(and John Webster?)
ANYTHING FOR A QUIET LIFE
circa 1620circa 1621
Anything for a Quiet Life was printed in quarto in 1662. Topical allusions date the composition at 1621 or shortly thereafter. As the title page indicates, the play was attributed solely to Middleton, but Webster has lately been argued to be a co-author.
a synoptic, alphabetical character list
A "ghost character." Upon Franklin's alleged death, Old Franklin decides to pay his son's debts and asks George to identify Franklin's creditors for him. George reads a list that supposedly contains the names of all the known creditors. When George reads the name of Master Weatherwise, the tailor by St. Clement's Church, Cressingham suggests he might be that new prophet, the astrological tailor. The reference is to a Puritan tailor named Ball, who prophesied and wagered that James would be crowned on the Pope's throne.
Lord Beaufort is a friend of Sir Francis Cressingham. Beaufort is appalled that Sir Francis, having become a widower only a month before, has committed the indiscretion of marrying a fifteen-year-old lady educated at court. Beaufort asks Chamlet about the news in Cheapside, admiring Chamlet's expertise at the stock exchange and his wife's elegance. Before the start of the play, Beaufort promised Franklin to rig him a ship to sail for the East Indies. Beaufort explains that a recent purchase has prevented him from keeping his promise and offers Franklin a position as his gentleman companion instead. Franklin accepts. Later, Beaufort wants to seduce the lawyer Knavesbee's wife, Sib, and asks Knavesbee to play the pander for him. Knavesbee obliges and Beaufort is introduced to Sib and left alone with her. He confesses his admiration for her and makes a midnight assignation at his house. However, when Beaufort learns that Sib has fallen in love with the page Selenger, he goes to vent his frustration on Knavesbee. When later Chamlet announces that he intends to retire and have a quiet life on a peaceful island, Beaufort tries to change his mind. When Rachel enters, fearing her husband Chamlet has left her, Beaufort tells her that her sharp tongue is the cause of her problems. Beaufort encourages Rachel to go home and persuades Chamlet to give up his intended voyage to the Bermudas. Sweetball and Knavesbee ask Beaufort to mediate in their conflict over which of them should kill the other first. Sib next enters with Mistress Cressingham (no longer disguised as Selenger but rather dressed as a woman). At the sight of a repentant Lady Cressingham, Beaufort (who has recognized his page) benevolently announces that they should all be joyful publicly for the restoration of Sir Francis's fortune. Beaufort has the final word, before the Epilogue. He tells everyone that such happy reunions deserve a public show, and he promises to pay for the feast.
Master Body is a fictional character. When George reads the fabricated guest list for the dinner invitation at Chamlet's house, presumably to celebrate Chamlet's marriage, Master Body and his wife are among the guests.
A "ghost character." The Captain is Sib's dead father. When Knavesbee describes his past marital transgressions to his wife, he makes a parallel with a captain's wages, reminding Sib she should know about it since her father was a captain. Just as the soldiers continue to receive payments although they are no longer in active service, Knavesbee admits to having continued his extra-marital affairs long after he was married to Sib.
A fictional character. When Old Franklin decides to pay all the debts of his allegedly dead son, he asks George to identify Franklin's creditors for him. George reads a list, which contains the name of one Pinchbuttock, a hosier, to whom Franklin is supposed to owe fourscore pairs of breeches. When Old Franklin asks why his son needed so many pairs of breeches, George explains Franklin supplied a Captain, a friend of his, who went over to war to the Palatinate. George refers to the campaign of July 1620, when Sir Horace de Vere left England with volunteers to defend the region in Germany, West of Rhine, against the Spanish forces.
Master Water Chamlet is a merchant in London, the owner of a cloth shop, "The Lamb" in Lombard Street. "Chamlet" is the name originally applied to some beautiful and costly eastern fabric. Chamlet says he is the cousin of the late Lady Cressingham, and therefore entitled to raise her children, Edward and Maria. His support of the children raises suspicion in Rachel, his wife. At Sir Francis's house, Chamlet reminds Sir Francis that he owes him money for the wedding expenses, besides the sustenance of his two children, Maria and Edward. Chamlet's philosophy of life is to "do anything for a quiet life." In his shop, Chamlet bears patiently Rachel's admonitions regarding the children and sees her leave in a rage. Hoping that George might be able to placate Rachel's temper, Chamlet promises him a new suit and sends him to Knavesbee's house to fetch his wife. Later Franklin comes into his shop disguised as "Sir Andrew," accompanied by George Cressingham disguised as his tailor, and Chamlet inflates the prices and makes the gentleman buy expensive cloth of gold. The imposters play a trick on Chamlet's apprentice Ralph and steal off with the expensive cloth. Outside the tavern "Man in the Moon", Ralph reveals to Chamlet that Franklin is the trickster who pretended to be "Sir Andrew" and cheated him of the golden cloth. Franklin thinks quickly however, speaks French, and pretends to be a French gentleman. Chamlet is gulled once more, and Franklin escapes him. Twice cheated without knowing it, Chamlet learns that Rachel is suing him for divorce, accusing him of having two illegitimate children. He sends George to conduct Sir Francis's children back to their father and to try to persuade his wife to come home. Unaware that George had devised a scheme of fooling Rachel into coming home by informing her that her husband is presently to marry a French woman, Chamlet receives Margarita in his shop and gives her money for her help as interpreter with the "French gentleman" (who was really Franklin). Rachel enters and, thinking that Margarita is Chamlet's intended bride, attacks her and makes her leave the shop. George's trick is soon discovered. It was his idea to pass the rumor of Chamlet's supposed marriage. Considering that George's ruse was for a good purpose, Chamlet proposes a second marriage to Rachel, promising her new clothes and a new suit for George. Rachel does not forgive George, however, and dismisses him as apprentice. Outside Beaufort's house, Chamlet takes his leave of his friends, announcing he intends to leave for the Bermudas for a quiet life. Hearing that Old Franklin is willing to pay for the cloth of gold, now that Franklin has apparently died, Chamlet decides not to leave after all. When Rachel arrives, George plays an echo game upon her. Chamlet overhears how his wife is persuaded to take George back into his apprenticeship and also that she intends to let her husband Chamlet have a quiet life. When George enters with a much-subdued Rachel, Chamlet is very happy.
