Thomas Middleton

A TRICK TO CATCH THE OLD ONE

1604–1607
(almost certainly not as late as 1607
as St. Paul's was closed by mid-1606;
1605 often urged)
Printed 1608 as acted "both at Paules, and the Black-Fryers."

full synopsis available, click here

BARBER

Along with the falconer, huntsman, perfumer, and tailor, he has a functional use befitting his name. After Hoard's marriage to Medler, these characters become the liveried servants of Walkadine Hoard, used by him to show off his newly acquired wealth.

BOY

Runs minor errands for Hoard, Lucre, and the Host.

COCKPIT

The only one of three creditors that is named. Cockpit and his two comrades have financed Witgood's wanton lifestyle, but they are persuaded from calling in their loans because of his impending marriage to Jane Medler. They are even convinced to furnish Witgood with more goods to hasten the upcoming match, Cockpit offering goods from his shop. Consequently, they spread rumors of Medler's wealth to Hoard.

COURTESAN

Apparently not a professional prostitute but rather a country girl whom Witgood deflowered and so ruined. She is known throughout most of the play in her guise of the widow, Jane Medler, who is supposedly possessed of an annuity of 400 per year. She strikes a bargain to pose as Witgood's betrothed for their mutual financial advancement. At play's end, Witgood attests that, but for him, she is a virgin. (Full description at "MEDLER, JANE").

CREDITORS

These three characters (the third named Cockpit) have financed Witgood's wanton lifestyle, but they are persuaded from calling in their loans because of his impending marriage to Jane Medler. They are even convinced to furnish Witgood with more goods to hasten the upcoming match;
  • The first offers 40,
  • The second a valuable ruby, and
  • The third (Cockpit) goods from his shop.
Consequently, they spread rumors to Hoard of Medler's wealth and fire his desire for her.

DAMPIT, HARRY

An elderly London usurer. Suffering from senility and alcoholism, he refuses to extend credit to Witgood's three creditors when they ask for the money to cover Witgood's debts. Dampit's servant, Audrey, is perpetually chiding her master.

DICK

A non-speaking role, presumably a boy. He is in the London tavern where Hoard resorts. The Drawer, who briefly attends Hoard and his retainers Lamprey and Spitchcock, tells Dick to show a group of unseen characters "the Pomegranate" room. It is unclear whether Dick actually appears on stage or is merely addressed as an off stage character, as is William at the bar, in which case he is a "ghost character."

DRAWER

An employee of William, a London tapster, the Drawer briefly attends Hoard and his retainers Lamprey and Spitchcock in a London tavern.

FALCONER

Along with the barber, huntsman, perfumer, and tailor, he has a functional use befitting his name. After Hoard's marriage to Medler, these characters become the liveried servants of Walkadine Hoard, used by him to show off his newly acquired wealth.

FLORENCE, MISTRESS

A "ghost character". When Hoard inquires of the Drawer in a London tavern whether a gentlewoman has arrived, he learns that only Mistress Florence has come in. The Drawer identifies her as a "Dutch widow" and glosses his own phrase, saying that she is "an English drab."

FOXSTONE, LADY

Invited guest of Walkadine Hoard, who wishes to show-off his new wife.

FREEDOM, SAM

The stepson of Pecunius Lucre. A clown, he is one of the suitors to Joyce, Hoard's niece, along with Moneylove. Sam is out-maneuvered when Witgood marries her instead.

GENTLEMEN

Two groups of gentlemen figure: two with Hoard and an unspecified number (probably two) with Lucre, when they all meet at the London tavern:
  1. Two Gentlemen arrive with Hoard at the London tavern and contend with one another who best pleased the widow. The First Gentlemen contends that he was first to move her with his art. The Second holds that he "took her at the bound." Hoard attests that they both did well with her. Later, they assist in carrying her away to Cole Harbour and are witnesses to the marriage of Hoard and Jane Medler.
  2. When the widow is stolen away, the gentlemen accompanying Lucre agree to help Lucre retrieve her from Cole Harbour. They arrive too late, however, and the widow has already married Hoard. This they do not learn, and the Courtesan uses their ignorance to advance Witgood's fortunes, seeming to prefer Lucre if he will return Witgood's mortgage and estate.

GEORGE

A servant to Lucre, he delivers a letter to Hoard on behalf of Witgood.

GULF

Described as a "caterpillar" because of his obsequiousness and usury, Gulf is the compatriot of the usurer Harry Dampit and acts as the mediator between his master and Witgood.

HOARD

Family name of Onesiphorus, Walkadine, and (presumably) Joyce.

