Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Sir Joseph Wittol

Sir Joseph Wittol, a foolish country knight. He falls in love with Araminta on first seeing her and is fooled for a time into thinking she intends to marry him.

Ned Bellmour

Ned Bellmour, a gallant young bachelor in love with Belinda. Disguised as a Puritan preacher, he visits Fondlewife’s spouse and has a merry time as a lark. True to his friends, he saves Heartwell from a disastrous marriage with Silvia, a prostitute. Although he is a little wild, he is a good young man, and Belinda plans to marry him.


Sharper, Bellmour’s unscrupulous friend.

Captain Bluffe

Captain Bluffe, a supposed veteran of the British Army. Although his boasting and swaggering endear him to Wittol, he proves to be an arrant coward. He tries to bribe Setter to act as pander to bring him and Araminta together.


Belinda, a fashionable, wealthy young woman of great beauty. She loves and is loved by Bellmour.


Araminta, Belinda’s cousin. She and Vainlove are in love and plan to marry.


Vainlove, Bellmour’s friend. He loves Araminta, who forgives his romantic escapades and plans to marry him.


Gavot, Araminta’s singing teacher.


Silvia, a prostitute, Vainlove’s discarded mistress. She tries to break up the romance between Vainlove and Araminta and to trick Heartwell into a marriage with herself.


Lucy, Silvia’s maid.


Heartwell, a surly old bachelor and woman-hater. He is almost tricked into marrying Silvia, not knowing she is a prostitute.


Setter, Vainlove’s manservant.


Fondlewife, a banker and an ancient, doting husband. He catches his young wife with Bellmour.


Laetitia, Fondlewife’s spouse. She entertains Bellmour handsomely, thinking her husband is away on business. After he catches them together, Laetitia, weeping, convinces Fondlewife that she is innocent.

The Old Bachelor Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Dobrée, Bonamy. Restoration Comedy: 1660-1720. 1946. Reprint. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1981. Essays on Congreve in this collection emphasize the easy flow of language and incidents, the French connection, and the spontaneity of scenes and situations.

Peters, Julie S. Congreve, the Drama, and the Printed Word. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1990. Examines the diction, speech patterns, stage conventions, and editorial practices associated with Congreve’s plays. Concludes that The Old Bachelor is recognized as the culmination of comic routines, philosophical assumptions, and acquired follies.

Thomas, David. William Congreve. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992. Overview of Congreve’s career. Reinforces the critical opinion of The Old Bachelor as new wine in an old bottle—largely the result of Congreve’s brilliant use of repartee. Asserts that the strong conclusion in Act V reorganizes the disparate elements in Acts I through IV, which saves the plot from disintegration.

Van Voris, W. H. The Cultivated Stance: The Designs of Congreve’s Plays. Chester Springs, Pa.: Dufour, 1967. Analyzes The Old Bachelor in the thematic context of time and dialogue in Restoration drama. Examines the relationship between dramatic technique and stage conventions.

Williams, Aubrey L. An Approach to Congreve. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979. Accentuates the moralizing effect of Congreve’s characterizations and argues against a determinist reading of The Old Bachelor. Offers an informative look at the religious background that symbolically frames the play and adds spice to every innuendo.