THE DEVIL'S CHARTER,
POPE ALEXANDER VI
2 February 1607
a synoptic, alphabetical character list
This is the only surviving play written by Barnabe Barnes (1569-1609). The play was published in one quarto edition and was performed "upon Candlemasse night," 2 February 1607 by the King's Men at the court of James I. Although this tragedy is Jacobean in tone, it owes much to Christopher Marlowe's play Dr. Faustus.
Formerly Cardinal Roderigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI is as Lodowick describes him in II,i., "A Pope by nature full of fraud and pride / Ambitious, avaricious, shameless, devilish." Indeed, Alexander makes a Faustian bargain with the Devil in order to attain worldly power for himself and his sons. In a dumb-show before the first act, a pope resembling Alexander is seen bribing two Cardinals, who then depart the stage. At that point, four Devils in quick succession deliver a parchment that contains the Devil's terms. The pope must surrender his soul to the Devil at the end of eighteen years and eight days and in return he and his sons, Caesar, the Cardinal of Valence and the Duke of Candy, will gain great wealth and, more importantly, great power. After he reads the parchment, the pope signs his name in blood, and the devils descend accompanied by thunder and lightening. The real Pope Alexander's sons are involved in an intense rivalry and the Pope hopes to reconcile them and thereby unite the family in power, Candy agrees, but Caesar only pretends to reconcile with his brother. Alexander is being threatened by King Charles VIII of France who invades Italy and demands Castell Angelo from Alexander. Alexander agrees in order to have time to secure his kingdom with the help of his two sons, but Charles dies suddenly and Alexander's enemies, led by the brothers Lodowick and Ascanio Sforza, join with Ferdinand of Spain in a renewed effort to overthrow the now very powerful Borgias and reclaim the integrity of the Vatican. The truce with Charles brings the two noblemen, Astor and Phillipo Manfredi under Alexander's power. Alexander lusts after the innocent Astor who tries to avoid Alexander's lechery but is ultimately destroyed. Another victim of this truce is the Gemen Ottoman who is to be surrendered to King Charles, but because the king dies before the exchange can take place, he is instead murdered by Caesar. Alexander later learns that Caesar has murdered his brother, Candy and that Lucretia has murdered her husband, Viselli. It is at this point that Alexander begins to recognize the malignancies that he has bred, not only in his children, but in the state as well. However, after he confronts Caesar, he acknowledges that he is achieving his desired goal of consolidated power. Nothing can stop him as long as he has Caesar and he needs Caesar's cutthroat tactics and lack of conscience. Caesar tells Alexander that he will lead the Vatican troops in battle and win more power and riches for the family. Alexander then orders the murder of his daughter, Lucretia. After her gruesome death, he orders the murders of the Manfredi brothers, Astor and Phillipo so that he can have their lands, the Faventines. Finally, after he and Caesar attempt to poison Cardinals Modina and Cornetto, the Devils reappear. They switch the goblets containing the poison and as a result, Alexander and Caesar are poisoned instead. Although Caesar does not die from the poisoning, Alexander's poisoning is fatal. As he dies, the devils appear, gleefully discussing how they will torture Alexander's soul once he's dead, and when the Devil appears, Alexander demands an explanation. It has only been eleven years and his charter states that he should still have seven years to live. But the Devil explains that Alexander has misread the ambiguous Latin. He will not die on the eighth day of the eighteenth year, but the eighth day after the eleventh year and the seventh day. His time is up and the devils drag him, still screaming and protesting, to hell.
An Italian ally to the French King, Charles VIII, who, along with his brother, Lodowick, joins forces with Charles and attacks Alexander's fortress of Castell Angelo. Ascanio calls Alexander the "Antichrist" and warns Charles not to believe Alexander or place any faith in the word of this Pope who he recognizes as a liar and a reprobate. After their successful invasion, he demands that Alexander turn over the triple-diadem-or Crown of the Papacy-and the Cross Keys-the symbol of the Pope's authority in Rome.