HOST

The Host operates a tavern in Leicestershire frequented by Witgood. He is well-positioned to facilitate Witgood and the Courtesan's plan to "trick" Lucre, Hoard, and their other creditors by extorting their money. Posing as a servant to the wealthy widow Jane Medler (the Courtesan), he informs Witgood's Uncle Lucre of Witgood's plans to marry his mistress. This arouses Lucre's greed and, hoping to extort part of Witgood's new fortune through this match, he agrees to stand surety for his nephew and eventually forgives his mortgage. The host also bears the ring during Medler's marriage to Walkadine Hoard and is present when the courtesan's true identity is revealed to her new husband.

HUNTSMAN

Along with the barber, falconer, perfumer and tailor, he has a functional use befitting his name. After Hoard's marriage to Medler, these characters become the liveried servants of Walkadine Hoard, used by him to show off his newly acquired wealth.

JANE MEDLER

Disguised as a widow, Jane Medler is supposedly possessed of an annuity of 400 per year. She strikes a bargain to pose as Witgood's betrothed for their mutual financial advancement. The rivalry and jealousy that this potentially lucrative match arouses in Witgood's creditors, his uncle Lucre (who holds Witgood's mortgage), and especially his rival Walkadine Hoard makes her such a sought after commodity that she is "haunted by suitors" upon her arrival in London with her husband-to-be. Hoard is so attracted to the prospect of the easy wealth that marriage to her would provide that he persuades her to marry him rather than the spendthrift Witgood. In order to dissuade this match, Lucre, desirous for a portion of Medler's alleged wealth and to outdo his rival Hoard, promises to nullify Witgood's mortgage and make him his heir in order to improve his estates in the impending marriage. Agreeing to the latter proposal, she marries Hoard anyway, thereby guaranteeing herself an "equal share" of Hoard's wealth. It is only after this marriage that her true identity as Witgood's former whore is revealed by Kix, Lamprey, and Hoard's brother, Onesipherous, who have traveled to London at Walkadine's behest. (See also "COURTESAN" for additional information).

JINNY

The wife of Pecunius Lucre. She is also birth mother to Sam Freedom (Lucre's stepson), and aunt of Witgood.

JOYCE

The daughter of Walkadine Hoard, niece to Onesiphorus, she is most often referred to as Hoard's niece. Moneylove and Sam Freedom seek her, but their suits fail due to the machinations of Witgood, who outmaneuvers them and marries her himself.

KIX

A friend of Onesipherus Hoard. After being invited to the festivities following the wedding of Hoard and Medler, he is present when the true identity of the Courtesan is revealed to Walkadine Hoard.

LAMPREY

Friend of Walkadine Hoard, his name is that of an "eel-like fish." The etymology of his name is appropriate to this character who, along with Spitchcock, is parasitical on Hoard and assists him in his usurious schemes.

LANCELOT, SIR

A friend of the usurer Harry Dampit. Lancelot has no real functional role in the plot of the play, but rather is an observer and instigator; he delights in seeing the "thief rail upon the thief."

LIMBER

A friend of Onesipherus Hoard. After being invited to the festivities following the wedding of Hoard and Medler, he is present when the true identity of the Courtesan is revealed to Walkadine Hoard.

LUCRE, PECUNIUS

As his name suggests, Lucre is a usurer. He resides in London, and is uncle and mortgage-holder of Theodorus Witgood, stepfather of Sam Freedom, and sworn enemy and rival of Walkadine Hoard, a fellow usurer. Lucre's greed makes him susceptible to the "trick" hatched by Witgood and the Courtesan (a.k.a. Jane Medler). When Lucre receives word (From the Host, posing as Medler's servant) of his spendthrift nephew's impending marriage to Jane Medler, a supposed widow supposedly possessed of a 400 yearly annuity, he envisions extracting this wealth from Witgood as he had his lands when he forfeit his mortgage. When Lucre hears of Hoard's emergence as a suitor for Medler, he immediately endows Witgood with his former lands and adopts him as heir, improving his nephew's estate without any personal gain in order to make the widow his niece (and so cheat her). Ultimately, however, despite losing the lands he held through Witgood's deed and being forced to accept his nephew as heir, he is able to delight in seeing his rival, Hoard, undone through Witgood's trick.

MONEYLOVE

A friend of Pecunius Lucre and (in rivalry with the clown, Sam Freedom) a suitor to Joyce, the daughter of Walkadine Hoard. His suit fails because of the machinations of Witgood.

NORMAN

A "ghost character" referred to by Dampit as one of his debtors.

ONESIPHERUS HOARD

A Leicestershire gentleman, brother to Walkadine Hoard and father to Joyce. His name, Onesiphorus, means 'bringing profit' or 'useful'. Arriving in London to participate in the festivities following their marriage, Onesipherus reveals to his brother Jane Medler's true identity as Witgood's former courtesan.

