Thomas Middleton
and William Rowley

circa 1609–1620

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


Hired by Gregory to sing a song under the Niece's window.


Credulous Oldcraft is a nephew of Sir Perfidious. His uncle prefers him before Wittypate, and plans to install him as Dean of Cardigan. But Credulous is a fool, and Wittypate tricks him into believing that he is assisting in a robbery (in fact, both robbers and victim are Wittypate's cohorts in disguise). Credulous is then gulled into thinking he has been arrested, and is brought before Sir Perfidious, who pays a weighty compensation to the 'victim'. Angered that Credulous has besmirched the family name, Sir Perfidious banishes him, and decides that Wittypate is now his favourite relative. Credulous is then gulled into believing that Sir Perfidious will be pleased if he performs the marriage of the Niece to Cunningham.


An impoverished younger brother from Norfolk, who acts as a parasite on Sir Gregory Fop. The Niece finds Cunningham more attractive than her intended husband, Sir Gregory, and Cunningham admires her too. Because both Cunningham and the Niece are clever intriguers, they struggle to convince each other that their love is real. Cunningham conceals his affections by pretending to seduce the Guardianess. The Niece, seeing him flirt with the Guardianess, decides to antagonise him by flirting with Pompey the clown. Later, Cunningham walks under the Niece's balcony, but she mistakes him for Sir Perfidious, and utters a false soliloquy about her ardour for Gregory. When Gregory complains to Cunningham that the Niece rails at him, Cunningham increases Gregory's antipathy toward her by telling him that the scarf she dropped as a favour was intended for Pompey. Mirabell falls in love with Cunningham, as well, but he convinces her that she would prefer a rich fool like Sir Gregory. Cunningham reveals his feelings for the Niece by tricking Gregory into delivering a love-letter to her. He forces the Niece to acknowledge her love in return, by wooing a woman openly in front of her and, when she protests, revealing that it was only a puppet. He gulls Gregory into marrying Mirabell by a complicated trick: they hide together in a gown with only Cunningham's head and Gregory's hands poking out. Mirabell believes that she is vowing marriage on Cunningham's hand, but actually it's Gregory's; meanwhile Gregory believes he is gulling the Niece, not Mirabell. Cunningham thus palms them off on each other, and then uses a masqued ball as a cover for eloping with the Niece.


A "ghost character." The father of Pompey Doodle, who christened him 'Pumpey'.


Sir Gregory Fop is a rich fool, whom Sir Perfidious hopes will marry his Niece. The Niece, however, prefers Sir Gregory's parasite, Cunningham. Along with Sir Perfidious, Gregory is gulled by Wittypate and the false 'beggars'. Sir Gregory attempts to woo the Niece by serenading her. But the Niece confuses him by hurling abuse whenever they are alone together, while speaking lovingly whenever Sir Perfidious is present. Sir Perfidious is thus irritated when Gregory complains of the Niece's indifference. While pretending to love him, the Niece drops her scarf as a favour. Gregory is angered further when Cunningham takes the scarf, claiming it was intended for Pompey. Gregory is then tricked twice by Cunningham: first, into delivering his love-letter to the Niece, and then into vowing marriage to Mirabell, while he thinks he is talking to the Niece. When he realises that he has been tricked, Gregory decides to marry Mirabell anyway, since she is less abusive than the Niece, and at the end of the play he tells Sir Perfidious that he has married Mirabell to spite him.


The guardianess of the Niece is an elderly lady. Cunningham woos her in order to conceal his love for the Niece. The Guardianess believes his wooing is for real, but lets slip that the Niece also loves him. The Niece, angered at the Guardianess for flirting with Cunningham, tells her that her own niece, Mirabell, is in love with Cunningham, but when Mirabell denies this, the Guardianess encourages her to 'tantalise' Cunningham in revenge. The Guardianess is distressed when she observes Cunningham and the Niece eloping, but she is happy to learn that Sir Gregory has married Mirabell, as she is now the aunt of an aristocrat.


A "ghost character." A person whose Scotch horse Lady Ruinous uses during the false robbery.


A "ghost character." A magistrate who tries Credulous Oldcraft (according to Wittypate).


Lady Ruinous is the wife of Sir Ruinous, the decayed knight. Along with her husband and Priscian, she makes a living from robbery, and specialises in male disguise. Wittypate hires the gang to gull Sir Perfidous. In their second trick, Lady Ruinous disguises as a gentleman whom the others pretend to rob, in order to make Credulous Oldcraft believe that he has assisted in a robbery. When Sir Ruinous dresses as a constable and 'arrests' Credulous, Lady Ruinous, still disguised as the 'victim' demands 100 marks from Sir Perfidious in compensation. During the masqued ball, Sir Perfidious is distracted into thinking Lady Ruinous is his Niece so that the latter can elope with Cunningham. In the conclusion, both Wittypate and Cunningham offer financial help to the Ruinous's.


A "ghost character." A woman described by the Niece as a supplier of medicine.


The Guardianess' niece. The Guardianess is tricked by the Niece of Sir Perfidious into thinking that Cunningham has been wooing Mirabell. When Mirabell convinces her that this is not true, the Guardianess asks her to punish Cunningham by 'tantalising' him. But when Mirabell sees Cunningham, she falls in love with him anyway. Cunningham persuades her that she'd be happier if she married a rich fool. He then gulls Gregory into marrying Mirabell when he thinks he's marrying the Niece. Mirabell is happy to marry Gregory because he is rich.


