THE FAIR MAID OF THE EXCHANGE
a synoptic, alphabetical character list
The second of the three Golding brothers, Anthony (like Ferdinand and Frank) is in love with the fair Phillis. When he learns at the play's end that he has been gulled by Frank, Anthony vows to have nothing more to do with love because it is so full of treachery.
Barnard is a gentleman in debt to Master Berry and in love with his daughter Mall. When Barnard is arrested for defaulting on his loan, the Cripple forces Mall to admit that she has loved Barnard all along and elicits her promise to break off her relationship with Humfry Bowdler. The Cripple then arranges for Barnard to be taken to Berry before being sent to prison, and he has Mall admit before her father that as Barnard's "wife" she must stand bail for him. When the accompanying officers report that they are witnesses to Mall's having declared her love for the gentleman, Barnard expresses his love for her, reminds Berry that, although mortgaged at the moment, there are lands in his possession, and promises henceforth to reform and commit himself to industry. Upon these terms, Berry accepts Barnard as his new son-in-law.
Appearing early in the play with Scarlet, Bobbington takes the lead in the attack upon Ursula and Phillis. He later appears disguised as the ship's master Racket to procure money from Master Flower. As security, he leaves Flower a diamond he has stolen from Wood.
The Boy works in the shop with Phillis. Her haughtiness elicits his comment that her pride has made her a "by-word to th' Exchange," and her responsethreatening and verbally abusivereveals a side of Phillis's character generally hidden in the play.
The Cripple is both a character and a disguise.
- The Cripple (he is given no personal name in the play) is a drawer, or pattern maker, with a shop near the Exchange, possibly on Fenchurch Street (the title page of the 1607 quarto refers to him as the "Cripple of Fanchurch"). He rescues Phillis and Ursula from Bobbington and Scarlet early in the play and is rescued in turn by Frank Golding when the thieves counterattack. This deed places the Cripple in debt to Frank, and occasions the aid and advice the Cripple provides Frank in his pursuit of Phillis. It is the Cripple who supplies Frank with insulting letters of rejection for Ferdinand and Anthony, and it is he who suggests Frank woo Phillis while disguised as himself. The Cripple moves easily among all the characters in the playlaborers, merchants, gentryand knowing that he personally has no love for the fair maid, he is glad to help Frank work a realignment of Phillis's affection.
- Frank disguises himself as the Cripple because Phillis is fond of the Cripple. In this guise, he woos her.
A "ghost character." The Cripple tells Frank that he can provide letters of rejection for Ferdinand and Anthony that seem to be from Phillis. When Frank wonders how such things can be supplied so quickly, the Cripple reveals that he has inherited a stock of stinging poems, form letters, and other documents from a dead poet in the city. Verbal echoes throughout the play may indicate that Heywood has Thomas Nashe in mind.
The oldest of the three Golding brothers, Ferdinand has inherited much of their father's estate, and like his brothers, he is in love with Phillis. Like Anthony, he swears to have nothing further to do with love when he learns how Frank has deceived him.
Fiddle is a clownish servant in the Flower household. When Master Berry charges that the Cripple and his friends are mere libertines, and the Cripple responds with an attack upon Berry's greedy character, Fiddle assures Berry that he has information about the Cripple of a most condemnatory nature. After extracting several shillings from Berry for the information, Fiddle then swears the Cripple is as honest a man as there is and as good a fellow ever to have gone on "foure legges."
