THE NORTHERN LASS
licensed 29 July(?) 1629
a synoptic, alphabetical character list
Constance Holdup's illegitimate child, referred to by herself and by Sir Philip. This may or may not be the 'baby' she carries on when masquerading as the mad Northern Lass.
Mistress Trainwell's blunt servant who aids her in her plots. He strongly dislikes being mistaken for a pimp by Pate and Anvil.
A braggart, supposedly a soldier, who makes a hundred pounds a year as 'Governor' to the dim-witted Master Widgine. Having overheard Sir Philip calling Mistress Trainwell a bawd, he appears at her house in search of sex, but is beaten by Tridewell and Beavis for his impudence. Somewhat chastened, he joins Tridewell, Mistress Trainwell and Constance among the Masquers at Sir Philip's wedding, and explains its meaning to the wedding guests afterwards. He helps to set up Constance Holdup's seduction and deception of Sir Paul Squelch. In the end he departs on a European tour with Master Widgine.
Mistress Fitchow's less-than-proficient maid. Her mistress castigates her for sending a wimble when asked for a wimple.
Clerk to Sir Paul Squelch. He is alarmed when his usually miserly master gives him a lot of money and instructs him to organize a dinner party.
CONSTANCE or CAMITHA HOLDUP
A cunning prostitute who has recently borne a bastard child and with whom Sir Philip may have been 'familiar.' Sir Philip mistakes Sir Paul Squelch's virtuous niece Constance for her, giving rise to most of the plot's confusions. Tridewell, Anvil and Mistress Trainwell enlist her in their plot to overcome Sir Paul's opposition to a number of suitable matches. Thus, when Vexhem brings her before Sir Paul for prostitution, she consents to become Sir Paul's mistress and to pass publicly for his mad niece. She deceives Widgine and Howdee, neither of whom have ever seen the real Northern Lass without a mask. Convinced that she is the poor, mad, rich Constance, Widgine proposes to her on the spot and later beds and then marries her. When he discovers that she is actually a prostitute, she accepts a hundred pounds to release him from the marriage bond.
'The Northern Lass.' Constance is an innocent country girl of fifteen who speaks in a 'pretty' North-country accent. She is niece to the childless Sir Paul Squelch, who wishes to offer her in marriage to Master Nonsense and to provide her with a large dowry. However, she has fallen in love with Sir Philip Luckless. She writes to him before his marriage to Mistress Fitchow, but he mistakes her for a whore of his acquaintance, Constance Holdup, and rejects her suit. Along with her governess, Mistress Trainwell, she puts her cause in the hands of Master Tridewell. She sings in a masque at Sir Philip's wedding party, then soon falls into distraction due to love melancholy. However, she remains sane enough to reject Master Nonsense's advances, and seems much revived when Sir Philip arrives and offers to carry her off in a coach. They eventually obtain her uncle's blessing, and the play ends with a feast in her honour.
Disguised as a Doctor, Pate serves as a go-between for his master Sir Philip and the mad Northern Lass, Constance.
A "ghost character." The dead husband of Mistress Fitchow, this lawyer was dubbed "the great Cannonier of the civil law" because of his familiarity with all its canons. He left Mistress Fitchow with an estate of about 10,000 pounds.
Mistress Fitchow's servant. After her disastrous marriage to Sir Philip Luckless, Mistress Fitchow pretends to sack Howdee, but her real plan is to set him up in service to Constance, Sir Paul's niece, so that he may help to promote a match between Constance and Master Widgine. Ironically, he is then employed to serve as gentleman usher to Sir Paul's new mistress, Constance Holdup, who is masquerading as the real Northern Lass. Confused by this disguise, Howdee inadvertently abets the marriages of Sir Philip to the real Constance and of Master Widgine to the prostitute Holdup. He is chiefly remarkable as the author of the witty 'Gentleman Usher's Grammar.'
Four couples (four men, four women) who arrive at Mistress Fitchow's house to perform a masque in celebration of her marriage to Sir Philip Luckless. Among them, the first two couples are actually Constance and Tridewell, Mistress Trainwell and Anvil. Constance's song at the masque expresses her pain at the loss of Sir Philip and causes him to reconsider his over-hasty marriage.
MASTER APPREHENSION BULFINCH
A justice, friend to Mistress Fitchow, for whom he performs 'a father's part' (i.e., giving her away) at her marriage to Sir Philip Luckless. When she realizes her mistake, she asks him for advice on obtaining a divorce. At Sir Paul Squelch's dinner party he almost condemns his friend Sir Paul, disguised as a Spaniard, to prison.
MASTER SOLOMON NONSENSE
A foolish young gentleman, son and heir to Sir Hercules Nonsense of Cornwall. Young Master Nonsense has been brought to town by Sir Paul Squelch, who intends to marry him to his niece, Constance. His inarticulate attempts at courtship go badly; even when mad with love melancholy Constance is unconvinced by Nonsense's efforts to pass as her beloved Sir Philip. After welcoming guests to Sir Paul's dinner party, Nonsense is so amused by the proceedings that he brushes off his rejection by Constance and declares his intention to "make a Stage play on't, when I come into Cornwall."
