THE HONEST LAWYER
a synoptic, alphabetical character list
The true Abbot returns from his pilgrimage in the fifth act and overhears Curfew's plots. He appears at the trial and delivers a long sermon that causes Gripe to repent and confess his supposed murder of Vaster's wife. He then presides over the rest of the cases and delivers the final speech, proclaiming the conversion of an usurer a miracle.
Anne Vaster is the daughter of Vaster, although in his jealousy Vaster disowns her. She appeals to Benjamin for mercy when his father sends him to throw them off their lands, and Benjamin immediately falls in love with her and proposes marriage. However, Gripe enters and threatens to disown Benjamin, at which Anne insists she and her brother would rather be beggars than see that happen. They appeal for aid to first Bromely, then Gripe, then Nice, and are all three times turned down. Finally Sagar offers to help them, although his own legal troubles have left them almost penniless. Benjamin enters and promises to help them and to marry Anne. She appears, married to Benjamin, in the final scene, and when she hears the disguised Vaster claim that Benjamin has killed Vaster, mourns that she must lose both father and husband.
Benjamin is the "honest lawyer" of the title. He is son of a sickly usurer who is sent by his father to claim Vaster's lands. When Vaster insults his father, they duel and Benjamin believes he has killed Vaster. He promises to look after Vaster's wife and children and spends the rest of the play attempting to do just that. He removes Vaster's wife from the brothel where Vaster has placed her and provides shelter for Vaster's children, Robin and Anne. He also immediately falls in love with Anne and offers to marry her twice. The first time, they are interrupted by the entrance of Gripe, who threatens to disown Benjamin, so Anne will not stay with him. The second time she accepts him. Benjamin also helps Sagar, warning him that Bromley intends to harm him, and disguising him so that he can confront Bromley in the final scene. When Gripe tries to poison Vaster's wife, Benjamin substitutes a harmless concoction and then helps her hide until the final scene. Finally, he admits to killing Vaster in the duel, and is ready to be hanged when Vaster reveals himself. Benjamin speaks the epilogue, offering the standard thanks and asking for applause.
BENJAMIN'S DEAD FRIEND
A "ghost character" and possibly fictional. Benjamin tells Nice a dream he had in which a dead friend came to him in a beautiful garden and asked him about many sad events. Nice is terrified of the dream and leaves him.
Nicholas Bromley was formerly the Vaster steward, but is now is independent and holds the mortgage on Sagar's property. When Sagar refuses to give up his lands Bromley decides to kill him, and shoots what he thinks is Sagar in a field. He is immediately afraid of getting caught and runs off, but his crime is found out by Griffin, who agrees to conceal the fact if they share the lands. He is accused of the murder and at first denies it, but finally admits to the crime and implicates Griffin. Benjamin then tells Bromley to give up his lease to Sagar's wife and children. When he does so, Sagar then reveals himself.
The Clerk calls Marion Sorrow (Vaster's wife) to stand forward, and reads the charge of attempting to poison her against Gripe.
A non-speaking character. Marre-maid has the Constable bring in Valentine. Apparently the Constable is comic relief; Gripe calls him "neighbor Sleep" and Thirsty notes that a thief could "take him napping."
Curfew spends most of the play disguised as the deputy abbot, a role he took over when his brother died secretly. However, he only acts in a pious manner in his first appearance, when he attempts to stop the duel between Benjamin and Vaster. When they will not listen to his pleas, he flees seeking help. In the next scene, he reveals his deception to the audience. He is then met by Valentine, who attempts to rob him. They fight and when neither can gain the upper hand, they decide to join forces. They then attempt to rob Vaster, and when he reveals he has no money, they all three join together. They then rob Griffin, Sagar and Bromley, and then Gripe. Vaster and Curfew then rob Nice. Finally, the three pretend to be fairies and terrify Gripe, telling him they have cursed him with diseases because of his usery, and then steal his gold. They give the money to Vaster's wife for safekeeping and have her arrested when she cannot produce it. When Curfew enters cursing his loss, the returned Abbot realizes his deputy has been replaced. However, despite being present at the trial, Curfew is not punished.
A "ghost character." When the Abbot went on pilgrimage, he appointed Curfew's brother, "an honest Friar" to his deputy. However, his brother died suddenly and Curfew buried him privately and assumed his part, hoping to turn it to his advantage.
