Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Winwife, a London gallant, comes courting Dame Purecraft, a widow who lives with her daughter, Win-the-Fight, and her son-in-law, John Littlewit, a proctor. Littlewit discloses to Winwife that Dame Purecraft was told by fortune-tellers that she will marry, within a week, a madman. In this connection, Littlewit suggests to Winwife that he deport himself in the manner of his companion Tom Quarlous, a city madcap.
Quarlous, entering in search of Winwife, kisses Win-the-Fight several times until Winwife cautions him to desist. Littlewit, who is not too acute, actually encourages Winwife and Quarlous to be free with his wife. Littlewit also reveals to his visitors that Dame Purecraft has a new suitor, one Zeal-of-the-Land Busy, a Puritan from Banbury. Busy has taken lodgings in Littlewit’s house.
Humphrey Waspe, the testy old servant of young Bartholomew Cokes, a foolish gentleman of the provinces, comes to Littlewit to pick up a marriage license for his master. Soon afterward, Cokes appears in company with two women. One is Mistress Overdo, his natural sister and the wife of Justice Adam Overdo; the other is Grace Wellborn, Cokes’s fiancé and Overdo’s ward. It is clear that Waspe is the servant of an extremely light-headed young man. Cokes declares his intention of squiring Grace to Bartholomew Fair before they return to Middlesex. Waspe objects but finally resigns himself to the inevitable. Winwife and Quarlous, sensing fun at hand, decide...
(The entire section is 1508 words.)
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