Master Cheyney is Franklin's third creditor, a non-speaking character. When Old Franklin decides to pay all of his son's debts, he comes accompanied by three creditors, whom Chamlet identifies by name. Master Cheyney does not speak but Chamlet names him and shakes hands with him.
Counterbuff is a yeoman in London. The name suggests a blow in the contrary direction, or a blow given in return. Outside the tavern "Man in the Moon", the barber Sweetball tells Fleshhook and Counterbuff to arrest Franklin for having cheated Chamlet and made a fool of the Barber. When Franklin pretends to be a French gentleman, Counterbuff and Fleshhook innocently assist in Franklin cheating Chamlet, Sweetball, and Ralph once more. Seeing that they have been on a fool's errand, because Chamlet and the Barber seem to have accused the wrong person, Counterbuff demands better reward for his and Fleshhook's efforts.
A fictional character. Since Lady Cressingham wants her stepson to become independent of his father's allowance, she has Saunder suggest that George Cressingham should take up the profession of a lawyer or divine. Saunder, trying to impress upon George Cressingham that his mistress wants to do good works with her wealth, reports that Lady Cressingham spoke of a Countess born in Northamptonshire who rode through the city naked in order to have Coventry made a corporation. Lady Cressingham's allusion might refer to the legendary tale of Lady Godiva, wife of Leofric, in the time of Edward the Confessor. When her husband imposed tax on the people of Coventry, the lady demanded to remit them. The earl promised to do so only if she rode through the streets naked at noon. She complied, asking the people of Coventry to stay inside and close their windows. It seems that this tale has been fused with a more recent event involving Coventry's incorporation.
A "ghost character." When Old Franklin asks George about Rachel's parents, the apprentice says she is the daughter of a courtier and an officer. The inference is that Rachel's past, like Lady Cressingham's, was connected with the fickle life at court. The specifics George provides about Rachel's father, his being often in and out of favor, seem to indicate this is an allusion to a particular member of the court.
George Cressingham is Sir Francis's son from a previous marriage. Being always penniless and in debt, Cressingham is inclined to play tricks on people. Ultimately he is revealed as a reformed and benevolent son. Cressingham confesses his plans to go to the Low Countries to serve in the army, but Franklin advises Cressingham against going to Holland and proposes a ruse that would gain them money from the gullible Chamlet. Disguised as "Gascoyn," a tailor to "Sir Andrew" (who is Franklin in disguise), Cressingham goes to Chamlet's shop and pretends to persuade the extravagant "Sir Andrew" to buy expensive materials. In front of the barber Sweetball's house, Cressingham as "Gascoyn" pretends to take the cloth to "Sir Andrew's" fictitious wife. The tricksters thereby take Chamlet's golden cloth without paying for it. Cressingham comes to Sir Francis's house thinking that Sir Francis intends to reprimand him for cheating Chamlet, but instead his father wants him to cosign a paper for the sale of the family's land. He attempts to dissuade his father from it, but he relents and signs the papers on condition that at least some of the money be used for Maria and Edward's education. He admits to Old Franklin, Cressingham that he has cheated Chamlet. Old Franklin is persuaded to buy Sir Francis's lands. Seeing that Sir Francis's new wife has reduced him to a state of financial misery, Cressingham reprimands Lady Cressingham for her inhuman treatment of his father and his young brother and sister, Edward and Maria. It has all been a series of ruses, however, and Cressingham has in fact been hoarding the money that Sir Francis thinks that he has lost. In the final reconciliation scene, Cressingham reveals that he was behind the restoration of Sir Francis's fortune and wants his father to be happy. He recognizes Mistress Cressingham as his wife, forced to have acted in disguise as Selenger, Beaufort's page, George Cressingham enjoys final contentment.
DUKE of FLORENCE
A "ghost character." Franklin reports that, after an unfortunate expedition to Guyana, he entered the service of the Duke of Florence, who sent him against the Turk.
Edward is a child of Sir Francis Cressingham and supported by Water Chamlet. According to Sir Francis, it was his new wife's suggestion to have his two children reared elsewhere. At Chamlet's shop, Edward and Maria overhear Rachel expressing her suspicions that the two children are Chamlet's bastards. When Edward inquires whether the allegation is true, Chamlet responds that his wife actually referred to his two apprentices, Ralph and George, as his bastards. Edward and his sister affirm that they would not be a cause of discord in Chamlet's house. When Rachel threatens to leave her husband and get a divorce because of the two children's presence in the house, George is charged with taking Maria and Edward to their father. At Sir Francis's house, Edward complains that Rachel was an angry woman, who deprived them of their food and was perpetually irritated. Edward hopes that their new mother, Lady Cressingham, is a good soul. Reminiscing on his dead mother, the former Lady Cressingham, Edward tells his father she used to call him mother's pet. Telling his father that he loves him as well as his dead mother did, Edward exits with Maria and George to have some sweets, at Lady Cressingham's invitation. In his situation of poverty, when he thought his wife had deprived him of all his money, Sir Francis reports that Edward and Maria were sent as apprentices. In the final scene of Lady Cressingham's repentance and profession of obedience to her husband, Edward and Maria enter with their stepmother. The children are dressed elegantly as a sign of their newfound prosperity.
