John Pikeryng

(Stationer's Register)

The title page listing the dramatis personae also breaks the characters into groups "for six to play." If this play were performed by groups of six players, the groups of soldiers, nobles and commons might each have no more than one member.

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


A "ghost character." Former King of Mycenae, Horestes's father, murdered by Horestes' s mother (Clytemnestra) and Egistus.


A mute character. Said by Revenge (the Vice) to be someone in whose presence he cannot bear to be and to have sat beside Menalaus at Horestes's wedding


Mother of Horestes and wife of Agamemnon. After murdering Agamemnon, she jointly took over the throne of Mycenae with her lover Egistus. She first appears exchanging a love song with Egistus. When the Messenger from Horestes's invading army arrives, she offers to remain and organize the defense of Mycenae while Egistus goes off to raise more men. Soon afterwards she scornfully rejects the Herald's request for surrender. She is captured and executed by Revenge at Horestes's command.


At his coronation at the end of his play, Horestes consults the Commons to discover their views. They are happy with the state of the world Horestes has introduced.


(It's not clear which of the two is intended.) If Counsel, then King Idumeus takes advice from a wise man; if Council he takes advice from parliament. The advisor(s) recommend to Idumeus that Horestes take revenge for two reasons:
  1. to stop revolting against the prince developing into an infection;
  2. to encourage those who plan to revolt to control themselves.


A disguise name. The alias the Vice assumes when persuading Horestes to take revenge against Clytemnestra and Egistus.


The Vice tells a random member of the audience to beware of Cousin Cutpurse; later, as he leaves the play he addresses a member of the audience as Cousin Cutpurse.


A "ghost character." Hodge refuses to apologize to Rusticus when the latter learns that his dog has worried one of his pigs to death. They ultimately make up and go for a brown ale at Rusticus's house.


Duty sits with Amity at Horestes's wedding, thus thwarting the Vice's disruptive plans. With Truth he closes the play, praying for Elizabeth and her Council.


Clytemnestra's husband. With Clytemnestra he murdered Agamemnon (before the play began) and seized the throne of Mycenae. He first appears exchanging a powerful love song with Clytemnestra, singing of Paris and Helen's love. He is captured and hanged onstage.


Presumably an audience member. At play's end, Duty and Truth pray for her and her Council.


After Horestes captures Mycenae, Fame speaks of her role, now, in distributing good fame or bad fame. She announces that Idumeus and his group have arrived from Crete. She is mocked by the Vice but retains her dignity, responding in Latin, as she exhorts Vice (and the audience) to work for good fame. She announces that all the Greek kings are meeting in Athens to discuss Horestes's actions.


Haltersack and Hempstring are two soldiers who quarrel and fight each other for trivial reasons. A haltersack was a bag placed over the head for hanging on a gallows.


A "ghost character." Clytemnestra and Egistus refer to her courtship of Paris. She is reported to have arrived in Athens with Agamemnon's brother (Menalaus) after Horestes has taken Mycenae.


Hempstring and Haltersack are two quarrelsome soldiers who fight each other for trivial reasons. A hempstring was a hangman's rope.


Menalaus's daughter. She is married to Horestes at the end of the play to seal the friendship between Horestes and Menalaus. She encourages Horestes to inquire into the opinions of his people.


The herald announces that he will have a trumpet blow before the walls of Mycenae on Horestes's behalf. He speaks over the wall to Clytemnestra announcing that Horestes wants her to surrender, a request she disdainfully rejects, information that he returns to Horestes.


Hodge is an earnest but simple countryman. He fights Vice but is more worried about the damage to this new hat than the blows he receives from him. He refuses to apologize to Rusticus when the latter learns that his dog has worried one of his pigs to death. The two fight until Vice leaves. Then they make up and go for a brown ale at Rusticus's house.


Horestes is the central character of the main action. He wishes to avenge the murder of his father, Agamemnon, by his mother, Clytemnestra. He announces that Dame Nature has told him to forgive his mother, then asks the gods what he should do. The Vice, claiming to be Courage, announces that Mars has sent him in answer to Horestes's prayer, to guide him as he takes revenge. Horestes then asks advice from Idumeus, with whom he has been staying, who approves the plan for revenge and offers Horestes an army, telling him to obtain victory and fame; fame will last. Horestes debates with Dame Nature about the rightness of revenge. When Clytemnestra refuses his demand that she surrender he plans to destroy every human being in the city, except his mother who is to be saved for special treatment. He beats Egistus in battle and hangs him onstage then sends Revenge out to supervise the killing of Clytemnestra. In Athens where the Greek kings have gathered to discuss what to do about Horestes, he explains that he had Clytemnestra killed at the command of the gods and that all the men, women, and children were killed because they had planned to show no mercy to him. The kings are impressed with his answer, and he agrees to marry Menalaus's daughter, Hermione, to seal the friendship with the kings. He consults with his nobles and the commons to discover their views about the kingdom.


