Philip Massinger,
The Maid of Honour

Performance Date: 1621; Q1: 1632

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Adorni, once a follower of Camiola's father, he now serves Camiola, whom he loves.


Antonio, a rich man who wishes to test his mettle against Gasparo in battle.


Astutio, a servant of Roberto.


Aurelia, Duchess of Sienna, she's in love with Bertoldo.


Bertoldo, Knight of Malta, bastard brother to Roberto, in love, initially with Camiola.


Camiola, the Maid of Honour, a rich and beautiful virgin, in love with Bertoldo.


Clarinda, Camiola's servant.


Drusio, a follower of Ferdinand.


Ferdinand, Duke of Urbin, he attacks Sienna in an effort to win the Duchess of that territory.


Fulgentio, Roberto's chief counselor, he wants to marry Camiola.


Gasparo, a rich man who wishes to test his mettle against Antonio in battle.


Gonzaga, Knight of Malta, in service to Aurelia.


Jacomo, a follower of Gonzaga.


I.i. Palermo. A state room in the palace. Adorni, the faithful follower of Camiola's now deceased father, asks whether the ambassador from the Duke of Urbin has arrived. He is soon introduced to Fulgentio, who is servant to Roberto, King of Sicily. Fulgentio treats Adorni with contempt. Adorni asks who this Ferdinand is, and is told that he is widely rich, and has 'some drops of the king's blood.' It is unclear whether he is a distant relation or a bastard of the King's, but in either case, he has the King's ear.

Bertoldo, the King's bastard brother, enters with two rich citizens, Antonio and Gasparo, and a servant. Bertoldo has the servant deliver a diamond to Camiola, with whom he is very much in love. His hope is that she returns his love, but he is unsure of his success.

While the diamond is being delivered, Bertoldo, who has served with the Knights of Malta, and the citizens discuss war. Bertoldo chides the citizens for thinking that war is the same as 'roaring in a tavern or a brothel.' The King enters, and hears an embassy from Urbin. The Duke has attacked neighboring Sienna in an effort to force a marriage with the Duchess of that state. Instead, Ferdinand himself has been taken captive. The King agrees to pay Ferdinand's ransom. Bertoldo then asks permission to attack Sienna, which he believes his father held some rights to; the King agrees as long as Bertoldo understands that he will be disowned if he is captured. The King, washing his hands of the affair, And leaves with Fulgentio.

I.II. A Room in Camiola's House. Camiola, the Maid of Honour, enters with her entourage, consisting of Sylli, a fool who thinks he is going to marry his mistress, and Clarinda, her servant. Sylli, who enters 'walking fantastically,' declares that he will not kiss her or sleep with his mistress until they are wed. Camiola good-naturedly says that she can wait that long. Clarinda announces that Bertoldo has come to visit. Sylli, jealous, says that he better hide because if he sees this rival there will be trouble. Bertoldo declares his love but the Maid rejects him, declaring that she is not noble enough for him. He disagrees, but she is obdurate and Bertoldo leaves crushed. It is clear, however, that Camiola is actually in love with him. She seems to have rejected him because he is a Knight of Malta, an order that is supposed to take a vow of chastity. Sylli, of course, takes her rejection of the noble and handsome knight as further proof of her devotion to him.

II.i. A room in the palace. The King enters, with Fulgentio and Astutio, angry that Bertoldo has left without formal permission. The King then hears that many citizens of Palermo have left with Bertoldo, swearing their loyalty to him. Taking this as a sign of rebellion, the King sends a letter to the Duchess of Sienna, apologizing for Ferdinand's attack, and further sends private message that if Bertoldo is taken captive, he is not to be released. As the scene ends, Fulgentio sends a Page to Camiola, telling her to prepare for his visit.

II.ii. A room in Camiola's house. Adorni and Clarinda discuss why Camiola is so depressed lately. They both agree it is because of Bertoldo's departure. Sylli believes it is because she is pining for him. The Page enters. Just a boy, he has to stand on Sylli's back to kiss Clarinda. Fulgentio enters, expecting everyone to be in awe of him, but he is mistaken. The Adorni returns Fulgentio's contempt in kind, and a fight is about to break out when Camiola enters. Fulgentio says that he has come to do her a favor: he will take her as his wife. Camiola declines, but not before giving him a dressing down, insulting his rank, his manners, his ill-gotten gains, and his personage. Fulgentio show her the King's ring, and says that the King has ordered her to marry him. She says that he probably stole the ring, 'I believe,/ Forgetting it when he washed his hands, you stole it,/ With an intent to awe me. But you are cozened;/ I am still myself, and will be.' Fulgentio leaves, swearing he will proclaim her a whore if she doesn't marry him. Sylli again takes this as proof that she is in love with him.

