THE DEVIL IS AN ASS
a synoptic, alphabetical character list
Lady Tailbush's gentleman usher. He has been hired by Merecraft to pretend to be the producer and agent for the new "fucus" or cosmetic for court ladies that Lady Tailbush is investing in. His are the clothes that Pug stole upon entering his borrowed body; they were taken while Ambler enjoyed a tryst with a "gentlewoman" near the gallows at Tyburn.
The name Fitzdottrel calls Pug; the ladies prefer to pronounce it "De-vile."
A "ghost character," Robinson is a real-life boy actor who Merecraft intends to hire to impersonate the "Spanish Lady," an instructor in fashionable etiquette. Wittipol substitutes himself for the boy actor in order to get close to Frances Fitzdottrel, but Robinson probably originated the part of Wittipol, making this an inside theatrical joke.
DUKE of DROWNEDLAND
The title Merecraft gives Wittipol for fronting his scheme to sell undrained swampland.
A "broker" or financial go-between: he introduces Fitzdottrel to the con-artist, Merecraft.
Merecraft's cousin and enforcer, who constantly attempts to borrow money, who uses force to collect from Merecraft's debtors, and who extorts money from Merecraft with physical threats. Merecraft presents him to Fitzdottrel as "Master of Dependances," a professional duellist, and gets Fitzdottrel to hire Everill to threaten to duel with Wittipol. He becomes involved in a fight with Manly over Manly's lover, Lady Tailbush. His belligerent manner makes Fitzdottrel suspicious and, instead of signing his estate to the "Master of Dependances," he signs it to Manly. Everill joins Merecraft in a last, desperate scheme: convincing Wittipol to fake demonic possession (and thus non compos mentis when he signed the deed). He and Merecraft preside over a scene of possession that almost convinces the Justice, Eitherside, but the scheme is revealed when Fitzdottrel confesses after learning that Pug was a real devil. Everill is thus confounded, but not punished.
Fitzdottrel is a would-be conjurer whose name means "son of a foolish, easily-captured bird." He tries to conjure a devil and is delighted when Pug shows up, though he doesn't believe Pug to be a real devil. His "humor" is his obsession with clothes - but he is too cheap to buy new ones, preferring second-hand bargains. A fervent believer in getting something for nothing, he is cheated by both Wittipol and Merecraft in various ways: he allows Wittipol access to his wife in return for a cloak, and he is suckered into fronting Merecraft's scheme to sell undrained swampland by Merecraft's promise of millions and the title, "Duke of Drowned-Land." He sends his wife, Frances, to the "Spanish Lady's" salon for instruction in noble manners, buying a ring as a bribe to the Spanish Lady (Wittipol in disguise, hired by Merecraft). He also hires Merecraft's cousin Everill in his guise as "Master of Dependances," an organizer of duels, to arrange a duel against Wittipol. As security, he is meant to sign over his estate to Merecraft but, persuaded by the "Spanish Lady," whom he loves, he signs it to Manly instead, who puts it into Mistress Fitzdottrel's possession. Fitzdottrel makes a last attempt to regain his estate by pretending to be possessed by devils (thus non compos mentis when he signed the deed), but upon learning from Shackles that Pug had been an actual devil, he repents and confesses.
The unnamed whore with whom Ambler was sleeping when his clothes were stolen by Pug.
An allegorical Vice figure called up by Pug to accompany him to Earth. He has a long soliloquy about the various places in London where Iniquity is to be found; however, Satan refuses to send him with Pug, because there is so much Vice already in London that Iniquity's presence would be ineffective. He reappears in Act V to accompany Satan to Newgate prison, where Pug is held for thievery, to take Pug back to Hell in disgrace.
With Shackles, they discover the dead body of the cutpurse whose body Pug occupied, and the wall broken down where Satan, Pug, and Iniquity escaped and returned to Hell.
Wife of the lawyer, Paul Eitherside, and Lady Tailbush's friend. She attends the "Spanish Lady's" salon at Lady Tailbush's.