Idumeus is the king of Crete with whom Horestes has been living after the murder of his father. Before giving Horestes permission to avenge his father's murder, he speaks to Counsel (or Council) for its/their advice. He is advised that Horestes should take revenge. Idumeus gives his permission and promises soldiers. He tells Horestes to provide an example of courage and thoughtfulness to his men, to consult Counsel, to reward his men, all to gain fame because fame will last. Later, at the meeting of kings in Athens, he suggests Horestes marry Hermione.


He is identified in the play as brother of Clytemnestra. He is one of the Greek kings who come to Athens to discuss Horestes's action against his mother. He opens the discussion, lays out the issues, asks for their aid, but suggests that Horestes be exiled from Mycenae. He is persuaded otherwise by Nestor and Idumeus and agrees to let his daughter marry Horestes. It is unclear whether by "brother" the next intends "brother-in-law," which is accurate as he was Agamemnon's brother.


The messenger announces to Egistus and Clytemnestra Horestes's message to them that they should surrender.


Nestor is one of the Greek kings meeting in Athens to discuss Horestes's action.


Horestes consults them after taking over the throne. They are happy with peace. As a result of the Nobles' obedience to Horestes, Duty and Truth crown Horestes.


She tells Horestes to forgive his mother because it was she who suckled him; animals do not kill their mothers. For him to do so would be tyranny. She reminds him of those in the past who slew their parents.


Only mentioned. Fame rather anachronistically refers to the bad fame of Nero who had his teacher, Seneca, and his mother killed.


Only mentioned. Nature describes him as one who also slew a parent.


A "ghost character." Clytemnestra and Egistus refer to his courtship of Helen.


Past Shame is the name Rusticus mishears when the Vice announces he is called Patience.


A disguise name. The name the Vice adopts when dealing with the two rustics, Rusticus and Hodge. Rusticus mishears and believes he calls himself Past Shame.


A "ghost character." Hodge refuses to apologize to Rusticus when the latter learns that his dog has worried one of his pigs to death. They ultimately make up and go for a brown ale at Rusticus's house.


A herald character. Provision, entering through the audience, brusquely orders them to clear a way for the Greek kings who are about to enter. He then leaves to fetch Idumeus.


Rusticus, encouraged by the Vice, fights with Hodge over the death of his pig. After they make friends they go to Rusticus's for a quart of brown ale.


The soldier captures a woman after murdering her husband. The woman then turns on him, and he surrenders to her.


Members of Horestes's army; they tell Idumeus they will follow his advice.


Truth attends the marriage of Hermione and Horestes. Truth closes the play encouraging the audience to pray for all the civil authorities.


He is the named central character of the title. He calls himself Patience (which Rusticus mishears as Past Shame), Courage, and Revenge. He opens the play, entering through the audience, warning random individuals of their danger. He fights with the rustic Hodge over an imagined insult, and although he patches it up, is determined to get his revenge. He tells Rusticus, Hodge's rural neighbor, that Hodge's dog had worried his pig to death and encourages him to get his revenge by fighting. As the two fight, Vice beats them both and runs off. He next appears having overheard Horestes asking the gods whether he should avenge his father's murder by his mother. He tells Horestes that his name is Courage and that Mars has sent him to guide Horestes in his revenge. Using folk sayings he encourages Horestes to act quickly. He next appears after Horestes's invasion of Mycenae, disclosing to the audience that he is now to be called Revenge. He sings of how he kills soldiers and points out that he is the only one to gain fame in war. He comments with pleasure on the soldiers' eagerness for revenge, and on Horestes's treatment of his mother. To the audience he mocks Horestes who is troubled by what he has done. As Revenge he acts for Horestes in supervising Clytemnestra's death. Later, he returns singing another song announcing that he has a new master now that Horestes regrets his actions. He has a lengthy discussion with Fame, treating Fame as a trollop. When he finds out that the Greek kings are meeting in Athens he announces he must go there quickly. Dressed as a beggar, Vice arrives too late: the friendship between the kings is sealed. He blames Amity, his direst foe, for the peaceful outcome. He claims that at Horestes's wedding Amity and Duty thwart Vice's plans to disrupt the accord. Though poor and beggarly, he leaves optimistically, looking for a new master, and pointing out that if all else fails he can work with women; they are always looking for revenge.


A woman. After being attacked by the soldier who has just killed her husband, she turns on the soldier and captures him.