PERFUMER

Along with the barber, falconer, huntsman, and tailor, he has a functional use befitting his name. After Hoard's marriage to Medler, these characters become the liveried servants of Walkadine Hoard, used by him to show off his newly acquired wealth.

SCRIVENER

This character has a functional use befitting his name. He assists with the paperwork in the many transactions among the various usurers and their debtors.

SERGEANT

This character has a functional use befitting his name. He appears once escorting Witgood.

SPITCHCOCK

Friend of Walkadine Hoard, his name literally means "fried eel." The etymology of his name is appropriate to this character who, along with Lamprey, is parasitical on Hoard and assists him in his usurious schemes.

TAILOR

Along with the barber, huntsman, falconer, and perfumer, he has a functional use befitting his name. After Hoard's marriage to Medler, these characters become the liveried servants of Walkadine Hoard, used by him to show off his newly acquired wealth.

THEODORUS WITGOOD

A young spendthrift gallant residing in Leicestershire. He has fallen on hard times because of nagging debts in the City of London and the loss of his lands to his Uncle Pecunius Lucre when he forfeited his mortgage. Witgood contrives with the Host of a local tavern and the Courtesan, disguised as a wealthy widow, Jane Medler, to improve both their financial straits by "tricking" his uncle, his creditors, and another London usurer Walkadine Hoard. Witgood returns to London, pretending to be engaged to Medler (and therefore entitled to a share of her wealth), leaks this information through the Host (disguised as Medler's servant) to his Uncle Lucre and his creditors. Because of his various creditors' desire to benefit through the impending marriage, Witgood is able to use this as leverage to have his debts forgiven. Pretending to be outraged when the Courtesan marries Walkadine Hoard, Witgood negotiated to further improve his own financial situation through an impending marriage to Joyce, Hoard's daughter, whom he wins over both Moneylove and Sam Freedom.

VINTNER

In a brief conversation with Witgood, he attests to the fictional identity of the Courtesan, alias Jane Medler. He informs him that she is a "Stratfordshire gentlewoman."

WALKADINE HOARD

A London usurer, uncle of Joyce and sworn enemy to Witgood's uncle Pecunius Lucre. In marriage to the wealthy Jane Medler (really a disguised courtesan), Hoard sees the opportunity to both improve his financial situation and cozen Lucre and Lucre's nephew Witgood. By informing Medler of Witgood's unpaid debts and spendthrift nature, Hoard dissuades her from marrying Witgood, and, by offering her half his own wealth, wins her hand in marriage himself. Reveling in the thought of outdoing his rival Lucre and his nephew, and imagining his new lifestyle with the influx of new wealth through marriage to Medler, Hoard hires five liveried servants (a perfumer, barber, falconer, huntsman, and tailor) and otherwise flaunts his wealth. The titular trick, however, is on him, and he is devastated to discover—through his brother Onesiphorus,whom he has summoned for the wedding festivities—that Medler is really Witgood's former courtesan who, in reality, has no money of her own. Witgood, having married his niece, Joyce, assures him that the courtesan, but for him, is a virgin and now is his aunt, with whom he will never meddle.

WIDOW of STAFFORDSHIRE

A fictional character whose reputation as a wealthy widow is used by the Host to pique Lucre's curiosity about the widow Jane Medler (the courtesan)

WILLIAM

Referred to as "William at the bar," he is a London tapster. He works with the Drawer, who briefly attends Hoard and his retainers Lamprey and Spitchcock at his London tavern. William has one line, off stage. He informs them that no gentlewoman has yet called, and only Mistress Florence has come in.

Synopsis:

I.i His Uncle Lucre has recently swindled Witgood out of his lands. Witgood has been a prodigal, drinking and gaming and slumming with his girlfriend/courtesan (a virgin to all but him). He is plagued with debt in the city and fears to go there (the opening action takes place in Leicestershire). He devises a trick with his courtesan that the two of them should go to London, her in the guise of a wealthy widow and he, as himself, posing as her suitor. They are seen by Onesiphorus Hoard, the brother of that Hoard who is Lucre's bitter enemy. Onesiphorus Hoard of Leicestershire knows the true identity of the woman, but he does not guess their plan.

I.ii Witgood tricks an acquaintance of his, the Host of a tavern, into posing as the lady's servant. He tells the Host that she is a rich widow. The Host goes along to see, he thinks, that she remains true to Witgood. The ploy is a way of acquiring the use of the Host's horses so they might make a good show of it in London. The Host believes that if his friend/client Witgood marries a wealthy woman that some of the money will be given to him, the Host, in thanks for his services.