The Epilogue enters to receive the audience's judgment. Either the acting team has met their favor, or they must strike their sails towards the audience's dislike. On behalf of his fellow-actors, the Epilogue is at liberty to ask the audience to show them where they were at fault, because they will take every possible step to improve the performance.
A fictional character. When Franklin is cornered and about to be arrested for having cheated Chamlet and the Barber, he pretends to be a French gentleman. He manages to secure the help of the French bawd, Margarita, who pretends she knows this "French gentleman" from Lyon. When Chamlet asks for more details, Margarita says she knows that the French gentleman's father is a fishmonger.
Fleshhook is a sergeant in London. The flesh-hook is used to remove the meat from a pot and the name suggests a necessary and useful, if forceful, service. Outside the tavern "Man in the Moon" in Cheapside, Sweetball tells Fleshhook and Counterbuff to catch Franklin and punish him for having been a cheat. When Franklin pretends to be a "French gentleman," Fleshhook unknowingly assists in another scene of chicanery. Seeing that their services as law-enforcement officers are no longer needed, Fleshhook and Counterbuff exit, followed by Chamlet, Sweetball, and Ralph.
Franklin is a sea captain, son to Old Franklin and companion to George Cressingham. At Sir Francis's house, Franklin reminds Lord Beaufort of his promise to rig out a ship for him to the East Indies. Franklin had an unfortunate experience in Guyana and was in the service of the Duke of Florence, who sent him against the Turk. Franklin has now been in London for two months, and he tells Beaufort that he has many expenses and needs the money. When Lord Beaufort offers him a position as gentleman's companion, Franklin readily accepts. He is a bit of a rascal and suggests to George Cressingham a plan to trick the gullible Water Chamlet. At Chamlet's shop in Lombard Street, Franklin pretends to be a gentleman, "Sir Andrew," who comes accompanied by his tailor, "Gascoyn" (Cressingham in disguise). As "Sir Andrew," Franklin selects a lot of cloth of gold and silver, pretending to buy it with the money borrowed from his "cousin," the barber Sweetball. In fact, Franklin had told the Barber that Ralph had a rash on his penis and needed his surgical services. Outside Sweetball's house, "Sir Andrew" takes possession of the cloth of gold without paying for it while Ralph is whisked inside for the operation (all the time thinking he is going in for the money). Later, when Franklin comes out of the tavern "Man in the Moon" in Cheapside, Fleshhook and Counterbuff try to arrest him, at the Barber's complaint, sustained by Chamlet. Franklin, thinking quickly, pretends to be a poor "French gentleman" and manages to trick his accusers. In this ploy Franklin manages to secure the help of Margarita, the French bawd, who vouches the man is a French gentleman from Lyons. To further escape his creditors, Franklin stages his own death. After the report of his alleged death, Franklin appears in disguise as an old man, accompanying his father, Old Franklin, who goes in the search of Franklin's creditors. Pretending to wish to clear his son's name "post mortem", Old Franklin pays Franklin's debts fifty to the hundred, and only when the debts have been discharged does he finally reveal Franklin's disguise. Franklin is then presented as a newly-born individual, purged through suffering. Franklin promises the Barber to return his much-missed new brush, and all proclaim themselves satisfied.
A disguise adopted by Franklin to escape arrest. As a "French gentleman," Franklin secures the help of Margarita the bawd. Together they succeed in duping Chamlet and Sweetball as well as the arresting officers Fleshhook and Counterbuff into believing that Franklin really is a French gentleman from Lyons, who just happens to look very much like the cheater Franklin.
A fictional character. George's plan to have Rachel come back to her husband Chamlet consists of indirectly revealing that her husband is getting married. The intended bride, of course, is only a fiction. According to George's description, Chamlet's intended bride is wearing a "French hood," a headdress worn by women when they were punished for indecency, and "French Hood" becomes the woman's name through metonymy. When Rachel sees Margarita in Chamlet's shop, she thinks the French bawd is the "French Hood" supposed to marry her husband. She kicks the strumpet out of the shop.
Gascoyn is the disguise name adopted by George Cressingham when he comes to Chamlet's shop disguised as a gentleman's tailor. He is accompanied by Franklin disguised as "Sir Andrew," a gentleman. As "Gascoyn," George Cressingham pretends to advise "Sir Andrew" on the purchase of expensive silk. In an aside to Ralph, "Gascoyn" says he knows about the commission given to the tailor if he advises the gentleman to buy expensive materials. In an aside to Chamlet, "Gascoyn" suggests that the estimate for the cloth is not high enough, which encourages Chamlet to inflate the price. Pretending to have secured the acceptance of a loan from the Barber, "Gascoyn" returns with word of approval and exits with Ralph and "Sir Andrew" to collect the money for the cloth. In front of Sweetball's house, Franklin as "Sir Andrew" sends "Gascoyn" to show the stuff to his fictional "wife," thus managing to gain possession of the gold cloth without paying for it.
