JOHAN JOHAN, THE HUSBAND;
TYB, HIS WIFE;
AND SIR JOHAN, THE PRIEST
a synoptic, alphabetical character list
A "ghost character," Anne, the daughter of a neighbor to Johan Johan and Tyb, does not appear on stage but is mentioned by Tyb as collaborating with her, her friend Margery, and the local priest Sir Johan in the manufacture of the pie that will be eaten later by Tyb and Sir Johan. Because the pie and its consumption clearly symbolizes the sexual activity of the wife and the priest, and because Johan Johan comments upon Margery's reputation (the most infamous bawd between their village and Coventry), the reference to Anne and her colleagues suggests the rampant promiscuity of the group.
Johan Johan is the foolish, henpecked, and cuckolded husband of Tyb. Although he suspects that his wife is having an affair with Sir Johan, the village priest, and wishes to confront her about it, Johan Johan capitulates at once in the face of Tyb's shrewishness, and he allows himself to be abused. When Tyb returns home, she announces that she, the priest, her best friend Margery, and Anne, the daughter of a neighbor, have procured the ingredients for a pie and have had one made. Because he seems to be docile, Tyb invites her overworked and ill-fed husband to dine on it, but she also manages to procure his acquiescence in their being joined by Sir Johan. After Johan Johan works feverishly to make the house ready for the priest's visit, Tyb sends him to invite the clergyman to dinner. When they arrive, she promptly orders Johan Johan to attend to various chores (including the sexually-charged mending of a hole in a leaky bucket by using the melting wax from a candle) while she and the roguish parson eat all the pie. After Sir Johan entertains them with three stories purporting to describe miracles (but two of which actually describe instances of human sexual infidelity or promiscuity cloaked in a veil of piety), Johan the husband comes looking for his supper, only to discover that nothing has been saved for him. When Tyb and Sir Johan protest that they were certain he had eaten, Johan Johan explodes, threatens violence, and drives his wife and the priest out of the house. Almost immediately after the couple's departure, the long-suffering husband realizes what the two might well be bound for, and he hastily follows in an attempt to prevent any further cuckolding.
A "ghost character," Margery does not appear on stage, but Tyb reports that in fact she has paid for the baking of the pie that the wife and Sir Johan will consume. Given Johan Johan's reference to Margery as a notorious procurer, her placement within a group that includes Tyb, Anne (the daughter of a neighbor), and the philandering village priest Sir Johan, implies an obvious layer of illicit but generally known sexual license in the community.
Sir Johan (the honorific "Sir" implies his status as a clergyman; it is not a marker of aristocratic condition) is Johan Johan's and Tyb's local priest. His connection to the wife Tyb, demonstrated by his consuming the pie for which he and his circle of female admirers have paid, suggests his individual debauched behavior and the general sexual license that prevails in the village.
Tyb is the shrewish wife of Johan Johan. By verbal skill (and sometimes the threat of physical violence), she is able to cow the meek and submissive Johan Johan. She even makes him complicit in her adulterous liaison with the local priest Sir Johan, by sending her husband to invite the cleric to a dinner that only she and the priest will share.