A Pleasant Comedie Shewing
THE CONTENTION BETWEEN LIBERALITIE AND PRODIGALITIE
As it was played before her Maiestie.
22 February 1601 (acted)
(possibly a revival of Prodigality from 1567)
a synoptic, alphabetical character list
Captain Wel-Don is a gentleman by birth, and a soldier by profession. He has fought for his sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, in many wars. Due to his bravery and loyalty, he is rewarded by Liberalitie: first, being offered employment in his own country, and later, being granted 100 crowns for his good service.
The Clerke works in Court. Following the orders of the Judge, he is in charge of calling the prisoner, and of reading the indictment.
The Constables, with hue and cry, inform the Host about the cruel murder of Tenacity, who, they explain, received twenty wounds, in the hands of some furious and cruel Roysters (Prodigalitie, Dicke Dicer and Tom Tosse). Their task is to seek the murderers.
The Courtier has been the secretary of a noble man near her Majesty for one or two years, and he wants to change office. But Liberalitie advises him to go on working with virtuous proceedings, because, with the passing of time, he will be recompensed for his good service.
The Crier is the person who repeats, in a loud voice, what the Clerke says in Court.
Dandaline, the hostess (spelled hostis and hostesse), is the Host's wife. She wants to have her lodgings ready for the arrival of Prodigality, a young and lusty gentleman with plenty of money, because she thinks she can make a good business with him. To that aim, she even encourages her boy, Dicke Dicer, to seek Prodigalitie, and thus make sure he goes to her inn.
Dicke Dicer is Dandaline's boy. Following the Hostess's wishes, he has to look for Prodigalitie, because he has been given Money by Fortune, and he could be an interesting customer for her inn. But when he and Tom Tosse finally find Prodigalitie, they pretend they are not interested in Money, but in his company. Thus he and his friend lead Prodigalitie into a dissolute life, and make him waste Money. As a consequence, Money deserts Prodigalitie. Then Dicke informs the latter that the former has returned to his mother's, and he advises him to go there, climb the walls and recover his Money. But they soon learn that Money has been granted to Tenacitie, and, furious at the news, they decide to follow them (Money and Tenacitie) and trick the latter. They succeed, stealing Money from Tenacitie, but also murdering him cruelly. Dicke Dicer and Tom Tosse manage to escape, but Prodigalitie is caught and tried.
Equity sympathizes with Virtue. She moralizes, with Virtue, on the behavior of men, explaining that men who taste evil once turn to good again. Interestingly, Equity is going to be appointed by Virtue to examine Prodigality at the trial.
Another name for Tenacitie.
Fortune is an early goddess. She arrives richly attended by kings, and she points out her rivalry with Virtue, and how she despises her. She also announces that there will be a trial between them for sovereignty over men. When Vanity takes Tenacitie and Prodigalitie before Fortune, on hearing them beg her for money, the later states that she will make her decision when she hears them sing. Once they have sung, Fortune decides to commit her dear son, Money, to Prodigalitie. But when her son leaves Prodigalitie and comes back home, she grants him to Tenacitie, who had gone to visit her in order to beg her for Money once more. On learning this, Prodigalitie, incensed, comes to defy Fortune, and the goddess decides to take revenge on him who had offended her.
The Hoste of the inn is an ambitious and greedy man, who will only let Prodigalitie in when the latter reveals he intends to spend a lot of money in his lodgings. However, he behaves in a different way with Tenacitie; they seem to be old acquaintances, and he is actually glad to see him there. As time goes by, the Hoste progressively starts to mistrust Prodigalitie.
The "Iudge" will decide on the case of Prodigalitie. When he hears that Prodigalitie declares himself guilty of the charges of theft and murder, he sentences him to death. But on hearing Prodigalitie's plea for mercy, he decides to leave it to the Prince to decide, and he makes a petition to the Prince in that respect.
Another name for the Third Suiter.
Liberalitie is the chief steward to Virtue. He is sought by states which seek to maintain stately dignity, because that is which wins the subjects' faithful love. He delivers moralizing speeches warning men against the dangers and miseries of Fortune. When he meets Captain Wel-Don, he praises him on his bravery and his feats when fighting for his country. Then he comforts him offering him employment in his own country, thus preventing him from having to go abroad in search of employment. When Prodigality is charged with murder, Liberalitie has to take charge of Money. The former expresses his amazement at seeing the latter so fat. When hearing Money's reply, Liberalitie offers to take care of him, preventing him from the extremities he had to endure in the hands of Prodigalitie and of Tenacitie. When Money agrees to be administered by Liberalitie, the latter begins with his sensible administration by recompensing Captain Wel-Don and the soldiers with some Money.
Money is Fortune's son, the idol women admire, the jewel men keep in store and a fountain of bliss. According to him, he is the god of this world: when he is around, it is all prosperity, when he leaves, only misery remains. He is committed to Prodigalitie by his mother Fortune, and he enjoys himself in his company, until he feels he is being overused and left noting but skin and bone. Then he escapes and goes back to his mother's. Once there, he is granted to Tenacitie, who swears to preserve him and not to waste him. As a consequence of being locked up by Tenacitie in coffers and bags, fed, and prevented by him from doing any exercise, Money starts to grow fat, to such an extent, that when he is freed by Prodigalitie, he cannot even run, and begs Prodigality to spend some of him (Money) so that he can lose weight and feel better. At the end, money agrees to stay with Liberalitie, because he will not take him to extremes, but will actually dispose of him sensibly.
Postilion is Prodigalitie's servant. He advises his master to continue their journey, rather than to stop at the inn, because he thinks the inn is going to be terribly expensive.
