Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher

A Comedy



Only mentioned. When Mercurie describes his first sight of Maria, he refers to the temptation of Adam


Servant to Mercurie's mother. He announces the arrival of Mercurie and a woman who turns out to be Viola, the daughter of Andrugio.


Viola's father and a neighbor of Antonio. After Ricardo and Andrugio realize that Viola is missing, Andrugio foolishly promises Ricardo that he can marry his missing daughter (Viola) if he can find her and bring her back home.


The Coxcomb, Maria's husband, and Mercurie's comrade. They are of the same class and socialize frequently along with Andrugio and his daughter, Viola. One evening, Antonio insists that Mercurie stay overnight at his home. He is awakened in the middle of the night when Mercurie wants to leave, even though both Antonio and his wife, Maria, insist that Mercurie stay. Seeing Mercurie's determination to leave, Antonio sends his wife back to her bed while he remains with Mercurie to find out why his friend appears so anxious to depart. Their conversation is interrupted by Viola knocking at the door to Antonio's house. Antonio does not believe that it could possibly be Viola, since she is a gentlewoman and would not be out unaccompanied that late at night; he tells the servant to dismiss the stranger. He then turns back to his conversation with Mercurie and discovers to his surprise that his friend is in love with his wife; Mercurie is fearful of making Antonio a cuckold if he stays any longer. Antonio confides in Mercurie, telling him that their friendship is more important to him than his marriage to Maria. In fact, he tells his friend, Mercurie is more than welcome to remain in his home and try to win Maria's affections. Antonio will even help Mercurie seduce Maria, and he does what he can to fulfill his promise. Antonio disguises himself as an Irish footman in order to deliver a letter from Mercurie to Maria, but Maria rejects him. Later, Antonio rides to the Country-woman's house to deliver a letter that he has written to Maria. The letter suggests that she should become closer to Mercurie. Because Antonio has apparently disappeared, Maria and Mercurie are accused of his murder. However, due to his sudden reappearance and confession, they are released and the charges are dismissed.


A law-keeper. Drawer summons the Constable to intercept and stop a fight between Ricardo, Pedro, Uberto, and Silvio. With the help of Drawer, the Constable escorts the drunken trouble-makers home.


Mercurie's mother and mistress of the house where Alexander, Nan and Madge work. She employs Viola as a maid. When Alexander informs the Country-woman of the imminent arrival of her son, Mercurie, and that he is bringing a strange woman with him, she is instantly suspicious. But when Mercurie introduces his pale and sickly looking companion, Maria, the Country-woman takes pity on her and welcomes her in. However, her attitude towards Melvia—as Viola calls herself in her position as a servant—is not so forgiving. The Country-woman beats Melvia for breaking a glass and tells her to leave the house after Melvia drops bread. When Melvia/Viola offers one of her jewels to the Country-woman, all is forgiven.


Kinsman to Antonio. Curio delivers an urgent message from the City to the Justice concerning the alleged death of Antonio.


A streetwalker and common whore. Called "the Tinker's troll." She and the Tinker accost Viola when they happen upon her in the middle of the night; they tie her up, and steal her belongings.


An assistant to the Constable. Nevertheless, he tells Ricardo and his three "merry friends" that he can get them wine and women.


The epilogue tells the audience that he hopes they liked the play. If so, he'll have it made, if not, he'll have nothing.


The disguised Antonio; he hides his true identity so that he can deliver a love-letter from another man, Mercurie, to his own wife, Maria. His enraged and insulted wife orders her servant to lock up this insulting Irishman. Maintaining his disguise as the Irish Footman, Antonio overhears the servants, William and Roger, plot his murder.


A judge. Described in the Cast List as "a shallow one," the Justice receives a message from the Curio concerning the supposed death of Antonio. After reviewing the evidence, the Justice is convinced that Antonio was murdered.


A Milk-maid. After Viola enters the employ of Mercurie's mother, she meets Madge and Nan. The maids offer Viola some milk and, in return, Viola gives them a jewel from her father's house. Viola asks them if they know of a place where she might find lodging and work and Madge, along with Nan, leads her to the Country-woman. They hesitate to leave Viola because she is with two strange men.