Frank (often listed as "Franke" in the text) is the youngest of the three Golding brothers. Although at first dismissive of Ferdinand's and Anthony's infatuation with Phillis, he too is smitten with a passion for her. Disguised as "honest" John the Porter, Frank intercepts the letters of proposal from his brothers to Phillis, and on the advice of the Cripple, returns to them forged letters from Phillis rejecting their proposals. Knowing of Phillis's affection for himself, the Cripple encourages Frank woo the maid in the cripple's disguise. He does this, and in sight of Ferdinand and Anthony, Phillis vows that she can love only the Cripple, encouraging him to make suit to her father. After giving Master and Mistress Flower false letters indicating that his brothers are withdrawing their proposals, Frank finds himself the preferred alternative for Phillis. When Master Flower indicates he wants assurance that his daughter does indeed love Frank, the young man gets permission to be allowed to disguise as the Cripple once more and finish wooing the maid. When Frank arrives in disguise, Flower pretends that the Cripple is there to steal Phillis and orders him out. When Phillis faints (or pretends to) Flower pretends to be beside himself with concern for the girl, and urged on by Master Berry and Mistress Flower, Flower promises that Phillis may follow her own will in the choice of a husband. Following the arrival of Ferdinand, Anthony, and the real Cripple, Frank reveals to all how he has outwitted his brothers. When the brothers begin arguing, Flowers intrudes to reiterate that the decision will be Phillis's, and she then asks of each brother what it is he desires of her. Ferdinand claims her love, Anthony her life and love, and Frank her life, love, self, and all. Saying that each will have what is desired, she commits life and love to Ferdinand and Anthony, but only as friends. It is Frank who will have her in marriage, and Master Flower then publicly bestows his blessing upon the couple.
HELEN of TROY
Only mentioned by Humfry Bowdler, Helen of Troy is used by him to represent Mall Berry when she informs him of her intention to marry Barnard. Bowdler likens himself to Menelaus, Helen's abandoned husband, as he leaves, saying he will mourn until Troy is sacked and Helen is returned.
Bowdler is a vain and blustering gallant in love with Mall Berry. When Bowdler is tongue-tied upon Mall's entry, the Cripple asks if there's nothing in his reading he might use to impress the young woman. Bowdler confesses to having read only one book in his lifeShakespeare's Venus and Adonisbut his attempts to use lines from that work are turned back by Mall's wit. Mall will later agree to marry Bowdler, only to forsake him at the end for Barnard.
JOHN the PORTER
Frank Golding disguises himself as "trusty John" the porter in order to intercept love messages to Phillis from his brothers Ferdinand and Anthony.
A "ghost character." At the beginning of the play, Phillis and Ursula are in the dark at Mile-End Green on their way to deliver ruffs and other wares to the anonymous lady. They have ventured out in this circumstance only because Phillis is "much beholding" to her ladyship.
A "ghost" character, Barnes is a master of arts at Cambridge. William Bennet asks his friend Richard Gardiner to pass along his respects to Barnes when the latter visits Cambridge.
The father of Mall, Berry is a merchant and money lender associated with Master Flower. When Barnard asks for a two month extension for repaying a loan, Berry refuses, charging Barnard and his friends (a group that includes Bowdler and the Cripple) with being worthless libertines who indulge themselves at the expense of others. The Cripple responds heatedly and characterizes Berry as mean-spirited and notorious for greed.
A "ghost character." Brookes is mentioned by the Boy in the shop as a merchant who has supplied silk to Phillis.
A merchant and the father of Phillis. Flower is a humours character given to commenting upon what he terms "good conceits," i.e. interesting turns of phrase, circumstances, or ideas. His original intention is to see Phillis marry Ferdinand Golding, but when Frank produces a letter that appears to say Ferdinand wishes to withdraw his proposal, Flower decides to have Phillis marry Frank instead. He lends Racket (Bobbington in disguise) money, taking a diamond as collateral, and he is arrested by Wood, the diamond's rightful owner, at the end of the play.
A "ghost character." The Boy in the shop tells Phillis that Ursula has gone to see Pawmer, evidently a merchant, "on th' other side" of the Exchange.
Only mentioned by Humfry Bowdler. Bowdler likens himself to the Spartan king Menelaus whose Helen (Mall Berry) has been taken from him by Paris (Barnard), a more desirable lover.
