James Shirley

licensed 26 April 1642

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


The younger of the two "sisters" of the title; sister to Paulina and niece to Antonio. Angellina's character is the reverse of her sister's. She is modest and devout and wants only to enter a convent. This frustrates her uncle, Antonio, who loves her and wants her to make a good marriage. Antonio takes her from her sister's castle to his own house, where he gives her money for fine clothes and sends her love-poetry, erotic pictures, and a dancing-master. It is all in vain. She has no interest in any of it, and he is disgusted to learn the extent of her charity when he disguises himself as a beggar and receives all the clothes and money as alms. Lord Contarini falls in love with her while visiting Paulina, and sends his servant Vergerio to court her in his place. She falls in love with Vergerio, but Vergerio turns out to be a woman, Pulcheria, Contarini's former love, who is presumed dead. Angellina rises to this situation with laconic generosity. She blames no one, and in the last scene speaks only to ask pardon for Frapolo and the other bandits, and to promise money for Paulina when it turns out that she is not her elder sister after all.


A gentleman of Parma, uncle to the two sisters, Paulina and Angellina, and governor to Paulina. Antonio is frustrated by both his nieces:
  • Paulina because of her pride and pretentions,
  • Angellina for her humility and disinterest in such worldly concerns as clothes and marriage.
After trying, vainly, to cure Paulina's fantasies of grandeur by a variety of means-
  • by pretending to go along with them,
  • by inviting Contarini to pay her a mock-courtship, finally
  • by shouting at her
he leaves her castle, taking his other niece, Angellina, along with him. He tries to sophisticate Angellina in the hopes that she will marry Contarini, who has fallen in love with her. Nothing comes of this, but Antonio is delighted to learn, at the end of the play, that Paulina is not really his niece at all but the daughter of her old nurse, Morulla.


A bandit, follower of Frapolo.


A nobleman of Parma, follower of Prince Farnese. Invited by Antonio to pay a mock-courtship to his pretentious niece, Paulina, Lord Contarini falls in love with her modest sister, Angellina. Despite Antonio's encouragement, Angellina proves resistant, so Contarini first sends her his page, Vergerio, to urge his claim, and then asks his master, Farnese, to appeal for him. Farnese falls in love with her himself, but he and Contarini discover that Angellina has fallen in love with the page, Vergerio. Finally, however, the page reveals that he is really a woman, the disguised Pulcheria, Contarini's own former love whom he had believed dead, and the two are reunited.


A countryman; husband to Morulla and father to Piperollo. At the end, he reveals that he and his wife are also the parents of Paulina.


Prince of Parma. Farnese, disguised, comes to the palace of Paulina at the invitation of his follower, Lord Contarini, and finds there that the brigand Fripolo is impersonating him. Contarini asks him to plead his own courtship with Paulina's sister, Angellina, but the prince falls in love with her himself. She, meanwhile, is in love with Contarini's page, Vergerio. Vergerio turns out at last to be Pulcheria, Contarini's former love, so the way is made clear for Farnese and Angellina, but there is no sign that they will take it. He has the last word in the play, which is a praise of humility.


Maid to Angellina. She escorts her modest mistress from the castle of Paulina to the house of Antonio, and there supports Antonio in his hopeless plan to introduce her to luxurious living.


Chief of the bandits. An engaging character, he ends up with the hand of the heroine as both reward and punishment. The bandits begin the play by capturing Piperollo, who gladly betrays his parents to them for his own safety. They follow his instructions, but despise Piperollo for giving them and only take two-thirds of his parents' treasure. Disguising themselves as fortune-tellers, they then arrive at the castle of Paulina, and manage some successful pocket-picking before setting off to waylay her servants, who have just confided in them about a journey they are about to make to collect money. Finally, Frapolo disguises himself as Prince Farnese, and returns to the castle to court Paulina. He is successful once again, and marries her before she discovers the deception. In turn, he discovers that he has been deceived. She is not really an heiress but the daughter of an old nurse and her husband, Piperollo's parents, Morulla and Fabio. The bandit and the ex-chatelaine are confined to the castle, but Frapolo maintains his good humour. If he is not to be allowed to work, he explains, he needs money for his future family. The real Farnese agrees to provide it.


Servant to Paulina. When she decides to aggrandize her household, he takes the title of controller.


A bandit, follower of Frapolo. Longino and his comrade Strozzo hand over Piperollo to his parents, Fabio and Morulla, whom he had attempted to betray to the bandits.


Steward to the haughty Paulina.


Mother of Piperollo, wife to Fabio, and old nurse of Paulina. Piperollo tries to appease Frapolo and the other bandits by betraying Fabio and Morulla, but the bandits double-cross him and hand him back to his parents, who kick him out in disgust. Piperollo complains that Morulla has "a deadly lift with her leg". At the end of the play, thinking that Paulina is about to marry Prince Farnese, Morulla and Fabio reveal that the true Paulina died under their care and the apparent Paulina is in fact their daughter, substituted by them in infancy.


A bandit, follower of Frapolo.


The elder of the two "sisters" of the title; sister to Angellina and niece to Antonio. Having inherited almost all her father's money, she assumes an exaggerated sense of her own social status, despite her uncle's constant efforts to humble her. When Lord Contarini arrives and makes her absurdly flattering speeches, she accepts them as her due and is eager to meet his master, Prince Farnese. When the bandit Frapolo arrives in disguise as the prince, she readily accepts him. In the end, she discovers that she is not really an heiress at all, but the daughter of her old nurse, Marulla. The real Paulina died while in Marulla's care, and she was switched in infancy to hide the fact. She is confined with her new husband, the bandit, to what was formerly her own castle, and both become dependent on the charity of others.


A comic, rustic character; the son of Fabio and Morulla, whom he betrays to Frapolo and the other bandits in return for his own safety. He tries to become one of the bandits, but the band hates him for betraying his parents and contemptuously throws him back to them. Rejected by them, too, Piperollo finds employment in the household of Paulina and is delighted when she is visited by a band of fortune-tellers who predict that he will become a knight. The fortune-tellers are in fact the bandits again in disguise, and, when Piperollo tells them all about his imminent departure to collect money for Paulina, they predict that he will be robbed and beaten on the way. He is anxious only that they should be right, as his knighthood depends on their accuracy, and when, sure enough, he is robbed on his journey, he insists on being beaten as well. At the end, he is surprised to discover that his employer, Paulina, is in fact his sister, who had been switched at birth.


Daughter of the Viceroy of Sicily, formerly betrothed to Contarini. To test his love, she disguises herself as a young man, Vergerio, tells Contarini that Pulcheria is dead, and is engaged by him as his page. When Contarini sends Vergerio to woo Angellina for him, Angellina is fooled by the disguise and falls in love with "him". At the end, Pulcheria reveals the truth, and she and Contarini are reunited.


A bandit, follower of Frapolo.


The scholar is sent by Antonio to his niece Angellina in his attempt to make her more worldly. He presents her with a flattering description of herself, which she rejects at some length, greatly to his admiration.


A servant to Paulina. When Giovanni takes the grand title of controller, Stephanio takes the title of treasurer.


A bandit, follower of Frapolo. Strozzo and his comrade Longino hand over Piperollo to his parents, Fabio and Morulla, whom he had attempted to betray to the bandits.


The name taken by Pulcheria in her disguise as the page of Contarini.


Vincenzo is a "ghost character." He is named as the father of Angellina and Paulina.