(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Crispin and Leander, two rascals with gentlemanly airs, arrived penniless in a strange city. Crispin, the more realistic of the two, pointed out that there were actually two cities, one of the rich and one of the poor. He hoped that they would chance upon the better one. Being penniless, the two rogues plotted to make their way by putting on the best possible front. Leander suggested that they make use of some letters of introduction which he had received to present to persons of mark in the city, but Crispin scoffed at the idea.

Instead, he proposed that Leander impersonate a great nobleman who came to the city on official but mysterious business. He further proposed that he, Crispin, would act as a servant and carry off the whole plan, if Leander would remain quiet and speak only when necessary. Leander having agreed, Crispin proceeded to pound on the door of an inn. By treating the innkeeper with blows and scurrilous language, they convinced him that Leander was indeed a great man and one whom the innkeeper should welcome to his establishment. So deceived was he that he had his best rooms made ready for the two guests.

Shortly after Leander and Crispin had been treated so royally by the innkeeper and his household, two other down-at-heels rogues—a poet named Harlequin, and a captain—approached the inn. Knowing that they were penniless, the innkeeper refused to serve them. Crispin, hearing of their plight, forced the innkeeper to give them a fine dinner by putting them under the protection of his so-called master. The poet and the captain, pleased to be so treated, vowed friendship for the great man who had caused them to be treated like gentlemen. When asked by Leander why he helped the two, Crispin answered that by so doing they had enlisted the aid of both poetry and arms, and that with such support they could win the entire world.

In another quarter of the city a well-placed but penniless and middle-aged widow was also concerned with affairs of money. The woman, Dona Sirena, had been informed by Columbine, her maid, that the servants, musicians, and trades-people had all refused to serve her until she paid her overdue bills. Dona Sirena had planned a garden fete for the same day, at which were to appear Signor and Signora Polichinelle, along with Silvia, their only daughter. Since Signor Polichinelle was extremely rich, Dona Sirena was trying to wed their daughter to one of her own friends, all of whom had signed statements agreeing to pay a large sum of money to Dona Sirena for arranging the match.

Columbine, in love with Harlequin, promised to get help from him for her mistress, for he had many friends who would be willing to help put on the garden fete. But when Columbine went to find Harlequin, she found Crispin instead. Crispin introduced himself as her lover’s friend and told her that if his master were invited to the fete he would see that the affair...

(The entire section is 1192 words.)