Nathan Field and Philip Massinger
THE FATAL DOWRY
a synoptic, alphabetical character list
One of several parasitic and sycophantic courtiers around Young Novall. Superficial, vain and effeminate, he stands in absolute contrast to the heroic Charalois and his loyal friend Romont. He is a musician, whose satirical songs about wifely infidelity accentuate Charalois' sudden realization that his own wife Beaumelle has had an adulterous affair. This triggers his subsequent fatal attack on her lover Young Novall. An accessory to Beaumelle and Young Novall's tryst, Aymer too is brought before the court and will, as the final words of the play suggest, receive the appropriate punishment.
Rochfort's daughter. A fickle and wayward woman, she keeps her lover, the unscrupulous and vain Young Novall, after she has married (at her father's behest) the noble Charalois. Unmoved when her husband's friend Romont, who becomes witness to their affair, urges her to give up her lover, and able at first to dupe her father and her husband into believing that she is a chaste and virtuous wife, Charalois finally catches her together with her lover. To punish his wife, Charalois sets up a mock trial in which he forces her father to sentence her to death and immediately carries out the judgement by, in essence, "executing" Beaumelle.
An educated gentleman and "scholar," he acts as a messenger for various characters in the play. In this function he transports good news or vital evidence, although he lacks steadfastness and good judgement himself.
The younger of Beaumelle's two trusted intimates (the other is Florimell). She is her special confidante and an expert on love matters. She acts as the go-between for Beaumelle and Young Novall. Following Romont's discovery of the affair, she helps her mistress to dupe her father, Rochfort, into believing that his daughter is a chaste and virtuous wife. Together with Young Novall's friends, Aymer and Liladam, she is finally brought before the court for her involvement in Beaumelle and Young Novall's affair, and will, as the final words of the play suggest, receive the appropriate punishment.
The embodiment of chivalric ideals of honor and virtue. Unlike his loyal friend Romont, who rarely contains his extreme emotions, Charalois acts with self-discipline and deliberation. Distraught by the fact that he cannot give his deceased father a proper funeral because his father's creditors keep his body in exchange for his debts, he offers to go to prison himself to release the body. Charalois' act so impresses the former judge Rochfort that he purchases his freedom and gives him his daughter Beaumelle as a wife. Having at first dismissed Romont's hints as audacious effrontery-hints that Beaumelle is deceiving him with Young Novall, Charalois learns of his wife's adultery through Aymer's satirical songs on wifely infidelity. He catches Beaumelle and Young Novall together, challenges his wife's lover and kills him. He punishes his wife by putting on a mock trial during which he forces Rochfort to sentence his own daughter to death for adultery and carries out this judgement by, in essence, "executing" Beaumelle. In court, where Du Croye and Charmi, the latter formerly his own lawyer, sit in judgement over him, Charalois is acquitted of his deeds.
A "ghost character." The embodiment of soldierly virtue and a role model for his son, Charalois, as well as any other character aspiring to chivalrous ideals. He is dead before the play begins.
A lawyer pleading Charalois' case to release his father's body from his creditors, albeit unsuccessfully: despite his long-standing experience in court, he is rebuffed by the merciless Novall Senior, who is the successor to the modest and just judge Rochfort. At play's end, Charmi heads the trial of Chalarois after he has killed his wife Beaumelle and her lover Young Novall but acquits him of both deeds.
CREDITORS OF CHARALOIS
Ruthless, brutal and superstitious, they keep the body of Charalois' father in exchange for his debts, intending to use it for medical purposes.
A lawyer sympathetic to the Novall faction. Critical of Charalois' deceased father and hostile to his son's plight, he nevertheless has to judge in favor of Charlalois in the end of the play.
The older of Beaumelle's two trusted intimates (the other is Bellapert), Florimell was formerly Beaumelle's mother's servant. She is the opposite of the unscrupulous Bellapert. Uninvolved in her mistress's adulterous adventure, she is declared innocent at the trial of Charalois.
One of the sycophants around Young Novall; like Aymer he is a superficial, vain and effeminate parasite, finally brought to trial for his involvement in Beaumelle and Young Novall's tryst.
A courtier accompanying Pontalier, but otherwise without particular dramatic significance.
The hard and relentless judge that has succeeded the modest and just Rochfort. He rebuffs Charmi, the lawyer defending Charalois against his father's creditors, dismissing the former's soldierly virtue and praising instead the gentlemanly qualities of his superficial son, Young Novall.
An unscrupulous, shallow and vain courtier, devoid of the soldierly qualities represented by the likes of Charalois and Romont. Effeminate and cowardly, he makes a written promise to abandon Beaumelle when forced to do so at gunpoint by Romont. Never having intended to keep it, he soon after breaks this vow. Killed by Charalois, who catches him and Beaumelle together, Young Novall is finally avenged by Pontalier, who kills Charalois upon his acquittal of the deed.
A clownish character whose witty comments during Young Novall's toilette accentuate his master's vanity and that of court life in general.
A fundamentally virtuous character, Pontalier complies with the ideals of chivalry represented by Charalois and Romont. He is a friend of Young Novall's and a beneficiary of his generosity. Young Novall rebuffs Pontalier when he attempts to dissuade him from pursuing Beaumelle and asks him to prove his honor by challenging Romont. Although disappointed by Young Novall, Pontalier remains loyal to him. He kills Charalois upon Charalois' acquittal of Young Novell's murder but is in turn killed by the equally loyal Romont.
Retiring judge of Dijon. The embodiment of modesty and temperance, he is a poor judge of character. Unlike his successor, Novall Senior, he is immediately impressed by the soldierly qualities of Charalois, freeing him and his friend Romont from prison and offering Charalois his daughter Beaumelle as wife. But while he is able to discern virtue, he seems unable to detect sin, and thus refuses to believe Romont's accusation that his daughter is deceiving her husband. After Charalois has caught her and her lover together, he is forced to sentence her to death in the mock trial set up by his son-in-law, who immediately carries out Rochfort's death sentence. During the subsequent trial of Chalarois, Rochfort acknowledges his daughter's sinfulness and leaves the stage a broken man.
Charalois' loyal, albeit somewhat blunt, friend. A valiant soldier who clings to chivalric ideals of honor and virtue, he is at times extremely emotional and both verbally and physically aggressive. His outspoken defenses of his friend lead to his brief imprisonment, from which the well-meaning Rochfort frees him. Witness to the amorous encounters of Beaumelle, who is by that time Charalois' wife, and her paramour Young Novall, Romont tries to expose them first to her father, Rochfort, and then to her husband; neither believes him, however, and they dismiss him. Romont obtains a writ from Young Novall in which promises to abandon his pursuit of Beaumelle. Although he immediately breaks this vow, his letter later serves as evidence for Young Novall's insincerity and sinfulness and contributes to Charalois' acquittal. As a final act of loyalty to his friend, Romont kills Pontalier, who murders Charalois after his acquittal.