Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 819
Roberto, the author’s persona, a “scholar” educated at university. He is the son of a miserly father who takes great umbrage at his son’s superior airs and disapproval of his profitable usury. His father, about to die, announces that he has willed everything to his younger son, Lucanio. Distraught, Roberto plots revenge. After his father’s death, he sets up a meeting between Lucanio and a prostitute named Lamilia, knowing that his inexperienced brother will prove easy prey for her confidence schemes. She, however, turns on Roberto, rejecting his claims on a share of the booty. Demoralized and nearly destitute, he becomes a mere observer of his brother’s ruination. At the prompting of a player-patron, he takes up a dissolute, bohemian life as a playwright, keeping company with society’s scum, rebuffing his wife’s efforts to reform him, and drinking and whoring his way to ill health and penury. He is left at the end with the groat that had been his sole inheritance.
Lucanio, Roberto’s younger brother and his father’s favorite. Although he shares his father’s miserliness, he is putty in the hands of the conniving Lamilia. She soon tricks him out of his fortune, leaving him destitute. Roberto offers no solace but does use Lucanio as a “property” in “conny-catching” bunko schemes. Lucanio finally resorts to pimping, a job that even his brother finds degrading.
Gorinius, a usurer and father to Roberto and Lucanio. He is a hypocrite, appearing religious and upright but lacking in compassion for his debtors, driving many of them into exile. He is selfish and proud of his material success. He suffers from gout and an unspecified lingering disease that kills him. On his deathbed, he reveals that he has bestowed all of his money and property on Lucanio because the younger son shares his miserly love of gold. His philosophy is that wealth is a substitute for true character and has been formulated from reading Machiavelli. Gorinius disinherits Roberto because Roberto, university trained in liberal arts, does not value wealth. Gorinius bequeaths to him a single old groat that Gorinius had before beginning his climb to material success.
Lamilia, a shrewd and alluring courtesan who keeps a “hospital” in the unnamed city’s suburbs. As planned by Roberto, she seduces Lucanio, feigning maidenly innocence. Through her allure and by cheating at cards and dice, she begins fleecing Lucanio of his inherited wealth. In the absence of Lucanio, she rejects Roberto’s claim, as the affair’s broker, to part of the money and exposes his scheming against Lucanio to the younger man, who forthwith disowns Roberto as his brother. Within two years, Lamilia reduces Lucanio to beggary.
Player, a wealthy, successful, and self-important actor who becomes Roberto’s patron when he talks the destitute profligate into becoming a playwright.
The fox, who, in Lamilia’s fable, is a resourceful villain who convinces a badger to entice a ewe to the badger’s hole. The fox rips out the ewe’s throat and sneaks away, leaving the badger to face the shepherd’s dogs.
The badger, who, in Lamilia’s fable, is the scapegoat in the fox’s scheme. He seduces the ewe with a promise of perpetual amity between “devouring beasts” and the “harmless kind.” He is used by the fox as an unwitting accomplice and is left to bear the mortal enmity of dogs.
The bride, who, in Roberto’s tale, is a squire’s daughter, fickle and proud. She is infatuated with her new husband but quickly disowns him when he is tricked into an assignation with Marian, his jilted girlfriend.
The bridegroom, who, in Roberto’s tale, is a gullible farmer’s son who, lacking trust in his wife’s fidelity, proves foolish enough to be tricked out of her love before it can be consummated. His own unfaithfulness makes him suspicious enough to believe the gentleman’s lies.
The gentleman, who, in Roberto’s tale, is a former suitor of the bride. Amoral but resourceful, he outwits the bridegroom to win the squire’s daughter by trickery.
Mother Gunby, who, in Roberto’s tale, is a widow who devises the scheme used by the gentleman to trick the bridegroom. She proves adept at feigning injury over the seduction of her daughter.
Marian, who, in Roberto’s tale, is Mother Gunby’s daughter. Claiming that she was overcome by the bridegroom’s “allurement,” she goes along with the ruse to win back her former lover.
The ant, who, in a retelling of Aesop’s fable, is a thrifty laborer working to store adequate food for winter.
The grasshopper, who, in the Aesop fable, is a profligate pleasure seeker who fails to prepare for winter and is rebuked by the ant.
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 104
Berek, Peter. “The ‘Upstart Crow,’ Aesop’s Crow, and Shakespeare as a Reviser.” Shakespeare Quarterly 35, no. 2 (Summer, 1984): 205-207. Reviews interpretations of famous “upstart crow” reference to Shakespeare as either a boorish actor or plagiarist. Supports the plagiarist interpretation, noting that it was a charge based on Shakespeare’s early career as a play reviser.
Carroll, D. Allen. “The Player-Patron in Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit.” Studies in Philology 91, no. 3 (Summer, 1994): 301-312. Argues that the player-patron cannot be identified as an actual actor, that it is more likely that he is a “fictional caricature” created to facilitate the work’s critique of the Elizabethan theater.