John Webster and William Rowley
(& Thomas Heywood?)
A CURE FOR A CUCKOLD
a synoptic, alphabetical character list
Annabel is the daughter of Woodroff and the bride of Bonvile. She is baffled when Bonvile disappears on their wedding night. She follows him down the road, but is accosted by Rochfield, an inexperienced thief, who tries to rob her of the jewelry that is locked around her body. Annabel easily outwits Rochfield by grabbing his sword, but she pities him, and suggests that if he comes to her house, she'll give him the jewelry's monetary value. She introduces Rochfield as a wedding guest, and slips him the money, which then uses to becoming a venturer in Woodroff's shipping scheme. Annabel receives a letter from Bonvile explaining that he's engaged in a duel. When she finally meets him after his return, Bonvile, influenced by Lessingham, is suspicious of her relationship with Rochfield and threatens to disinherit her. But when Clare and Rochfield explain their actions to everyone, Bonvile is satisfied and he and Annabel are reconciled.
Bonvile is the newly wed husband of Annabel. He abandons Annabel on their wedding night when Lessingham asks him to be his second in a duel. They travel to Calais Sands, where Lessingham reveals that in fact he wants to duel with Bonvile, because Clare will not marry him until he kills his best friend. Bonvile refuses to fight, and suggests that since all friendship between them is now dead, he has fulfilled Clare's terms. Back in England, Clare explains that Lessingham misunderstood her letter, which was referring to her own wish for death, caused by unrequited love for Bonvile. Bonvile suggests that she marry Lessingham, since it would be a fitting punishment for him. When Lessingham spitefully hints that Annabel has had an affair with Rochfield Bonvile threatens to disinherit Annabel. However, once Rochfield has explained his innocence, Bonvile is satisfied, and he and Annabel are reconciled.
Does not appear in the play. The Captain of Woodroff's ship is decapitated during a Spanish attack. Rochfield takes over command and saves the ship.
CHILD OF JACK
A child who is being looked after by Jack, but whose parenthood is uncertain. Jack is bringing him up as his younger brother.
CHILD OF URSE
The offspring of Franckford and Urse is the subject of a paternity suit when Urse's husband, Compass, returns from the dead. Compass successfully wins the suit.
Clare is a guest at the wedding of Bonvile and Annabel. When Lessingham woos her, she responds with an enigmatic letter that says that the only way to gain her love is to kill his best friend. Lessingham misinterprets her letter and the next day announces that he's killed Bonvile. Clare explains that she was in fact intending that he should kill her, since she was suicidal over her unrequited love for Bonvile and was planning to make Lessingham the unwitting agent of her death. Clare is then amazed to meet Bonvile and find that Lessingham only killed him metaphorically. She tells Bonvile that she used to love him, and explains Lessingham's mistake. Bonvile angers her by saying that he will work to reconcile Clare and Lessingham, since Lessingham deserves the punishment of being married to her. But when Lessingham encourages division between Annabel and Bonvile, Clare works to reconcile them by explaining her actions to Annabel, and at the end of the play she and Lessingham forgive each other.
Two Clients of Pettifog, who give him money in order to be mindful of their business. Their brief appearance seems intended as a satire on avaricious lawyers.
Compass is a rumbustious sailor, husband of Urse, who has long been thought drowned at sea. When he returns to his home in Blackwall, he learns that Urse has had a child by the merchant Franckford. Urse is repentant, but Compass is delighted: he is happy to have a child, whoever its father. He is less happy to learn that Franckford is bringing the child up himself, because he wants an heir. Compass determines to regain 'his' child. He accosts Franckford on his doorstep, and when he is rebuffed, organizes a meeting in the Three Tuns between the two parties and their lawyers. After Franckford's Counselor has his say, Compass makes an argument for matrilineal custody of children that convinces everyone, even Franckford. But Compass has another problem - the stigma of being a cuckold. Raymond suggests a solution. Compass and Urse will pretend they have died, then meet the next day as if they are strangers, and marry. This remarriage 'cures' Compass's cuckoldry, and they live happily ever after.
A lawyer hired by Woodroff to consider the legal quarrel between Compass and Franckford. He takes Franckford's side, arguing that the child should belong to its natural father. But Compass's speech refutes this argument with such passion that both the Counselor and Franckford are converted to his point of view.
Dodge is Franckford's lawyer, hired to help in the legal debate over Compass's custody suit. He does very little besides drink, and Franckford's case is actually handled by a Counselor supplied by Woodroff.
One of the four gallants at the wedding of Annabel and Bonvile. Eustace refuses Lessingham's plea to duel with him by claiming to be a poor fighter. He becomes a sharer in Woodroff's shipping venture. He assists Franckford during the legal debate with Compass. Eustace and the other gallants are present at Compass' wedding.
A rich merchant, and brother-in-law to Woodroff. Franckford wants an heir, but his wife Luce is infertile. He has therefore begotten a child on the apparently widowed Urse, and intends it to be his heir. When Urse's husband Compass returns from the dead, he demands his rights over the child. In a legal debate held in the Three Tuns, Franckford argues that the father of a child should always have custody of it. But Compass's argument for the mother's right convinces everyone, including Franckford, who then gives away the bride when Compass and Urse remarry.