II.iii. A camp before the walls of Sienna. Gonzaga, Piero, Roderigo, Jacomo, and Soldier have just retaken the town of Sienna. They remind each other that they have to be kind to the citizens: 'we command/ With lenity.' But no sooner have they conquered than they espy troops from the King of Sicily, who had previously backed Ferdinand.

II.iv. The Citadel of Sienna. Ferdinand and his troops commiserate that things look bad. They have lost Sienna, and no reinforcements from Sicily have come. They then espy the very troops that Gonzaga saw. Thinking Roberto has sent reinforcements, they rally.

II.v. A Plain Near the Camp. Ferdinand's hopes are dashed; Sicily has switched sides and they are all now prisoners of Gonzaga and company. Bertoldo is also taken captive. Gonzaga, who is also a Knight of Malta, is outraged that Bertoldo has fought against Sienna, and promises that his punishment will be harsh, although he accepts that others may see it as 'willful cruelty.'

III.i. A camp before the walls of Sienna. Antonio and Gasparo have learned first hand that war is nothing like bawling. Says Antonio, 'I vow hereafter/ Never to wear a sword, or cut my meat/ With a knife that has an edge or point; I'll starve first.' The two are ransomed back to Sicily, but Astutio lets it be known that the King will not pay for Bertoldo, and since the King has seized all of Bertoldo's lands, Bertoldo cannot pay his own ransom. Desperate, Bertoldo turns to Astutio, reminding him that Bertoldo once saved his life, but Astutio declines to help him. Fettered in chains, Bertoldo seems doomed. III.ii. Palermo. A Grove near the palace. As promised Fulgentio has slandered Camiola and Adorni has challenged him to a duel. They both seek a private place to settle their quarrel. III.iii. A room in Camiola's house. It is Camiola's birthday, and various relations and friends have sent jewels and other valuables as gifts. Adorni enters bleeding, and explains that he has defended her honour in a duel with Fulgentio. 'Couldst thou suppose/ My innocence could ever fall so low/ As to have need of thy rash sword to guard it[?] ' Adorni, who had hoped to win her heart by this deed, is chastised.

Antonio and Gasparo enter, and Camiola inquires after Bertoldo. She is told that Bertoldo is imprisoned in Sienna, with little hope of rescue. The King has refused to pay his ransom and has passed a law forbidding his subjects to do the same. Camiola decides that she must help him, and orders Adorni to go to Sienna and pay his ransom, on condition that Bertoldo marry her. Adorni agrees, although he feels misused; 'Was there ever/ Poor lover used against himself/ To make way for a rival?'

IV.i. Gonzaga discusses with his troops how easy it was to retake Sienna. He is worried his soldiers will rape all the women. But he is told the women are eager enough, since everyone was so hungry that 'there was not/ So coy a beauty in the town but would,/For half a mouldly biscuit, sell herself.' From the camp the shout of "whores! whores!' is heard. It is unclear whether the soldiers are shouting because they are already raping the women, or merely looking forward to the act.

IV.ii. Another part of the camp. The Duchess of Sienna returns to take control of the city. Gonzaga pleads that his soldiers not be punished. The Duchess agrees, 'I've heard my father say oft, 'twas a custom/ Usual in the camp, nor are they to be punished.'

IV.iii. The prison in Sienna. Bertoldo is chained to a wall, but somehow has gotten hold of a book of Senecan essays. He rejects Seneca's philosophy, reflecting that when Seneca was arrested, he pleaded like a baby. Why shouldn't he be equally anguished? Adorni comes in with the ransom and explains that he will have to marry Camiola. Bertoldo is overjoyed, and signs a paper sealing the promise; he was in love with her anyway. Adorni is glad to have served Bertoldo, but disappointed that his dream of marrying Camiola is now at an end.

IV.iv. A state room in the palace. The Duchess of Sienna forgives Ferdinand for attacking her territories; Ferdinand explains that he did so out of love. Bertoldo enters, now freshened and in splendid new clothes. The Duchess falls in love with him immediately. Although Camiola has paid his ransom, the Duchess refuses the money, preferring instead to keep Bertoldo her guest. Gonzaga thinks her behavior is indiscrete; 'you are,/ A 'twere, a wanton Helen.' The Duchess openly declares her love for Bertoldo, and Bertoldo vacillates between keeping his promise to Camiola and marrying the Duchess of Sienna. Bertoldo tells her he'd be happy to marry her, but is fearful the alliance would displease his brother, the King of Sicily. The Duchess orders her ship be made ready. She will personally sail to Sicily and broker a deal with Roberto, Bertoldo's brother. Adorni is thrilled, and hastens back to tell Camiola of Bertoldo's unfaithful conduct.

