Epicne Characters
by Ben Jonson

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Morose

Morose, an unbalanced man with a horror of any noise except the sound of his own frequently exercised voice. He is given to outbursts of violent temper when disturbed. His servants are trained to wear tennis shoes, answer as much as possible in sign language, and to speak—if speak they must—in a whisper through a trunk to deaden the sound. A constant victim of noisy practical jokes, he believes his nephew to be the cause of many of the disturbances; consequently, he determines to disinherit him and to marry a silent woman found for him by a silent barber. After the wedding, harassed to the limit by his far from silent bride and her stentorian companions, he signs over his property to his nephew in return for rescue and goes into disgruntled retirement.

Sir Dauphine Eugenie

Sir Dauphine Eugenie, Morose’s nephew, a pleasant and intelligent young man. He succeeds, in spite of complications brought on by his friends, in tricking his uncle first into marriage with the supposed silent woman, then into signing over his estate to the nephew. He is somewhat bashful with the ladies collegiate but is later overwhelmed by their attentions.

Truewit

Truewit, an officious, argumentative, and witty friend of Sir Dauphine. He argues with his friends about the propriety of the use of all possible beauty aids by ladies. He stoutly defends a lavish use of cosmetics. He sets up a series of small plots to annoy Morose, whom he finds both ridiculous and irritating. He also maneuvers the three collegiate ladies into their love of Sir Dauphine, arranges the discomfiture of Sir John and Sir Amorous, and provides the divine and the canon lawyer for the further torment of Morose.

Ned Clerimont

Ned Clerimont, another of Sir Dauphine’s friends. Opposing Truewit, he holds that unadorned simplicity is woman’s greatest charm; he therefore objects to all use of cosmetics and elaborate coiffures. Although he is more moderate and reliable than Truewit, Sir Dauphine maintains reserve and does not take him completely into his confidence.

Cutbeard

Cutbeard, Morose’s quiet barber. Actually in the service of Sir Dauphine, he arranges the meeting of and the marriage between Morose and Mistress Epicoene. Then, in disguise, he enacts the role of a voluble canon lawyer, engaging in legal argument with a supposed divine, to the torment of Morose.

Captain Tom Otter

Captain Tom Otter, the henpecked husband of a wealthy wife. He is a ceremonial drinker, having three mugs (a bear, a bull, and a horse) from which he drinks in turn, carrying on elaborate dialogues with himself in different roles. When he thinks his wife is not around, he speaks boldly and contemptuously of her; when she is present, he grovels obsequiously. He falls in with Sir Dauphine’s plans and acts the part of the noisy divine, first to tantalize Morose with hope of divorce, then to drive him frantic with disappointment.

Mistress Otter

Mistress Otter, the captain’s overbearing wife. Demanding that he treat her like a princess, she nags him mercilessly. Planted by Truewit where she can overhear her husband’s rebellious comments on her shortcomings, she charges out and beats him thoroughly.

Sir John Daw

Sir John Daw (Jack Daw), a ridiculous, cowardly boaster. His affectations include the writing and criticism of verse. He is given to boasting of the amorous favors bestowed on him by the fair sex. His testimony of having had Epicoene as his mistress gives Morose temporary false hope that a divorce is possible. He is variously discomfited by the machinations of the witty young men, beaten, and discredited.

Sir Amorous La-Foole

Sir Amorous La-Foole, a foolish kinsman of Mistress Otter. He is prodigal, fantastic, and cowardly. The young men make him think that Sir John thirsts for his blood. He and Sir John are both so terrified of each other that they tamely submit to blindfolding and personal indignities like nose tweaking, each thinking the other is the aggressor. He also belies Mistress Epicoene’s...

(The entire section is 1,091 words.)