Thomas Dekker

1604–circa 1605

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


A poor scholar, Antonio Georgio dedicates a volume to Hippolito and is rewarded with gold when the count discovers that Georgio has not dedicated his book to several possible patrons, but instead has addressed it to Hippolito alone.


One of Hippolito's gentlemen, Astolfo is present in the first act to ask questions about the count's Irish footman Bryan, questions that elicit from other characters the traditional Elizabethan ethnic humor about the Irish. In later scenes, he occasionally provides information about other characters.


The honest whore, Bellafront is the daughter of Orlando Friscobaldo. She had been a prostitute in Part One and had fallen in love with Hippolito. Through his instruction, she reformed completely and, when Hippolito is married to his true love Infelice at the play's end, Bellafront in turn marries her original seducer, Hippolito's friend Matheo. As Part Two opens, Bellafront approaches Hippolito with a request that he intercede for Matheo who has been imprisoned for a murder, and the count agrees to do so. However, seeing Bellafront again, Hippolito is overcome with a passion for her and decides to attempt to seduce her. Bellafront rejects his letters, gifts, and offers of an affair, wishing to remain faithful to her husband Matheo, even though he is an obvious scoundrel and prodigal. When Hippolito continues his pursuit of her, Bellafront agrees to his proposal, provided that he can advance a better argument for infidelity than she can offer for fidelity. Ironically, Hippolito here employs all the rhetorical skill in attempting to corrupt Bellafront that he used in Part One to bring about her reformation. Bellafront turns Hippolito's arguments back in every instance, and she then flees suddenly. At the end of the play, she goes to Bridewell to gain the release of Matheo, who has been arrested for robbery, and when her husband nastily lies that she and Hippolito have been having an affair, the count defends her and warrants her fidelity. At this moment, her father Orlando who has been disguised as Pacheco, the servant to both Bellafront and Matheo, reveals himself, confirms his daughter's reformation, and is publicly reconciled to her. He promises to support her and Matheo in the future, and warns his son-in-law that a reformation will be expected of him.


Beraldo is another of the gentlemen who wait upon Hippolito.


Although he presents himself to the gentlemen associated with Hippolito as "Lieutenant" Bots, a gentleman and a soldier, he is actually only a pimp associated with the bawd Mistress Horseleech. Bots undertakes to corrupt Candido's Bride, but she rebuffs him. Later in the play, Bots is present when the Constable arrives to arrest Matheo, and when the officer recognizes Bots, he is taken off with the others to the Milanese version of Bridewell prison. There, his pose as a soldier is first undercut by the sharp-tongued prostitute Catherina Bountinall and finally destroyed when Mistress Horseleech naively identifies him as someone whose sweet face she could never forget. The Duke of Milan orders that Bots be given twice the usual punishments prescribed for inmates at the prison, be whipped around the city, and finally be banished from the country.


An Irish footman in service to Hippolito. Bryan provides much of the verbal humor early in the play by his exaggerated "stage Irish" accent and the confusion it sometimes causes. Having learned of Hippolito's advances and gifts to Bellafront, Infelice charges Bryan with having served as her husband's go-between, and when Hippolito mistakenly concludes that Bryan has been the source of information about his intended affair with Bellafront, the count dismisses the footman.


The Milanese draper and husband whose restraint and patience have made him a legend in the city. Candido takes a new wife early in the action (his first wife, the shrewish Viola, having died between Parts One and Two). The new wife, referred to only as Candido's Bride, at first appears to be contentious and unruly, but she surprises everyone by submitting to her husband. Candido's heralded patience is further tested, however, by Hippolito's gentlemen who bring the Irish footman Bryan into the draper's shop on the pretext that he is shopping for cambric. When he is not understood because of his thick brogue, Bryan angrily tears some of the material he has been examining and storms out, leaving the patient Candido to remark that there will always be a market for remnants. When Candido is summoned later to Matheo's house to examine some lawn for sale, the draper finds himself arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen goods, and the Constable escorts him to Bridewell. As he faces this latest adversity, patient Candido makes a remark that is one of the clearest links between the two parts of this play: "Being not mad? They had me once in Bedlam [i.e. in Part One]; now I'm drawn / To Bridewell, loving no whores."


