William Rowley


a synoptic, alphabetical character list


A "ghost character." One of the Shoemaker's Welsh cousins.


Albon is a Roman lord whose success in the purge of Christians wins him the stewardship of Great Britain. However, he is converted to Christianity by Amphiabel, and thereafter demands an end to the persecutions. Albon is arrested by the Roman authorities and endures torture before being executed. At the end of the play he is renamed Saint Albon, and a monastery is built in his honour.


Allured is the King of Britain. He dies in the opening scene after a battle with the Romans. His dying request is for the Queen and the two princes, Elred and Offa, to flee.


Amphiabel is a British nobleman, warrior and Christian missionary. He encourages Winifred to devote herself to God, and converts the Roman lord Albon to Christianity. When he returns to visit Winifred, Roman soldiers arrest them. Amphiabel endures torture, and is then sentenced to a gruesome death by disembowelment.


An Angel rises out of Winifred's well, praising Christians, and cursing misbelievers. Its appearance convinces Amphiabel that Winifred is a holy woman.


The play's clown is a journeyman shoemaker, characterized by pragmatic cowardice. He teaches Crispinus the art of shoemaking, and accompanies him on his first visit to Princess Leodice. Barnaby avoids being pressed into the army by pretending to be ill. He tells the shoemakers about Hugh's capture by the Romans, and later tries to persuade Hugh to be pragmatic and renounce Christianity. After Hugh's death, Barnaby becomes more serious. He leads the shoemakers in their solemn burial of Hugh's bones, names him Saint Hugh, and demands the creation of a holiday in his honour.


A Roman nobleman and warrior who attends Maximinus. With Lutius, he captures Amphiabel and Winifred. He desecrates the holy well, whereupon he is struck by the blinded Lutius, but despite this warning from God, he still leads the two Christians to execution. Bassianus helps to raise the alarm after the Country People report the firing of the beacons.


A "ghost character." One of the Shoemaker's Welsh cousins.


A Vandal captain, who brings Rodrick the news of Huldrick's death.


The unnamed male child of Crispinus and Leodice.


Four country people who raise the alarm when the beacons are fired.


The pseudonym adopted by Offa, son of Allured, under which he is concealed throughout most of the play. Offa and his brother Elred disguise themselves as poor men called Crispianus and Crispinus in order to escape the Romans who killed their father and imprisoned their mother. They become apprentices of the Shoemaker. When Rutullus arrives to press soldiers, Crispianus volunteers to join the army. During the wars, he saves the Emperor Dioclesian from Roderick the Vandal, kills Huldrick the Goth and rescues the Roman standard. Dioclesian ennobles him, and he returns in triumph to Britain, where Emperor Maximinus offers to grant him any wish. Crispianus reveals his identity and asks for the release of his mother, the Queen. Maximinus accedes, ends the purges of Christians, and makes Crispianus and Crispinus joint kings of Britain.

A pseudonym adopted by Elred, son of Allured, under which he is concealed throughout most of the play. Elred and his brother Offa disguise themselves as poor men called Crispinus and Crispianus in order to escape the Romans who killed their father and imprisoned their mother. They become apprentices of the Shoemaker. Crispinus is sent to fit shoes to the Roman princess Leodice, and she falls in love with him. He reveals his true identity to her, and they marry in secret. When Leodice becomes pregnant, Crispinus confides in the Shoemaker and his Wife and reveals his true identity to them. They promise to hide Leodice when she is giving birth. When his brother Crispianus returns in triumph from the war, Crispinus presents himself, Leodice, and the baby to Emperor Maximinus. Although Maximinus is angry, Crispianus' military successes encourage him to forgive Crispinus, and he is made joint King of Britain with his brother. His first act is to demand the raising of a monastery in honour of St Albon.


Joint emperor of Rome, with Maximinus. Dioclesian leads the battles on the continent against the Goths and Vandals. During the wars, he is rescued from death by Crispianus, who also saves the Roman standard from capture. In gratitude, Dioclesian ennobles Crispianus. Back in Britain, Dioclesian's praise of Crispianus encourages Maximinus to end the persecution of Christians, and make the princes Kings of Britain.


A "ghost character." The deceased father of Winifred, who is his heir.


The real name of the character more usually referred to by his pseudonym, Crispinus.


Non-speaking role. A Welsh lord who attends on Hugh.


