John Ford?


circa 1621–1642

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


One of the leading lords of Arragon, he is always seen in the Queen's train and is her loyal counsellor. Nevertheless, he strongly objects when the Queen declares her intention to pardon Alphonso, arguing that the Captain is such a self-serving malcontent that even if he were King he would give favour only to his own imitators and flatterers. Almada must accept Alphonso's ascendancy once the Queen marries him, but he repeatedly rebukes the new King for his cruelty to his wife. When Alphonso pretends to reconcile with the Queen, he entrusts Almada with the message and drinks a health to him. Thrilled by this apparent solution to the Queen's problems, Almada is horrified when Alphonso proceeds to condemn his wife for adultery. He objects that such a charge must be proved in open court, but is stymied by Alphonso's argument that kings are not subject to the law and by the Queen's declaration that no man should stand as her champion against her husband. With Collumello, Almada decides to offer a large reward in gold to any champion who will fight for the Queen's honour against her own wishes. The two lords use the reward to convince Salassa to release Velasco from his vow of non-violence, but when an angry Velasco refuses to bend to her will for a second time they condemn her to death as a destroyer of the realm's peace. Almada attends Salassa's execution and speaks bitterly to her, but is jubilant when Velasco relents and agrees to stand as champion to the Queen. Almada then supports the Queen at her own trial, applauds Muretto's stratagem for reuniting the Queen and King, and is present at the play's happy ending.


An Arragonian Captain, he is young, brave and handsome, but has one near-fatal flaw: his rampaging misogyny. As the play opens, he has just led a rebellion against the Queen of Arragon on the grounds that as a woman she is unfit to rule. Influenced by the pleas of Velasco, the Queen decides to reprieve Alphonso from his death sentence for treason; influenced by Alphonso's charms and his vow to serve her, she marries him and makes him King of Arragon. Despite her impeccable submission, however, Alphonso retains his hatred of femininity and decides to test his new wife's fidelity. He commands her to avoid his presence for a week, but then proceeds to avoid hers for a month. When she finally protests this usage, Alphonso accuses her of shrewishness and continues to avoid her. Worse still, he surrounds himself with his old flatterers, Bufo, Muretto and Pynto. He is taken in by their slanders both of the Queen and of his own saviour, Velasco. With Muretto, he hatches a plot to condemn the Queen for her supposed adultery with Petruchi. He employs Muretto to give Petruchi a ring that the Queen once gave him. When the Queen takes it from Petruchi and returns it to Alphonso, he declares that Petruchi must have given it to her as a lover's gift. Alphonso thus condemns the Queen to death for adultery; he will spare her only if a champion of her honour can beat him in single combat. Having thoroughly humiliated Velasco, he assumes that no one in Arragon will rise to this challenge (the Queen's insistence that no man fight against her husband helps him considerably in this regard). However, Alphonso does not realize that Muretto, apparently the grossest of his flatterers, is actually on the Queen's side and has cunningly designed the whole situation to amplify Alphonso's jealousy and thus to force him to realize his own love for his wife. Influenced by Muretto's words in the Queen's praise, Alphonso becomes increasingly obsessed with her beauty and reluctant to kill her, but feels that he cannot spare her without destroying his own reputation and condoning adultery. He is about to fight Velasco in the trial of honour when Muretto suddenly confesses to his whole plan and proves the Queen's honesty. At this, Alphonso admits that he has always loved his Queen and that his misogyny was an evil calumny on such a virtuous woman. The whole of Arragon heaves a sigh of relief as Alphonso and his Queen embark on a period of calm rule and happy marriage.


An unspecified number of courtly attendants habitually appears with the main characters of the play in public situations.


