James Shirley



a synoptic, alphabetical character list


Bellamy is the widowed mother of Frances. She refuses advances from Giles Hornet, whom she feels would be a domineering mate. When her daughter's suitor, Hartwell, falls on unexpected financial hard times, Bellamy urges her daughter instead to consider the courtship of Startup, a foolish country gentleman. Bellamy also claims a great affection of her own for Hartwell, an affection that turns out to have been a test of Hartwell's and Frances' constancy and love.


Sir Clement is the local justice. Within his house, Hornet's Cousin pretends to be king, Hornet is "knighted," and Clement's nephew Playfair weds Hornet's niece.


Close is a servant to Hartwell. He stays with his master when Hartwell's financial problems force him to release all of his servants. Because he remains loyal and on the scene, Close is able to discover how Frances' nurse plans to sneak Startup into Frances' chamber; Close thus helps to foil the plot to compromise Frances in that fashion.


The Constable finds Close and Startup in the fields. He arrests the men as suspected robbers and delivers them for questioning to Sir Clement, the justice.


The Countryman is an acquaintance of Startup's, and appears at Bellamy's home with the announcement that Startup is already contracted. The Countryman's daughter is with child, and Startup is the father.


A "ghost character." The Countryman's daughter is with child, and Startup is the father, thus Startup is already contracted to her.


Playfair's Cousin is never named in the play but manages to assume several roles. First, the Cousin plays a doctor who claims to have cured the melancholy of Hornet's niece. The Cousin's next charade is to impersonate the king, honoring Hornet with a knighthood that proves quite expensive for Hornet. Eventually the Cousin does appear undisguised to Hornet, tricking Hornet into negating a bond that the Cousin owes.


One of the roles that Playfair's Cousin assumes several roles. First, the Cousin plays a doctor who claims to have cured the melancholy of Hornet's niece.


Frances is Bellamy's daughter. She loves Hartwell and is dismayed when her mother urges the suit of the more financially stable yet foolish Startup. Frances' discomfort heightens as her mother claims affection for Hartwell; to express her point, when Hartwell is brought to her chamber wearing Startup's clothes, she treats him as though he were Startup and promises marriage, though she is aware of Hartwell's disguise. Actually, however, Frances would prefer death to watching Hartwell wed her mother; she is delighted to discover at the play's end that Bellamy has been merely testing the constancy of her daughter and Hartwell.


Giles Hornet is a wealthy usurer who courts Bellamy with a domineering style while urging her that men aren't to be trusted. He has secluded his niece in hopes of keeping her dowry for himself. However, his clever Cousin plays the role of king, "knighting" Hornet and obtaining the keys to release the niece. Hornet eventually is made to forgive monies owed to him by the Cousin; he must also accept his niece's marriage to Playfair, the nephew of Sir Clement.


This gentleman admirer of Frances falls upon financial hard times, releasing his servants. He soon finds Bellamy, mother of Frances, claiming affection for him and urging him to stop his pursuit of Frances. Told by Close of the plan to sneak Frances' new suitor, Startup, into Frances' chamber, Hartwell dons Startup's clothes and enters the chamber instead. He is dismayed when Frances apparently thinks he is indeed Startup and promises marriage. Later accused of killing Startup, the heartsick Hartwell confesses to a crime he did not commit. The truth, however, is that Startup still lives; additionally, Bellamy is found to have been testing the constancy of Hartwell and Frances, who soon will wed.


Hornet's Niece has been secluded by Hornet, who wants to keep her dowry for himself. Her supposed melancholy is cured through a clever ruse of Hornet's Cousin, disguised as a doctor. Later, the Cousin obtains the keys to release the Niece; she weds her beloved Playfair at the home of Sir Clement.


One of the roles that Playfair's Cousin assumes. The Cousin impersonates the king, honoring Hornet with a knighthood that proves quite expensive for Hornet.


Roles assumed by Hartwell's dismissed servants in aid of gulling Hornet. They convince Hornet that once he is "knighted" he must purchase more appropriate, expensive clothes.


Playfair is a gallant and nephew to Sir Clement. A friend of Hartwell's, Playfair sympathizes with Hartwell's dilemma about Bellamy; he offers Hartwell advice on how to handle the situation if Hartwell is ever to have a chance to win Frances. Playfair is also involved with Hornet's Cousin in tricking Hornet, bestowing a false knighthood upon Hornet and assisting in releasing Hornet's niece from the home. Playfair weds Hornet's niece near the end of the play.


Frances' Nurse would like her mistress to accept Startup as a suitor and therefore agrees to escort Startup into Frances' chamber. She is thwarted, however, when Hartwell dons Startup's clothing and gains admission in place of Startup.


An unnamed Servant of Sir Clement. This fellow obtains Hornet's keys while Hornet is changing clothes and thus helps facilitate the release of Hornet's niece.


The Servants are dismissed from service when Hartwell lacks money. Disguised as lords, the First, Second and Third Servants urge the newly-"knighted" Hornet to purchase more appropriate–and expensive–attire. The Fourth Servant arrives at Hornet's home disguised as pursuivant. Supposedly he has been sent by the king to summon Hornet; the Servant takes Hornet to Clement's house, where Hornet finds himself knighted by the "king"–Hornet's Cousin in disguise.


Startup is a foolish country gentleman who becomes Frances suitor. Frances' mother Bellamy urges Startup's suit, supposedly because Frances' previous suitor, Hartwell, is not now as financially stable as Startup. Frances' Nurse plots with Startup to allow him access to her mistress' chamber, and Startup informs Frances that Hartwell is ready to court her mother. Thanks to the intervention of Close, however, it is Hartwell who enters Frances' chamber, not Startup. Instead, Startup is apprehended by the Constable and brought before Clement. Soon, Startup is confronted by a Countryman who claims that marriage was promised his daughter by Startup, and that the country girl is also with child. Startup, then, is to return home and wed the Countryman's daughter.


The First and Second Watchmen attend the Constable.