A courtier who hosts the "Spanish Lady's" salon for Merecraft, and also invests in his scheme to make and sell a new kind of "fucus" or cosmetic to court ladies. Her lover, Manly, almost becomes involved in a fight with Everill.
Merecraft is a "projector," or con-artist who attracts investors for fraudulent schemes, most involving the promise of royal monopolies. With the help of Engine, he convinces Fitzdottrel to invest in a scheme to buy and drain swampland, increasing its value. Merecraft uses Fitzdottrel as a source of cash for floating loans to and from others, such as Gilthead and Everill. He hires Wittipol to play the "Spanish Lady," an instructor in fashionable etiquette, and asks Wittipol to help him in his scheme to get Lady Tailbush, the hostess of the Spanish Lady's classes, to invest in a "fucus," (cosmetic) for court ladies. His most ambitious con is a scheme to entice Fitzdottrel to sign over his estate as security for a duel to be fought by Everill in his name against Wittipol. However, the suspicious Fitzdottrel signs it to Manly (at the "Spanish Lady's"/Wittipol's suggestion) instead, leaving Merecraft with no funds. Threatened with arrest for failure to pay rent to his landlord, Sledge the Constable, he convinces Wittipol to fake demonic possession (making him non compos mentis when he signed the deed). He and Everill preside over a scene of possession that almost convinces the Justice, Eitherside, but the scheme is revealed when Fitzdottrel confesses after learning that Pug was a real devil. Merecraft is thus confounded, but not punished.
Manly is Wittipol's friend and confidant. He allows Wittipol the use of his lodgings, next to Fitzdottrel's, to woo Frances. He is a suitor of Lady Tailbush's and almost becomes involved in a fight with Everill over her. Recognizing Wittipol in his "Spanish Lady' disguise, he gets to overhear hear him encourage the women in vile gossip and leaves, disgusted. Meanwhile Wittipol convinces Fitzdottrel to sign his estate to Manly as security for the duel organized by Everill. Manly, convinced by Wittipol that his intentions toward Mistress Fitzdottrel are friendship rather than seduction, agrees to hold Fitzdottrel's estate in trust for his wife. With them, he is accused of witchcraft in Fitzdottrel's fake possession, but when all is revealed, Manly is given the moralizing final speech.
MISTRESS FRANCES FITZDOTTREL
Fitzdottrel's virtuous but unhappy wife, married to a fool who dresses her in expensive (second-hand) gowns and shows her off to gallants (such as Wittipol), but does not allow her to speak to anyone and keeps her shut away at home the rest of the time. She is wooed by Wittipol and allows his attentions, hoping he can rescue her from her marriage. She is able to converse with Wittipol in his disguise as the "Spanish Lady," and convinces him that she is looking for a friend and protector, not a lover. Her freedom from her husband's folly is secured by Wittipol's plot to convince Fitzdottrel to sign his estate over to Manly as security for the duel Everill has organized against Wittipol. With Manly and Wittipol, she is accused of witchcraft in Fitzdottrel's fake possession, but is vindicated when all is revealed.
Lady Tailbush's waiting-woman.
Gilthead's son, studying law with the justice, Paul Eitherside. He draws up the papers signing Fitzdottrel's estate over to Manly.
Pug is a minor devil who longs for the chance to prove himself. He asks Satan for a month on earth in which to capture a soul, but Satan, believing Pug to be nothing more than an inept mischief-maker, allows him only a day in the borrowed body of a hanged thief. After stealing clothes (from, it turns out, Lady Tailbush's gentleman-usher, Ambler), Pug presents himself as a servant to Fitzdottrel and tells him his name is "Devil." However, he learns that Fitzdottrel and his friends are already well-steeped in Vices such as greed and deceit without any infernal aid. Pug's weakness is his desire to experience sin (especially lechery) while in a human body. He plans to make Fitzdottrel a cuckold both by aiding Wittipol's seduction of Mistress Fitzdottrel and by enjoying her himself afterward. His clumsy advances to his mistress earn him a beating, and during his attempted seduction of Lady Tailbush's woman, Pitfall, he loses the ring Fitzdottrel had bought to bribe the "Spanish Lady" with. His torment intensifies when Fitzdottrel forces him to be examined by the ladies on the duties of an ideal gentleman-usher; he is ridiculed and beaten for his wrong answers. Each time he is tormented, he announces, "the Devil is an ass!" Ironically, when he offers to instruct Fitzdottrel in the finer points of faking demonic possession, Fitzdottrel fires him and he is arrested for stealing Ambler's clothes. Imprisoned for thievery, Pug is visited by Iniquity and Satan, who taunt and criticize him for his ineffectuality, and drag him back to Hell.