As his name suggests, Bufo is the most clownish and stupid of Alphonso's three flattering followers. Pardoned by the Queen for his part in the rebellion against her, he tries to keep the peace between Muretto and Pynto, but his efforts seem rather to reflect cowardice and a wish to avoid further trouble than a sincere love of concord. He becomes a leading courtier when the Queen marries Alphonso, and tries to take advantage of his newfound status by courting the Queen's lady-in-waiting, Herophil. At Alphonso's behest, Bufo abuses and beats Velasco; he assumes that Velasco is a coward because he offers no resistance, not knowing that the onetime general has promised his beloved Salassa that he will refrain from fighting. The fact that the cowardly Bufo rapidly becomes the 'muscle' in Alphonso's train, helping to seize Petruchi when he is accused of adultery with the Queen, speaks volumes about the pettiness of the Alphonso clique. Bufo receives his comeuppance when he is deluded into mistaking Mopas for Herophil. He marries the disguised page in haste, and is left to repent at leisure.


A leading Arragonian lord and counsellor to the Queen. He always attends the Queen, and is with her at Alphonso's planned execution, where he condemns the rebel's "prating." Like Almada, Collumello shows respect for Alphonso once the Queen has married him, but is shocked and reproachful at the younger man's ill-treatment of his new wife, especially when Alphonso accuses the Queen and Petruchi of adultery. With Almada, Collumello decides to offer a large reward in gold to any champion who will fight for the Queen's honour against her own wishes. The two lords use the reward to convince Salassa to release Velasco from his vow of non-violence, but when an angry Velasco refuses to bend to her will they condemn Salassa to death as a destroyer of the realm's peace. Collumello speaks unkindly to Salassa at her execution, but is very pleased when Velasco relents and agrees to stand as champion to the Queen. He supports the Queen at her own trial and enjoys the play's happy ending.


A guard in the Queen's employ appears in attendance at her court when she welcomes Alphonso to his new, kingly throne.


A guard helps to seize Petruchi and the Queen when Alphonso accuses them of adultery. He may be the same guard to the Queen who appears earlier in the play; he is almost certainly the same guard who keeps watch over the Queen at her trial.


A drunken Groom helps Bufo to abuse Velasco, kicking the onetime general when Bufo's foot gets tired. He seems thoroughly to enjoy his work.


A hangman appears to execute Alphonso for treason at the beginning of the play. He makes the requisite jokes about "close shaving" his prisoner, but does not seem unduly disturbed when the Queen pardons Alphonso.


A herald is entrusted with the task of sounding the trumpet to declare Alphonso's challenge to the Queen's champion. He sounds again when Velasco accepts the challenge, and again when Petruchi, too, enters the lists.


Lady-in-waiting to the Queen of Arragon. She is clearly a beautiful woman, for the Queen asks, "Am I as fair as Herophil?" when she wants a favourable description of her looks. Generally seen in attendance on the Queen, she is also pursued by Alphonso's amorous but foolish favourite, Bufo. Herophil is angered by Alphonso's mistreatment of her mistress and earns a rebuke from the Queen for caustically remarking that Alphonso must despise his wife for her crime of saving him from the block. Having been spurned by her husband, the Queen asks Herophil to join her in the female rituals of mourning. Herophil obeys, but when her mistress is accused of adultery she joins in the efforts to save the Queen and destroy her slanderers. Forming a plan with Lodovico to punish Alphonso's flattering followers, she deludes Bufo into believing that she will marry him when in fact he is to be married to a disguised Mopas. At the end of the play, Herophil is rewarded by marriage to the once misogynistic, now penitent Lodovico.


Lodovico is an Arragonian nobleman and a close friend to General Velasco. He mocks Alphonso's sycophantic followers, but seems to support Velasco's pleas for Alphonso's life. He appears more disturbed by Velasco's unmanly adoration of Salassa than by Alphonso's ascendancy as King. To keep Velasco from dying for love, he visit Salassa to ask her receive his friend. However, he shows his own leanings toward misogyny when he openly accuses Salassa of feminine levity, cruelty and looseness. In all his dealings with women he behaves as a blunt soldier might, dismissing "compliment" and deriding women as "frail commodities." Hence, he is utterly horrified and ashamed when Velasco suddenly renounces all fighting at Salassa's request and submits to the insults of Alphonso and his follwers. Revolted by Alphonso's behaviour, Lodovico openly describes him as "the scourge of Arragon" in the Queen's hearing. He then determines to bring Velasco back from the brink of cowardly degradation, demanding that Salassa release the general from his vow. When Salassa fails in her attempt and is condemned to death as a traitor by Collumello and Almada, Lodovico declares the sentence just. He colludes with Herophil to punish Bufo and helps to goad Velasco into returning to his martial duty. Having played these important roles in bringing about the play's happy ending, he is rewarded with the hand of Herophil; his comments on the occasion suggest that he, like Alphonso, has abandoned his former misogyny.


