The king of Rhodes
The king of Rhodes, who is to all appearances a just, if undistinguished, ruler. He is, in fact, a man who does not scruple to use those around him ruthlessly for his own ends. He brings bloody death upon himself by his dishonoring of Evadne and by his despicable treatment of Amintor, a courtier.
Evadne (eh-VAD-nee), a noblewoman, mistress to the king, who arranges her marriage to Amintor. She shows herself almost completely self-centered in the opening scenes, in which she coldly reveals her duplicity to her husband and tells him that she is simply using him to conceal her relationship with the king. The force with which she vows to be his wife in name only suggests the strength of character that makes her a tragic figure. Confronted by her brother with the dishonor she has brought upon herself, her husband, and her family, she recoils in horror from the hell in which she has placed herself, begs forgiveness of Amintor, and resolves to “redeem one minute of my age or, like another Niobe . . . weep till I am water.” She finds this redemption in tying the king to his bed and stabbing him to death as she accuses him of villainy. When she returns to her husband, she feels herself purged, free at last to offer herself as his wife. Death is the only recourse left to her when Amintor, horrified by the slaying of an anointed king, repulses her.
Amintor (eh-MIHN-tohr), Evadne’s ill-used husband. He is, from the moment of his marriage, conscience-stricken by his betrayal of Aspatia, to whom he had been betrothed. He attempts to justify himself by reflecting that he acted on the king’s orders, but he recognizes simultaneously that the king had no control over his will; he could have refused the bride who was offered to him. Shocked by Evadne’s wedding-night declaration, he plays the part of happy husband badly, but his reverence for royal blood restrains him from avenging his honor with violence and ultimately causes his final repudiation of his wife. Some pity for her lingers in him, however, and he turns, too late, to try to prevent her suicide. He kills himself beside the body of Aspatia, whom he had slain unintentionally.
Melantius (meh-LAN-shee-uhs), Evadne’s brother, a valiant soldier. Devoted to his friend Amintor, he persuades him to explain the reason for his strange fits of misery. Unlike Amintor, he feels no allegiance to an unjust monarch, and he plots the killing, which is carried out by Evadne, while playing on the king’s overconfidence to attain his ends.
Aspatia (eh-SPAY-shuh), Amintor’s betrothed, who grieves constantly after his marriage to Evadne and sings sad songs of faithful maidens and false lovers. She longs for death and finally finds it at the moment when she least desires it, when she hears from Amintor that he still loves her. She had come to him disguised as a boy and deliberately provoked him to a duel; he wounded her mortally before he realized who she was.
Calianax (ka-lih-A-nuhks), her father, a cowardly, testy old man. He was a longtime enemy of Melantius, who used his distrust to advance his plot against the king.
Lysippus (li-SIH-puhs), the king’s brother and successor. Recognizing the justice of Melantius’ cause, he pardons him and his followers, who hold the key military positions in the city.
Diphilus (DI-fih-luhs), Melantius’ brother and fellow conspirator.
Cleon (KLEE-on) and
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(STRAY-toh), nobles in the court of Rhodes.
Diagoras (di-A-guh-ruhs), the doorkeeper in the king’s banqueting hall.
Dula (DEW-luh), Evadne’s witty lady-in-waiting.
Antiphila (an-TIH-fih-luh) and
Olympias (oh-LIHM-pee-uhs), Aspatia’s devoted maids.
Two gentlemen, servants of the king who watch Evadne enter his bedchamber and plan to enjoy her themselves. They discover their master’s body and fear that they will be accused of his murder.
Appleton, William W. Beaumont and Fletcher: A Critical Study. Winchester, Mass.: Allen & Unwin, 1956. A short examination of the collaboration, with discussion of this play in the context of the canon. Also some thoughts on the influence of the playwrights on Restoration drama.
Bliss, Lee. Francis Beaumont. Boston: Twayne, 1987. Part of a series of short, sensible discussions of authors. Part of the problem of these two authors lies in the difficulty of distinguishing their respective contributions. Also discusses their influences.
Bradbrook, M. C. Themes and Conventions in Elizabethan Tragedy. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1935. A major text in understanding the peculiar dependence of drama in the Elizabethan and Jacobean period on repeating certain themes, conventions, and motifs.
Ellis-Fermon, Una. The Jacobean Drama: An Interpretation. New York: Vintage Books, 1964. Another seminal text with an overall view of the Jacobean drama. Chapter 2 deals with Beaumont and Fletcher, with some discussion of their use of romance and their approach to character and plot.
Fletcher, Ian. Beaumont and Fletcher. London: Longmans, Green, 1967. A very short work, but very sensible as a starting point for further study, touching on all the problems involved in understanding the collaborations.
Gayley, Charles Miles. Beaumont: The Dramatist. New York: Russell & Russell, 1969. First half is the standard critical biography. Second half deals with specific critical questions, including versification, diction, and critical approaches.