Vaster, Valentine and Curfew disguise themselves as Fairies to terrify and rob Gripe.
This is the name Vaster Marre-Maid for his wife. Since it is never used again, and since he also tells Marre-Maid that she is his sister, and sixteen, there is no reason to believe this is her real name.
Griffin is a lawyer and school friend of Benjamin. He attempts to bring Bromley and Sagar to a peaceable solution over the question of the mortgage, but fails, and then is robbed with them by Vaster, Valentine and Curfew. He realizes from Bromley's behavior that the latter has killed Sagar and tries to blackmail him. Bromley accuses him in turn of forgery, and the two agree to keep each other's secrets. At the trial, however, Bromley implicates Griffin after he himself has confessed.
Gripe is a usurer who is intent on claiming the mortgage on Vaster's property, despite his son's protestations. He threatens to disown his son if he marries Anne Vaster and when Anne and Robin appeal to him for aid he rejects them utterly. He is also suffering from several illnesses, and is gullible enough to believe Valentine is a physician who can cure him, even protecting him after Valentine is involved in a bar fight. Gripe is robbed by Vaster, Valentine and Curfew twice, once on the road and once when they appear to him in his house disguised as fairies. The first time, he is rescued by Vaster's wife and rather than being grateful, Gripe attempts to seduce her. He becomes convinced that she is one of the thieves who robbed his house and decides to poison her, but Benjamin substitutes a harmless drink in its place. He is arrested for her murder and tries to gain help from Sir Bare Notwithstanding, but is refused. Finally, he confesses his crimes and turns over the mortgage to Vaster's wife and children, at which point Vaster reveals that he is still alive.
The Jailor asks Gripe what he will have for dinner and when Gripe replies "a rope" the Jailor corrects him and says that they will keep for his supper.
A "ghost character." Bromley tells Benjamin that Gripe has ordered him to take Vaster's wife to appear before Justice Surly. However, they actually appear before the Abbot because Justice Surly is reported to have taken ill.
The name Vaster's wife assumes after Benjamin rescues her from the brothel.
The Messenger tells Curfew (who he believes is the Abbot) that Judge Surly is ill, and that therefore the Abbot should take his place.
Mistress Marre-Maid is a brothel owner. Vaster turns his wife over to her when he believes she is unfaithful, and Vaster's wife is so loyal that she will not leave the brothel with Benjamin until after gaining Marre-Maid's consent (which Benjamin gains with money). She also brings a suit against Valentine for breaking a pot over the Tapster's head. However, her suit is denied when Gripe believes Valentine is a physician.
Nice is Cousin to Gripe and serves mainly as comic relief. He is deeply superstitious and takes everything as a sign that ill will happen. He decides not to travel to Bedford for his wedding, for example, because Gripe has spilled salt towards him, although when Thirsty spills wine in his lap he takes that as a counter sign and agrees to keep the wedding plans. He has little to do in terms of the actual plot-he refuses Anne and Robin aid when they ask and goes to seek help for Gripe from Sir Bare Notwithstanding-instead he mostly comments from the background.
A "ghost character." Nice remembers his Grandam telling him that a cat sitting on a hatch was an ill sign.
Vaster's son first appears in the first scene, asking his father to treat his mother well, but is commanded to leave and reluctantly obeys. He and Anne are then met by Benjamin, and at first Robin is ready to attack the son of his enemy, but Benjamin soon wins him over. However, when Gripe appears and threatens to disown Benjamin, Anne insists they leave him. The two supposed orphans seek help from Bromley, Gripe, and Nice and are turned down all three times. Finally Sagar offers to help them, although his own legal troubles have left them almost penniless. Benjamin enters and promises to help them and to marry Anne. Robin meets his mother, whom Benjamin has rescued from the brothel, and at first does not recognize her. When he does, he believes her presence in the house of their enemy shows her infidelity, and threatens to kill her, but she is rescued by Gripe. Robin then joins with Valentine, Curfew and the disguised Vaster in scaring Nice. He is present in the final scene and is reunited with his father and mother.