Prodigalitie is a suitor for Money. He travels with his servant Postilion to the realm of Fortune, to ask her for Money, and, exhausted, decides to stop at the inn. There, he has to promise the Hoste to be generous in his lodgings, in order to be let in. When he learns that Tenacitie is also seeking Money, and that he intends to see Fortune, Prodigalitie's anger explodes, and he quarrels with Tenacitie over the matter. Advised by Vanity, both Prodigalitie and Tenacitie go to see Fortune, and humbly beg her for Money. Fortune's decision will favor Prodigalitie, and he will express his gratitude to Vanitie and Fortune, offering the former whatever he pleases from his possessions, and singing a song to the latter. When he leaves Fortune's palace with her son, Money, he meets Tom Tosse and Dicke Dicer, and he is tricked by them into wasting Money largely. Eventually, Money deserts him. Then, incensed and threatening, he tells Vanity to ask Fortune to restore Money to him. Ill advised by Dicke, he climbs the walls of the castle to steal Money, believing he is still there. But Fortune puts a rope round his neck, and when he falls from the ladder, he is almost choked. Later, Tom Tosse reveals that Tenacitie has been granted Money by Fortune, and that he is taking him to a foreign country, and he decides to lay a trap for Money. He actually murders Tenacitie and steals Money from him, who had grown fat and felt sick in the hands of mean Tenacitie. But Prodigalitie is soon caught and tried for his crimes. He pleads guilty of murder and theft, but he explains that, even if it is too late, his heart is now thirsty for Virtue, and he begs the Prince for mercy.
A "ghost character." The Queen is mentioned by Captain Wel-Don when he explains that he has been fighting in all his Sovereign's wars. He also calls her "Prince." Later, a courtier mentions her again, referring to her as "her Maiesty." The soldiers also mention her, when they tell Liberalitie that they had fought in the Queen's wars in France, Flanders and in Ireland. She is also referred to by the Clerk, when he reads the indictment in court. Finally, she is addressed to by the Epilogue.
SHERIFF OF MIDDLESEX
The "Sherife" is seeking Prodigalitie, in the belief that the latter supplies his lack of bravery with murder and theft. He catches the man, but his accomplices flee.
Another name for the Third Suiter. He has lost his leg in the Queen's wars. He served in France, Flanders and Ireland under Captain Wel-Don. He is recompensed by Liberalitie.
SUITOR, FIRST and THIRD [sic]
This First Suitor has served Queen Elizabeth at great expense. After praying for her, he is recompensed by Liberalitie. The Third Suiter (also identified as the Lame Soldier) has lost his leg in the Queen's wars. He served in France, Flanders and Ireland under Captain Wel-Don. He is also recompensed by Liberalitie.
Also known as Father Croust, Tenacitie is a suitor for money. He looks like a beggar, but he is determined to find Fortune, and flatter her, with the help of her close servants. When he stops at an inn where he is well known and appreciated, in order to have some rest, there he learns that Prodigalitie is also searching for Fortune. Thus, he decides to go and see Fortune before his enemy does. But Prodigalitie learns about his plans and they start to quarrel over the matter. Then, advised by Vanity, both Money-seekers go to see Fortune, and humbly ask her for Money. Finally, Fortune decides to favor Prodigalitie, which arouses Tenacitie's complaints. But Vanity manages to calm him down, and make him leave in peace. Later, on learning that Money had deserted Prodigalitie, he returns to Fortune, and begs her for her son again. This time he is actually granted the Money, and joyfully promises he will not waste it. But, unfortunately, he ends up being robbed of his Money and murdered by Prodigalitie and his accomplices.
Tipstanes comes to court as a messenger of Equity. Once there, he acts as the usher in the courtroom.
Tom Tosse, also known as Tomkin, is a friend of Dicke Dicer, and he is going to accompany him in his search for Prodigalitie. When they finally find him in the company of Money, they pretend not to be seeking the latter, but just their company. Then they mislead him into wasting Money, until this finally deserts the former. Tom will later inform Prodigalitie that money has gone with Tenacity into a far-away country, he is also an accomplice in his murder, but, he and his friend flee at the end, leaving Prodigality alone, to be charged with the crimes.
An alternate name for Tom Tosse.
Vanitie is Fortune's chief servant. His nature is vain, inconstant, and he is dressed in feathers, which shows the lightness of his mind and his mutability. He has been sent to prepare Fortune's throne for her imminent arrival to hear men's desires. Vanitie meets Tenacitie, and learning that the latter is eager to find Fortune, then he devises a plan to mock Tenacitie. Actually, next time he meets him, he wants to know what Tenacitie would be ready to give him if he took him to Fortune, because he who best rewards him will be the first to see the goddess. Later, when he finds Tenacitie and Prodigalitie quarrelling, he tries to act as a mediator, urging them to stop the argument, and advising them to leave it to Fortune to decide whether she will give Money to one of them or to both. Fortune resolves to offer Money to Prodigalitie, but when she finds out that the latter had misused him, Fortune asks Vanity to help her to take revenge on Prodigalitie, and punish him for having offended her, a goddess.
Vertue is Fortune's enemy. She laments because men are always seeking Fortune, and she warns them against Fortune's double face, falsity, fickleness and treachery. She regrets than men prefer Fortune to Vertue. Then she goes on moralizing about men's behavior, and she explains that, when reason rules, men are safe, but when men yield to fancies and pleasure, they run headlong into vice. On hearing the accusations of the Sheriff against Prodigalitie, she asks Equity to proceed to the examination of the case.