James Shirley


licensed 18 January 1636


Though betrothed to Bentivolio, Ardelia has captured the attention of the Duke of Parma. To explain her interest in Bentivolio, she tells the duke that Bentivolio resembles a brother of hers who died at sea. Despite the attention from the duke, Ardelia swears to Bentivolio that their contract remains unchanged. She manages to convince Bentivolio of her faithfulness, but Valerio discovers her betrothal and promises silence only if Ardelia will grant him sexual favors. She eventually must draw a pistol for protection when Valerio enters her chamber and becomes insistent. The play ends as she is to wed Bentivolio with the duke's blessing.


Ascanio is a courtier whose primary involvement in the play is his part in killing Leontio at the drama's close


Aurelia is a lady who attends Euphemia. Her beauty has no influence upon Horatio, who prefers ugly women.


Bentivolio, betrothed to Ardelia, is chagrined at the attention paid to Ardelia by the duke. Determined to se her despite her obligations at court, Bentivolio hides in the garden, overhearing the duke swear he's not been intimate with Ardelia. Convinced by the artifices of Valerio and Leontio that the duke knows of the betrothal, Bentivolio promises to kill the duke and indeed thinks he has done so when he stabs a man who hides behind a hanging in Ardelia's chamber. The man he kills, however, is Valerio. At the play's end, Bentivolio is to wed Ardelia with the duke's blessing.


The given name for the Duke of Parma. The duke is besotted with Ardelia, finding her far more interesting than his wife Euphemia. He courts Ardelia, sending her jewels with Leontio, and he orders Leontio to imprison Euphemia. Visiting Ardelia in the garden, the duke responds to her demands that he state he has not been intimate with her, unaware that her betrothed Bentivolio is hidden and overhears their conversation. The duke later repeats his behavior and reconciles with his wife, realizing also the duplicity of Leontio, his former favorite.


Euphemia is the duchess of Parma, wed to but neglected by Dionisio Farnese. She notes how courtiers now ignore her, believing that their lack of attention and respect results from a fear of the duke's anger. Recognizing the duke's infatuation with Ardelia, she approaches the duke and asks to die; she is remanded into the custody of Leontio, who claims to love her but who is killed near the play's end before he can force himself upon her. Euphemia and the duke are reconciled when the duke repents his treatment of her.


Fiametta is an ill-favored lady who attends Ardelia. She realizes she is unattractive and at first wonders if Horatio mocks her when he praises her. She soon faces competition for Horatio's attention as Valerio introduces the extremely ugly Scolopendra to Horatio, who eventually weds her.


This unnamed First Officer is in charge of prisoners Ardelia and Bentivolio. He brings news of the couple's arrest to Fiametta and Horatio.


Horatio is Bentivolio's friend and feels that the only women who can be trusted are ugly ones. He flatly refuses the court ladies Aurelia and Macrina, but he seems thrilled with the ill-favored Fiametta. Valerio, however, introduces Horatio to an even uglier woman-Scolopendra-whom Horatio weds. At the play's end, Horatio allows himself to be accused of treason and taken to prison just to escape the angry Fiametta.


A relative of the duke of Parma and the court favorite, Leontio sees the duchess Euphemia as an injured lady. Though he tells Euphemia that perhaps the duke will repent and forsake pursuit of Ardelia, he gladly accepts the duke's commission to imprison Euphemia, for he wants the lady himself. He plots to have the duke killed, and when Bentivolio thinks he has killed the duke in Ardelia's chamber, Leontio imprisons both Bentivolio and Ardelia. Leontio is caught, by the disguised duke, attempting to take Euphemia by force, and Leontio is killed by Pallante, Strozzi, Silvio, and Ascanio.


Macrina is a lady who attends Euphemia. Her beauty draws no interest from Horatio, who prefers ugly women.


Pallante has no skill at being a courtier; as a Captain he would rather be at war. He falsely reports to Leontio that he has slain the duke, and he has a part in killing Leontio at the play's end.


A "gorgon" by Shirley's own note, Scolopendra is introduced to Horatio by Valerio. She is truly uglier than Horatio's current love Fiametta, and she ends up wedding Horatio.


Silvio is a courtier who pities the duchess Euphemia. He has a part in killing Leontio at the play's end.


Strozzi is a courtier who has a part in killing Leontio at the play's end.


Valerio is one of a few courtiers who express sympathy for Euphemia, the neglected duchess. On the other hand, Valerio also feels it is fine for the duke to have a mistress, for then the practice will become fashionable at court for all to imitate. It is Valerio who introduces Horatio to the ill-favored Fiametta and the ugly Scolopendra; it is also Valerio who falsely informs the duke that Bentivolio and Ardelia plot against the duke. Valerio propositions Ardelia, promising to withhold a secret he's really already told. Hiding behind hangings in Ardelia's chamber, Valerio is killed by Bentivolio.