James Shirley

licensed 3 October 1628

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


Brains is servant to Sir George Richley. His commission is to keep Richley's daughter Violetta secluded-especially from Frank Aimwell-pending her wedding to Sir Nicholas Treedle. Brains manages to interfere with Violetta's epistles but is separated from his mistress through trickery that leads to his temporary arrest. He advises Sir Treedle, who has wedded a chambermaid, Sensible, disguised as Violetta, to save face by claiming the marriage was no accident.


Clare is a gentleman who delivers a message from Violetta to Aimwell; he is also a witness to their wedding.


This unnamed First Gentleman helps convince the Second Gentleman of Fowler's supposed demise; he pretends not to know Fowler upon seeing him.


This unnamed Footman accompanies Treedle and Whibble as they search for the Tutor.


Frank Aimwell loves Violetta. His correspondence with her is partly hindered by Brains, but enough messages get through to allow Aimwell and Violetta to accomplish their wedding. Aimwell weds Violetta in her guise as a chambermaid named Sensible.


This wild young scamp's primary goal is to bed Penelope. He urges his suit to her unsuccessfully, eventually feigning illness in hope of gaining her sympathy. His plan backfires when she accepts his indecent proposal, only to trick him into agreeing to bed the chambermaid before being allowed access to Penelope. Fowler's friends join with Penelope in pretending that Fowler is dead. The wild gent witnesses his own funeral, and when he promises to be virtuous, Penelope and friends again recognize Fowler as living and now worthy of Penelope's love.


A gentleman. Manly is a friend of Aimwell, Clare, and Fowler. He pretends to be Fowler's physician in an attempt to deceive Penelope. He later witnesses the wedding of Aimwell and Violetta.


A "ghost character." Mar-Text is mentioned by Treedle as being Treedle's chaplain.


Penelope is Worthy's daughter and beloved of John Fowler, a wild gentleman whose suit and honesty Penelope questions. Unconvinced by Fowler's flattery, Penelope learns that indeed his intentions are not honorable when she changes places with the chambermaid Winnifride. Fowler accepts the demand that he sleep with Winnifride before being allowed access to Penelope. Penelope then contrives with friends to persuade everyone that Fowler has died a sinful man. She accepts Fowler when he pledges death to vanity and promises honorable behavior in marriage.


This unnamed Second Gentleman pretends not to know Fowler, claiming that Fowler has just died.


Sensible is a chambermaid and also the disguise adopted by Violetta. The chambermaid is heavily involved in the passage of correspondence between Aimwell and Violetta. Richley dismisses her when he learns of her complicity in allowing the correspondence. Sensible continues, however, to aid her mistress. The two exchange identities. Serving as Violetta's double in a successful ruse to unite Violetta and Aimwell, Sensible manages to wed Treedle, who mistakes her for Violetta. She is allowed to keep that position because Treedle, advised by Brains, will not admit to having made the mistake.


The Serjeant, accompanied by the Tutor, arrests Brains after Brains and the Tutor have fought.


Richley is a knight, brother to Worthy and father of Violetta. Having pledged his daughter to Sir Nicholas Treedle, he deposits her at Worthy's home under the watchful eye of Brains, whose job is to keep Violetta secluded. When Richley discovers that Violetta has corresponded with Aimwell, he dismisses Sensible, the chambermaid who has assisted them. His care fails, however, because the girl manages to slip away from Brains and marry the man she truly loves.


Treedle is the knight to whom Sir Richley has pledged his daughter Violetta. A foolish man who keeps a Tutor for learning travel by book, Treedle has seldom seen his bride-to-be and is easily duped into wedding Sensible, a chambermaid disguised in her mistress' garb. Rather than lose face and admit his mistake, Treedle takes Brains' advice and claims to have wed Sensible on purpose.


As companion to Treedle, the Tutor's job is to quiz Treedle on matters of travel that Treedle has learned by book rather than through experience. He hopes to win Treedle's betrothed for himself and in that hope attacks Brains, Violetta's escort. He believes Treedle is "an ass" and lives to prove himself equally worthy of that title.


Violetta is Sir Richley's daughter and also the disguise of Sensible. Betrothed to Treedle, a man she has scarcely met, Violetta falls in love with Frank Aimwell. Guarded by Brains, who partly interferes with her correspondence with Aimwell, Violetta escapes by exchanging identities with the chambermaid Sensible. Sensible ends up married to Treedle while Violetta succeeds in marrying Aimwell.


Whibble is servant to Worthy and loyal to Worthy's daughter Penelope. He disguises himself to visit Fowler, the dishonest young man who feigns illness in an effort to seduce Penelope.


Winnifride is chambermaid to Penelope. She and her mistress concoct a scheme to entrap the dishonest Fowler; the women exchange places and, in a darkened room, persuade Fowler that he must first lie with the chambermaid before he can go in to Penelope.


Worthy is Richley's brother. He is father to Penelope and uncle to Violetta. Worthy does not wholly agree with Richley's mandate that Violetta be kept secluded pending her marriage with Treedle, though Worthy does counsel Aimwell to give up his love for Violetta. Worthy is also part of the group that convinces Fowler of his own death, resulting in a promise of that young man's honesty and reformation.