Antonio's wife and the object of Mercurie's love. When she is introduced to Mercurie by her husband, she does not reveal that she knows Mercurie. She wakes in the middle of the night when Mercurie tries to leave and she compels him to stay. Mercurie asks Antonio to send her back to bed and Maria obediently complies. Later, Maria is confronted by Antonio who is disguised as an Irish footman. He taunts her and suggests that her husband is a fool. She berates him and tells him that she will not allow her husband to be made a cuckold—she tells her servant to arrest the footman and she leaves to report to his master. Maria makes her way to Mercurie's house. She confronts him about the letter he sent but he denies knowing anything about it. However, he does confess his love for her. She believes him and retracts her previous accusations. When a servant enters to tell Maria that her husband's belongings were found in a brothel, she is convinced that she has lost him; he may, in fact, be dead since there is no trace of him to be found. Mercurie offers to take her to his mother's house in the country and she goes with him. Antonio (who had been locked up in his disguise of the Irish footman) is released and follows his wife to the country where he delivers a second letter. When Antonio is said to be missing, Maria and Mercurie come under suspicion of murder, but once Antonio reappears, the charges are dropped and husband and wife are happily reunited.


A clerk (or scribe) for the court, particularly the Justice.


Viola's disguise. When she runs away from home to elope with Ricardo, Viola disgraces her father but rather than ruin the family name, she changes hers to Melvia and passes herself off as a lady's maid in the Country-woman's house.


Antonio's best friend and fellow traveler. Also spelled "Mercury" in the text. Unknown to Antonio, Mercurie is in love with Maria, Antonio's wife. Antonio invites Mercurie to stay overnight at his home, but the temptation of having Maria so close is too much for him to bear and rather than seduce Maria and make Antonio a cuckold, Mercurie decides to leave. He summons a servant to help him out but the noise of his departure wakes Antonio and Maria, who beg him to stay. Maria is dismissed so that Mercurie can talk to Antonio alone and just as he's about to confess his love for Maria, Viola knocks on the door. Antonio refuses to even consider that Viola, a gentlewoman, would be out alone at night and sends the fugitive away. Mercurie then admits his love for Maria to Antonio. Amazingly, Antonio does not object and even offers to help Mercurie gain the love of Maria—that their male friendship is much more important than the love of his wife. Antonio sends Maria a letter in the name of Mercurie, but when she questions Mercurie, he denies that he wrote the letter, although he does, indeed, love her. She believes him and accepts his friendship. He brings her to his mother's country home where he is accused of Antonio's murder, but when Antonio reappears he is exonerated.


Serving Antonio, the musician is hired to provide pleasing music during the feast and through the night so Mercurie can woo Maria.


One of the Milk-maids for the Country-woman. After Viola enters the employ of Mercurie's mother, she meets Madge and Nan. The maids offer Viola some milk and in return Viola gives them a jewel from her father's house. Viola asks them if they know of a place where she might find lodging and work and Nan and Madge lead her to the Country-woman. When Valerio and Ricardo find Viola, they two maids hesitate to leave Viola with the two strange men.


Friend to Ricardo, Uberto and Silvio. Pedro, like his friends, knows that Ricardo has no intention of marrying Viola.


The opening argument. The Prologue explains that the play about to be performed is old but has been newly revised and updated for a more modern and appreciative audience. The old version was lambasted because it was too long and of "grosser taste." By flattering the new audience, the authors are hoping for a better reception. This audience, they hope, will surely be sophisticated enough to appreciate the updated and more sophisticated version of the now shorter play.