Two or three people, presumably servants to Salassa, come after her with bags of money when she returns to the reward she had been given for inducing Velasco to fight for the Queen.


Mopas is Velasco's servant. The frequent references to him as a "boy" and his relatively convincing masquerade as Herophil at the play's end suggest that he is a youthful page. He serves as an intermediary between Velasco and Salassa, in the process trading a number of saucy witticisms with Salassa's confidante, the bawd Shaparoon. Although described as foolish by his master, he has a talent for flattery that stands him in good stead with the ladies. He is disgusted when his master submits tamely to Bufo's beating, especially as he himself comes in for a bit of rough treatment from some of the knaves in Bufo's train. He complains bitterly of being mocked in the streets for serving the "arrant coward," Velasco. Lodovico employs Mopas to show Salassa the proclamation in which Almada and Collumello offer a large reward to anyone willing to defend the Queen's honour. Mopas thus helps to convince Salassa to release Velasco from his vow, eventually bringing about Velasco's defence of the Queen. He then joins with Lodovico and Herophil to punish Bufo and Pynto. Disguised as Herophil, he 'marries' Bufo, who is left to bemoan his nuptials with a boy.


Muretto is the most complex and difficult to read of Alphonso's followers. As the play opens, he declares himself heartily relieved at being pardoned for his part in the rebellion against the Queen, crediting "good language and fair words" for his release. Pynto accuses him of being a servile flatterer; Muretto in turn mocks Pynto's pomposity and pseudo-scholarship, leaving Bufo to calm the argument between them. Once Alphonso is pardoned and raised to a kingly position, Muretto appears to be the most hypocritical and fawning of his three new-made lords. He abets Alphonso's cruel behaviour toward the Queen in private while flattering the Queen to her face. Iago-like, he encourages Alphonso to destroy Velasco and hints to Alphonso that the Queen is cuckolding him with Petruchi, all the while praising her beauty and charm. Incensed by Muretto's reports, Alphonso employs him to give Petruchi the ring that the Queen once gave her husband. When the Queen takes it from Petruchi and returns it to Alphonso, he declares that Petruchi must have given it to her as a lover's gift. At Muretto's instigation, the pair are condemned for adultery. At this point, however, it begins to be apparent that Muretto is playing a double game. When Alphonso shows signs of love for his condemned wife, Muretto fans the flame by praising her surpassing beauty and apparent virtue even as he insists that she is an adulteress. All becomes clear at the Queen's trial when Velasco and Petruchi both offer themselves as champions for her honour. Muretto trumps both by appearing with a drawn sword and declaring himself the Queen's truest champion. Roundly condemned by her supporters, he forces them to listen to his tale. He has, he claims, deliberately deceived Alphonso in order to play on his jealousy and to bring him to the point where he will be forced to acknowledge his love for the Queen. When Muretto affirms that the Queen is not only fair but also pure, Alphonso abandons his erstwhile misogyny. Muretto is promised a rich reward for his work. He warns the Queen's courtiers against the assumption that all flatterers are an evil, and declares that, now that he is no longer in need, he will never flatter again.


Officers appear to guard Alphonso at his scheduled execution for treason, but are dismissed when he is reprieved. They perform the same function at the planned execution of Salassa, and are again dismissed.