A "ghost character." A Frenchman whose horse Lady Ruinous sometimes uses.


The Niece of Sir Perfidious Oldcraft is a rich and witty heiress. When Sir Perfidious introduces Cunningham as her proposed husband, she is delighted, and is horrified when her uncle reveals that Sir Gregory is in fact the proposed candidate. She pretends to find Gregory attractive, but only when he father is around. When she sees Cunningham wooing the Guardianess, she tries to make him jealous by wooing Pompey the clown in front of him, and tells the Guardianess that Cunningham is only trying to get access to her own niece, Mirabell. She confuses Gregory by railing on him when they are alone, but speaking lovingly when Sir Perfidious is present. Cunningham gulls Sir Gregory into delivering a secret love-letter to her, and convinces her that he loves her by wooing a woman openly in front of her and then revealing that it was merely a puppet. She is delighted by Cunningham's wit, and they elope under the cover of a masked ball.


Sir Perfidious Oldcraft is an old rich knight, who has made a fortune from his cunning, and demands that his son, Wittypate, proves his own wit before he can be given an inheritance. Sir Perfidious plans to marry his Niece to a rich fool, Sir Gregory Fop. Unfortunately, his plan to enhance Gregory's appearance, by initially pretending that his poor parasite, Cunningham, is the Niece's intended, backfires: the Niece finds Cunningham more attractive than Gregory. Wittypate and his gang gull money from Sir Perfidious by disguising themselves as beggars. Sir Perfidious's favourite relative is his nephew, Credulous Oldcraft. Wittypate and his gang gull more money by making him think that Credulous has been arrested for robbery; the knight is so protective of the family's reputation, that he is easily gulled when the 'victim' demands 100 marks in compensation. The gang gulls him again during the masqued ball, by disguising as musicians and demanding payment. At the end of the play, Sir Perfidious learns of all the tricks that have been played on him, and is so delighted by Wittypate's wit that he awards him the inheritance, and forgives everyone else.


The clown figure in this play is Sir Gregory's servant. The Niece flirts with him in order to antagonize Cunningham, but the Clown believes her affection is real. Believing himself to be a made man, he resigns from Sir Gregory's service, and takes to wearing 'gallant' attire. The Niece gets Pompey out of the way by ordering him not to come to her until she calls him. Pompey waits anxiously for a long time, whiling away the time on long walks in the countryside. He is angered when Cunningham pretends that Sir Gregory has intercepted all of the Niece's messages to him. Pompey is therefore amused to watch Sir Gregory being gulled into marrying Mirabell, but is heartbroken to learn that the Niece has married Cunningham, and the Niece increases his misery by pretending that she has done so because Pompey never replied to her messages. The bewildered clown exits sadly, but the Niece takes pity on him and orders that he be returned to Sir Gregory's service.


A poor scholar, who, along with Sir Ruinous and Lady Gentry, makes a living from robbery. Wittypate hires the gang to gull Sir Perfidous. In their first trick, Priscian disguises as a begging scholar, and attempts to prove his desert by speaking languages; when he stumbles, Wittypate, disguised as a passer-by, makes him look educated by conversing with him in a made-up language. In the second trick, Priscian disguises as a robber, in order to gull Credulous Oldcraft into believing that he has assisted a robbery. Finally, Priscian and the gang disguise as musicians and demand payment from Sir Perfidious. In the conclusion, Sir Gregory offers to help Priscian by making him his chaplain.


The true name (according to Sir Gregory) of the play's clown, who prefers to call himself 'Pompey'.


Sir Ruinous Gentry is a decayed knight who, along with Lady Ruinous and Priscian, makes a living from robbery. Wittypate hires the gang to gull Sir Perfidous. In their first trick, Ruinous disguises as a begging soldier, while Wittypate, disguised as a passer-by, pretends to be convinced by his far-fetched stories. In their second trick, Ruinous disguises first as a robber, then as a constable, in order to make Credulous Oldcraft believe that he has arrested for assisting in a robbery. Finally, Ruinous and the gang disguise as musicians to gull more money out of Sir Perfidious. In the play's conclusion, both Wittypate and Cunningham offer financial help to the Ruinous's.


Wittypate is the son of Sir Perfidious Oldcraft, who admires wit above all other qualities and demands that Wittypate prove his wit before he can inherit his estate. Wittypate therefore hires Sir Ruinous Gentry, Lady Runious, and Priscian to assist him in gulling his father. Ruinous and Priscian disguise as a begging soldier and scholar, and Wittypate disguises as a passer-by who is impressed by Ruinous' tales of soldiery, and converses with Priscian in an invented language. Sir Perfidious is sufficiently impressed to give money to the 'beggars'. Later, the gang disguise as a band of robbers and their victim, and trick Credulous Oldcraft into believing that he has assisted in a robbery; Sir Perfidious is then gulled into paying the 'victim' compensation, which Wittypate encourages by abusing the 'victim' so as to embarrass Perfidious. Wittypate then conspires to aid Cunningham's elopement: he promises Sir Perfidious that during the masqued ball, Gregory will be forced to marry the Niece, but in fact the masque is designed so that Cunningham and the Niece can elope without being spotted. Wittypate also gulls Perfidious out of more money by disguising his cohorts as musicians who demand payment. At the end of the play, Wittypate reveals what he has done to his father, who is so impressed by the display of wit that he awards his estate to Wittypate.