During her wedding reception, Candido's Bride strikes one of the apprentices (possibly Luke) for having served her a cup of sack instead of claret. Her behavior here makes it appear that Candido, the patient husband, may have found in his second wife another shrew like his first (Viola of Part One). However, when Lodovico (disguised as an apprentice in order to teach her a lesson) arranges for Candido to appear impatient with her and to feign being a domineering husband, the Bride surprises everyone by immediately submitting to Candido.


Along with Beraldo, Astolfo, and Fontinell, Carolo is a gentleman in service to Hippolito.


Catherina is the third prostitute examined by the duke in the final act. When she greets Mistress Horseleech as the bawd she is, Horseleech attempts to present herself as an honest woman. Catherina then undermines Bots's posturing as an honest man, thus contributing to the duke's sentence of punishment for the pander. Bountinall exits in a most spirited way, even calling the duke "Master Slave," telling him that her skirt is lined with silk and that gentlemen such as he would be glad to wipe their noses on it. When the duke takes exception to her effrontery and orders the First Master to inform her that the duke himself is present, she retorts that she would not care if the Devil himself were on hand.


In the fourth act, the Constable accompanies officers to Matheo's house with warrants for his arrest and for a search of the residence for stolen goods. (This is part of Orlando's plan to bring his wayward son-in-law into a position of some jeopardy, and by effecting his rescue, to encourage Matheo to become a better husband to Bellafront.) While at the house, the Constable recognizes both Bots and Mistress Horseleech and has them sent to Milan's version of Bridewell. Finally, he encounters Candido, who had come to the house to inspect some silk Matheo has for sale, and finding silk among the items to be searched for, he arrests Candido as well.


Dorothea is the first of the prostitutes brought before the duke in the final act. Appearing in a rich costume, she exchanges insults with Astolfo, Orlando, and Carolo. When Infelice asks her if she regrets finding herself in prison, Dorothea mocks the countess and exists singing.


At Candido's wedding celebration, there are a number of guests, but the one designated as First Guest wears a cap of which he is especially proud. When the hat becomes a topic of conversation among the gentlemen present (Lodovico, Carolo, and Astolfo), Candido delivers a speech in praise of headgear, and while acknowledging the First Guest's hat as special, he heaps praise on the low, round caps generally associated with citizens.


During the duke's visit to the Milanese Bridewell in the last act, several Masters of the prison appear, but only the First Master speaks. He explains to the duke the history of the prison (actually, the description is that of London's Bridewell, once a palace, later a workhouse, and finally a prison). He explains to the duke that many prisons are designed for specific types of offenders (some for thieves, some for traitors, still others for debtors) and that Bridewell is set aside for bawds, rogues, and whores. Later, the First Master describes for the duke the types of work and punishments used to encourage reformation in the prisoners, and he provides information about each of the new inmates (Catherina, Dorothea, Penelope, and Mistress Horseleech) as they are brought before the duke.


During Candido's wedding party, the First Prentice (perhaps the apprentice Luke who speaks a bit later in the scene) is slapped by Candido's Bride for having served her sack instead of claret, thereby signaling the possibility that Candido's second wife may prove to be as shrewish as his first wife (Viola) was in Part One.


Fontinell is one of Count Hippolito's gentlemen. He belongs to the group that includes Carolo, Beraldo, and Astolfo.


Trebazzi is the father of Infelice, Hippolito's wife, and is the Duke of Milan. When Orlando (disguised as the servant Pacheco) visits him for aid in bringing about a reformation of Matheo, he sees through the disguise and agrees to help. He arranges for Matheo to be arrested and imprisoned for a robbery Orlando has staged, in order to frighten the swaggerer into better behavior. Further, Gasparo, who has learned of Hippolito's pursuit of Bellafront, issues an order that all prostitutes are to be arrested, in the hope that his wayward son-in-law will cease his attempts to have Bellafront return to her former profession.