A young lord in the Arragonian court. Petruchi opens the play when he is entrusted with ushering Alphonso's pardoned followers from the Queen's hall of judgement. He rebukes Alphonso for his misogynistic railing against the "girl" who rules them, reminding him of the duty of a subject. Although he behaves respectfully toward Alphonso once the latter is made King, his hostility never altogether disappears; it remains clear that he is the Queen's ardent supporter and that he strongly objects to Alphonso's cruel treatment of his wife. He is thus surprised when Alphonso, declaring himself penitent, sends him a ring as a sign of friendship. He plans to give the ring back to Alphonso, but the Queen, recognizing it as one she gave her husband, takes it from him and gives it back herself. She thus enables Alphonso to accuse Petruchi of having given her the ring as a love-token. Abetted by Muretto, Alphonso has become convinced that the Queen and Petruchi are involved in an affair; he condemns both to death despite their protestations of innocence. When the Queen is brought to trial, Petruchi manages to suborn his guards into setting him free and appears, vizarded, to fight for her honour. Along with Muretto's revelation of his plan to bring out Alphonso's love for the Queen, Petruchi's vehement defense of her chastity convinces Alphonso that he has been wrong and helps to ensure a happy ending.


At once the most scholarly and the most idiotic of Alphonso's three flattering followers, Pynto is a pompous, self-satisfied astrologist. He quarrels with Muretto in the play's first scene when the latter accuses him of being a mere pseudo-scholar and of having caused their downfall through his fake horoscopes predicting Alphonso's ascendancy. When the Queen pardons and marries Alphonso, Pynto declares his scholarship richly justified. As Alphonso becomes more and more mired in misogyny and jealousy, Pynto compounds matters by producing endless, convoluted astrological confirmations of his master's fantasies. In the end, however, he is himself duped by Shaparoon, a middle-aged bawd who passes herself off as a great aristocrat and convinces him to marry her. As the play closes, Mopas bears Pynto and Bufo away together to be "cured with the whip of correction."


The young Queen of Arragon is a paragon of both beauty and virtue: the "excellency of her sex," as the play's subtitle has it. Having condemned Captain Alphonso to death for his misogynistic rebellion against her, she is convinced by Velasco's pleas and by her own mercy to pardon him. Seduced by his beauty and his soft speeches, she falls in love with him and marries him. Alas, even her perfect obedience and duty are not enough to turn Alphonso from his hatred of all women. She submits when he demands that she avoid his presence and bed for a week after their wedding, but when he ignores her for a full month she appears to ask what she has done to offend him. Although he spurns her, she forbids anyone to criticize him and resolves to retire to her chambers with her woman, Herophil, there to mourn her sad lot. She is enchanted when Alphonso appears penitent and send his respects to her, little knowing that he suspects her of adultery and is trying to trap her. When Alphonso sends her friend, Petruchi, a ring, she recognizes it as one she gave her husband, takes it from Petruchi and gives it back to Alphonso herself. She thus enables Alphonso to accuse Petruchi of having given her the ring as a love-token. Condemned for adultery, she gently defends her honour but commands all of her nobles to swear that they will not attempt to fight Alphonso in order to save her. When both Velasco and Petruchi appear at her trial to challenge Alphonso and refuse to be changed by her pleas, she swoons at the thought of the potential harm to her beloved husband. Fortunately, before any blood is spilled Muretto appears to reveal that he has maligned the Queen in an effort to force Alphonso to realize her virtue and beauty. Alphonso admits his love for his saintly wife and repents, granting the beleaguered Queen her longed-for wedding night.


