Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit Characters

John Lyly

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Euphues (YEW-fyew-eez), a witty, well-born young man. He disregards Eubulus’ good advice about the traps which lie in the path of an indiscreet youth, and finds himself betraying his friend Philautus for the favors of a fickle young woman. He recognizes the value of the wisdom of age when she casts him off for another gallant.


Philautus (fih-LOH-tuhs), his friend, a clever, courteous young gentleman. He trusts Euphues at first and is furious to learn that his “friend” has stolen the affections of his bride-to-be.


Lucilla (lew-SIH-luh), a bright, attractive girl whose interest shifts quickly from one young man to another. She debates her motives before she turns from Philautus to Euphues, but she forsakes the latter with no qualms.

Don Ferardo

Don Ferardo (feh-RAHR-doh), her father, a wealthy nobleman of Naples. He tries to deal wisely with his willful child, but he is so heartbroken by her fickleness that he dies, leaving his estate to be squandered by Lucilla and the foolish Curio.


Curio (KEW-ree-oh), a Neapolitan gentleman “of little wealth and less wit” who draws Lucilla’s attentions from Euphues to himself.


Eubulus (YEW-buh-luhs), a wise old man. He laments the waste of Euphues’ natural gifts and advises him to govern his wit with wisdom.


Livia (LIH-vee-uh), Lucilla’s companion, a young woman of more character and virtue than her friend.

Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Barish, Jonas A. “The Prose Style of John Lyly.” English Literary History 22 (1956): 14-35. An early and unsurpassed study of Lyly’s linguistic and rhetorical techniques, especially as they are employed in Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit. Essential for study of Lyly or of his most famous work.

Croll, Morris. Introduction to Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit, by John Lyly. New York: Russell & Russell, 1964. Discusses the novel’s themes and style. Perceptive and instructive.

Houppert, Joseph W. John Lyly. Boston: Twayne, 1975. An excellent starting place for the student of Lyly who wishes to achieve a well-rounded sense of the political, cultural, and artistic setting in which Lyly lived and wrote.

Hunter, G. K. John Lyly: The Humanist as Courtier. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1962. Places Lyly within the context of his times and the social status to which he aspired. Interesting in its study of how Elizabeth’s court viewed—and used—language.

Wilson, John Dover. John Lyly. New York: Haskell House, 1970. A reprint of the 1905 edition, this volume remains one of the best studies of Lyly’s life and works, and is especially sensitive to the use of language in Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit.