Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Morose, an unbalanced man with a horror of any noise except the sound of his own frequently exercised voice. He is given to outbursts of violent temper when disturbed. His servants are trained to wear tennis shoes, answer as much as possible in sign language, and to speak—if speak they must—in a whisper through a trunk to deaden the sound. A constant victim of noisy practical jokes, he believes his nephew to be the cause of many of the disturbances; consequently, he determines to disinherit him and to marry a silent woman found for him by a silent barber. After the wedding, harassed to the limit by his far from silent bride and her stentorian companions, he signs over his property to his nephew in return for rescue and goes into disgruntled retirement.
Sir Dauphine Eugenie
Sir Dauphine Eugenie, Morose’s nephew, a pleasant and intelligent young man. He succeeds, in spite of complications brought on by his friends, in tricking his uncle first into marriage with the supposed silent woman, then into signing over his estate to the nephew. He is somewhat bashful with the ladies collegiate but is later overwhelmed by their attentions.
Truewit, an officious, argumentative, and witty friend of Sir Dauphine. He argues with his friends about the propriety of the use of all possible beauty aids by ladies. He stoutly defends a lavish use of cosmetics. He sets up a series of small plots to annoy Morose, whom he finds both ridiculous and irritating. He also maneuvers the three collegiate ladies into their love of Sir Dauphine, arranges the discomfiture of Sir John and Sir Amorous, and provides the divine and the canon lawyer for the further torment of Morose.
Ned Clerimont, another of Sir Dauphine’s friends. Opposing Truewit, he holds that unadorned simplicity is woman’s greatest charm; he therefore objects to all use of cosmetics and elaborate coiffures. Although he is more moderate and reliable than Truewit, Sir Dauphine maintains reserve and does not take him completely into his confidence.
(The entire section is 888 words.)
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Barish, Jonas A. Ben Jonson and the Language of Prose Comedy. New York: Norton, 1960. An influential work, one that is essential to any study of Jonson’s comedies.
Brock, D. Heyward. A Ben Jonson Companion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983. A valuable source of information on Jonson’s work, life, and times. A bibliography is included.
Enck, John J. Jonson and the Comic Truth. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966. Essential to any study of Jonson’s comedies. Barish and Enck’s studies are in many ways complementary.
Mirabelli, Philip. “Silence, Wit and Wisdom in The Silent Woman.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 29 (Spring, 1989): 309-336. Argues that Truewit knows all, sees all, and knows that Epicne is a boy. Purports that Jonson has a moral commentator, Truewit, who is motivated by the highest ideal of friendship.
Newman, Karen. “City Talk: Women and Commodification in Jonson’s Epicne.” English Literary History 56 (Fall, 1989): 503-518. An insightful, feminist essay on history, but admittedly extra-literary.
Noyes, Robert Gale. Ben Jonson on the English Stage: 1660-1776. New York: Benjamin Blom, 1963. Provides valuable information on performers and productions, as provided in contemporary records by such diverse notables as John Dryden, John Dennis, Samuel Pepys, Jeremy Collier, Thomas Shadwell, and William Congreve.