The Lord of Darkness is petitioned by Pug for a month on earth in which to do evil, but doubts Pug's abilities and grants him only a day. He visits Pug in prison at the end of the day and berates him for accomplishing far less evil than any of the mortals he has encountered. He takes Pug back to Hell in disgrace.
Ordered to take custody of Fitzdottrel for default on Gilthead's warrant.
Gaoler of Newgate; with his keepers, he discovers the dead body of the cutpurse whose body Pug occupied, and the wall broken down where Satan, Pug, and Iniquity escaped and returned to Hell.
The Constable who directs the arrest of Fitzdottrel for default on Gilthead's warrant, and of Merecraft, his tenant, for rent in arrears. However, he is persuaded to release Merecraft in order to take part in a plan to produce and promote the use of forks. Later, he arrests Pug for stealing Ambler's clothes.
SIR PAUL EITHERSIDE
The Justice who employs young Plutarchus Gilthead, and who examines Fitzdottrel for demonic possession. A Puritan, he is easily convinced and ready to condemn Wittipol, Manly and Mistress Fitzdottrel for witchcraft, when Fitzdottrel confesses the ruse.
A disguise of Wittipol's, hired by Merecraft to impersonate an instructor in fashionable etiquette. Merecraft uses this character to obtain more money from Fitzdottrel, who wishes to send his wife to the Spanish Lady for instruction in how to act like a Duchess. Wittipol substitutes himself for (ghost character) Dick Robinson, the boy actor Merecraft originally intended to hire to play the part, in order to get close to Mistress Fitzdottrel. At her "salon," hosted by Lady Tailbush and attended by Lady Eitherside, she impresses the women with her knowledge of exotic cosmetics. Fitzdottrel develops a passion of the "Spanish Lady" and signs over his estate to Manly at "her" suggestion.
A goldsmith who prides himself on his ability to lure nouveau-riche citizens with easy credit and then cheat them. He tries to have Fitzdottrel arrested for defaulting on the ring, but is persuaded to release him in order to take part in a plan of Merecraft's to produce and promote the use of forks.
Wittipol is a clever man in love with Frances Fitzdottrel. He succeeds in declaring love to Mistress Fitzdottrel by bribing Fitzdottrel to allow him to speak to her uninterrupted. Later, serenading and fondling her from Manly's adjoining window, he is discovered by Fitzdottrel, who punishes him by beating his wife. Wittipol then substitutes himself for the boy actor, Dick Robinson, who is hired by Merecraft to play the part of the Spanish Lady, an instructress in fashionable etiquette, to gain access to Mistress Fitzdottrel, who is sent to "study" with the Spanish Lady by her husband. At Lady Tailbush's, his friend Manly recognizes him despite the disguise; Wittipol tells him that he is playing this trick partly to reveal to his friend the true nature of the woman (Lady Tailbush) Manly is pursuing. Manly, in turn, warns Wittipol against debauching Mistress Fitzdottrel. Moved by her virtue, Wittipol agrees to be her friend rather than her seducer, and uses Fitzdottrel's passion for the "Spanish Lady" to convince him to sign his estate over to Manly as security for the duel Everill has organized against Wittipol. With Manly and Mistress Fitzdottrel, he is accused of witchcraft in Fitzdottrel's fake possession, but is vindicated when all is revealed.