George is Water Chamlet's apprentice. In Chamlet's shop, Chamlet confides in George regarding his personal life. When his master promises him a new suit if he manages to bring his wife back from Knavesbee's house, George exits to placate Rachel's temper and bring her home. Returning with an answer from Rachel, George tells Chamlet that his wife wants a divorce, accusing him of rearing his illegitimate children, Edward and Maria, under her own roof. Chamlet sends George to return the two children to their father, Sir Francis Cressingham. George strikes upon a trick to lure his mistress home to his master. Before Knavesbee's house, George enters carrying a roll of papers and pretending to read a list of names in Latin. He tells Knavesbee that he and his wife are invited to Chamlet's house. They are to help celebrate the merchant's marriage to a woman in a French hood. Rachel overhears and is fooled. She hurries to her husband's shop to prevent the marriage. The trick works, but when George's scheme is discovered, Rachel confronts him. George admits to having lied in order to obtain the promised new suit. Rachel seems to be appeased when her husband proposes a new marriage to her, but we learn through Chamlet that she dismissed George after all. Before Sir Francis's house, George shows Old Franklin the marks of Rachel's beating, inflicted as a punishment for his lies. Reading the list of young Franklin's creditors, George tells Old Franklin where each creditor lives in London. Returning later in the company of the creditors and Old Franklin, George takes his leave of Chamlet, who announces his intention now to go to the Bermudas. Rachel approaches boisterously, and George hides behind the arras and plays an echo game with her. Thus, he makes Rachel realize that she is too loud and assertive. Finally, Rachel becomes obedient and submissive and agrees to any condition George imposes on her. He regains his apprenticeship and wins his master the quiet life he desires.
Doctor Glister is a fictional character. When George reads the fabricated guest list for the dinner invitation at Chamlet's house, presumably to celebrate Chamlet's marriage, Doctor Glister and his wife are among the guests. The name is a stock joke name because glister refers to an enema.
Knavesbee is a lawyer and a pander to his wife, Sib. Knavesbee reminds Beaufort that they were students at Cambridge together, and at his house, Knavesbee tries to persuade Sib to have an affair wit Beaufort. He proposes a confession-trick: each should confess the other their amorous transgressions and be pardoned. Knavesbee starts first, telling his wife he cheated on her with a laundress and a she-chamberlain. While Sib admits to having been admired by a Cambridge scholar, she refuses to acknowledge an affair. Before their house, Sib announces to her husband that he is a cuckold, after her assignation with Beaufort. Outside Beaufort's house, Knavesbee expects his reward from Beaufort for having offered him his wife as a mistress. Instead of the expected reward, Knavesbee receives insults and a beating from Beaufort. He tells Knavesbee that Sib is a strumpet because she admitted to being in love with his page, Selenger. Knavesbee promises to cut Sib's nose off and then drown himself. In the street outside Beaufort's house, Knavesbee enters quarreling with the Barber-the two men have a mutual murder pact. Knavesbee has made a deal to hang Sweetball, while the Barber is supposed to cut his throat in exchange. The dispute was over which of them should first make good on their promise. Knavesbee explains he wishes to die because his wife admitted to having had an affair with Beaufort's page. While Knavesbee complains about Sib's behavior, his wife enters with Mistress Cressingham (erstwhile disguised as Selenger) now dressed as a woman. At George Cressingham's request, Knavesbee kneels before his wife. While Sib holds the Barber's razor to his throat, Knavesbee swears he will never play the pander to his wife.
A fictional character. In Chamlet's shop, George Cressingham, disguised as "Gascoyn" the tailor, pretends to advise "Sir Andrew"/Franklin to buy expensive cloth. "Gascoyn" lies that "my lady," "Sir Andrew's" supposed wife sent him a message that she wanted a new gown. According to the would-be tailor, the lady said she wanted to go to Lady Trenchmore's wedding and did not want to be seen without a new gown.
LADY CRESSINGHAM (the PRESENT)
Lady Cressingham is Sir Francis's second wife. She is many years her husband's junior, and Beaufort sees her as an unscrupulous profiteer. She has forced Sir Francis to send away his children, Maria and Edward, to be brought by Chamlet. Lady Cressingham asks Sir Francis to give up his hobby, alchemy, and to sell his lands in order to buy her a new house. She taunts her husband with promises of sexual pleasure, using sex as her instrument of control. She sends Saunder with the papers for the sale of the land to be signed by Sir Francis and by his heir George Cressingham. She threatens to leave England if the papers are not signed. When, finally, Sir Francis and George Cressingham sign the papers, Lady Cressingham exits with Knavesbee to go to the scrivener's to collect the money. At Sir Francis's house, she overhears husband complaining to his son that she has drastically reduced his wealth. The sale of the land has been ruinous. Lady Cressingham suggests a quiet life in the country. In the final reconciliation, Lady Cressingham reforms. She is more moderately dressed and is accompanied by her two stepchildren, Maria and Edward, in elegant clothes. In a perfect coup-de-théâtre, Lady Cressingham announces that her entire extortion scheme that led to her husband's ruin had been well meant. In order to cure Sir Francis of his hobby as an alchemist as well as his extravagant spending, Lady Cressingham only feigned her husband's ruin. Now that she has destroyed all of Sir Francis's alchemic paraphernalia, Lady Cressingham professes total submission to her husband.