One of the four gallants at the wedding of Annabel and Bonvile. Grover refuses Lessingham's plea to duel with him, claiming he has never used a rapier before. He becomes a sharer in Woodroff's shipping venture. Grover and the other gallants are present at Compass' wedding.
A boy who lives in Blackwall. With Rafe, he tells the returning Compass that his wife has had a child in his absence. Jack also appears as a drawer in the Three Tuns, where Compass's paternity suit is debated.
A young gentleman, who is in love with Clare. At the wedding of Annabel and Bonvile, Lessingham woos Clare, who replies with an enigmatic letter stating that the only way to gain her love is to kill his best friend. Lessingham asks the gallants to duel with him, but all refuse. He then approaches Bonvile, and asks him to be his second in a duel. Bonvile agrees, even though it is his wedding night, and they travel to Calais Sands. There, Lessingham reveals that he in fact wants to duel with Bonvile, and explains why. Bonvile refuses to fight, and suggests that since all friendship between them is now dead, he has fulfilled Clare's terms. When Lessingham returns to Clare and tells her that Bonvile is dead, Clare explains that he misunderstood: she meant that he must kill her, since she was suicidal over her unrequited love for Bonvile and was planning to make Lessingham the unwitting agent of her death. Lessingham becomes melancholic, and spitefully tries to cause make Bonvile believe that Annabel has had an affair with Rochfield in his absence, and suggests to Annabel that Bonvile and Clare are having an affair. But when Rochfield and Clare have explained their behavior to everyone, Lessingham repents. He and Clare forgive each other, and all is well.
One of the four gallants at the wedding of Annabel and Bonvile. Lionel refuses Lessingham's plea to duel with him, claiming he has vowed never to visit Calais. He becomes a sharer in Woodroff's shipping venture. He assists Compass, during the legal debate with Franckford. Lionel and the other gallants are present at Compass' wedding.
Franckford's wife is infertile, and fully supports her husband's begetting of a child on Urse.
Does not appear in the play. The Master of Woodroff's ship is killed in a Spanish attack. Rochfield takes over command and saves the ship.
A nurse paid by Franckford to look after the baby that he has begotten on Urse. She warns Franckford of Compass's return, and prevents Compass from taking the child.
Pettifog is a lawyer, hired by Compass to help in his suit. Pettifog's principal activity is to drink a lot on the fees of his clients, and the case is won by Compass's speech.
One of the four gallants at the wedding of Annabel and Bonvile. Raymond refuses Lessingham's plea to duel with him, claiming he has an appointment elsewhere. He tries to woo Clare, but is rebuffed. He becomes a sharer in Woodroff's shipping venture. He assists Franckford, during the legal debate with Compass. It is Raymond who suggests the cure for cuckoldry that Compass uses, and he and the other gallants are present at Compass' wedding.
A boy who lives in Blackwall. With Jack, he tells the returning Compass that his wife has had a child in his absence. Rafe also appears as a musician in the Three Tuns, where Compass's paternity suit is debated.
A poverty-stricken younger brother, Rochfield has decided to become a highwayman. His first victim is Annabel, who is running down the road after the errant Bonvile. Rochfield tries to rob her of the jewelry locked around her body, but Annabel outwits him by grabbing his sword. She then takes pity on him and offers to take him home and give him the jewelry's worth in money. Back home, she introduces him as a wedding guest, and slips him the money. Rochfield then uses it to join Woodroff's shipping venture. During the voyage, the Captain and Master are killed in a battle with some Spanish ships. Rochfield rallies the crew and is made captain, whereupon they defeat the Spaniards. Woodroff is delighted with Rochfield. On Bonvile's return, the melancholic Lessingham tries to suggest that Annabel and Rochfield have had an affair. Rochfield ends this by explaining to everyone how he and Annabel met. The others forgive him because he has proven his worth, and Woodroff promises to look after him.
Tells Annabel of Bonvile's departure, and runs after him, leaving Annabel alone to be menaced by Rochfield
Urse is the wife of Compass, whom she believes to be drowned at sea. She has had a child by the rich merchant Franckford, and is repentant when Compass returns to Blackwall. Compass is however, happy to have a child - his only concern is to regain custody from Franckford. Compass' actions restore the baby to Urse and himself. Then they remove the stigma of cuckoldry: they pretend they have died, then meet the next day as if they are strangers, and marry. This remarriage 'cures' Compass's cuckoldry, and they live happily ever after.
Brings Lessingham the letter from Clare.
A justice of the peace, and father of Annabel. He is puzzled by Clare's melancholy, and bewildered by Bonvile's sudden disappearance on his wedding night. Woodroff has a ship and letters of mart authorizing him to attack foreign vessels. He asks the others to become adventurers with him, and the gallants and Rochfield agree. Woodroff is delighted with Rochfield's prowess when she ship comes under fire, and holds him in the highest esteem. He is reluctant to believe Lessingham's claim that Rochfield is having an affair with Annabel, and when Bonvile threatens to disinherit Annabel, Woodroff threatens to do the same to Bonvile. Woodroff prevents Rochfield from dueling with Bonvile and, when all becomes clear in the end, he forgives Rochfield for having previously been a thief.