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Miles Standish

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Miles Standish, a captain and protector of Plymouth against the Indians. He is short, broad-shouldered, muscular, and middle-aged; his manners are rough but he is kind. His ancestors were English gentry, and he has led soldiers in notable battles. His favorite author is Julius Caesar. His wife has died, and he wishes to wed Priscilla. Because he believes that he lacks the skill with words to ask her to marry, he begs his friend John Alden, in the name of their friendship, to do so for him. When John reports that Priscilla prefers him to Standish, the captain is enraged and charges John with betrayal. His rage continues at the village council meeting, at which he answers an Indian challenge; he then marches out with his soldiers to fight the Indians. After he sees their crafty preparations for an ambush and hears the Indians’ taunts, he kills one warrior (Pecksuot), leads his men to victory, and brings the head of another Indian back to Plymouth, to the joy of the townspeople. Months later, he is reported killed by an Indian poisoned arrow, but after John and Priscilla are married, he returns, asks John’s forgiveness, and makes a gallant and sincere speech to Priscilla, one worthy of an English gentleman.

John Alden

John Alden, a fair, blue-eyed scholar, the youngest person to have come to America on theMayflower. He is a pious man, a writer, and a composer of fanciful phrases, and he is silently in love with Priscilla. When Standish asks him to propose to Priscilla on his behalf, John is dismayed, but in the name of their friendship, he agrees. He makes an eloquent appeal, but Priscilla tells him to speak for himself. When Standish becomes enraged that Priscilla prefers John, the pious John is tormented by guilt for betraying his friend. He believes that God is angry with him and decides to leave Plymouth on the Mayflower, which is preparing to sail from Plymouth Rock. As he is about to get on board, he sees Priscilla in the crowd and suddenly has a revelation that he cannot leave her. He and Priscilla agree to be friends. In the months that follow, John builds a house and becomes closer and closer to Priscilla, so close that when he hears of Standish’s death, he proclaims that the restraint imposed by their friendship is over. He and Priscilla are married. When Standish appears, all are reconciled.


Priscilla, a modest, sweet, patient, and strong young woman who works industriously at her spinning. Because her parents and brother have died, she is lonely and dreams of returning to England. When John communicates Standish’s proposal, she is stunned and rejects it, saying that Standish’s warlike virtues do not attract her. She...

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