Captive of Alexander VI, who lusts after the young man and makes no secret of his sexual intentions. One of the territories that Alexander bargains for in making a truce with Charles is the territory known as the Faventines, the home country of the Manfredi nobles. Astor and Philippo are taken captive and brought to Rome where Astor attracts the unwanted attention of Alexander. He delays a meeting in Alexander's private rooms by claiming that he has to go to Mass. Alexander cannot argue this point and allows him to go. In the meantime, Alexander has his manservant Bernardo prepare the papal chambers for the upcoming night with Astor-he has already sent Astor a ruby ring to entice the young man to his chamber. Later in the play, Alexander orders Bernardo to put poison in the wine served to Astor and Philippo after their game of tennis. Alexander himself then enters the chamber where Astor and his brother are lying unconscious and places asps on their bare chests. The snakes deliver their deadly venom and both men die. Alexander quickly leaves the chamber and Bernardo announces that they died after exhausting themselves at tennis and then drinking wine, overheating their bodies and causing them both to die. Alexander whispers that he did them a favor by sending them to a better place.
A Devil. Astoreth appears in the dumb show at the beginning of the play and then reappears in Act 5 calling to the other devils. He tells them that the time has come to take Alexander's soul. He tells the others that he will take Alexander's soul to the River Styx where he will make scorpions and snakes sting the pope's soul and then he will whip Alexander for his sins of pride. He plays on a hornpipe and dances with the other devils while they prepare for Alexander's death.
An assassin and a braggart hired by Caesar Borgia to kill Bandino Rozzi, the apothecary. On the night that Frescobaldi is to murder the Duke of Candy, he runs into Baglioni who sees him practicing his stabbing skill in pantomime and asks him if he's gone mad in a bizarre dialog where the two ruffians allude to devils, gods, and mythical characters of the night. After Frescobaldi is killed by Caesar, Baglioni does not reappear until Act 5 when Caesar Borgia gives him gold to murder the apothecary, Rozzi. He meets Rozzi and Bernardo, Alexander's manservant who has come for poison. But Rozzi has the final laugh, because Baglioni drinks the poison wine and after he shoots Rozzi, Baglioni, in a long prose speech recognizes that he too has been poisoned, "guilty of mine own death."
Only mentioned. The brother of Gemen Ottoman, a Turkish prisoner.
The apothecary who mixes and then sells the poison that Alexander and Caesar Borgia plan to use to kill Cardinals Modina and Cornetto, possible competitors to Caesar's power. Caesar hires the assassin Baglioni to shoot Rozzi once the poison exchanges hands. Baglioni kills Rozzi and drags his body away.
A military nobleman who swears loyalty to Gismond di Viselli. Walking together, they find notices on the statue of Pasquil that accuse the Borgia pope and two of his children of corruption. The notices call the Pope the Antichrist, his son Caesar his equally corrupt accomplice, and his daughter Lucretia of incest and murder. Viselli calls the posters slander and calls on Barbarossa to help him expel such "vile breath" from Rome. Barbarossa later finds Viselli's bleeding body with a fake suicide note. He questions Lucretia, but she acts as if she knows nothing and he believes her act of grief and shock. He reports the bloody death to the Pope. When the Duke of Candy suspects his sister of the murder, he first questions Barbarossa who reports that he found the body and saw Lucretia immediately after Viselli's death. He tells the Duke of Candy that Lucretia seemed "disconsolate." Later Barbarossa fights alongside Caesar in the assault against the warrior Countess Katharine. He has taken Katharine's two sons captive and he brings them into her view when Caesar threatens to kill them unless she surrenders. In the final act, Barbarossa enters the papal castle with Caesar and their troops, but he does not speak.
A devil. In the final act, Asteroth calls on his fellow devils, Belchar among them, to help him take Alexander's soul to hell. Belchar brags that it was he who exchanged the glasses of wine at dinner, thus poisoning the Pope and Caesar instead of the Cardinals Cornetto and Modina. Belchar claims the right to put toads into Alexander's mouth because, in life, the Pope's lust could never be satisfied. He will also pour molten gold and lead into Alexander's stomach because of the pope's seemingly insatiable greed.
A nobleman of the Borgia entourage. He accompanies Caesar and is dismissed when Alexander needs to discuss Candy's murder in private with Caesar. When he is recalled, Caesar tells Alexander that his men are wearing arms in preparation for revenging Candy's death. Bentivoli asks Caesar if Candy's funeral arrangements have been made. Finally, it is Bentovolli, along with Cardinal Caraffa who sees that Alexander is dead and orders that the funeral be a celebration of freedom from the corruption of the Borgia Pope.