I.iii is our first view of London in the play. We see Lucre, Witgood's uncle, and Hoard quarreling. Their fight is several years old. Lucre apparently gulled a man that Hoard had "set up" for a "fleecing." Hoard has not forgiven the injury. We learn that Hoard has a niece, Joyce, and that Lucre's stepson Sam is a rival for her with one Moneylove. Sam is a clown.

I.iv. finds Witgood and the Host in London, the "widow" safely lodged. They meet Dampit, a loathsome usurer-a "trampler" by his own account. He boasts of his large wealth and his guile in acquiring it.

II.i takes place in Lucre's house. He is still angered from his fight with Hoard, who reminded him of Lucre's swindling of his own nephew Witgood. Lucre rationalizes the theft by saying that this way the money stays all in the family.

The Host enters acting as if he has been dispatched from his mistress the "widow." He pretends not to know Lucre. He has come ostensibly to inquire after Witgood's reputation about the town. He claims that he is asking all of the well-to-do gentlemen that he meets. When Lucre asks why he should be inquiring after Witgood, the Host tells him that Witgood is to marry the rich widow Medler.

(The trick, or so the Host thinks, is to get Lucre to part with a great deal of money in order that Witgood may make a good show to the widow. Actually Witgood is looking to get his lands back, but the double con works both ways. In either case Lucre is persuaded to make his nephew Witgood look like a propertied man in order to bring the widow's wealth into the family. Neither Lucre nor the Host realize there is no rich widow.)

Once the Host leaves, Lucre sends for Witgood. Witgood at first begs to be pardoned, that he cannot come to his uncle. Witgood correctly guesses that this ploy will make Lucre believe that Witgood does indeed stand in good prospects of wealth; only the wealthy dare turn down invitations from rich relatives.

His greed fired, Lucre sends for Witgood again with a most courtly plea for Witgood's company. Witgood comes. Witgood acts as if he is unaware that Lucre ever swindled him. Witgood behaves as if he is a bit simple about financial and property affairs. This convinces Lucre that he is still in the good graces of his nephew. Lucre sets up a subtle test: Witgood should send to his lady to come to them. The idea being that if she comes she is really serious about his nephew. She comes at once, of course. Lucre is satisfied and begins to covet his nephew's prospects. He secretly promises to support Witgood to make him look propertied in the eyes of the widow.

Lucre makes fun of his wife's son, Sam, who has hopes only of marrying Hoard's daughter while Witgood, his own nephew, is going to marry a widow worth 400 per year. Lucre's wife, enraged, plots with her dull son Sam to steal the love of the widow.

II.ii Hoard learns from Moneylove that the rich widow is in town. (Moneylove, despairing of his prospects for Joyce is going to try to win the widow and needs Hoard to support him financially.) Hoard determines to woo the widow himself. He overhears three of Witgood's creditors talking about Witgood's pleasant prospects and their glee over being able to collect their debts from him once he gets the widow's money. This evidence is enough to stoke Hoard's desire for the widow that he has never seen.

III.i The three creditors come to collect from Witgood. He tells them that he does not have the money yet and if they embarrass him before the widow he will lose his prospect. If he loses his prospect he will never get the money, and the creditors will never be paid. Further, when he does get his money, he will have more to spend on their goods. This satisfies them. He further convinces them that he needs money to ensure his success with the widow. They believe that the furtherance of Witgood's fortune furthers their own and each secretly gives him money to finance his courtship, each hoping and believing that he has outdone the other two creditors in Witgood's esteem. But what Witgood really wants is the mortgage to Blackacre, his property, back from his uncle Lucre.

The courtesan/widow tells Witgood that Hoard has joined in her entourage as suitor. Witgood tells her earnestly to marry him if she has a chance, that he is rich and will give her all she wants.

Hoard bribes two of his "spirits," Lamprey and Spitchcock, to tell the widow about what rascals Witgood and his uncle Lucre are. Widow Medler feigns surprise and, pretending to believe their tale, swears she will not marry Witgood but will run away with Hoard instead. She tells Hoard that she has nothing, but Hoard believes that it is not as a true confession but rather a coy ploy of hers to make him swear that he loves her and not her money. He plots with her to steal her away when she has tricked Witgood out of the room. He will then carry her to Cole Harbour and marry her.

III.ii Joyce really loves Witgood, but her father's enmity for Witgood's uncle makes their meeting very difficult. She also fears that the rumors of Witgood and a widow are true and that she has lost him. She receives a letter from him telling her that all is well, that he loves only her. Joyce is content.