LADY CRESSINGHAM (the FORMER)
A "ghost character." The former Lady Cressingham, apparently a kindly woman, was dead for only a month when Sir Francis married a very young lady. George Cressingham reports how his mother had bequeathed some jewels to him and his younger brother and sister, Edward and Maria. The new Lady Cressingham has taken these jewels and refuses to gove them to their rightful owners. The deceased Lady Cressingham is a relative of Water Chamlet, and Rachel suspects unjustly that Maria and Edward Cressingham are her husband's bastards. Edward reports that his dead mother used to call him "mother's pet," and that she loved their father well.
A fictional character. George Cressingham, disguised as a tailor, advises Franklin, disguised as "Sir Andrew," to buy a lot of expensive material from Chamlet's shop. "Gascoyn" lies that a fictional "my lady," "Sir Andrew's" supposed wife, sent a message that she wanted a new gown to go to a fictional Lady Trenchmore's wedding.
A "ghost character." The present Lady Cressingham's father, who died as a justice of peace. When Sir Francis suggests that they should borrow money with interest instead of selling his land, Lady Cressingham rejects the idea and admits nobody gets rich by buying things with usurers' money. She indirectly refers to her father, the lawyer, in whose house she learned about such practices.
Margarita is a French bawd. Outside the tavern "Man in the Moon" in Cheapside, Franklin, who is about to be arrested for confidence trickery, pretends to be a "French gentleman." On seeing Margarita approach, Franklin says in French that she is from his country and could vouch for him. Margarita speaks French to Franklin and learns from him that he is about to be arrested. Agreeing to help Franklin for a reward, Margarita pretends to carry on the conversation with the "French gentleman," whom she recognizes as being from Lyons. Telling Franklin, in French, that he can go safely now, Margarita reminds him that she will be paid for her service later, announcing that she will send him one of her girls, who speaks a little French, to meet him at a tavern in Turnbull Street. Telling the others in broken English that she knows a place where the "French gentleman" would be taken care of, Margarita manages to obtain Chamlet's gratitude for having helped him, as well as his invitation to visit his shop in Lombard Street for a reward. Margarita exits with Franklin. In Chamlet's shop, Margarita receives money in exchange for what Chamlet believes to be her services as an interpreter, and shows her petticoats to Chamlet in order to have new ones made. Rachel enters and thinks Margarita is her husband's intended wife, a woman Rachel knows only as "French Hood." Rachel attacks Margarita fiercely and forces her to run away, swearing she must never come to her shop again.
Maria is Sir Francis's child, raised with her brother Edward in Chamlet's house at the request of the new Lady Cressingham. At Chamlet's shop, Maria and Edward overhear Rachel accusing her husband that the two children are his bastards. When Maria inquires whether the allegation is true, Chamlet responds his wife meant his two apprentices, George and Ralph, who confirm the report readily. Maria and her brother, whom she calls Ned, say they would not be a cause of discord in Chamlet's house. When Rachel threatens to leave her husband and get a divorce because of the children's presence in the house, Chamlet charges George with taking the two children back to their father. At Sir Francis's house, Maria says she is glad to be there because she disliked her life in Chamlet's house. At Lady Cressingham's request that the children should be taken out an given some sweets, Maria thanks the lady and calls her a "kind mother." In an aside, George Cressingham says these poor children are unaware how dear they should pay for that sugar, referring to Lady Cressingham's plan to sell their inheritance. In his impoverishment, when Sir Francis thinks his wife has deprived him of all his money, he sends Edward and Maria out as apprentices. In the final scene of Lady Cressingham's repentance and profession of obedience to her husband, Edward and Maria enter with their reformed stepmother. The children are dressed elegantly as a sign of their newfound prosperity.
As a woman, Mistress Cressingham has no speaking part in the play. Mistress Cressingham is George Cressingham's wife. Due to the difficulty created by Sir Francis's remarriage, she disguises as Selenger, page to Lord Beaufort. As Selenger, Mistress Cressingham receives Sib at Lord Beaufort's house. Seeing that Sib affects "him," "Selenger" acts disgusted. Alluding to Mistress Cressingham, George Cressingham says she suffers in silence and does not know herself, an implication of his wife's disguise. Knavesbee complains that Sib would not let him into his own house, having locked herself inside with Selenger and announces that his wife admits to having slept with the page. In the final scene, Mistress Cressingham appears in a woman's clothes and her husband recognizes her.
Old Franklin is a country gentleman and Franklin's father. According to George, he is a Puritan from Scotland. Before Sir Francis's house, Old Franklin feigns mourning, because of his son's apparent death. It is all a ruse. While George Cressingham makes a show of consoling him for his loss, Old Franklin states that his son was his dearest and nearest enemy, and that he long feared that his dissolute ways were bound to lead him to a tragic end. Having been informed that Franklin cheated Chamlet, Old Franklin wants to pay his son's debts. In addition, he says he will buy Sir Francis's land. Old Franklin asks George to identify his son's creditors for him, so that they might be repaid. On hearing a very long fictional list, containing debts to a brewer, a hosier, and a tailor, Old Franklin concludes he will pay them all. Promising to try to explain to Sir Francis the injustice he had done his son, Old Franklin exits accompanied by George and young Franklin, who attends the discussion disguised as an old servant. Outside Lord Beaufort's house, Old Franklin enters with his disguised son and three creditors. Telling Beaufort that he intends to pay all his son's debts and clear his name, Old Franklin hears each creditor and promises to satisfy their demands. Hearing that Chamlet intends to leave for the Bermudas, Old Franklin promises to repay Chamlet for the goods his son had stolen from him. In the final agreement scene, Old Franklin removes his son's disguise. Intending to clear his son's name through the death trick, Old Franklin managed to eliminate Franklin's debts by negotiating to pay fifty percent in satisfaction of the full amount. Old Franklin announces his son has been newly born as a consequence of these events. The creditors forgive the father his little trick, saying he had "beguiled them honestly."