A "ghost character." The elder Giacomo is father to the man Matheo is supposed to have killed, and Hippolito describes him as an old dog of a Florentine who would wade in the blood of his children if it meant making a profit.


A "ghost character." The younger Giacomo is mentioned by Hippolito as the man Matheo has killed, and the count observes that it is for that death that Matheo has been imprisoned.


Hippolito is a count married to Infelice, the daughter of Gasparo Trebazzi, the Duke of Milan. Meeting Bellafront, the former courtesan he had convinced to give up her career, he is overcome with a passion for her and determines to seduce her. When she rejects his gifts, Pacheco (Orlando in disguise) takes them to Infelice and reveals Hippolito's pursuit of Bellafront. When Infelice pretends that she has been unfaithful to him, Hippolito explodes in self-righteous and hypocritical rage, only to be confronted by Infelice with the evidence of his intended infidelity. Nevertheless, Hippolito's passion for Bellafront is unabated, and he pursues her still. When she agrees to an affair, provided he can argue more successfully for infidelity than she can against it, Hippolito uses the same verbal skill in advancing his case to corrupt Bellafront that he had earlier employed (in Part One) to work her reformation. Bellafront counters every point Hippolito advances and then leaves him suddenly. Later, when Lodovico informs him that Bellafront has been arrested for prostitution, Hippolito goes to the prison to defend her from the charge. There, he admits that he has tried to seduce her without any success, and this admission helps both to confirm Bellafront's good character and to open the way for Hippolito's reconciliation with Infelice.


Daughter to Gasparo Trebazzi, the Duke Milan, and wife of Hippolito. Infelice learns of her husband's waywardness from Pacheco and receives from him the gifts and letters Hippolito had sent to Bellafront. In order to confront him, Infelice first pretends that she has been unfaithful, and when he self-righteously condemns her, she shows him the evidence of his own disloyalty. The confrontation fails to reform Hippolito, however, and matters are restored only in the final scene when, in Milan's version of Bridewell, Hippolito admits he has been unsuccessful in his attempt upon the virtuous Bellafront, and he comments briefly to Matheo that they both should be embarrassed by their actions.


Lodovico is a courtier attached to Count Hippolito. Because he has such a wide circle of acquaintance (with Hippolito's gentlemen, Candido the draper, and even the Duke of Milan) he frequently is a catalyst for the action of the play. Believing that Candido's Bride may be as much a shrew as the first wife (Viola of Part One), Lodovico arranges to help Candido tame her. Disguised as a new apprentice in the shop, Lodovico encourages the draper to cross his new wife, often aiding him in the process. The taming sequence is cut short, however, when the Bride surprises everyone with the announcement that she has no desire to wear the breeches in the marriage, and she submits to her husband. Later, Lodovico attempts to help his friend Matheo by providing him with satin for a new suit, and Matheo's refusal to pay the tailor further indicates the unreliable nature of Bellafront's husband. Finally, the Duke employs Lodovico in arranging some of the components of the final scene in which all the confusions may be settled. It is Lodovico who accompanies the Constable in the arrest of Matheo and the search of his house, and it is Lodovico who informs Hippolito that Bellafront has been arrested for prostitution, thus sending the count to the prison to correct this injustice.


Luke is one of Candido's apprentices and may be the "First Prentice" who irritates Candido's Bride by mistakenly serving her sack instead of claret at the wedding party.


