John Webster
(and Thomas Heywood?)

circa 1608–1634(?)

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


The Advocate brings Oppius the news that Virginius and troops are entering Rome. When the troops arrive, the Advocate plans to speak against Appius and in favor of Virginia.


Appius is a crafty Roman, claiming to be unworthy of election as a Senate Decemvir yet all the while gloating that attaining such a position had been his plan all along. He desires to wed Virginia, daughter of the soldier Virginius. His plot to obtain her involves depriving the troops of sustenance, assuming that Virginia will be handed over in return for supplying the soldier's needs. He works closely with Marcus Clodius, who writes courtship letters for Appius and takes them to Virginia. Appius also gives Clodius leave to declare Virginia a bondwoman instead of a daughter of Rome, intending to enslave her by this stratagem. Appius' plans are foiled, however, and he is imprisoned when Virginius' troops enter Rome. Appius commits suicide when Virginius' offers him this more honorable death.


Corbulo is a clown figure who exchanges bawdy wordplay with Virginia's Nurse.


This First Cozen of Appius, unnamed in the play, urges Appius to accept the offered Decemvirate seat.


This unnamed First Petitioner presents a request for redress to Marcus Clodius, who promises to deliver the request to Appius.


Unnamed, this First Serving-man, eager to see a spectacle and fairly certain that Virginia is innocent, pledges to attend the trial of Virginia.


Belonging to the camp of Virginius, this First Soldier complains of starvation and being fed only upon promises.


Horatio is a Roman who goes with Virginius and Icilius to question and sentence the imprisoned Appius.


Icilius is the accepted suitor of Virginia, daughter of soldier Virginius. He pleads with Decemvir Appius for troop supplies, explaining that Virginius has been selling his own goods to gain monies for troop maintenance. He shows Appius the love letters sent to Virginia, and Appius denies authorship. Unconvinced, Icilius grows concerned for Virginia's safety. He urges her to take secret lodgings until her father returns to Rome. His advice comes too late, however, for Virginia is arrested and brought to trial. It becomes apparent that Appius will judge against her, proving her a bondwoman instead of freeborn. When she chooses death to bondage, Icilius carries Virginia's still-bleeding body to the prison where Appius has finally been taken and convinces Virginius to offer no mercy to Appius. He watches Appius commit suicide, and by leave of Virginius orders the hanging of Marcus Clodius.


This unnamed Lictor has sent word for Appius to hear the decree of the Senate concerning the appointment of Appius as Decemvir.


Marcus Clodius is a conniving devil closely associated with Appius. It is Clodius who suggests to Appius that the best way to obtain Virginia as wife is to withhold supplies from her father, Virginius, and his Roman troops. When that scheme fails, Clodius first tries wooing Virginia with letters signed by Appius. He then arranges for false testimony to demonstrate that Virginia is a bondwoman and not freeborn. Tried before Appius, Virginia asks her father to kill her rather than allow her to live disgraced. Virginius complies. Clodius is finally imprisoned for his treachery when Virginius and his army march upon Rome. Clodius attempts to exculpate himself by arguing that he had only acted under orders. He is offered the chance to commit an honorable suicide; when he refuses, he is sent to die by hanging.


Numitorius is the uncle of Virginia. He houses his niece while her father Virginius is away with the Roman troops.


This Nurse to Virginia exchanges bawdy words with Corbulo, a clown figure in the play.


Oppius brings news to Appius that the latter must accept election to the Decemvirate or face banishment.


This unnamed Orator appears at Appius' tribunal for the trial of Virginia. Marcus Clodius is his client, and his rhetoric promises to convict Virginia.


Only mentioned. Pythagoras was an ancient Greek philosopher. His name is used in an oath uttered by Virginius during the trial of his daughter.


This unnamed Second Cozen of Appius mentions to Appius that family status can be greatly elevated if Appius accepts election to the Decemvirate.


This unnamed Second Serving-man pledges to attend the trial of Virginia along with the First Serving-man.


Thus unnamed Second Soldier in the Roman encampment complains about the lack of food supplies in the camp, trading complaints with the First Soldier.


At the end of the play, this unnamed Roman Senator urges the Advocate to read Virginia's pedigree publicly and clear her name of the charges brought against her by Marcus Clodius.


Sertorius carries a message from Icilius to the Roman camp. Hs is to tell Virginius of the treachery against Virginia.


Valerius is a Roman soldier holding the rank of lieutenant under Virginius.


Virginia is the daughter of the Roman soldier Virginius and niece of Numitorius. She is also the beloved of Icilius. Virginia begins to receive visits from Marcus Clodius, who bears love letters supposedly written by Appius. Virginia scorns these advances, not fully realizing the evil intent of both Clodius and Appius. When no other means work to charm Virginia, she is accused of being a bondwoman masquerading as a free citizen of Rome, and she is brought to trial before Appius. The case against her is contrived but strong. Virginia asks her father to kill her rather than allow her to be disgraced, declared a bondwoman, and made a strumpet. Virginius does kill his daughter and flees Rome immediately thereafter to bring the troops into the city. Virginia's pedigree is read out and her name and honor are cleared by the Advocate's words at play's end.


Virginius is a Roman soldier and citizen, brother to Numitorius and father to Virginia. He comes to Appius to plead for troop sustenance only to be rebuffed and put off. He therefore begins selling his own goods and properties for monies to feed the troops. When his daughter Virginia is falsely accused, arrested, and brought to trial, Virginius recognizes that the case will be lost. Acceding to his daughter's wish, he kills Virginia and escapes back to the soldiers' encampment. Virginius nearly forgives Appius until Icilius arrives with Virginia's bleeding body and restates the evil perpetrated upon Virginia. Virginius offers a sword for Appius' use in committing suicide, and he accepts the position of power offered to him by the Senate.