John Fletcher
[Thomas Middleton, reviser?]
THE NICE VALOUR, or
THE PASSIONATE MAD-MAN

circa 1615–1625

a synoptic, alphabetical character list

BASE

A court jester, Base sings a long duet with the Passionate Lord when the lord is in his merry fit. When the Souldier stabs the Passionate Lord, Base is the first to cry murder.

BROTHER, FIRST

One of two brothers of the visibly pregnant Lady that disguises herself as Cupid. The First Brother schemes to unite his sister and her child's father, the Passionate Lord; assists with Cupid's masques; and attempts to find a more suitable position for the professional masochist Lapet and a gentler master for the badly beaten Clown Galoshio.

BROTHER, SECOND

The second of two brothers of the visibly pregnant Lady that disguises herself as Cupid. The Second Brother assists in the scheme to unite his sister with her child's father, the Passionate Lord; takes part in Cupid's masques; and helps in the effort to find a more suitable position for the professional masochist Lapet and a gentler master for the badly beaten Clown Galoshio.

CLOWNE

Eventually identified as Galoshio, the Clowne is the servant first of the Passionate Lord and then of the professional masochist Lapet. During the Lord's angry fit, he beats the Clowne severely; later, the Clowne and Lapet compare notes on the blows they have borne. The Clowne serves as a go-between when Lapet sends his table and book on beatings to the printer, and assists with the proofreading.

CUPID

Disguise adopted by the Passionate Lord's lover, a noble gentlewoman. Visibly pregnant, the lady personates "the Figure of Cupid" in two masques performed for the Passionate Lord in an effort to cure him of his excessive humors, and visits him alone, as Cupid, when he is in his melancholy fit. In the first masque, Cupid appears with six women masquers and a priest. In the second, she and her masquers perform a dance based on Lapet's book and table about beatings, adopting the postures depicted in the table's illustrations. At the end of this second masque, Cupid witnesses what she believes is the Passionate Lord's murder by the Souldier. The Passionate Lord survives his wounds, however, and marries this Lady playing Cupid.

DUCHESS OF VALOIS

A "ghost character." During the first of Cupid's masques, the Passionate Lord asks Cupid to pursue the Duchess and two of her ladies on his behalf.

DUKE

The Duke of Genoa is a just and compassionate ruler who tolerates his cousin the Passionate Lord's extreme humors. The Duke's favorite, Shamont, the man of nice valor, considers himself insulted beyond redress when the Duke "[g]ives him a touch with his switch" to get Shamont's attention. After Shamont leaves the court, the Duke makes careful efforts to persuade him to return, going as far as to pardon Shamont's brother the Souldier who the Duke believes has killed his cousin the Passionate Lord. The Duke finds Shamont's nicety wearing, however, and, disgusted by over-courtly behavior, asks La Nove, a court Gentleman, to find him a new set of servants; among those La Nove hires is Lapet, the professional masochist, who is immediately dismissed by the Duke. The Duke's sister is courted by Shamont, and at the play's conclusion the Duke consents to their marriage.

DUKE'S SISTER

Also called the Lady, the Duke's sister is courted by her brother's favorite, Shamont, the man of nice valor. She is courted unsuccessfully by Shamont's brother, the Souldier, a scene Shamont overhears and by which he is enraged. The Passionate Lord enters during the Souldier's courtship of the Duke's Sister and, in his love fit, begins imitating the Souldier; in retaliation for this insult, the Souldier later stabs the Passionate Lord. The Duke's Sister petitions her brother to pardon the Souldier; the Duke refuses her request although he later agrees to the pardon in an attempt to persuade Shamont to return to court. Although Shamont is easily insulted and is enraged by the least offense to his honor, the Duke's Sister remains faithful to him, and the couple finally obtains her brother's consent to their marriage.

FIRST GENTLEMAN

Alternative name for the courtier La Nove.

FOOLS, FOUR

Four fools take part in a masque in which they enact the twinge, sowse, douse, justle, knee belly, kicksee buttock, and down derry illustrated in Lapet's book on beatings.

GALLANT

Appears briefly when La Nove, the First Gentleman, is searching for replacement servants for the Duke of Genoa who, outraged by the excessive nicety of Shamont, has dismissed his retinue. The Gallant's cowardly response to a box on the ear from La Nove is juxtaposed with the bravery the Plain Fellow exhibits in response to a similar insult.

GALOSHIO

The given name of the frequently beaten Clowne. The name is apt because, as the professional masochist Lapet observes, "he will be trod upon."

GENTLEMAN 2

One of the duke's attendants, the second gentleman supplies the initial complimentary description of the overly-nice courtier Shamont. After Shamont's behavior makes the Duke wary of curiosity and precision in matters of honor, the second gentleman is dismissed from the Duke's service.

GENTLEMAN 3

The least talkative of the Duke's four gentleman attendants, the third gentleman is dismissed after the Duke tires of Shamont's obsessive commitment to honor and decides to replace his retinue with "[m]en more insensible of reputation."

GENTLEMAN 4

One of the Duke's attendants, the fourth gentleman provides an uncomplimentary description of Shamont, the man of nice valor. The fourth gentleman is dismissed from the Duke's service when the Duke decides to rid himself of courtiers who are too particular about matters of honor.

HUNTSMAN

Employed by the Duke, the huntsman appears shortly after Shamont has left the stage in a rage over the affront to his honor the Duke has inadvertently committed. The huntsman's announcement that the hunting is at its peak irritates the Duke who must defer his pleasures until he can find a way to assuage Shamont's anger.

LADY

Alternative name for both the Duke's sister and for the gentlewoman who disguises herself as Cupid, neither of whom are given any other name.