OLD SERVING MAN
A non-speaking character. Franklin disguises as an old serving man after his alleged death and accompanies his father, Old Franklin. As an old servant, Franklin attends the payment of all his creditors by fifty to the hundred. Finally, Old Franklin reveals his son's disguise.
Master Pennystone is Franklin's first creditor. When Old Franklin decides to pay all his son's debts, he comes accompanied by three creditors, whom Chamlet identifies by name. Pennystone says he is satisfied with the payment received from Old Franklin. Noting that the debt would have been erased anyway at Franklin's death, Pennystone is content that at least he recuperated half of it from Franklin's father.
Master Phillip is Franklin's second creditor. When Old Franklin decides to pay all his son's debts, he comes accompanied by three creditors, whom Chamlet identifies by name. Master Phillip notes that Old Franklin's offer to pay fifty for the hundred for his son's debts is a sensible choice, considering that, in any case, the debt would have been lost at Franklin's death. Master Phillip says he will never speak ill of Franklin, whom he thinks to be dead.
A fictional character. Upon Franklin's alleged death, Old Franklin decides to pay all his son's debts and asks George to identify Franklin's creditors for him. George reads a list, which contains the name of Pinchbuttock, a hosier in Birchen Lane. The street was known for dealers in old clothes, but George tells Old Franklin that his son owed the money for fourscore pairs of breeches. When the father asks why his son needed so many pairs of breeches, George explains Franklin supplied a Captain, a friend of his, who went over to war.
The Prologue argues that one would do anything for a quiet life at home. The lawyer's fees buy him a tranquil life at home, while the poor man labors all day in the scorching sun with the prospect of a pleasant evening with his wife. Similarly, the purpose of the play is to delight the audience. If this goal is accomplished, the author and the actors shall sleep quietly at night and have a quiet life.
Rachel is Water Chamlet's wife. She complains that she lacks contentment. The spiteful and jealous woman accuses her husband that the two children being raised in his house, Maria and Edward Cressingham, are actually his bastards. At her husband's denial, Rachel leaves infuriated to live with her cousin, Knavesbee. From the lawyer's house, Rachel sends a message announcing her intention to divorce on grounds that Chamlet has two illegitimate children living in the house. Later, Knavesbee informs her that he has been invited to Chamlet's house to celebrate Chamlet's wedding to a French lady. Rachel, mad with jealousy, rushes to her husband's shop to settle the affair. There she sees her husband entertain the French bawd Margarita. It is all innocent, but Rachel jumps to the conclusion that Margarita is the "French Hood" that Chamlet intends to marry. Rachel kicks her out and reinstates her position as mistress of the house. The wedding was all a trick dreamed up by their apprentice George, and when George is confronted he admits to having lied. Rachel seems to be appeased and to accept her husband's proposal of a second marriage celebration. However, Rachel dismisses George in punishment for having lied to her. Outside Beaufort's house, Rachel learns from Lord Beaufort that Chamlet intends to leave for the Bermudas because of her sharp tongue. She is caught in the echo game played by Beaufort and George, who is hidden behind the arras. When Rachel goes to seek George in order to apologize to him and have him back in the shop, George follows her. In the final reconciliation scene, George brings a very submissive Rachel in tow. She is willing to accept any conditions, including the promise that she will call her husband "Master Chamlet" as a sign of submission and wifely respect.
Ralph is Chamlet's second apprentice. In Chamlet's shop, Ralph and George describe in rhyme the abundance and variety of cloth materials displayed in the shop. When Rachel accuses Chamlet that the two children, Maria and Edward, are his bastards, the innocent children overhear. Chamlet explains to them that she probably meant George and Ralph. George confirms, saying that she surely meant Ralph because he is not right in the head. Ralph tries to calm the spirits, saying this is not a way to keep a quiet house. When Franklin disguised as "Sir Andrew" and Cressingham as his "tailor" come to Chamlet's shop, pretending to buy expensive cloth and pay on credit, Chamlet sends Ralph to the barber Sweetball to collect the promised money for the materials. Outside Sweetball's house, Ralph is tricked into leaving the stuff in "Gascoyn's" hands, under the pretext that Ralph must accompany the Barber into the house to collect the money. However, Franklin had told the Barber that Ralph had a rash on his penis and needed his surgical services, Sweetball leads the unsuspecting apprentice to his surgery. The trick is revealed at the last moment, and Ralph escapes by a hair from having his penis cut and cauterized. When they discover that they have been cheated, both Ralph and Sweetball go to find Franklin and punish him. Outside the tavern "Man in the Moon", Ralph announces to the Barber and the officers that Franklin is about to come and then goes to fetch Chamlet. Ralph attends the scene in which Franklin barely escapes his pursuers by pretending to be a French gentleman, but the apprentice does not appear later in the play.
Only mentioned. When Knavesbee tries to persuade his wife Sib to have an affair with Lord Beaufort, the lawyer claims that, as a husband, he will make his being cuckolded look like an act of fortitude, in the manner of a virtue the Romans possessed. It is possible that this is an allusion to a similar situation in the Roman world, when Cato the younger loaned his wife Marcia to Hortensius.