Salassa is a beautiful and sharp-tongued young Arragonian widow, adored by General Velasco although she is far beneath him in social status. He declares himself near death because of her refusal to entertain his suit. However, when both Mopas and Lodovico remonstrate with her about this refusal, she protests that she is sympathetic to Velasco and invites him to visit her. When he does so, she promises to take him as a servant and to grant him a kiss if he will vow to do one thing she asks. He assents, whereupon Salassa demands that he swear to give up all forms of violence and fighting, even under dire provocation. Although he knows that this vow will undo him in the eyes of Arragonian society, Velasco assents to his mistress' "cruelty" and duly becomes a laughing-stock for his apparent cowardice. When the Queen is accused of adultery and condemned to trial by combat, Mopas and Lodovico convince Salassa to release Velasco from his vow and to reap the reward offered to those who will champion the Queen's cause. Salassa admits that she had simply enjoyed the power inherent in commanding a great general to forswear fighting; she is confident of her victory. To her shock, however, Velasco curses her and refuses to renounce his vow, insisting that he would lose his soul should he do so. Since she has put the Queen's only viable champion out of commission and then failed to win him back, Salassa is condemned to a traitor's death by Collumello and Almada. Disgusted with her own "crimes," she declares herself willing to die if only Velasco will forgive her. Lodovico tells her that Velasco has done so, and she mounts the scaffold cheerfully. At the last moment, however, Velasco cannot bear to see her die. He saves her life by agreeing to act as the Queen's champion, but breaks her heart by condemning her as the destroyer of his soul. After the Queen is saved, Salassa reappears in penitential white, followed by two or three money-bearers. She returns the gold she had received as a reward, repents her sins and is about to depart for a convent. At the last moment, Lodovico and the other characters convince Velasco to forgive her on the grounds that her repentance will make her an excellent wife. With both male and female faults suitably corrected, the play can end in multiple weddings.


Ghost character. Salassa's husband has died before the play begins, leaving her a widow. Lodovico implies that Salassa's bedroom frolics with her departed lord have left her with the widow's proverbial appetite for further gratification.


A lady of a certain age and an ambivalent moral reputation, Shaparoon is nevertheless treated as a confidante by Salassa. Lodovico describes her as his "couzen," although it is unclear whether he means this literally or whether he uses the word to indicate a relationship more carnal than familial; after all, he describes Shaparoon as "excellently traded / in these mortal businesses of flesh and / blood." Flattered by Mopas about her beauty and high birth, Shaparoon does indeed serve as a go-between for Velasco and Salassa on numerous occasions. Her greatest triumph comes when she helps to punish the pretentious Pynto by pretending that she is an aristocratic lady who has fallen in love with him. He marries her, only to discover that he has been joined to "this ugly bawd." Shaparoon offers no objections to his insulting description of her.


Renowned and virtuous general to the Queen of Arragon, he puts down Alphonso's rebellion against the Queen but then mercifully begs the Queen to spare his enemy's life. His kindness should inspire his foe with gratitude, but instead leads the chronically malcontented Alphonso, who soon becomes King, to feel insulted and to conspire against him. Meanwhile, Velasco is also suffering from the scorn of his beloved, the widow Salassa. Finally convinced to give him an audience, Salassa appears kind but then assures Velasco that she will only receive him as a servant if he vows to renounce all forms of violence and aggression. Velasco reluctantly agrees. He is almost immediately put to the test when Alphonso's follower, Bufo, attacks and beats him at Alphonso's behest. Staying true to his vow, Velasco accepts the beating without fighting back and is universally condemned as the most craven of cowards. Neither the pleas of his friend Lodovico nor the danger suffered by his Queen can convince Velasco to abandon his vow. Attracted by the prospect of the reward offered to anyone who will champion the Queen, Salassa offers to release Velasco from his oath. He insists that this would kill his soul, and repudiates her for her lightness and greed. When she is condemned to death, he attends her execution on the grounds that it may comfort him, but cannot stand to see her die. He rescues Salassa by agreeing to stand as the Queen's champion, but rejects her efforts at reconciliation. Velasco appears in armour at the Queen's trial by combat and is ready to fight Alphonso for the Queen's honour, but the intercessions of Petruchi and Muretto prevent the duel from taking place and the Queen is saved without violence. When a penitent Salassa appears to bid him farewell, Velasco is initially obdurate but eventually confesses his enduring love for her. The two join the other couples in the play's comic ending.


A wine-bearer appears in Alphonso's lodgings and serves wine when Alphonso wishes to drink a (hypocritical) toast to the Queen in front of Almada.

Go Back to Top