LA NOVE

Initially identified as the First Gentleman, La Nove is a savvy and well-meaning servant to the Duke of Genoa and functions as a chorus, explaining the roles of Shamont and the Passionate Lord. La Nove attempts to find new servants for the Duke when, tired of the excessive courtesy of his collection of Gentlemen, the Duke dismisses them all.

LAPET

A decayed gentleman who has purchased rather than earned his coat of arms, Lapet makes his living by allowing himself to be beaten by, among others, the Passionate Gentleman. Lapet has a Falstaff-like soliloquy on "What honor a man loses by a kicke" and he and the much-abused Clowne Galoshio, compare notes on the beatings they have endured. Lapet later writes a book and table on the topic of receiving blows, and he and the Clowne examine the printer's proofs of it. The book and table are later turned into a masque danced by Lapet, the Clowne Galoshio, the Lady disguised as Cupid, and four fools. When the Duke dismisses his retinue, La Nove recommends Lapet as a new attendant. After the Duke decides Lapet is too base to be his servant, Lapet ruefully resumes his place as a gentleman.

LAPET'S WIFE

Married to a decayed gentleman, Lapet's Wife accidentally overhears Shamont's complaints about her husband's lack of honor; she then expresses her dismay that Shamont has not attempted to kiss her. Lapet later complains that his wife's social ambitions are behind the Duke's decision that Lapet is too base to be a servant and therefore must return to life as a gentleman.

MASQUERS, SIX WOMEN

Six women masquers take part in a masque devised by the Passionate Lord's lover, the pregnant lady disguised as Cupid. The first masquer enters "singing and playing."

MOULBAZON

One of the "new Court Officers" hired to replace the overly-nice gentlemen dismissed by the Duke, Moulbazon is presented with a copy of Lapet's book on beatings.

PASSIONATE LORD

A cousin of the Duke, the Passionate Lord is ruled sequentially by Love, Melancholy, Fury, and Mirth. In each case, his friends indulge the humor in an effort to free him from its control, but the Passionate Lord is not cured until he is nearly killed by Shamont. In his love fit, the Passionate Lord courts La Nove, believing him to be a woman, imitates the Souldier who is attempting to court the Duke's sister, and then takes part in a masque prepared by his pregnant lover, a lady who disguises herself as Cupid. In his melancholy fit, the Passionate Lord sings "Hence all you vaine Delights" while his lover, still disguised as Cupid, attempts to comfort him. In his angry fit, the Passionate Lord beats Lapet who pretends to die to escape the Passionate Lord's fury. In his merry fit, the Passionate Lord sings a long, laughter-filled duet with Base the jester. At the end of the song, the Souldier enters and, enraged by the Passionate Lord's earlier imitation of his lovemaking, stabs the Lord and beats Lapet and the Clowne Galoshio. The Passionate Lord is believed to be dead, and efforts are made by the Duke's sister and by Shamont to secure a pardon for the Souldier. When the Passionate Lord reappears, he asks for pardon for the trouble he has caused and announces he will marry his pregnant lover who is still wearing her Cupid disguise.

PLAIN FELLOW

When La Nove goes in search of new attendants for the Duke, he tests the Plain Fellow by jostling him. The Plain Fellow responds valiantly in contrast to the cowardly behavior of the Gallant under similar circumstances.

POLTROT

One of the "new Court Officers" hired to replace the overly-nice gentlemen dismissed by the Duke, Poltrot is presented with a copy of Lapet's book on beatings.

PRIEST

Appears in the masque devised by the Passionate Lord's lover, the pregnant lady disguised as Cupid. The masque is presented when the Passionate Lord is in his love fit, and the priest is brought along in the hope that the masque will prompt the Passionate Lord to marry his lover.

SHAMONT

Favorite of the Duke, Shamont is the man of nice valor who leaves no insult unrevenged. Court opinion is divided about the sincerity of his commitment to honor, although most think it sincere. Shamont is inadvertently insulted by the following:
  • Lapet, whose failure to answer the blows he is given strikes Shamont as base;
  • the Passionate Lord, whose lack of self-control irritates Shamont;
  • the Souldier, his brother, who does not realize the lady he is attempting to court, the Duke's sister, is Shamont's lover and with whom Shamont nearly fights a duel; and
  • the Duke, who touches Shamont with his switch to get the courtier's attention.
The latter offense provokes a strong reaction in Shamont who, unable to seek redress for the perceived insult, leaves the court to the dismay of his Lady, the Duke's sister. Shamont is forced to return to court to ask the Duke to pardon his brother the Souldier after the Souldier is arrested for apparently murdering the Passionate Lord. After turning away several times, Shamont finally brings himself to ask the Duke for the pardon, which the Duke grants in an effort to satisfy Shamont's wounded honor. The pardon, however, is unnecessary because the Passionate Lord unexpectedly survives his injuries. Reconciled with his favorite, the Duke approves of the marriage between his sister and Shamont.

SOULDIER

Brother of Shamont, the man of nice valor, the Souldier provides a contrasting portrait of honorable behavior. After insulting his brother by inadvertently courting Shamont's lover, the Duke's sister, the Souldier is himself insulted by the Passionate Lord's imitation of the Souldier's wooing. Taking seriously the Passionate Lord's challenge, issued while the latter is in his love fit, the Souldier plots vengeance. Meanwhile, Shamont challenges him to a fight, but they are interrupted by the arrival of the Duke. After Lapet's masque, in which dancers interpret the blows illustrated in Lapet's book and table, the Souldier enters and stabs the Passionate Lord, who appears to die. Shamont is forced to return from his self-imposed exile to ask the Duke to pardon his brother. The Duke grants the pardon to satisfy Shamont's insulted honor, and orders the Souldier to be released from prison. The release has already happened, however, because the Passionate Lord recovered from his wounds. The repentant Souldier begs the Duke for his favor, which the Duke grants.