Saunder is steward to Sir Francis Cressingham. When Lady Cressingham tries to persuade her husband to give up his hobby as an alchemist, Saunder supports her arguments by observing that the smoke from the experiments is worse than tobacco and that the quicksilver is very dangerous to the health. Observing how Lady Cressingham manipulates her gullible husband into doing what she wants, Saunder concludes that she has him totally under her control. Later, he is sent with the papers for the sale of the land to be signed by Sir Francis and his heir, George Cressingham. Saunder brings along a message from Lady Cressingham that she will to leave England unless her husband agrees to the sale. When Sir Francis asks Saunder how a father could persuade his son to give up his inheritance, Saunder tells him to use his logic, like he did when he spoke in the Parliament against deer poaching. Seeing that Sir Francis is having second thoughts, Saunder whispers to Lady Cressingham that she should do something about it. Saunder witnesses Lady Cressingham's artful persuasion, seasoned with tears and threats of withholding sex, and judges her performance excellent. Flattering Lady Cressingham, Saunder observes Sir Francis is like wax in her hands. After the sale of the lands, when Sir Francis enters complaining he has been reduced to a state of financial misery and must now live on his wife's allowance, Saunder suggests the money is enough for a gentleman. Hearing from Sir Francis that Lady Cressingham is never satisfied with all the money she has, Saunder confirms that her coffers are full, thus implying that he has access to Lady Cressingham's private fortune. In the final reconciliation scene, when Lady Cressingham reforms and submits to her husband, Saunder does not accompany her.
Selenger is the disguise name of Mistress Cressingham, wife to George Cressingham. Selenger is Lord Beaufort's page. As Selenger, Mistress Cressingham receives Sib at Beaufort's house. Having arrived there on an amorous assignation, Sib attempts to seduce the page. By pretending to be in love with the page, Sib hopes to escape both Beaufort's amorous propositions and her husband's pandering. Beaufort announces that, after Sib's revelation that she is in love with Selenger, the page has left his house forever. Knavesbee complains to Beaufort that his wife has locked herself with Selenger in the lawyer's house and would not let him in. According to Knavesbee, Sib admitted to having slept with Selenger. In the final scene, Selenger appears in woman's dress as Mistress Cressingham, but she has no speaking part as a woman.
Sib is Knavesbee's wife and the daughter of a Captain. Being admired by Lord Beaufort, Sib's husband tries to persuade her to accept Beaufort's proposition by suggesting a confession game to her. While Knavesbee admits to having had affairs with other women, Sib only mentions that a handsome Cambridge scholar fell in love with her, but she never acknowledges an affair with him. Sib becomes suspicious of her husband's insistence that she confess an affair and retorts that she heard of one in England who got a divorce from his wife by such a trick. When she hears that her husband wants her to become Beaufort's mistress, Sib considers her husband base. Knavesbee leaves her alone with Beaufort. Hearing Beaufort's proposition, Sib says nothing, but uses a wink as an equivocal sign of consent. After her husband's departure with Beaufort, Sib admits her abhorrence of Knavesbee's attitude. However, she feels it would serve him right to be cheated and she decides to go to the rendezvous with Beaufort. At Beaufort's house, Sib is received by Mistress Cressingham disguised as the male page Selenger. Sib courts the page and then confesses to Beaufort that she is in love with Selenger. Sib's policy is to pretend to have fallen in love with the page and, by making Beaufort angry with her, she would secure her honesty and also punish her husband. In the final scene, Knavesbee complains that his wife has locked herself in his house with Selenger. Sib, according to Knavesbee, admitted to having slept with the page. When Selenger's identity as Mistress Cressingham is revealed, Sib makes Knavesbee kneel before her and, holding a razor to his throat, makes him promise that he will never play the pander to his wife again.
Sir Andrew is the disguise name adopted by Franklin when he comes to Chamlet's shop, accompanied by George Cressingham disguised as "Gascoyn," his tailor. As "Sir Andrew," Franklin demands expensive silks and pretends to ask for his tailor's opinion. After having purchased expensive cloth of gold, "Sir Andrew" promises to pay with money borrowed from the Barber. "Gascoyn" is sent to the Barber to confirm the loan, and Chamlet sends Ralph along with him to collect the money. Before Sweetball's house, "Sir Andrew" makes Ralph leave the stuff with his "tailor" while the apprentice goes into the barber's surgery to get the money. Once the cloth of gold is in "Gascoyn's" hands, "Sir Andrew" pretends to send the "tailor" to his fictional "wife" to show her the materials. Meantime, he has told Sweetball the barber that Ralph is there to have a rash removed from his penis, so Sweetball knows nothing about paying him money. "Sir Andrew" then asks the Barber's apprentice, Toby, for a brush to clean the cloth. "Sir Andrew" thereby manages to get rid of all witnesses to his trick and leaves with Sweetball's new brush.
