(Shakespeare Apocrypha)

circa 1588–1593

a synoptic, alphabetical character list

Plays to be compared


Alfonso is an Athenian merchant, father to Kate, Phylema and Emelia. He insists that no suitors to his two younger daughters will be allowed unless the eldest, Kate, is married. When Ferando comes to woo Kate, Alfonso is pleased and sets the wedding date. He tries to convince Ferando to change into better clothing for the wedding, and to stay for the wedding feast, but fails in both. He believes the deception of Aurelius and Phylotus, and willingly agrees that Aurelius, whom he believes to be a merchant's son, should marry Phylema. At the wedding celebration, he is convinced that Ferando will lose the bet because Kate will not come when he commands and that Emelia and Phylema will. When the opposite occurs, he is astonished and gives Ferando a hundred pounds, claiming he is owed another dowry since this is clearly another daughter.


Aurelius is the son of the Duke of Sestos, who comes to Athens to visit Aurelius and falls in love with Phylema, the second daughter of Alfonso. He pretends to be a merchant in order to court Phylema. He asks Valeria to find a merchant to pretend to be his father, and then, just before the wedding, tests Phylema's love by asking her what she would do if the Duke of Sesto's son were to propose to her. When, just after the marriage, the Duke finds out that he is married, Aurelius begs forgiveness on his knees, offering his life to save Phylema and his friends from the Duke's anger. The Duke is mollified and allows the marriage to stand. At the feast, Aurelius wagers 100 pounds with Ferando that his wife will come the soonest when called, but when he loses, he is not unduly upset, and is pleased that Ferando and Kate have learned to agree.


The boy is one of the players, who, at the command of the Lord, dresses as a woman and acts as Sly's wife. In this guise he calls himself Catapie.


Catapie is the name that the Lord's Boy (q.v.) gives to himself.


Duke of Sestos first appears traveling to Athens to meet his son. On the road he meets Ferando and Kate, traveling to the weddings of Aurelius and Phylema, and Polidor and Emelia. He is addressed as a young maid first by Ferando and then, obediently, by Kate, and is frightened off by their seeming madness. He arrives to hear Valeria promise gifts from the Duke of Sesto to Alfonso and threatens both Valeria and Aurelius. However, he is persuaded to accept the marriage by the combined appeals of Aurelius, Phylema, Polidor and Emelia.


Emelia is the third daughter of Alfonso and the beloved of Polidor. She at first mocks his overwrought lover's language, claiming that she knows he will not die for love, but she then resorts to that language herself. With her sister, Aurelius and Polidor, she pleads for clemency from the Duke of Sestos when he discovers that his son has married without permission. At the wedding feast, she refuses to come at her husband's command, and when Polidor complains that she is a shrew, she replies that it is better than being a sheep.


Ferando promises to marry Kate and tame her for a dowry of six thousand crowns. He woos Kate with coarse humor, and shows up at the wedding basely attired. Immediately after the wedding he insists that Kate and he must leave at once, and drags Kate away to his home. When he and Kate arrive, he beats his servants, including Sander, for bringing burnt meat. Later, he offers Kate meat but when she does not thank him he takes it away and promises she will have none until she is meek and gentle. When the Haberdasher and Tailor arrive with the goods Kate has requested, Ferando destroys them, claiming they are out of fashion and unattractive. Then he claims it is nine o'clock when it is really past two, and, when Kate disagrees with him, he insists that they will not leave until she agrees it is whatever time he says it is. When Kate agrees that the sun is the moon, and that the old man they meet on the road (the Duke of Sestos) is a young maiden, he claims that now they have one heart and one mind and so will live happily. Ferando bets five hundred marks that Kate will come at his call and is proved right.