Phillis's mother, Mistress Flower at first favors Anthony Golding's proposal for her daughter, but when a false letter convinces her of Anthony's withdrawal, she decides to support Frank. She manipulates her husband by leading him to believe she still supports Anthony, and then in a great show of apparent submission to her husband's will, she acquiesces in his choice of Frank.
Mall (or Moll) Berry is the sharp-tongued daughter of Master Berry, the merchant and money lender. For much of the play, she indicates that she secretly loves Humfry Bowdler, and she finally agrees to marry him. Eventually, the Cripple convinces her that her real affection is for Barnard (although it is not quite clear why that should be the case), and she consents to marry him, thereby rescuing Barnard him from her father's threat of debtors' prison.
Non-speaking characters at the end of the play, the Officers accompany Wood as he arrests Master Flower for possessing the stolen diamond. The Officers may be the two Sergeants (not mentioned in the cast of characters) who earlier arrest Barnard for defaulting on his loan from Master Berry.
Only mentioned by Mall Berry, who terms Bernard her Trojan prince Paris, after Bowdler likens himself to Menelaus, Helen's husband.
Daughter of Master and Mistress Flower. Phillis is the fair maid of the Exchange. Throughout the play, she is generally presented as witty and an example of middle-class propriety, but her harsh exchange with the Boy in the shop and her initially coquettish behavior with Richard Gardiner there complicate her character. Puzzling too is the ease with which her affections shift to Frank Golding at the end of the play after she has consistently pledged undying love for the virtuous Cripple.
The speaker of the prologue makes the traditional plea for applause and audience understanding, but his speech ends with a nod toward the importance of the Cripple to the play: "Though our Inuention lame, imperfect be,/ Yet giue the cripple almes for charitie."
The thief Bobbington disguises himself as a ship's master named Racket when he uses Wood's stolen diamond as security for a loan from Master Flower.
An acquaintance of Humfry Bowdler, Ralfe is a witness to Mall Berry's initial declaration of love for Bowdler and her promise to marry him.
A gentleman acquaintance of William Bennet, Gardiner attempts to seduce Phillis in the Exchange and is rebuffed by her. Because Gardiner is on his way to Cambridge, Bennet requests that when he arrives, he pay respects to one Lyonell Barnes, a master of arts there.
A stock villain, Scarlet aids Bobbington in the attack upon Phillis and Ursula at Mile-End Green. It is Scarlet who suggests raping the women in addition to robbing them.
Two Sergeants arrest Barnard for failing to repay his loan to Master Berry, but they are content (for a bribe from the Cripple) to take him first to Berry's house. There, the Sergeants assure Berry that they have witnessed Mall swear her love for Barnard, one of the things that influences Berry to cancel Barnard's debt and to accept him as a son-in-law. The Sergeants do not appear in the cast of characters, but they may be the non-speaking "Officers" who do appear there and who accompany Wood in the arrest of Master Flower at the end of the play.
SIR LAWRENCE LYRE
A fictional character within the play. When Fiddle is introduced to Racket (Bobbington in disguise), he jokingly says his father is Sir Lawrence Lyre.
A "ghost character." Mistress Flower sends Fiddle with her cupboard keys to Susan so the servant may get saffron to use on the custards.
Only mentioned. Bowdler likens the sharp-tongued and keen-witted Mall Berry to the famous Roman orator and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero.
A co-worker with Phillis at the shop in the Exchange. Ursula accompanies her in the attempt to make a delivery to the anonymous lady and is with her when Scarlet and Bobbington attack.
Bennet is a gentleman friend of Richard Gardiner. He is on hand at the Exchange when Gardiner attempts to seduce Phillis, and he asks Gardiner to pass along greetings to Lyonell Barnes when Gardiner visits Cambridge.
Wood is robbed by Bobbington of jewels, including the diamond that Bobbington leaves in pawn with Master Flower. Accompanied by the Officers, he has Flower arrested at the end of the play.