiction about his love for her having persuaded the ruffians to release him. He next threatens to rape Lamira himself, then, when she kneels before him and admits that she deserves any abuse he might subject her to, exposes the false kidnapping plot and lets Lamira go. Giving up his pursuit of lust, and determined to champion Lamira's honor, Dinant is promised a previously unmentioned niece of Champernell's as his wife.
There are seven groups of characters identified as gentlemen:
- The Old Gentleman who accidentally walks in on the duel between Beaupre, Verdoone, and Cleremont and is asked to take Dinant's place but declines because of his age;
- Two gentlemen who also stumble onto the duel but who cannot be of assistance because they are on their way to a duel of their own;
- a gentleman who accompanies La-writ when he is in his fighting mode so that La-writ can have conversations about wenching and duels, and who schedules La-writ's quarrels at the Ordinary;
- Two gentleman conversing with Vertaigne when he receives the challenge from La-Writ;
- a gentleman who serves as Sampson's second in his duel with La-writ;
- Two gentleman hired by Dinant and dressed as ruffians who wait in the grove to kidnap Champernell's party and who trick the party into stopping by dancing with the nurse and Charlote;
- first gentleman re-appears with Lamira, threatens to rape her, and makes her kneel and weep;
- second gentleman appears with Anabell and threatens to rape her, knocking her down and disarming her when she draws a knife on him;
- four gentlemen, dressed as ruffians, who lead Beaupre and Verdoone, bound and with halters around their necks, in a false death march before the imprisoned Lamira and Anabell.
The daughter of Vertaigne. Lamira has willingly conceded to her father's choice of a husband, the elderly Champernell, and rejected the advances of Dinant. As Lamira and Champernell leave their wedding, Dinant meets them in the street and insults them both. Although disgusted by her husband's tears of rage and frustration, Lamira assures him that Dinant is of no interest to her; Champernell grants Lamira full liberty to talk, ride, and feast with whomsoever she wants. When her Nurse informs Lamira that her brother Beaupre has challenged Dinant to a duel, Lamira pretends to love Dinant and persuades him to go to the opposite side of the city to defend her honor against an imaginary slanderer. Defending Dinant's courage when her brother and Verdoone question his valor, Lamira makes Champernell jealous, but she threatens to run away if her husband puts restrictions on her. When her maid Charlote announces that Lamira wears the breeches in the family, Lamira strikes her. Deciding that she herself must avenge Dinant's attempts to dishonor her, Lamira arranges an assignation with her former suitor, pretending she will sleep with him. Warning Dinant of the extreme danger should her husband awake, Lamira arranges for Cleremont to take her place in bed with Champernell. Lamira then makes a great deal of noise, orders music and wine, and delays her encounter with Dinant until she is able to expose his lust to the household. Champernell praises her for this plot, and they set off to their summerhouse with friends to celebrate Lamira's triumph. On their way, Lamira and others are kidnapped by ruffian gentlemen hired by Dinant who arranges an unsuccessful rescue attempt to show his devotion to Lamira. Imprisoned in a vault with Anabell, and tormented by threats of rape from the first gentleman, Lamira is forced to see her brother marched off bound and with a halter around his neck. After Dinant professes his love and reunites Lamira with her brother and the others who have been kidnapped, he asks for a moment alone with her, and threatens to rape her. Lamira confesses she was too hard on Dinant and deserves whatever abuse he can heap upon her. When she kneels and yields to him, Dinant suddenly announces he will become an ardent defender of Lamira's honor. Lamira is reunited with Champernell and assures him that no foul play occurred during her imprisonment.
The little French lawyer. La-writ is busy with clients when he accidentally stumbles onto Beaupre, Verdoone, and Cleremont as they await Dinant's arrival for the duel. Pressed into service as a duelist by Cleremont, La-writ discovers a taste for fighting. Using his law papers to defend his belly, La-writ defeats Beaupre and Verdoone, then meets Dinant. Cleremont prevents a duel between the two by explaining that La-writ saved Dinant's honor in the duel. La-writ's new devotion to fighting, in addition to prompting belligerent songs, causes him to dismiss his clients and challenge Vertaigne, a judge who has ruled against La-writ, to a duel. Vertaigne sends his nephew Sampson in his stead, and Cleremont tricks the men into stripping down to their shirts and handing over their swords. Abandoned and very cold, the two men beat each other to keep warm. Seeking shelter, they meet Champernell and Vertaigne, who assume the lawyers have been robbed by the same ruffians who kidnapped their friends. Champernell and La-writ exchange insults, and Champernell beats the lawyer, effecting his reform. La-writ returns to life as a lawyer and advises Sampson to go home and reform himself.