A young gentleman, in love with Viola (called RICHARDO in the Stage Directions) He is in love with and is courting Andrugio's daughter, Viola. He has convinced Viola of his love and she agrees to run away with him. However, while at the tavern with Pedro, Uberto and Silvio, he reveals that he has no desire ever to be married. He thinks that women are deceitful and will do anything to get a man to marry them. After a night of drinking, Ricardo tells them how much he enjoys his freedom and bachelorhood. Viola's father, Andrugio, visits Ricardo while his friends are with him and tells Ricardo that if Viola, who has mysteriously disappeared, comes back safely that she (and her dowry) will belong to Ricardo. Ricardo and his friends start to search for Viola vowing not to stop until they find her. Ricardo hears that Valerio knows of Viola's whereabouts and so goes to his house. He asks Valerio where Viola has gone and is told that she was left in a field. The next day Valerio takes Ricardo to the place where he left Viola, but there is no sign of her. Then they see her approach with Nan and Madge. Nan and Madge are reluctant to leave her with the two men. At first, Viola is reluctant to forgive Ricardo for his actions, but she believes that he is truly repentant and forgives him. Finally he tells Viola that she can't help it if she's a woman with all a woman's faults. After all, "women want but ways; / To praise their deeds, but men want deeds to praise."


Servant Two to Antonio. Antonio, disguised as an Irish footman, reveals his identity to William and Roger his servants and tells them to spread the word that he is dead.


Servant to Andrugio. A mute character.


A comrade to Ricardo along with Uberto and Pedro. Silvio knows of Ricardo's plan to abandon Viola.


Dallies with Dorothie. They accost Viola when they happen upon her in the middle of the night; they tie her up, and steal her belongings.


Comrade to Ricardo, Pedro, and Silvio. Uberto knows that Ricardo has no intention of eloping with Viola.


A Country gentleman. He meets Viola after she has been tied up and robbed by Tinker and Dorothie. He helps her, but she refuses to reveal her true name. She tells him that she would be willing to work for his wife as a maid, but he tells her that his wife will not tolerate beautiful women in their house. He offers to set her up in a house where he can visit her—he can see by her hands that she is not used to working and is surely a gentlewoman. She refuses this offer and tells him that she wants no visits form a married man. At her request, Valerio leaves her on the side of the road and they part ways. Ricardo hears that Valerio knows of Viola's whereabouts and Valerio confesses that he left her in a field in the country. They find her with Nan and Madge who are reluctant to leave her with two men.


Daughter to Andrugio. Viola loves Ricardo and agrees to elope with him. She plans to meet him on the street, but when she arrives, all of the men, with the exception of Drawer, are drunk and fighting. They mistake her for a whore, and she is frightened and flees. She tries to find shelter in Antonio's house, but he sends her back into the street—not believing that she, a gentlewoman, would be out alone at night. As she makes her way in the darkness, she meets Tinker and Dorothie who tie her up and steal her belongings. Valerio comes to Viola's rescue but she is afraid to reveal her true identity to him. She tells him that she can work as a lady's maid, perhaps for his wife, but Valerio dismisses that idea, telling Viola that his wife is jealous of beautiful women. He promises that he will try to get her employment in his kinsman's household—where he can visit her. Viola tells him that she will not accept visits from a married man and she will find her own employment. They part. Soon after, Viola meets Madge and Nan, the milkmaids. They offer her some milk and she gives them each a jewel that she took from her father's house when she ran away intending to marry Ricardo. She asks them if they know of a place where she can earn her keep. They lead her to the Country-woman, Mercurie's mother. Viola tells them that her name is Melvia. When Mercurie brings her to his mother, she is taken in and cared for. When Ricardo discovers her whereabouts, she is at first reluctant to forgive him, but after she talks to him, she believes him to be sincerely repentant and forgives him.


He is alerted to the fight between Ricardo, Pedro, Uberto, and Silvio by Drawer. He helps Drawer and the Constable escort Ricardo and his friends, Pedro, Uberto, and Silvio home.


Servant One to Antonio. William enters when Antonio and Mercurie are speaking privately. When Antonio "disappears" William and his fellow servant, Roger, discuss the probable murder of their master in front of the Irish footman. The footman then reveals that he is Antonio, their master; he tells them to spread the word that he is dead.