Sir Francis Cressingham is a nobleman living in London, whose hobby is alchemy. Left a widower but one month before, he takes a new bride, fifteen-year-old with expensive tastes. From the discussion with Chamlet it becomes apparent that Sir Francis is a gambler and excessively indebted to the merchant, especially after the expenses for the recent wedding. In a conversation with his son, Sir Francis asks George Cressingham to respect his stepmother, while Chamlet advises them to do anything for a quiet life. When Lady Cressingham tries to convince Sir Francis to give up his alchemy and to agree to sell his lands, Sir Francis yields to her wishes, lured by her vague sexual promises. At Sir Francis's house, Saunder presents Sir Franklin with the papers for the sale of the land. George is sent for to cosign the papers, but after discussion with his son, Sir Francis has second thoughts about depriving his children of their inheritance. When Lady Cressingham menaces him with withholding sex, Sir Francis agrees to sign for the sale of his land, and George Cressingham relents to his father's entreaties. Before his house, Sir Francis complains to his son about his impoverishment after the sale of the land. When Lady Cressingham enters and reprimands her husband for complaining, Sir Francis is cowed. After his wife condemns him for having intended to spend a lot of money on the campaign of becoming a sheriff, suggesting that he should instead retire to the country to lead a quiet life, Sir Francis becomes even more depressed. In the final reconciliation scene, it is revealed that George Cressingham has been the secret repository of all the money swindled from Sir Francis. Asking Sir Francis to hear the plea of the reformed Lady Cressingham, George Cressingham asks forgiveness of his father for having caused him so much pain.
The Surveyor and almanac maker comes to Sir Francis's house to evaluate the land for sale. At Sir Francis's question about the weather, the Surveyor pretends to make a prognostication and affirms the foulest weather is coming, because it will blow all of his land away. The Surveyor refers to Lady Cressingham's intention of selling Sir Francis's land.
Sweetball is a barber and surgeon in London. The name suggests a ball of perfumed or aromatic substance. Unknowingly, the Barber helps Franklin and George Cressingham to trick Chamlet. Franklin tells Sweetball that his "cousin" Ralph needed his professional help because he had a rash on his penis. When Franklin, disguised as "Sir Andrew," and George Cressingham, disguised as "Gascoyn," arrive at Sweetball's house accompanied by Ralph, who is supposed to collect money for the cloth of gold, Franklin has Ralph leave with the Barber. He tells Ralph that secrecy is important because Sweetball's wife must know nothing about their little arrangement. The Barber assumes he is being asked for professional discretion, while Ralph believes the Barber is taking him into the house to give him the money. Inside Sweetball's surgery, the Barber prepares to operate on Ralph's penis. Hearing that "Sir Andrew" has absconded with his new brush as well as Chamlet's cloth of gold, the Barber is furious and uses bawdy language related to his profession. Outside the tavern "Man in the Moon" in Cheapside, the Barber wants Fleshhook and Counterbuff to catch Franklin and eviscerate him. They find Franklin, but Franklin pretends to be a French gentleman and eludes them. Later, Sweetball and Knavesbee have agreed to kill one another, but they argue who might be first. The Barber claims to be judged by the next person they see. This happens to be Beaufort, to whom Sweetball explains that the lawyer was supposed to hang the Barber, and afterwards Sweetball was expected to cut Knavesbee's throat. Sweetball claims he wishes to die because, apart from the irretrievable loss of his new brush, he has been cheated. When all conflicts are solved, Franklin promises the still dissatisfied Barber that he will solve the problem by returning his new brush.
A "ghost character." When George Cressingham, disguised as "Gascoyn" the tailor, is sent to the Barber's shop, he reports that the Barber's wife was trimming a gentleman's hair and they were all busy at the shop. When Franklin as "Sir Andrew," George Cressingham as "Gascoyn," and Ralph come to Sweetball's house to collect money for the cloth of gold, Franklin asks the Barber to keep their little arrangement secret from his wife. Sweetball thinks the secrecy is in connection to Ralph's rash on his penis, while Ralph thinks the secrecy is about the money. Franklin as "Sir Andrew" says he thinks women tend to talk too much and it is better to keep things from them. The Barber agrees, though he says it is hard to keep a secret from his wife.
Toby is the Barber's apprentice. In Front of Sweetball's house, Franklin as "Sir Andrew" pretends to need a brush and sends Toby to fetch it. Thus, Franklin manages to dispose of any potential witness to the fact that the cloth of gold from Chamlet's shop was being taken away without paying for it. When Toby returns with the brush, Franklin tells him he is a good boy and takes the brush. Presently, Sweetball summons Toby to help him with his intended surgery on Ralph. In the Barber's surgery, Toby fetches the cauterizing red-hot iron, which Sweetball intended to use on Ralph's penis. Toby tells the Barber that the gentleman who calls himself his "cousin," meaning Franklin as "Sir Andrew," has taken away his new brush. The news infuriates Sweetball.
Uxor is the Latin name for "wife" and it refers to two fictional characters. When George reads the fabricated guest list for the dinner invitation at Chamlet's house, presumably to celebrate Chamlet's marriage, Doctor Glister et uxor, and wife are among the guests. There is also a Master Body et uxor.
Master Waterthin is probably a fictional character. This is probably a stock joke name invented by George. With Franklin supposedly dead, Old Franklin decides to pay all his son's debts. He asks George to identify all his son's creditors for him. George reads a list, which contains Master Waterthin the brewer as the first entry. According to George, Waterthin is an obstinate fellow who caused Franklin to be arrested for debt.
Master Weatherwise is probably a fictional character. This is probably a stock joke name invented by George. Upon Franklin's alleged death, Old Franklin decides to pay all his son's debts and asks George to identify Franklin's creditors for him. George reads a list, which contains the name of Master Weatherwise by St. Clement Church in Eastcheap. When George Cressingham suggests he might be the "astrological tailor" considered a prophet, George denies it.