In a tavern, the drawer has been bribed by Hoard. He lies in wait with Lamprey and Spitchcock. Witgood and the Host come in with the "widow." The drawer tries to get Witgood upstairs. When this fails, he tells Witgood to go into the kitchen to see what is on the bill of fare. When Witgood leaves, the widow sends the Host back to her rooms to retrieve her wedding ring. Once the Host leaves, Hoard, Spitchcock, and Lamprey enter and run off with the widow. When Witgood comes back and is told by a boy that the widow has been spirited off, he feigns disbelief and anger. The Host returns and Witgood sends him off to look for her-the Host being as gulled as all the rest as to the "widow's" true identity. Lucre enters and learns that his bitter rival has stolen his nephew's rich widow. The Host returns with news that they have flown to Cole Harbour. Off they all go after them.

III.iv finds Dampit, the loathsome usurer, awake at one in the morning, drunk. He is growing infirm and rails against his maid, Audrey. He is a sot, sick and repulsive.

IV.i Cole Harbour. Hoard has just married the widow. Lucre bursts in, not knowing they have married. He tells the widow that he will make Witgood a substantial man by returning his lands to him if she promises not to alter her present condition. She promises to remain as she is (as she is already married she does not lie) until Witgood can be made whole.

IV.ii finds Lucre at Witgood's house. He leaves his friends to watch over Witgood while he runs home to get the mortgage. They tell him that there is hope yet for the widow and him. Lucre returns and returns Witgood the title to his lands.

IV.iii The three creditors learn that Witgood has lost the widow. They have him arrested at once. The Host finds Witgood as the sergeant is dragging him off. Witgood sends a message by him to the "widow."

IV.iv Hoard, newly married, is happy with his wife. He exclaims that "she's worth four hundred a year in her very smock," indicating that he is glad for her even besides her money (a foreshadow that once he learns the truth they may still be happy together.) He hires an entourage of tailor, barber, perfumer, falconer, and huntsman. The Host enters with a letter he claims is a challenge from Witgood, that a pre-contract between the "widow" and Witgood has been breached.

The letter, given to the widow/courtesan, actually tells her of his desperate plight with the creditors. She tells her husband that it is indeed a pre-contract that she once foolishly signed. Hoard wonders if he should pay Witgood a stipend not to make a public scandal of the pre-contract business. The widow tells him rather that Witgood has great debts that, if satisfied, might be enough to make him sign a release. The plan works. Hoard pays off Witgood's creditors, and Witgood signs a worthless release that says he relinquishes all claims on the "widow." Hoard swears undying friendship to Witgood and invites Lucre, by Witgood, to his wedding feast in order to patch up old quarrels. While there, Witgood and Joyce are able to plan to elope.

IV.v finds Dampit flat abed, sickened with alcoholism and possibly dying. He no longer recognizes his associates, and curses them while they are, unbeknownst to him, still at his bedside. They see in him a moral for the downfall of all crafty and loathsome usurers.

V.i Witgood invites Lucre to Hoard's wedding party. Lucre at first refuses, but when Witgood tells Lucre that the "widow" is actually a courtesan and Hoard has been gulled, Lucre readily accepts Hoard's invitation.

V.ii Hoard's wedding party. Hoard's brother, Onesiphorus Hoard enters and recognizes the courtesan. Hoard is astonished, but his wife reminds him that she told him she had nothing before he married her, that it was he pursued her and forced her to marry. Furthermore, by marrying a courtesan, one can never be a cuckold. Hoard orders Witgood and Lucre from the house for the trickery. But Lucre reminds him that he was invited to the party, and Witgood reminds Hoard that Hoard has pledged undying friendship to him before witnesses. The courtesan kneels and pledges fidelity to Hoard. Witgood, who has secretly married Joyce, kneels and swears temperance. All is forgiven, the party goes in to sup, and the play ends happily.

Characterization:

ARTHUR

Servant to Hoard who introduces the would-be liveried members of his household.

AUDREY

Servant to Dampit who frequently pokes fun at her master's deteriorating health due to his alcoholism.

BARBER

Along with the falconer, huntsman, perfumer, and tailor, he has a functional use befitting his name. After Hoard's marriage to Medler, these characters become the liveried servants of Walkadine Hoard, used by him to show off his newly acquired wealth.

BOY

Runs minor errands for Hoard, Lucre, and the Host.

COCKPIT

The only one of three creditors that is named. Cockpit and his two comrades have financed Witgood's wanton lifestyle, but they are persuaded from calling in their loans because of his impending marriage to Jane Medler. They are even convinced to furnish Witgood with more goods to hasten the upcoming match, Cockpit offering goods from his shop. Consequently, they spread rumors of Medler's wealth to Hoard.