Pope Alexander's servant and accessory to Alexander's murders, Bernardo is first seen announcing the arrival of the Spanish Ambassadors from Spain to Alexander. Later, the pope orders Bernardo to bring Astor to the papal chambers. When Alexander "sees" Candy's murder, it is Bernardo who tries to comfort him. Alexander decides to kill Lucretia with poisoned make-up, and he sends Bernardo to the apothecary to get the poison-making Bernardo an accomplice to the crime. Bernardo serves Astor and Phillipo Manfredi the poisoned wine, then he covers the crime with the lie that the young men had exhausted themselves playing tennis and then they drank wine too quickly, causing their deaths. He rationalizes his crimes to the apothecary Rozzi by explaining that gold blurs all sense of right and wrong. Bernardo brings the drugged wine to the final banquet: the wine meant for the Cardinal but switched by the devils and consumed instead by Alexander and Caesar.
The eldest son of Pope Alexander VI, brother to Lucretia Borgia and the Duke of Candy. Caesar is essentially as evil as his father and through that evil destroys the Borgias, the family for whom Alexander bargained away his soul. Caesar, like his father, is a Machiavel, interested only in power and personal gain. Initially, Caesar is the Cardinal of Valence, but soon after he assassinates his brother, he becomes a soldier and removes his Cardinal's robes. Alexander recognizes that his sons are not alike in temperament and this has caused a rift between them. He did not sell his soul to the devil only to have his family lose power because of petty differences. He calls his sons to him and divides his lands between them, explaining that they have to try to get along so that the family will survive. Caesar tells Candy that he argues with him because he loves him and wants to help make him a stronger man. Candy objects to Caesar's strong-armed tactics but in the end believes him to be sincere in his desire to create a united Italy under the Borgias. Both men agree to work together towards this end. Caesar, however, has different plans. He decides to kill his brother and for this task he hires a braggart, Frescobaldi to assassinate Candy. They meet in the night, accost Candy and stab him and then throw his body into the river. After the murder, Caesar grabs the surprised Frescobaldi and throws him into the river after Candy's body. After Candy's death, Caesar dons armor, claiming that he has to revenge the murder of his brother, and proceeds to invade the neighboring provinces. One castle is defended by women, and their leader is the Countess Katharine. When she refuses to surrender, Caesar brings forth her two sons. He has captured the boys and threatens to behead them in her sight. She still refuses either to surrender or to bargain with him and she encourages her boys to be brave and die rather than surrender their honor or their freedom. When she is defeated in battle, Caesar unexpectedly takes her to her sons, who are playing cards in his tent, unmolested. He treats her and the rest of the town fairly, but he continues his quest for power through might. Once he conquers Romania, he returns to Rome for the winter and furloughs his troops with extra pay. They promise to support him. He and his father recognize a threat to Caesar's power from the Cardinals Cornetto and Modina and the Borgia's realize that they must eliminate them. They contact Bandino Rozzi, the apothecary, and order poison, but this necessitates the elimination of the source of the poison as well. Caesar hires Frescobaldi's friend, Baglioni for the murder. Caesar then delivers the poisoned wine to his father for the banquet where the Cardinals will be murdered. Alexander praises Caesar's military exploits to the Cardinals and while he is distracted, Belchar switches the wine bottles. The Borgia's drink the wine and very quickly Alexander realizes that he and Caesar have both been poisoned. He tries to warn Caesar not to drink, but it's too late. Caesar does not die, but, the Chorus later tells us, he is "Reserv'd for more calamities to come" and he is eventually slain at Viano.
Appear in the Dumb Show where Alexander pantomimes signing the charter with the devil.
An elderly Cardinal who stands with tradition and thus with Alexander. In his function as an elder, Caraffa advises the Pope about military action, comforts him when the Manfredi princes are found dead, and joins in the Pope's praise of Caesar at the banquet celebrating Caesar's military victories and gains for Rome. Caraffa witnesses Alexander's death and orders that Alexander's swollen corpse be placed on view, "that they may / See the reward for sin, amend and pray."
One of the Cardinals who stand as a rival to Caesar Borgia who has returned triumphant from the wars. Cornetto and Modina are targeted for death by Alexander and they survive because Belchar exchanges the wine bottles and thus poisons Alexander and Caesar instead.
