The Forced Marriage

by Aphra Behn

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Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 575

The king

The king, who by the power of his authority sets the plot in motion, although he is not a major figure in the play. He is a wise and just ruler, beloved by his people, who obey him out of reverence rather than fear. He is grateful to his generals for the successful war they have waged and rewards them liberally. He is a devoted father to his son and daughter.

Prince Philander

Prince Philander, the king’s son, one of the two heroes of the play. He is young and brave and always obedient to his father’s wishes, even when they are in conflict with his own personal happiness. He is loyal to his friends to the point of self-sacrifice. He is secretly betrothed to a general’s daughter.


Alcippus (ahl-SIHP-uhs), the second hero of the play, a young soldier who, because of his military triumphs, is promoted to the rank of general. He is modest enough to point out that an older man already occupies that position, but the latter’s wish to retire and hand over his authority to Alcippus persuades the young man to accept the honor. Alcippus is a close friend of Prince Philander, and both are in love with the same woman. In the beginning of the play, neither man is aware of the other’s passion.


Erminia (ehr-MIH-nyuh), the daughter of the general. She is in love with the prince, who returns her feelings. They have not yet declared themselves openly in fear that the king would oppose the match because Erminia is not of royal blood.


Galatea (gah-lah-TAY-uh), the daughter of the king and sister of Philander. She is equally as brave, as beautiful, and as loyal as her friend and rival in love, Erminia. Galatea loves Alcippus, who is not aware of her feelings, especially because he covets Erminia.


Orgilius (ohr-GIH-lee-uhs), an old general and father of Erminia. He is a bluff and honest soldier, ready to resign his place in favor of the young Alcippus, whom he believes to be the best man to lead the army. His relationship with his daughter suggests that of Polonius to Ophelia in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: Both fathers warn their daughters against entanglements with royalty because their lesser station in life would make a lawful marriage impossible. Although with very different results, both girls obey their fathers.


Alcander (ahl-KAHN-dur), a friend of Prince Philander. He is in love with a lady of the court named Aminta, who returns his affection. These two provide an echo of the love story involving the major figures.


Olinda (oh-LIHN-dah), the maid of honor to Princess Galatea. She is Alcander’s sister and staunch ally.


Pisaro (pih-ZAH-roh), a friend of young General Alcippus. He acts as a counterbalance to Alcander. When the two principals, Alcippus and Philander, finally quarrel over Erminia, Pisaro defends Alcippus, and Alcander defends Philander, thereby extending the dispute until it threatens to engulf the country in a civil war.


Cleontius and


Labree, male servants.


Lisette and


Isillia, female servants. The servants also take sides, contributing to the intrigue. There is little attempt to give them individuality; they are all stock figures popular in seventeenth century theater and opera. The focus is not so much on character as on trickery, and the theme is a standard one of the time, love versus honor.

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