COURTESAN

Apparently not a professional prostitute but rather a country girl whom Witgood deflowered and so ruined. She is known throughout most of the play in her guise of the widow, Jane Medler, who is supposedly possessed of an annuity of 400 per year. She strikes a bargain to pose as Witgood's betrothed for their mutual financial advancement. At play's end, Witgood attests that, but for him, she is a virgin. (Full description at "MEDLER, JANE").

CREDITORS

These three characters (the third named Cockpit) have financed Witgood's wanton lifestyle, but they are persuaded from calling in their loans because of his impending marriage to Jane Medler. They are even convinced to furnish Witgood with more goods to hasten the upcoming match;
  • The first offers 40,
  • The second a valuable ruby, and
  • The third (Cockpit) goods from his shop.
Consequently, they spread rumors to Hoard of Medler's wealth and fire his desire for her.

DRAWER

An employee of William, a London tapster, the Drawer briefly attends Hoard and his retainers Lamprey and Spitchcock in a London tavern.

FALCONER

Along with the barber, huntsman, perfumer, and tailor, he has a functional use befitting his name. After Hoard's marriage to Medler, these characters become the liveried servants of Walkadine Hoard, used by him to show off his newly acquired wealth.

GEORGE

A servant to Lucre, he delivers a letter to Hoard on behalf of Witgood.

GULF

Described as a "caterpillar" because of his obsequiousness and usury, Gulf is the compatriot of the usurer Harry Dampit and acts as the mediator between his master and Witgood.

HARRY DAMPIT

An elderly London usurer, suffering from senility and alcoholism, he refuses to extend credit to Witgood's three creditors when they ask for the money to cover Witgood's debts. Dampit's servant, Audrey, is perpetually chiding her master.

HOST

The Host operates a tavern in Leicestershire frequented by Witgood. He is well-positioned to facilitate Witgood and the Courtesan's plan to "trick" Lucre, Hoard, and their other creditors by extorting their money. Posing as a servant to the wealthy widow Jane Medler (the Courtesan), he informs Witgood's Uncle Lucre of Witgood's plans to marry his mistress. This arouses Lucre's greed and, hoping to extort part of Witgood's new fortune through this match, he agrees to stand surety for his nephew and eventually forgives his mortgage. The host also bears the ring during Medler's marriage to Walkadine Hoard and is present when the courtesan's true identity is revealed to her new husband.

HUNTSMAN

Along with the barber, falconer, perfumer and tailor, he has a functional use befitting his name. After Hoard's marriage to Medler, these characters become the liveried servants of Walkadine Hoard, used by him to show off his newly acquired wealth.

JANE MEDLER

Disguised as a widow, Jane Medler is supposedly possessed of an annuity of 400 per year. She strikes a bargain to pose as Witgood's betrothed for their mutual financial advancement. The rivalry and jealousy that this potentially lucrative match arouses in Witgood's creditors, his uncle Lucre (who holds Witgood's mortgage), and especially his rival Walkadine Hoard makes her such a sought after commodity that she is "haunted by suitors" upon her arrival in London with her husband-to-be. Hoard is so attracted to the prospect of the easy wealth that marriage to her would provide that he persuades her to marry him rather than the spendthrift Witgood. In order to dissuade this match, Lucre, desirous for a portion of Medler's alleged wealth and to outdo his rival Hoard, promises to nullify Witgood's mortgage and make him his heir in order to improve his estates in the impending marriage. Agreeing to the latter proposal, she marries Hoard anyway, thereby guaranteeing herself an "equal share" of Hoard's wealth. It is only after this marriage that her true identity as Witgood's former whore is revealed by Kix, Lamprey, and Hoard's brother, Onesiphorus, who have traveled to London at Walkadine's behest. (See also "COURTESAN" for additional information).

JINNY

The wife of Pecunius Lucre, birth mother to Sam Freedom (Lucre's stepson), and aunt of Witgood.

JOYCE

The daughter of Walkadine Hoard, niece to Onesiphorus, she is most often referred to as Hoard's niece. Moneylove and Sam Freedom seek her, but their suits fail due to the machinations of Witgood, who outmaneuvers them and marries her himself.

KIX

A friend of Onesipherus Hoard. After being invited to the festivities following the wedding of Hoard and Medler, he is present when the true identity of the Courtesan is revealed to Walkadine Hoard.

LADY FOXSTONE

Invited guest of Walkadine Hoard, who wishes to show-off his new wife.

LAMPREY

Friend of Walkadine Hoard, his name is that of an "eel-like fish." The etymology of his name is appropriate to this character who, along with Spitchcock, is parasitical on Hoard and assists him in his usurious schemes.