CARDINAL of ST. PETER ad VINCULA
An ally to the French King Charles VIII. He joins Charles, Montpensier, and Ascanio and Lodowick Sforza who are planning to invade Rome and remove Alexander as Pope. When the victory goes to Charles, Alexander negotiates a truce and Vincula, who wants Charles to press his military advantage, hatefully refers to Alexander as "Lucifer" sitting in St. Peter's chair.
CARDINAL RODERIGO BORGIA
Alexander VI's name prior to becoming Pope.
The King of France, Charles is an honest and just man who, upon hearing of Italy's suffering under Alexander, has come to invade Italy and negotiate with or depose the Pope. Charles's allies are the Sforza's and Charles Balbiano, along with the French contingent, Montpensier and the Cardinal of St. Peter ad Vincula. Charles can easily win a victory, but his respect for the Papacy prevents him from pressing his advantage and he negotiates with Alexander, who refuses to surrender Castell Angelo but promises Charles other concessions, including Terrocina, Civita Vecchia and Spoleto, and the Turk, Gemen Ottoman. They sign a truce, but soon after, Charles is stricken with apoplexy and dies suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving France and Italy open to invasion by Ferdinand of Spain.
Only mentioned. Listed in the Dramatis Personae as an Italian ally of the French King, Charles, Balbiano does not otherwise appear.
Francesco Guicciardini. The chorus speaks six times, once at the beginning of the play and again at the end of each of the five acts.
COUNTESS KATHARINE RIARIO
Katharine is the sister-in-law of the Sforza's and the widow of Riario and, as such, she is the ruler, since her husband's death, of Furli, a town that is attacked by Caesar during his campaigns. He seems to admire this "Amazonian" that defends her city better than any man. When Caesar threatens to kill her young sons, she tells them to be brave, and not to fear death, but only dishonor and cowardliness. She tells them to die bravely because they are noble and free and it is better to die free than to live as a slave. She tells Caesar that she will fight to the death, "I spit defiance in your coward's face / Traitor to God and man, hadst thou been, Caesar." She loses the battle in spite of her valiant efforts to defend her town. She expects to see the bodies of her children, but Caesar, a true Machiavellian, has taken care of them and reunites her with the boys. He then takes Katharine with him to Rome and promises that she will be treated fairly.
Only mentioned. Two nameless devils that help drag Alexander's soul to hell.
Appear in the Dumb Show where Alexander is mimed signing the charter with the devil.
DUKE of CANDY
Son of Alexander and brother to Caesar Borgia and Lucretia Borgia. Candy is a soldier, but in Caesar's eyes he is weak and ineffectual. The brothers are constantly at odds. Alexander tries to have them reconciled and, although Caesar pretends to accept Candy, he plots his brother's murder. Candy is instrumental in demanding that his father's Castell Angelo not come under fire or be taken by the French. He and Barabrossa discover the mutilated body of Gismond di Viselli. This gives Candy a premonition of evil to come, although he does not realize that it his own murder. Candy, uneasy and suspicious, nevertheless walks the streets one night with Caesar and Frescbaldi who attack and kill him, dumping his body in the Tiber River.
FRANCESCO di GONZAGA
A "ghost character." He was the first husband of Lucretia Borgia.
Acts the part of chorus throughout the play. The chorus speaks six times, once at the beginning of the play and again at the end of each of the five acts.
A hired assassin and braggart. Caesar Borgia hires Frescobaldi to murder the Duke of Candy. Frescobaldi, like his friend Baglioni, will do almost anything for enough gold. Frescobaldi and his fellow, Baglioni discuss the ways that they can make money through crime and call on a succession of mythological characters, alcoholic drinks, and whores, probably well known to the Jacobean audience, but now obscure and obsolete. They will both be hired by and subsequently die because of their relationship to Caesar Borgia. Borgia initially sets up his brother, the Duke of Candy, luring him out at night into the street where the armed Frescobaldi waits. Frescobaldi and Caesar attack and stab Candy to death, throwing his body over the bridge and into the Tiber River. Frescobaldi is then taken by surprise by Caesar Borgia who throws him into the river where he drowns alongside his own murder victim.
GASPAR de FOIX
Master of Artillery or "Ordinance" under Charles VIII and, as such, he appears in battle with the king. He assures the king that the cannon are ready prior to the battle against Alexander's forces in Rome.
Only mentioned. A Turkish prisoner promised to Charles VIII by Pope Alexander VI as part of a truce. Later murdered.