The musicians play in the woods to entice Champernell's party to stop and dance, at which point the party is kidnapped by the ruffian gentlemen.
A "ghost character." She is mentioned in the play's concluding lines in order to provide a partner for the reformed Dinant.
Lamira's Nurse witnesses Lamira's marriage to Champernell and Dinant's subsequent tirade against the couple. Lamira asks the Nurse to follow Beaupre when he goes off to challenge Dinant to a duel, and the Nurse tells Lamira of the upcoming fight. The Nurse also tricks Dinant into staying home from the duel by telling him Lamira wants to see him. She later encounters Cleremont and Dinant and asks Dinant to come with her for a secret meeting with Lamira which is part of Lamira's plot to exact her own revenge against Dinant. The Nurse, commenting on the amount of gold Dinant has given her, says she would not blame Lamira if she took him as a lover, a comment Lamira dismisses with disgust. As part of the false assignation at Lamira's house, the Nurse carries bedclothes and nightgowns across the stage. During the trip to the summerhouse, the Nurse leaves the group to find the source of the mysterious music and do some dancing; she is kidnapped along with the others. She twice expresses the hope that the kidnappers choose her to be raped, and later compares notes with Charlote about their sexual encounters with the Ruffian Gentlemen.
Alternative name for Lamira's Nurse.
Accompanies Champernell and Vertaigne as they return to the woods in search of the kidnapped party. The Provost insists that this group of Ruffians is unknown to him. Before he can obey Champernell and Vertaigne's request to search the woods, the kidnapped party enters.
Vertaigne's fiery nephew. Sampson is a lawyer who is eager to take La-Writ's client after the little French lawyer's conversion to a duelist. When La-writ challenges Vertaigne to a duel for having ruled against him, the judge sends Sampson in his place. When the two men meet for their duel, they are tricked by Cleremont into stripping down to their shirts and handing over their swords; abandoned by their seconds, they beat each other to stay warm and with many complaints about the cold weather, seek shelter. In the woods, they meet Champernell and Vertaigne, who have been released by the ruffians who kidnapped the rest of their party; the older men assume the lawyers have been robbed by the same gang. When Champernell beats La-writ to transform him back to a lawyer, Sampson leaves as ordered. La-writ later tells Sampson to mend his ways.
Two servants to Champernell who assist with Lamira's plot against Dinant and Cleremont by helping persuade Cleremont that Anabell was the sleeping Champernell. One of the servants accompanies the family on their trip to their summerhouse.
Champernell's nephew and Beaupre's friend and second. Verdoone attends Lamira's wedding and witnesses Dinant's public humiliation of the bride and groom. Verdoone delivers the challenge to Cleremont and arrives to serve as Beaupre's second at the duel with Dinant who has been tricked out of dueling by Lamira. Verdoone is disarmed by Dinant's substitute, La-writ, and later verifies Beaupre's account of the duel to Champernell. Verdoone witnesses Lamira's humiliation of Dinant, and is among those kidnapped on the way to the summerhouse as Dinant takes his revenge on her. With Beaupre, bound and with halters around their necks, Verdoone is paraded before Lamira and Anabell in the vault. He returns to the vault a free man after Dinant reveals the whole plot, and joins the other kidnap victims when they appear to Champernell and Vertaigne in the play's final moments.
A nobleman and judge, Vertaine arranges for the marriage of his daughter Lamira to Champernell, an elderly gentleman. At the wedding, Vertaigne witnesses Dinant's humiliation of the bride and groom. After La-writ becomes a fighter, the lawyer challenges Vertaigne to a duel because the judge has dismissed some of La-writ's cases. Vertaigne sends his nephew Sampson in his stead. Vertaigne is among those kidnapped in Dinant's elaborate revenge plot, but, after chastising the kidnappers, he, along with Champernell, is set free. When Sampson and La-writ encounter the two elderly men, Vertaigne is amused to see the lawyers' distressed condition. Vertaigne and Champernell summon the Provost and return with him to search the forest for the kidnap victims. He is delighted to be reunited with them when they return safely.