Thomas Middleton
(with "Ben Jonson and John Fletcher"?)


circa 1615–1617

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


Ansaldo is the male name and personality assumed by the disguised Martia, daughter of the Widow's First Suitor. Robbed by Latrocino, Ansaldo brandishes a pistol and retrieves the stolen goods. Upon revealing (unknowingly) to Latrocino's confederate that the pistol is uncharged, however, Ansaldo's goods and clothing are taken again, and Ansaldo ends up at Brandino's home, where Philippa provides first a suit of Brandino's for Ansaldo to wear and later a gown of her own. Ansaldo does not reveal himself as the maid Martia until play's end.


Astilio is a name that Francisco makes up when asking Martino to fill out a warrant. Francisco says that Astilio is suspected of "wilful murder."


Attilio is a local gentleman and friend of Francisco. He accompanies Francisco and Ricardo to the Widow Valeria's house to help trick her into promising marriage to Ricardo.


Brandino is a local justice and husband of Philippa. Finding a letter he believes was written by Francisco to his wife, he nevertheless believes Francisco's explanation that he was only testing Philippa's fidelity. He never suspects that Francisco has designs upon Philippa. He refuses to bail Francisco out of jail when it becomes apparent that Francisco has been arrested for an insult to Brandino's sister-in-law Valeria. Seeking medicine, he visits Latrocino, discovering there Ansaldo wearing Brandino's own clothing. Because his own purse has been stolen by Latrocino's confederates, Brandino gives his seal ring to Latrocino in promise of payment when the purse is found. Brandino's probable jealousy at finding Ansaldo in his house is what causes Philippa to dress Ansaldo in her own clothing.


Fiducio is a thief in a band headed by Latrocino. He complains of palsy, but it is a medicine flimflam set up by the bandits. He pretends to receive an instant cure from Latrocino in front of the watching Brandino.


This unnamed First Suitor who asks for the hand of the Widow Valeria is the father of Martia. He agrees to help trick Ricardo and friends and rectify the dishonest ruse they perpetrated upon the Widow.


Francisco is a young gentleman who makes a daily practice of calling for warrants just so he can catch a glimpse of Philippa, the Justice Brandino's wife. He and Attilio hide themselves while their friend Ricardo tricks the Widow Valeria into a promise of marriage. Francisco and Attilio are then produced as witnesses to that pledge. Upon later entering Brandino's home, Francisco becomes enamored of Martia, a woman that Philippa believes to be a man dressed in women's clothing.


Latrocino heads a band of local thieves who also operate a medicinal flimflam when business on the roads is slow. Latrocino robs Ansaldo and later accuses Ansaldo of stealing the purses of Brandino and Martino.


Martia is the daughter of the First Suitor. She is disguised as Ansaldo, robbed by Latrocino, dressed like Brandino by Philippa, accused of being a cut-purse by Latrocino, and finally dressed again by Philippa, this time in women's clothing. In this attire Martia wins the love of Francisco, who never thinks her to be anything other than a beautiful woman. His would-be mistress Philippa believes Martia is a cross-dressed man with whom Francisco has fallen in love.


Martino clerks for Justice Brandino. He is pleased that Francisco appears so frequently with a need for warrants, bringing more funds into Martino's purse. That purse is stolen while the thief-medico named Occulto is pulling his tooth.


Occulto is one of the band of thieves headed by Latrocino. During a medicinal flimflam run by the thieves, Occulto pulls Martino's aching tooth and picks Martino's pocket in the process.


Philippa is the wife of Justice Brandino. She admires the style of young Francisco but wishes to test his wit. She drops a letter from her window; the letter is read instead by her husband, who immediately confronts Francisco. Convinced that Francisco has handled the situation well, Philippa hopes to further her relationship with him. She is amused to see Francisco falling in love with Martia, whom Philippa believes is the male Ansaldo dressed in women's clothing. Philippa's dreams of romance end when Ansaldo turns out to be the truly feminine Martia.


Ricardo is a young man who hides two friends, Attilio and Francisco, inside Valeria's house and uses them as witnesses in receiving a false promise of marriage from the rich widow. When he is placed in jail the Second Suitor bails him out. By the end of the play it seems he truly desires the Widow more for herself than for her money, and he wins her.


This Second Suitor for the hand of Valeria the Widow vows that he will hold the Widow to her promise to Ricardo. He even bails Ricardo out of jail.


Silvio is one of a group of thieves headed by Latrocino. When the thieves perpetrate their medicinal flimflam, Silvio pretends to have had an internal rupture that has cured through the Latrocino's treatments.


Stratio is one of a group of thieves headed by Latrocino. When the thieves perpetrate their medicinal flimflam, Stratio claims his gout has been much improved through Latrocino's treatments.


Valeria is the rich widow for whom the play is named. She is the sister of Philippa. She intends to be extremely particular in her choice of a second husband, for she does not wish to wed anyone who pursues her solely for her money. Consequently, she plans to give a suitor a great trial before accepting him. Tricked by Ricardo into promising marriage, Valeria prosecutes her case legally and has him incarcerated. By the end of the play she feels that Ricardo is interested in her person and not her wealth, and the two plan to wed.


Vermillion is one of the Widow's several suitors. He is one she no longer wishes to entertain. He is given to putting on airs and affecting tricks of fashion that annoy everyone. Ricardo always knows when Vermillion has paid a call upon the Widow because the strong aroma of his scented oils hangs in the air long after Vermillion has gone.


Violetta serves as maid to Philippa in Brandino's house. She aids her mistress in testing Francisco's wit. She is privy to all of her mistress' secrets and endeavors.