Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Erostrato (EH-rohs-TRAH-toh), the son of a wealthy Sicilian. He is in love with Polynesta and gains access to her house by posing as his servant, Dulippo. Imprisoned by her father, he is released and united with Polynesta after the arrival of his father, Philogano.


Dulippo (dew-LEEP-poh), Erostrato’s servant, who poses as his master to help him in his wooing. He is discovered to be Cleander’s son.


Polynesta (poh-lee-NEHS-tah), a young woman in love with Erostrato.


Damon (DAH-mohn), her father.


Cleander (klee-AHN-dehr), an old doctor of law and the suitor of Polynesta, for whose hand he will give any amount of money. He is constantly fooled by the disguised Dulippo but is made happy when the latter is revealed as his long-lost son. Because he wants to marry only to produce an heir, he gladly relinquishes his suit.


Pasiphilo (pah-see-FEE-loh), a parasite who is always hungry. Sleeping off an attack of indigestion, he overhears Damon confess that he has imprisoned Erostrato and gives this information to Dulippo.


Philogano (fee-loh-GAH-noh), Erostrato’s father, who comes in search of his son. He is dumbfounded to be called, by Dulippo, either an impostor or a madman, and to find a Sienese posing as himself. Dulippo’s confession clears up the confusion.


Balia (BAH-lee-ah), Polynesta’s nurse and accomplice in her love affair with Erostrato.

A Sienese

A Sienese, who poses as Erostrato’s father.

The Pretenders Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Ariosto, Ludovico. The Comedies of Ariosto. Translated by Edmond M. Beame and Leonard G. Sbrocchi. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975. Translations of Ludovico Ariosto’s four comedies, including The Pretenders. Rendered into very enjoyable English with accompanying notes. Introduction situates Ariosto in his literary heritage and the historical circumstances of Renaissance Ferrara and discusses various themes and rhetorical devices that Ariosto employed in his comedies. Each play is briefly analyzed.

Griffin, Robert. Ludovico Ariosto. New York: Twayne, 1974. Critical study of Ariosto. Chapter 2 is devoted to consideration of his minor works, including The Pretenders and other satires and lyrics.

Orr, David. Italian Renaissance Drama in England Before 1625: The Influence of “Erudita” Tragedy, Comedy, and Pastoral on Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama. University of North Carolina Studies in Comparative Literature 49. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1970. Discussion of the general influence of Italian drama on English drama during the Renaissance. Includes evaluation of a 1566 translation of The Pretenders.

Radcliff-Umstead, Douglas. The Birth of Modern Comedy in Renaissance Italy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969. Explains the importance of interpreting Italian Renaissance comedy according to its historical setting.