Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 685
Florez, also called Goswin, the rightful heir, through his mother, to the earldom of Flanders. When Wolfort took over the government of the country, Florez’s father entrusted his young son to the care of a wealthy merchant, and the boy grew up ignorant of his real identity. He is widely known as a talented, fortunate merchant and a generous benefactor to all who need help. He often bestows gifts on Clause, an old beggar to whom he feels drawn by a peculiar bond. Ever conscious of his honor, he is distressed at the prospect of falling prey to his debtors when his ships fail to appear. Even his love cannot withstand the strength of his sense of obligation to Clause, who has relieved him of his financial burdens, and he agrees to forsake his promised bride at the beggar’s request.
Gerrard, his father, who disguises himself as Clause, king of the beggars, to escape death at the hands of Wolfort. He is a leader in the tradition of Robin Hood, cozening rich fools and protecting honest men in difficulties, while he keeps a watchful eye on the affairs of his son. He reluctantly halts Florez’s proposed marriage, because he believes that the girl’s lineage is too humble to make her a suitable wife for a duke.
Hubert, a bold, honest young courtier who bravely accuses Wolfort of crime and treason before he flees the usurper to search for his lost sweetheart, Gerrard’s daughter Jacqueline. He joins the beggars’ band as a hunter and plans the elaborate trap, set for Wolfort and his men, to restore Florez to his earldom.
Wolfort, the proud usurping earl. When Hubert confronts him with his guilt, he feigns a reformation, hoping to persuade the young man to reveal the whereabouts of Gerrard and his supporters, but he continues his wicked course until his fall. He refuses to repent, even after he has been captured, and chooses instead to laugh at the clever plot by which he was betrayed.
Captain Hempskirke, Wolfort’s henchman. Unaware of Florez’s identity, he is indignant at the young man’s presumptuous courtship of the girl whom he claims as his niece. Without any of Florez’s honorable scruples, he callously accepts his rival’s challenge, then hires ruffians to capture him at the appointed meeting place. Taken prisoner by the beggars, he falls blindly into Hubert’s trap, leading himself and his master, Wolfort, into the hands of Gerrard’s men and the loyal burghers.
Vandunke, a good-hearted, practical burgher who makes no secret, among his friends, of his opposition to the usurper and brings forces to aid in deposing him. A jovial romantic, he looks with favor on the love of Florez and his ward Bertha, and he prepares elaborate festivities to celebrate their wedding.
Margaret, his dutiful, quiet wife.
Frances, their daughter, a gracious young woman who is obviously a favorite with her father’s friends.
Bertha, the daughter of the duke of Brabant. Kidnaped by Wolfort, she has been placed in Vandunke’s care as Hempskirke’s niece. A sensible, forthright girl, she reassures her cowardly guide when he trembles with terror at sights and sounds in the forest, and she accepts Florez’s puzzling decisions with a minimum of feminine hysteria.
Jacqueline or Jaculin, Gerrard’s daughter, who wanders with him in the beggar band, calling herself Minche. She is delighted to be reunited with Hubert, her fiancé, but she insists that he help her conceal her identity.
Herman, a courtier, sympathetic to Florez and Gerrard’s cause.
Snaps, merry beggars who revel in their vagabond existence. the prospect of honest work, offered by Gerrard, so appalls them that they flee to England to continue practicing their trades, juggling, singing, peddling, and stealing.
Lord Arnold and
Lord Costin, loyal nobles who joined the beggars with Gerrard.
Vanlock, an old Flemish merchant who comes to celebrate Florez’s wedding.
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