LIMBER

A friend of Onesipherus Hoard. After being invited to the festivities following the wedding of Hoard and Medler, he is present when the true identity of the Courtesan is revealed to Walkadine Hoard.

MONEYLOVE

A friend of Pecunius Lucre and a suitor to Joyce, the daughter of Walkadine Hoard. His suit fails due to the machinations of Witgood.

NORMAN

A "ghost character," referred to by Dampit as one of his debtors.

ONESIPHERUS HOARD

A Leicestershire gentleman, brother to Walkadine Hoard and father to Joyce. Onesipherus reveals Jane Medler's true identity as Witgood's former courtesan to his brother after being invited to London to participate in the festivities following their marriage.

PECUNIUS LUCRE

As his name suggests, Lucre is a usurer. He resides in London, and is uncle and mortgage-holder of Theodorus Witgood, stepfather of Sam Freedom, and sworn enemy and rival of Walkadine Hoard, a fellow usurer. Lucre's greed makes him susceptible to the "trick" hatched by Witgood and the Courtesan (a.k.a. Jane Medler). When Lucre receives word (From the Host, posing as Medler's servant) of his spendthrift nephew's impending marriage to Jane Medler, a supposed widow supposedly possessed of a 400 yearly annuity, he envisions extracting this wealth from Witgood as he had his lands when he forfeit his mortgage. When Lucre hears of Hoard's emergence as a suitor for Medler, he immediately endows Witgood with his former lands and adopts him as heir, improving his nephew's estate without any personal gain in order to make the widow his niece (and so cheat her). Ultimately, however, despite losing the lands he held through Witgood's deed and being forced to accept his nephew as heir, he is able to delight in seeing his rival, Hoard, undone through Witgood's trick.

PERFUMER

Along with the barber, falconer, huntsman, and tailor, he has a functional use befitting his name. After Hoard's marriage to Medler, these characters become the liveried servants of Walkadine Hoard, used by him to show off his newly acquired wealth.

SAM FREEDOM

The stepson of Pecunius Lucre. A suitor to Joyce, Hoard's niece, Sam is out-maneuvered when Witgood marries her instead.

SCRIVENER

This character has a functional use befitting his name. He assists with the paperwork in the many transactions among the various usurers and their debtors.

SERGEANT

This character has a functional use befitting his name. He appears once escorting Witgood.

SIR LANCELOT

A friend of the usurer Harry Dampit . Lancelot has no real functional role in the plot of the play, but rather is an observer and instigator; he delights in seeing the "thief rail upon the thief."

SPITCHCOCK

Friend of Walkadine Hoard, his name literally means "fried eel." The etymology of his name is appropriate to this character who, along with Lamprey, is parasitical on Hoard and assists him in his usurious schemes.

TAILOR

Along with the barber, huntsman, falconer, and perfumer, he has a functional use befitting his name. After Hoard's marriage to Medler, these characters become the liveried servants of Walkadine Hoard, used by him to show off his newly acquired wealth.

THEODORUS WITGOOD

A young spendthrift gallant residing in Leicestershire, fallen on hard times because of nagging debts in the City of London and the loss of his lands to his Uncle Pecunius Lucre when he forfeited his mortgage. Witgood contrives with the Host of a local tavern and the Courtesan, disguised as a wealthy widow, Jane Medler, to improve both their financial straits by "tricking" his uncle, his creditors, and another London usurer Walkadine Hoard. Witgood returns to London, pretending to be engaged to Medler (and therefore entitled to a share of her wealth), leaks this information through the Host (disguised as Medler's servant) to his Uncle Lucre and his creditors. Because of his various creditors' desire to benefit through the impending marriage, Witgood is able to use this as leverage to have his debts forgiven. Pretending to be outraged when the Courtesan marries Walkadine Hoard, Witgood negotiated to further improve his own financial situation through an impending marriage to Joyce, Hoard's daughter, whom he wins over both Moneylove and Sam Freedom.

VINTNER

In a brief conversation with Witgood, he attests to the fictional identity of the Courtesan, alias Jane Medler. He informs him that she is a "Stratfordshire gentlewoman."

