Mr. Hardcastle, a landed English gentleman. Sometimes grumpy, he is more often a hearty old squire with the habit of retelling the same jokes and stories to his guests. At first excited by the prospect of having Marlow as his son-in-law, he finds his patience severely strained by the apparent impudence of the young man, who is the son of Hardcastle’s old friend, Sir Charles Marlow. When he receives incivilities in return for his hospitality, the old gentleman loses his self-control and orders Marlow and his party from the house. Finally, however, he realizes that he is the victim of a hoax and willingly accepts the young man as Kate’s suitor.
Mrs. Hardcastle, his formidable wife. Her strongest desire, other than having her son Tony marry Constance Neville, is to have an annual social polishing in London. For a time, she manages to thwart the romance of Hastings and Constance. Seeing that they are in love, she tries to circumvent their plans by taking Constance to Aunt Pedigree’s. This stratagem fails when her undutiful son Tony merely drives them around Mrs. Hardcastle’s home for three hours, finally landing the unsuspecting old lady in a horsepond near her home. Finally, she is forced to acknowledge the fact that her beloved Tony has only one desire—to get his inheritance.
Tony Lumpkin, her son by her first marriage. He is a roistering young squire completely spoiled by his doting mother. In return for her parental laxness, the lazy, hard-drinking prankster, when he is not singing bawdy songs in low taverns, plagues the Hardcastle household with practical jokes. Although he is uncommonly healthy, his mother is certain that he is dying of some dread ailment. When he meets Hastings and Marlow, he gives them some wrong information, thus creating his masterpiece among tricks. By telling them that Mr. Hardcastle’s home is an inn, he causes them to think Hardcastle is an innkeeper and, what is worse, a windy, inquisitive old bore who takes unseemly social liberties with his guests. Hardcastle, on the other hand, is certain of their being impudent, cheeky young scamps.
Kate Hardcastle, Hardcastle’s lovely young daughter. Like her stepmother, she also has social pretensions. Because of her stubbornness and desire to be a woman of fashion, her father makes her agree to wear fine clothes part of the day and ordinary clothes the rest of the time. Aware that Marlow is often improper with ordinary working girls, she disguises herself as a servant. Only then does she realize that he has qualities other than modesty and timidity. Liking this impetuous side of her suitor, Kate is now determined to have him as a husband.
Constance Neville, Kate’s best friend. Early in the play, she learns of the joke that Tony has played on Marlow and Hastings, the man she loves. Entering into the spirit of the prank, she and Hastings plot their elopement. Unfortunately for their hopes, Mrs. Hardcastle is keeping a fortune in family jewels for Constance. To outwit the old lady, Constance acts out a part: She convinces Mrs. Hardcastle of her love for Tony, who actually dislikes Constance strongly. Finally, with the help of Kate’s father, she is free to marry Hastings.
Young Marlow, Kate’s reluctant suitor. Timid in the presence of ladies, Marlow is quite different with working girls. After mistaking Kate for a servant, he is mortified to learn her true identity. In his wounded pride, he plans to leave the house immediately; instead, she leads him away, still teasing him unmercifully.
Hastings, Marlow’s best friend. With the help of Tony and Mr. Hardcastle, Hastings, a far more impetuous lover than Marlow, wins Constance as his bride.
Sir Charles Marlow
Sir Charles Marlow, Mr. Hardcastle’s old friend, the father of young Marlow.