Kate is the eldest daughter of Alfonso and later the wife of Ferando. Although she insults and rejects Ferando when he first comes to woo her, she admits to the audience she is marrying him willingly because she is afraid to be a spinster. During a music lesson with the disguised Valeria, when he flirts with her, she threatens to hit him with the lute, then throws it down and leaves. She attempts to refuse Ferando when he shows up for the wedding in base attire, and later wishes to stay at the wedding feast when Ferando insists they leave immediately, but in each case she is overruled. At Ferando's home, Kate is "tamed" by being refused food and having the clothes she ordered ripped up, both because she is not obedient. When she finally agrees with Ferando that the sun is the moon and an old man is a young girl, Ferando declares that she is now tamed and they will live happily together. When Ferando, Aurelius and Polidor bet that their wives will come when they command, Kate is the only wife to obey, and further obeys Ferando's commands to take off her cap and step on it, to bring in her sisters, and to describe a wife's duty to them.


The Lord finds Sly drunkenly asleep in the gutter and decides to play a trick on him. He commands his servants to treat Sly as their lord, and orders the Boy actor to dress as a woman and pretend to be Sly's wife. He himself pretends to a servant, named Simon or Sim (as Sly calls him) and answers Sly's questions about the players and the play during the interlude. At the end of the play-within-the-play, he orders Sly redressed in his own clothing and returned to the street where he was found.


The Messenger is a servant of the Lord who announces the coming of the players.


Phylema is the second daughter of Alfonso and beloved of Aurelius, Prince of Sestos. She believes him to be a merchant's son when she falls in love with and marries him. When the Duke of Sestos arrives and threatens both Aurelius and her for their marriage, she offers to die if he will spare Aurelius. At the wedding celebration, she refuses to come when her husband commands, and when Kate drags her in she says that women look like fools if they obey their husbands.


Polidor is an Athenian scholar and friend to Aurelius. He loves Emelia, the youngest daughter of Alfonso. Because Alfonso has declared that Emelia and Phylema cannot marry until Kate is married, Polidor decides to match Ferando to Kate so that he and Aurelius will be also able to marry. However, Ferando has already himself decided to court Kate, so Polidor's plan is not needed. After the marriage of Kate and Ferando, Polidor visits them. When Ferando threatens to take meat away from Kate, Polidor asks that she be allowed to have it. After his marriage to Emelia and Aurelius' marriage to Phylema, when the Duke of Sestos threatens Aurelius, he joins the others in pleading for clemency. He bets one hundred pounds that his wife will come at his command, and when she does not he calls her a shrew.


The fool of the play. He is Ferando's servant in the play-within-the-play and is beaten for bringing burnt meat. Sly is particularly amused by Sander and interrupts the play to ask if he will return.


Sly is a drunkard who falls asleep in the street after being thrown out of doors by the Tapster. He is taken to the house of the Lord while still asleep, as a jest, and told, when he awakens, that he is a lord. He is convinced that he is, in fact, a lord and agrees to see "his" players perform as long as there is a fool involved. During the play, he interrupts three times:
  • first to ask if the fool (Sander) will come again,
  • second to ask if Polidor and Aurelius will be married and
  • finally to object to the threatened imprisonment of Phylotus and Valeria for impersonating the Duke of Sestos and his son.
Sly then falls asleep. In the fourth interlude, just before the final scene, the wager scene, the Lord calls Boy and other servants to redress Sly in his own clothes and return him to where he was found. After the end of the play-within-the-play, Sly wakes believing he has had a dream that has taught him how to tame a shrew.


Tapster is an innkeeper who throws Sly out of his inn and the next morning finds Sly and wakes him after his "dream" of being a lord. When he hears that Sly has dreamed of how to tame a shrew, he offers to go home with Sly so that he can hear the details of the dream.


Valeria is a servant to Aurelius, who, ordered by Aurelius and Polidor, disguises himself as a music teacher for Kate. He is then sent to Alfonso's house by Polidor in order to distract Kate and give her sisters time to meet their lovers. He has a disastrous music lesson with Kate. He appears to flirt with her, and she threatens him with bodily harm before storming out. Later, he convinces the merchant Phylotus to pretend to be Aurelius' father and create a marriage contract with Alfonso. He then impersonates the Duke of Sesto's son and promises to provide yearly gifts to Alfonso to honor the marriage of his "friend" Aurelius to Phylema. He flees when his plot is discovered and the Duke threatens to have him arrested, but he appears again in the wager scene and is responsible for delivering the message to each wife that she is to come to her husband.

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Plays to be compared:
Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew for the main plot consanguinity.