A Chaste Maid in Cheapside

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 746

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Yellowhammer, a goldsmith. Eager to see his children rise in the world, he betroths his daughter to Sir Walter Whorehound, giving heed to the man’s title but not to his reputation, and arranges for his son to wed the nobleman’s supposed niece, who proves to be a Welsh prostitute and Sir Walter’s mistress. His harsh refusal to allow Moll to marry her sweetheart, Touchwood Junior, nearly brings tragedy on his family.


Maudlin, his loquacious wife. She scolds her daughter for her sluggishness, regaling the girl with tales of her own gay youth, and she embarrasses her university-trained son by fussing over him before his tutor and many of her friends. She is as distressed as her husband when she learns that her stern treatment of Moll apparently has caused her death.


Moll, their daughter, whose languid attitude is simply a cloak for her love for young Touchwood. She is never quite successful in her attempts to elude her parents long enough to marry, until her clever maid arranges for her feigned death and reunion with her lover.


Timothy, her learned, self-confident brother. He comes home from Cambridge with his tutor to impress his family and friends with his knowledge of Latin. Tricked by Sir Walter into marriage with a prostitute, he is consoled by her wit and physical attractions for the loss of the nineteen Welsh mountains he hoped to acquire as her dowry.

Sir Walter Whorehound

Sir Walter Whorehound, a loose-living gentleman who tries unsuccessfully to bring about at one time his own marriage with Moll, Timothy’s with his Welsh mistress, and the christening of his son by Allwit’s wife, without having his duplicity discovered. His plans are thwarted. Wounded in a duel with young Touchwood, he learns that he will not be Sir Oliver Kix’s heir, and he is promptly deserted by the Allwits.


Allwit, a contented cuckold who allows Sir Walter to bed his wife, father the children who bear his name, and maintain his entire household. Unwilling to lose all his worldly comforts, he judiciously spreads gossip about his patron’s character whenever he suspects Sir Walter of considering marriage. Once the knight’s fortunes change, Allwit leaves him to his late fate without a qualm, planning with his wife to live comfortably off the possessions Sir Walter has given them over the years.

Mistress Allwit

Mistress Allwit, his wife. She is happy to bear Sir Walter’s children and accept the compliments of her friends on their looks and accomplishments, but, like her husband, she has no qualms about deserting her lover when he falls into difficulties.

Sir Oliver Kix

Sir Oliver Kix and

Lady Kix

Lady Kix, a devoted couple who spend much of their time quarreling and making up after their disagreements. Their great source of trouble is their unfulfilled desire for a child. They are completely taken in by the scheme of Touchwood Senior, who ensures that an heir to the Kix fortune is conceived.

Touchwood Senior

Touchwood Senior, a poor but prolific gentleman who is forced to separate from his wife to limit the size of their ever-increasing brood. His good services for Sir Oliver and Lady Kix enable him to be reunited with his family, for Sir Oliver promises to support them.

Mistress Touchwood

Mistress Touchwood, his wife, who obligingly agrees to live apart from him, in spite of her fondness for her husband.

A country girl

A country girl, the mother of one of Touchwood’s many children.

Touchwood Junior

Touchwood Junior, Moll’s husband to be, a brother of the older Touchwood. He plans his elopement and thoroughly enjoys having his bride’s father make the ring with which his daughter intends to deceive him. After his marriage plans have been twice thwarted, he is severely wounded by Sir Walter in a duel and writes to...

(The entire section contains 2658 words.)

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Teaching Guide