Sir Hugh is a Welsh prince, son of the King of Powys. He is a suitor of Winifred. Hugh offers Winifred three months to consider his suit, in order to prove the constancy of his love. But when he returns to her, Winifred has decided to remain a virgin and enter a cloister. Depressed, Hugh decides to spend the rest of his life in "some humble mean", and, without disguising his identity, becomes an apprentice to the Shoemaker with whom Crispinus and Crispianus are working. When Hugh learns that Winifred is to be executed he tries to save her, but he is captured and condemned to death alongside her. On the scaffold, Winifred vows that they will have a spiritual marriage in heaven, and Hugh is then executed by being forced to drink a poisoned cup of Winifred's blood. As he dies, he bequeaths his bones to the shoemakers to bury, and names them 'The Gentle Craft'. The shoemakers christen him Saint Hugh, patron saint of shoemakers, and the Emperors permit them to take an annual holiday in his honour.


King of the Goths. During the battle with the Romans, he captures the Roman standard. Crispianus recaptures it and kills Huldrick.


A "ghost character." The father of Hugh.


Leodice is a Roman princess, daughter of the Emperor Maximinus. She falls in love with Crispinus when he fits her shoes, and her concerns about their unequal birth are ended when he reveals to her that he is a prince in disguise. They marry in secret. The shoemakers hide Leodice while she gives birth, and cause the firing of the coastal beacons in order to distract her father. At the end of the play, Maximinus looks favourably on Crispinus after his brother's military successes; he forgives Leodice's transgressions, and she becomes a Queen alongside Crispinus.


A Welsh lord who attends on Hugh and tries to persuade Winifred to renounce virginity.


A Roman nobleman and warrior who attends on Maximinus. With Bassianus, he pursues Amphiabel to Wales, and captures him and Winifred. Lutius is blinded when he desecrates the holy well, but even though Winifred cures him, he denounces her as a witch, and leads the Christians away to execution. Lutius also helps to raise the alarm after the Country People report the firing of the beacons.


Joint emperor of Rome, with Dioclesian. Maximinus resides in Britain, administering the purges of Christians. He orders the arrest of Albon, Amphiabel and Winifred, and administers their execution. Although angered by Leodice's escape, he forgives Crispinus after his brother's triumph, and decides to end the persecution of Christians.


A Roman messenger who reports that Dioclesian needs assistance from Maximinus in the Gaulish wars.


Leodice's Nurse is her confidante. She encourages Leodice to seduce Crispinus, helps to keep their meetings secret, and keeps Maximinus away when Leodice is pregnant.


The real name of the character usually referred to by his pseudonym, Crispianus.


A "ghost character." One of the Shoemaker's Welsh cousins.


The Queen of Britain. She refuses to leave the body of her husband, Allured, when he is killed in battle. She is captured by the Romans, but not before she has persuaded her sons Elred and Offa to flee. She is marched to Rochester castle, and sees her sons in the shoemaker's shop on the way. She is freed when her newly honoured sons demand her release, and she is therefore reunited with them, and with her new grandson.


A journeyman shoemaker who encourages the Shoemaker to hire Crispinus and Crispianus. Although he is usually present in all the scenes involving shoemakers, he contributes little to the plot and his only function is to make the shop look busy.


King of the Vandals. During the battle with the Romans, he fights with the Emperor Dioclesian, but is beaten off by Crispianus. When he is defeated, he abases himself before the Romans.


A Roman nobleman and warrior who attends on Maximinus. Rutullus is given responsibility for erecting beacons on the coast, and for taking the Queen to prison. He is sent to aid Dioclesian in the Gaulish wars, and recruits Crispianus to the army while pressing in Kent.


A jolly, friendly owner of a shoemaking shop in Faversham. He hires Crispinus and Crispianus as apprentices. He permits Crispianus to volunteer for the army, when Crispinus reveals his true identity. He helps to hide Leodice's pregnancy from her father. The two princes refer to him as a father figure in the play's conclusion.


The Shoemaker's Wife, whose name is Sisly, has a tempestuous relationship with her husband. She is very impressed by Crispinus and Crispianus, and encourages her husband to hire them as apprentices. When Crispinus confides in her that he has married and got a child, the Wife is disgusted and blabs to her husband, but when Crispinus reveals that he is a prince and his wife is the Emperor's daughter, the Wife agrees to help him. She suggests firing the beacons to distract Maximinus from Leodice's escape. The Wife presents Crispinus with his baby boy at the end of the play.


The proper name of the Shoemaker's wife, used in the dialogue but not in speech prefixes or stage directions.


A Welsh princess, heir of the deceased Dunwallis. Winifred has embraced Christianity and turned her palace into a cloister. She rejects the courtship of Hugh, and vows to remain a virgin. The missionary Amphiabel is convinced of her virtue when an Angel appears out of the well. Winifred is apprehended by the Romans and taken to execution. When Hugh tries to rescue her, he is sentenced to die alongside her, and they vow to have a spiritual marriage in heaven. Permitted to choose her own death, Winifred elects to bleed to death. The Romans make her bleed into a cup, and Hugh is forced to drink her poisoned blood.