WALKADINE HOARD

A London usurer, father of Joyce and sworn enemy to Witgood's uncle Pecunius Lucre. In marriage to the wealthy Jane Medler (really a disguised courtesan), Hoard sees the opportunity to both improve his financial situation and cozen Lucre and Lucre's nephew Witgood. By informing Medler of Witgood's unpaid debts and spendthrift nature, Hoard dissuades her from marrying Witgood, and, by offering her half his own wealth, wins her hand in marriage himself. Reveling in the thought of outdoing his rival Lucre and his nephew, and imagining his new lifestyle with the influx of new wealth through marriage to Medler, Hoard hires five liveried servants (a perfumer, barber, falconer, huntsman, and tailor) and otherwise flaunts his wealth. The titular trick, however, is on him, and he is devastated to discover—through his brother Onesiphorus, whom he has summoned for the wedding festivities—that Medler is really Witgood's former courtesan who, in reality, has no money of her own. Witgood, having married his niece, Joyce, assures him that the courtesan, but for him, is a virgin and now is his aunt, with whom he will never meddle.

WIDOW OF STAFFORDSHIRE

A fictional character whose reputation as a wealthy widow is used by the Host to pique Lucre curiosity about the widow Jane Medler (the courtesan).

Witgood, unlike Follywit from A Mad World, My Masters, manages to get out of this play smelling like a rose-probably the names suggest it all-his wit is good, not prone to folly. He is not a character like a disguised Duke who must keep control of the situation at all times. Rather, his plan is so good that it practically runs itself. Hence, the play is well named-the point of the play is the trick to catch the old one and not the trickster who catches him. His care of and responsibility towards Jane, the courtesan, is touching and raises him in the audience's esteem, making him a sympathetic character.

The women in the play are treated rather badly by the playwright-and probably by their social milieu. Only the minor character Lady Foxstone and Dampit's maid, Audrey, are given names. The other women are generally called "Wife to Lucre," "Niece to Hoard," or "Courtesan." Even though they do have names in the play-Jinny, Joyce, and Jane respectively-only Joyce's name is mentioned more than once, and it is mentioned not above four times.

Dampit, as will be discussed, is wholly unimportant dramatically, but fills an important thematic role.

Pecunius Lucre and Walkadine Hoard have one of the best feuds ever written. Their fight is always entertaining to see but never threatening to the audience or distasteful. They are also ideal "types" of usurers, well foiled by Dampit.

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Notes of Interest:

Dampit is an interesting character. Though all of his scenes could be cut without doing violence to the play, he nevertheless represents and parallels the themes of the main plot. In Dampit the themes are carried to the extreme. The usurious Lucre and Hoard could well end up like him if Witgood and the widow's trick does not save them from themselves.

Dampit, like Lethe in Michaelmas Term, has pointed trouble remembering things. There may be some connection that requires further study.

This play demonstrates a lighthearted main plot and a serious (morally) subplot. This is a reversal of the usual pattern of structure wherein the clowns are given the subplot and the serious action occupies the attention of the main plot.

This is probably the tightest of the Middleton comedies of this time (Mad World, Michaelmas Term, Trick, (and also of the later Chaste Maid)). The morality is closest to a norm, and the use of a single plot makes the story simpler to follow. This is not necessarily to say that this is the best of the four, though there are critics who think so.

Witgood and the courtesan (we hear her name once, it is Jane) seem really to care for each other. She is not a "common" whore, but is, according to Witgood, a virgin but for him. This seems to indicate a special relationship between the two. In I.i he apologizes for scolding her and determines to see that she is well provided for, and to that end (as well as advancing his own status) he devises the trick to catch the old one. Also, when Witgood falls into trouble with the creditors, she comes to his rescue when she could just as easily have ignored him (she was already married and secure by then). Nevertheless she sees to it that his debts are paid and that he is freed. This mutual caring helps to make both Witgood and Jane sympathetic, likable characters.

The marriage of true minds between Witgood and Joyce is underplayed greatly. Joyce has no more than three scenes (two?) and the marriage takes place offstage. Is only briefly mentioned in act five. Middleton obviously was not writing towards that common type of comic ending. Reconciliation and acceptance seem more important here than marriage.

The counterplot Jinny (Lucre's wife) devises to have Sam court the widow is to dropped after it is suggested in II.i.

This play begins where most such plays end. Witgood has just been cheated out of his country estate and is angry at being stupid enough to be conned (cf. Easy at the end of MT). Here Middleton explores what a clever man will do after clever men have undone him. Witgood-whose wit is good-manages to regain all he lost, with advantages, not alienate anyone in the process, and bring everyone together.

Plays to be compared:

Middleton's A Mad World, My Masters; Michaelmas Term; A Chaste Maid of Cheapside (for the other three plays written in the same general period (except CM) and mode and also for the subplot/plot of someone unwittingly marrying a prostitute-Follywit in MWMM, Lethe and the country wench in MT (less strong because not unwitting), and Tim in CM);

Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (for some very weak echoes);

Marston's The Dutch Curtezan (for a possible reference to it at III.iii.12-16).

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