Sagar is a poor but honest man whose entire fortune is mortgaged to Bromley. Despite that, he offers aid to Anne and Robin Vaster when they ask. When he, Bromley and Griffin are robbed by the disguised Vaster, Valentine and Curfew, Vaster returns Sagar's purse to him because he is poor. Warned by Benjamin, Sagar avoids Bromely's attempt to kill him, and disguises himself as a priest. After Bromley confesses his crime and promises to give back the lands to Sagar's wife and children, Sagar reveals that he is still alive.
A "ghost character." Robin describes her as a former servant to his mother, and Benjamin tells Bromley, in the trial scene, to surrender his lease to Sagar's wife and children.
"Ghost characters." Benjamin tells Bromley, in the trial scene, to surrender his lease to Sagar's wife and children.
SIR BARE NOTWITHSTANDING
A "ghost character." Gripe tells Nice to seek out Sir Bare Notwithstanding, who lives three miles off, to trade his debt to Gripe for bail money. Nice describes him to Benjamin as worth 400 a year, but he does not come to provide bail.
Thirsty is Gripe's man and, with Nice, serves as comic relief. Unlike many clever comic servants, Thirsty does not have a great deal to do, although he is part of many scenes. His humor mainly involves sexual innuendos about the female characters. He does help Benjamin and Robin scare Nice when the latter is sent to seek help from Sir Bare Notwithstanding.
Valentine is a trickster who first masquerades as a physician to bilk Gripe out of money. Both Curfew and Vaster fight with him when he attempts to rob them, and then join with him to rob first Sagar, Bromley and Griffin and then Gripe. Later all three disguise themselves as fairies and terrify and rob Gripe in his house. The three give their money to Vaster's wife for safekeeping and when they find she has given it to Vaster they have her arrested. Valentine accuses her in the trial scene and when Vaster reveals himself, admits that Vaster's wife is cleared, but Valentine himself is not punished.
As the play opens, Vaster is viciously accusing his wife of infidelity. Despite her pleas he refuses to believe she is innocent, and demands that she enter a brothel. When Benjamin enters, Vaster immediately insults both him and his father until Benjamin is pushed into a fight. When Vaster is wounded, he pretends to be dying and bids Benjamin look after his wife and children, then, when Benjamin rushes off to find help, reveals that he is only slightly hurt. He next appears in disguise as a yeoman, and is robbed by Valentine and Curfew; when he has no money they ask him to join them instead. The three waylay Griffin, Bromely and Sagar, and then Gripe and rob them. Later, they disguise themselves as fairies and rob Gripe's house, telling him that they have sent all his diseases as punishment for being a miser. The three leave the money with Vaster's wife, and Vaster returns to try her virtue, first attempting to seduce her, then threatening to kill her if she does not give in. She tells him she has the pox and he reveals himself, but rejects her, still believing she is unfaithful and citing her claim to have the pox as truth. He tells her to take the blame for Gripe's stolen money and, loyal still, she does so at the trial. This finally convinces him of her faithfulness and he reveals himself to his family and promises to love his wife forever.
As the play opens, Vaster is viciously accusing his wife of infidelity. Despite her pleas he refuses to believe she is innocent, and demands that she enter a brothel. She loyally agrees, but manages to drive off potential customers by preaching to them. As first Griffin, Bromley and Sagar, and then Gripe are robbed in turn, she releases them and helps them to a nearby inn. Benjamin tests her virtue and then takes her to his uncle's house. She is found there by her son, who at first does not recognize her, but when he does, he threatens to kill her, believing she has been unfaithful with Gripe. She is rescued by Gripe, who attempts to seduce her, but fails. He then believes she was one of the thieves who robbed his house and decides to poison her, but Benjamin substitutes a harmless drink. She is then met by a disguised Vaster, who tests her purity by attempting to seduce her, then threatening to kill her. She tells him she has the pox and he reveals himself, but rejects her, still believing she is unfaithful and citing her claim to have the pox as truth. He tells her to take the blame for Gripe's stolen money and, loyal still, she does so at the trial. This finally convinces him of her faithfulness and he reveals himself to his family and promises to love his wife forever.
A "ghost character." Gripe orders Nice and Thirsty to go to the Under Sheriff and get possession of Vaster's lands.
A "ghost character." Gripe orders Benjamin to go to Goldington to look over Young Bruster's lands, because they are offered to Gripe in mortgage.
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