A French gentleman in King Charles's entourage. Defends Charles, questions the Pope's integrity, and acts as Charles's first officer in battle.
GISMOND di VASELLI
An Italian nobleman married to Lucretia Borgia. Walking through the streets of Rome one night with Barbarossa, Vaselli sees posters maligning the character of the Borgia family. The last notice refers to Lucretia as a "noble whore" and to Vaselli as a cuckold. Vaselli is amazed that anyone could slander her so-even though he keeps her locked in her rooms because he so possessive of her. For this reason, and because she despises him, Lucretia will kill him. That night, Lucretia tricks Vaselli and ties him in a chair. Threatening him, she forces him to write a suicide note, a note that expresses his regret for his jealousy of her and his mistreatment of her. Once he has written and signed the note, she stabs him brutally and repeatedly.
A "ghost character." He was the second husband of Lucretia Borgia.
The brother-in-law of Countess Katharine and uncle to her two sons. He appears on the walls of Furli with Katharine when she faces Caesar Borgia and his troops.
An Italian ally of the French King. Lodowick recognizes that Rome, and as a result, all of Italy, has deteriorated into corruption because of the malignant reign of the present Pope, Alexander VI. He supports Charles VIII in his invasion of Italy and hopes to remove Alexander from the Vatican. When Charles's troops win the battle and are on the verge of occupying Rome, Lodowick encourages Charles to press forward with the attack and not negotiate with Alexander, But Charles believes that the Pope will honor his word and so he agrees to Alexander's terms for a truce. Lodowick honors the truce and salutes the Pope.
LORD MARQUIS of PESCARE
A "ghost character." He was the third husband of Lucretia Borgia.
The daughter of Pope Alexander VI and sister to Caesar Borgia and the Duke of Candy. She has carried on an incestuous affair with her father and her brother, Caesar. The posters on the statue of Pasquil describe her as Alexander's only "daughter, wife, and daughter-in-law." She has been married to Francesco di Gonzaga, John Sforza, Lord Marquis of Pescare, and now to Gismond di Viselli who keeps her under lock and key because of her promiscuous nature and legendary beauty. Because of this imprisonment, she stabs Viselli repeatedly, later claiming that he killed himself because of his behavior towards her. When Alexander realizes that she murdered Viselli, he decides to murder her and has poison put into her makeup-a symbol of her vanity. She dies screaming in agony with visions of the murdered Vaselli before her.
Appears in the Dumb Show where Alexander is mimed signing the charter with the devil.
Lucretia Borgia's maid. Motticella assists Lucretia in the scene after Viselli's murder when Lucretia is pretending to look for her husband, is told that he is dead, and pretends to be shocked and grieved. Later, Motticilla brings the poison makeup to Lucretia, and then runs to get Alexander and the physicians when Lucretia begins to break out in a burning rash, screaming in pain. Lucretia grabs Motticilla and begs her forgiveness for having taught the woman deceit and cunning. Motticilla repents and holds the dying Lucretia.
Only mentioned; depicted in a statue upon which notices are posted that accuse the Borgia pope and two of his children of corruption.
The brother of Astor Manfredi, Philippo is brought to the Vatican after his lands are seized by the Pope. He is murdered along with his brother when Alexander decides to eliminate any competition for the lands and titles of the Faventines. Philippo tells Astor that he would rather drown himself in the Tiber River than submit to the lechery of the Pope. Right before he loses consciousness, Philippo calls for music.
The head castle guard officer, or castellan, he stands with Alexander to fight the approaching army of Charles. He prepares the men for battle.
Only mentioned. Pope who preceded Pope Alexander VI.
The young sons of Countess Katharine. Caesar seizes them and threatens to behead the boys if Katharine refuses to surrender the town of Furli to him. Initially the boys beg their mother to surrender and save their lives, but after she tells them to die in honor rather than live in slavery, the older of the two boys encourages his brother to die bravely. Caesar does not execute the boys and they are last seen playing cards and happily greeting their mother in one of Caesar's tents.
Two gentlemen of Rome who are seen posting slanderous notices against the Borgia's on the statue of Pasquil, the god of truth, in Rome.
A devil that appears with Astoreth and Belchar to escort Alexander's soul to hell and begin the eternal torture. Varca brags that he will stretch Alexander's limbs "till he stretch an acre length."
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