IV.v. Palermo. Camiola's house. Sylli believes that his luck is coming to a close. The King himself is arriving and he is sure the King has designs on Camiola. The King enters with Fulgentio and wants to know why she has disobeyed his order for her to marry his favorite. Camiola explains the brutal and offish behavior of Fulgentio, and that she could not conceive that the King, who is honorable, would force her into a marriage she does not look for. The King agrees and chastises Fulgentio.

V.i. . Palermo. Camiola's house. Now alone, Camiola indulges the delusions of Sylli by noting the care with which she has dismissed all eligible bachelors. Adorni enters with word that Bertoldo has returned but that the Duchess of Sienna accompanies him. Camiola suspects that Bertoldo has broken his promise. She orders Adorni to get the Priest and to meet her before the King. Sylli thinks that Camiola is finally going to marry him.

V.ii. A state room in the palace. The Duchess has brokered a deal with the King, and the three enter as fast friends. Fulgentio enters, still begging Camiola for her hand, she says he must first take care of her own business before dealing with him. Confronting Bertoldo, she demands to know why he has broken his promised word. The Duchess dismisses the legal document as being signed under duress, and the King says that a match between Bertoldo and Camiola, rich though she is, is unsuitable. Camiola accuses them both of hypocrisy. She points out that rather than duress, she was the only one willing to help Bertoldo, and that the King, who now holds Bertoldo so dear, had recently confiscated his land and left him to rot in prison. In a gratuitous remark, she also points out that she's better looking than the Duchess of Sienna. After hearing how Bertoldo has broken his vow to Camiola, the Duchess releases him. She no longer loves him. Bertoldo is repentant and will now marry Camiola. But Camiola says she has other plans. Sylli excitedly thinks his moment has arrived. But, calling in the Priest, Camiola instead takes holy vows, and then asks Bertoldo to renew his vow to return to the Knights of Malta, and fight the Turks. The play closes with the King praising her virtue.


Roberto, King of Sicily, his half-brother is Bertoldo.

Ferdinand, Duke of Urbin, he attacks Sienna in an effort to win the Duchess of that territory.

Bertoldo, Knight of Malta, bastard brother to Roberto, in love, initially with Camiola.

Gonzaga, Knight of Malta, in service to Aurelia.

Astutio, a servant of Roberto.

Fulgentio, Roberto's chief counselor, he wants to marry Camiola.

Adorni, once a follower of Camiola's father, he now serves Camiola, whom he loves.

Sylli, a fool who is in love with Camiola.

Gasparo and Antonio, rich men who wish to test their mettle in battle.

Piero, Roderigo, Jacomo, followers of Gonzaga.

Drusio, Livio, followers of Ferdinand.

Aurelia, Duchess of Sienna, she's in love with Bertoldo.

Camiola, the Maid of Honour, a rich and beautiful virgin, in love with Bertoldo.

Clarinda, Camiola's servant.

Father Paulo, a Priest.

Ambassador, Bishop, Page.

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Plays to be compared:

JACOBEAN TRAGEDIES in general (for a comparison of this play to the genre);

I.i. Bertoldo's exchange on war echoes the Constable's upbraiding of the Dauphin in Shakespeare's Henry V. Massinger's borrowing from Henry V is both interesting and pernicious. Gonzaga's belief that lenity is important in sustaining military victory (II.iii) is almost a direct quote from Henry V's warning to his troops not to upbraid the French.

I.i. Bertoldo's examples to the King for attacking Sienna consist mainly of how England, 'empress of the European isles,' has gained renowned by attacking her foes. Although Henry V might again be the source, the passage seems to bear equal affinities to Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, wherein Hieronimo's first royal entertainment consists of examples of English victories over both Spain and Portugal.

I.ii. Superficially, Sylli matches Twelfth Night's Malvolio. But this character is far more silly and superficial. No one, except perhaps himself believes he will actually marry her. How the notion entered his head is never explained.

IV.i. In Pericles' travels, he lands at Tharsus, similarly plagued by famine. The same play investigates the need for men and women to do unsavory sexual favors as a means of survival.

V.i. Sylli quotes both the song from Othello, ('Willow, Willow') and a favorite phrase from Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy ("Go by").

V.ii. The Priest's approval of Camiola's taking of holy vows has some affinities to Lucio's remarks concerning Isabella in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure

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