Roderick Stafford, Henry Noel,
G. Al., Christopher Hatton,
and Robert Wilmot


1566 or 1568

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


Four gentlemen of Salerne serve as Chorus, coming on stage after each of the first four acts and commenting on events. Following the imprisonment of Guishard, the Chorus questions Renuchio and learns about Guishard's death.


This woman of Gismond's privy chamber observes her mistress' restlessness and distracted mood. Claudia reports that Gismond suffers from disturbing dreams and keeps to her bed during the day. Later Claudia runs to Tancred, reporting that Gismond has poisoned herself.


Cupid, god of love, descends from the heavens to boast of his power and to announce his intention of inflaming Gismond's heart and thereby demonstrating his power anew. Later he returns, explaining that he has made Gismond burn with lust.


The only daughter of King Tancred is recently widowed and has returned to her father's home. She bewails the loss of a husband, but her father opposes her remarriage. She falls in love with Guishard and, to meet him without her father's knowledge, she sends her suitor a cloven cane containing a letter, explaining how he may secretly come to her chamber through a forgotten vault. Their relationship is discovered when Tancred arrives one day at her chamber, finds his daughter gone, decides to wait for her, and covers himself with a curtain at the foot of her bed. Silently he watches as Gismond and Guishard emerge from the hidden vault and embrace on her bed. When Tancred discovers the relationship and confronts Gismond, she tells him that she will not live if he kills her beloved. True to her pledge, she commits suicide when she receives Guishard's heart in a golden cup; she fills the cup with poison and her tears and drinks. Dying, she asks Tancred to be buried with Guishard's body; she asks also that an epitaph proclaiming her love for Guishard be placed upon their tomb.


Count Palurine is enamored of Gismond, who sends him a message hidden in a cane, revealing the existence of a forgotten vault that leads to her chamber. They begin a secret relationship. When Tancred discovers the affair, he confronts Guishard, who knows that he will be killed and who hopes that his demise will not traumatize Gismond. Imprisoned, he expresses his love for Gismond and faces death with equanimity, putting the bonds used to strangle him around his own neck and requesting his executioners to make speed. His body is disemboweled and his heart cut out; impaled on a sword, it is carried to Tancred and then sent in a golden cup to Gismond.


This captain of the guard is ordered by Tancred to apprehend Guishard by waiting at the end of a vaulted tunnel that leads to Gismond's chamber. Julio brings Guishard to the king, who orders that Guishard be confined in a dungeon and that Renuchio be notified of the king's decision.


The sister of Tancred is sympathetic to Gismond's plight as a widow and pledges to intercede with Tancred, arguing that Gismond be permitted to remarry, but to no avail.


Sent from hell by Pluto, the fury announces that she will throw a snake into Tancred's breast; she will throw another snake into Gismond's.


Renuchio, a gentleman of the privy chamber and servant to Tancred, is ordered to summon Gismond when the king learns of her secret affair. Later Renuchio reports to the Chorus that he was commanded to bring Guishard from the dungeon and supervise his execution by strangulation; Guishard's last words are of Gismond. Renuchio finds himself admiring Guishard's courage in the face of death. On Tancred's orders, Renuchio reluctantly delivers to Gismond a golden cup containing the heart of her lover.


"Ghost characters." They are said to execute Guishard by strangling him. They reportedly tear Guishard's heart from his body and carry it, impaled on a sword, to Tancred.


Tancred, King of Naples and Prince of Salerne, expresses concern over his widowed daughter's grief but opposes her remarriage and rebuffs Lucrece when she pleads that Gismond be allowed to take another husband. One day in search of his daughter, he goes to her chamber and, not finding her, sits at the foot of her bed and wraps himself in a curtain. His presence concealed, Tancred sees Gismond and Guishard enter the chamber through a secret trapdoor built into the floor. Later he reveals to his daughter that he knows of her affair. Tancred confronts Guishard and consigns him to a dungeon. The king orders his servants to slay Guishard and cut out his heart. Impaled on a sword, the heart is conveyed to Tancred, who then orders Renuchio to carry it in a golden cup to Gismond. Devastated by his daughter's suicide, Tancred accedes to her request that she be buried with her lover and that an epitaph proclaim the love that Gismond and Guishard had for one another. Tancred resolves to kill himself.