A kinsman to Sir Philip Luckless, he tries to dissuade Sir Philip from marrying the widow, Mistress Fitchow. When he fails to do so, he attempts to break off the match by slandering Sir Philip to Mistress Fitchow, but her response to his efforts causes him to fall in love with her himself. He joins Constance, Mistress Trainwell and Anvil among the Masquers at Sir Philip's wedding. Having confessed his feelings for Mistress Fitchow to Sir Philip, he abets Sir Philip in his plan to divorce her. When Mistress Fitchow decides that she, too, wants a divorce, he promises to help assuage her jealousy by ensuring that Constance is married before Sir Philip is free. In fact, however, he has joined Trainwell and Anvil in a plot to bring Constance and Sir Philip together. When this succeeds and the illegitimacy of Sir Philip's 'marriage' to Mistress Fitchow is disclosed, Tridewell wins Mistress Fitchow's hand for himself.
MASTER WALTER WIDGINE
Mistress Fitchow's dim-witted brother, Master Widgine, is that oxymoron, "a cockney gentleman." He supports his sister's marriage to Sir Philip Luckless, and is enthusiastic when she promotes a match between himself and Sir Paul Squelch's niece, the northern lass Constance. He enlists the help of his governor, the braggart Anvil, in his effort to achieve Constance's hand (or bed). Having never seen the object of his affections unmasked, he is deceived by Constance Holdup's impersonation of her and, thinking that he is deceiving her by masquerading as Sir Philip, beds and marries the prostitute in place of the wealthy virgin. When he discovers his mistake, he pays Holdup a hundred pounds to set him free and resolves to depart on a European tour with Anvil.
MISTRESS AUDREY FITCHOW
The wealthy and strong-willed widow of Fitchow, a civil lawyer, and sister to Master Widgine. She decides to marry young Sir Philip Luckless (reputedly refusing at least two Aldermen in his favour) in order to become a Lady. When Tridewell tries to put her off Sir Philip by slandering him, she replies so sensibly that he falls in love with her himself. Once married to Sir Philip, she is incensed by his preference for Constance and by his assertion of power over her household. She promises to grant Sir Philip a divorce on condition that Constance be married or contracted to someone else (preferably her brother Widgine) first. When she discovers that she and Sir Philip were never legally married, however, she assents to his marriage to Constance and gives her hand to Tridewell.
A gentlewoman and governess to Constance, on whose behalf she approaches Sir Philip Luckless, begging him to give up his marriage with Mistress Fitchow. Thinking that she speaks for Constance Holdup, Sir Philip mistakes her for a bawd, a mistake Anvil later repeats. She joins with Constance, Tridewell and Anvil in appearing as Masquers at Sir Philip's wedding. Constance's uncle, Sir Paul Squelch, is unenthused when Trainwell suggests that he make up for Constance's subsequent madness by marrying herself; undeterred, she plots to snare him. After helping Sir Philip to escape with Constance, Trainwell pretends to Sir Paul that her pupil has actually eloped with Master Widgine. While he is distracted by this, she organizes the dinner party he had earlier ordered, convinces him to disguise himself as a Spaniard, and helps him out of the mess that ensues on the condition that he consent to marry her-which he does.
Sir Philip Luckless' witty servant. Mistress Fitchow provokes a quarrel with Sir Philip after their over-hasty marriage by threatening to throw Pate out of her house. He masquerades as a Doctor in order to bring Sir Philip's messages to the mad Constance; it is later discovered that, disguised as a Parson, he also 'married' Sir Philip and Mistress Fitchow.
Having arrived at Sir Paul Squelch's dinner party disguised as a Doctor, Pate later reappears disguised as a Parson. It transpires that it was actually he who, in this disguise, 'married' Sir Philip Luckless and Mistress Fitchow; their 'marriage' is thus shown to be null and void.
SIR PAUL SQUELCH
A widowed justice, friend to Mistress Fitchow. He claims gentlemanly descent, although Master Widgine argues that he was merely a Grazier before coming up to the city. He intends to marry his niece, Constance, to Master Nonsense, but is frustrated when she goes mad from love melancholy. He considers remarrying to provide himself with a new heir, but Mistress Trainwell's offer to oblige scares him into spending his money prodigally, and he orders a huge dinner party (about which he promptly forgets). He takes a fancy for the prostitute, Constance Holdup, and he plans to carry off an affair with her by setting her up in a house where she can pass for his mad niece, to whom he will make 'charitable' visits. When Mistress Trainwell convinces him that his real niece has eloped with Master Widgine, he is incensed. Incited by her, he finally arrives at his own dinner party disguised as a Spaniard; is almost arrested by Vexhem; consents to marry Mistress Trainwell when she promises to get him out of this fix; and ends by forgiving everyone and sanctioning the marriage of Sir Philip and Constance.
SIR PHILIP LUCKLESS
Sir Philip is an impecunious young gentleman who plans to marry the wealthy widow, Mistress Fitchow, against his cousin Tridewell's advice. When Sir Paul Squelch's niece, Constance, sends her governess to tell him that she has fallen in love with him, he mistakes her for the prostitute Constance Holdup and marries Mistress Fitchow immediately in order to avoid further entreaties. After Constance and her friends present a masque at his wedding, he discovers his mistake and decides to obtain a divorce by failing to consummate the marriage. He then carries Constance away in a coach. By the time the couple reappears at Sir Paul Squelch's dinner party, Sir Philip's divorce has come through (cemented by the revelation that he and Fitchow were falsely 'married' by a disguised Pate), and Sir Paul's change of heart allows Sir Philip to marry Constance.
Sir Paul Squelch unwisely appears at his own dinner party disguised as a Spaniard.
A constable, known as a scourge of prostitutes, induced by Anvil to bring Constance Holdup before Sir Paul Squelch. Sir Paul takes a fancy to Holdup and roundly abuses Vexhem for 'mistaking' her for a whore. Vexhem later gets his revenge by accusing the disguised Sir Paul of being a dangerous Spaniard.