Matheo is a friend to Hippolito and the unworthy husband to Bellafront. Imprisoned for the murder of the younger Giacomo when the play begins, he is released when Bellafront intercedes for him with Hippolito, but he shows no gratitude for his wife's efforts. On the contrary, Matheo returns to his life of gambling, drinking, and whoring, and his fortunes decline steadily. He uses Bellafront to borrow money from his friends, spends the money that Pacheco has left in his care, and even sinks to threatening his wife with violence. After he carries out the robbery of two peddlers (actually two servants sent by Orlando), he is arrested and taken to Bridewell. There, he outrageously claims that Bellafront and Hippolito have been having an affair, in further demonstration of his rank unworthiness. He is included in the comic conclusion, however, when Orlando drops his disguise as Pacheco, reveals the robbery to have been arranged so that Matheo might be arrested, with the hope that his being freed from the charges might bring about a change in his behavior. Orlando then accepts Matheo as his son-in-law, but he warns him to correct his ways.


Mistress Horseleech, a bawd and associate of Bots, helps to distract Candido when Bots attempts to lure Candido's Bride into prostitution. Later, Horseleech is arrested by the Constable along with Bots and is taken to the Milanese version of Bridewell. There, she inadvertently destroys the alias of gentleman and soldier that Bots has adopted.


Orlando is Bellafront's father. Estranged from her for years because of her career as a prostitute, Orlando learns from Hippolito of her reformation and her marriage to Matheo. Disguised as Pacheco, Orlando seeks service with his daughter and her husband in order to confirm the report of Bellafront's conversion and to offer her assistance. Her virtue is confirmed when she sends Hippolito's gifts and letters back, and Orlando gives them to Infelice, thereby informing her of her husband's waywardness. As Matheo's behavior and circumstances become more desperate, Orlando does what he can to help Bellafront, but he finds her too devoted to her worthless husband to accept his offers of aid. After arranging for Matheo to be involved in the robbery of two peddlers (actually two of his servants), Orlando goes to Gasparo Trebazzi, the Duke of Milan for help. The duke agrees to have Matheo arrested, his house searched (revealing, of course, the goods stolen from the peddlers), and the prodigal taken off to prison. Orlando hopes, by placing Matheo in danger and then rescuing him, his son-in-law might be receptive to changing his life. In the final scene in Milan's Bridewell, Matheo brazenly lies that Bellafront and Hippolito have been having an affair, and Orlando reveals himself to counter that change. He resumes a father's role, promising to support his daughter and her worthless husband, and ends by warning Matheo that he must amend his behavior.


Pacheco is the disguise name assumed by Orlando Friscobaldo when he takes service with Matheo and Bellafront in an effort to investigate his daughter's reformation and to assist in the improvement of her fortunes.


A disguise assumed by Orlando Friscobaldo's two serving men. Orlando has them pretend to be two peddlers who are then set upon by Matheo. This establishes the grounds for the robbery charge against Matheo, which in turn leads to Matheo's appearance before the duke, at which time Orlando will reveal himself and recognize Bellafront as his heir.


The second of the prostitutes brought before the duke in the Milanese version of Bridewell. Penelope appears dressed as a citizen's wife. The First Master of the prison explains to the duke that Penelope is a frequent resident of the facility, and that she is given to assuming whatever costume is appropriate for her customer-of-the-moment whether he be a gentleman gallant or a citizen.


A fictional character within the play. As Bots attempts to strike up a conversation with Candido's Bride in hopes of corrupting her, he tells her the lady in the shop (the bawd, Mistress Horseleech) has a gentlewoman in waiting named Ruyna who is the Bride's niece. The Bride disavows knowing any such relative and rejects Bots's attempt to get her to leave with him, saying only that the alleged relative would be welcome in the shop at any time.


Orlando Friscobaldo employs two serving men. Early in the play, Orlando orders them to close up his house in the city and to return to the country, but first he borrows the traditional blue coat of livery from one of them for use in his disguise as Pacheco. Later, Orlando has them pretend to be two peddlers who are then set upon by Matheo. This establishes the grounds for the robbery charge against Matheo, which in turn leads to Matheo's appearance before the duke, at which time Orlando will reveal himself and recognize Bellafront as his heir.