Fortunatus (fohr-tew-NAH-tuhs), a shabby, miserable man who becomes for a time Fortune’s darling. He acquires from her a magic purse that is never empty when he wishes to draw out money, and he steals for himself a wishing hat owned by the Soldan of Babylon, whose greed for the purse makes him careless. Fortunatus lives to regret his choice of wealth rather than wisdom and pleads that his sons may have the better choice. He dies, leaving the magic objects and much advice—largely disregarded—to his sons.
Andelocia (an-deh-LOH-chee-ah), Fortunatus’ prodigal younger son. He wastes his inheritance foolishly and dies miserably.
Ampedo (ahm-PAY-doh), Fortunatus’ virtuous older son. He gains nothing from his father’s gifts and nothing for his own abstinence, dying as miserably as his reckless brother.
Athelstane (ATH-ehl-stan), the greedy and treacherous king of England. He acquires and loses the magic purse and hat with his daughter’s aid. Fortune grants the purse to him again at the end of the play. The hat has been burned by Ampedo.
Agripyne (a-GRIH-pee-nuh), Athelstane’s selfish, beautiful daughter. She plays the role of Delilah to trick Andelocia out of the magic objects. Her punishment is negligible and short-lived.
The Soldan of Babylon
The Soldan of Babylon, who loses his wishing hat in his eagerness to acquire a magic purse. The wishing hat will transport its wearer to wherever that person wishes to be.
Longavile (LAWN-gah-vihl) and
Montrose, two noblemen made ridiculous by Andelocia. They gain revenge by causing the deaths of Andelocia and Ampedo. They also gain exile and remorse.
Fortune, the fickle and powerful goddess. She gives Fortunatus a choice of various qualities including wisdom. When she learns that his choice is wealth, she grants his wish, but she lets him know the foolishness of his choice. When he realizes his error and requests that his sons be given wisdom instead of his wealth, she denies him.
Virtue, the goddess who appears always with Fortune and Vice. She wears a fool’s cap, and the author does little in the play to indicate that the emblem is unjust. She does offer small, bitter apples that counteract the effect of Vice’s luscious ones. At the end of the play, an address to Queen Elizabeth gives Virtue some lip service and announces her triumph as Vice flees.
Vice, a purveyor of tempting apples that cause horns to grow on those who eat them. She ridicules Virtue and usually has the better of their struggles. Her flight from Virtue comes after the play proper is concluded.
Champion, Larry S. Thomas Dekker and the Traditions of English Drama. New York: Peter Lang, 1985. Situates Old Fortunatus at the intersection of the traditions of morality plays and newer, humanist drama.
Hoy, Cyrus. Introduction to The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, edited by Fredson Bowers. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1980. Places the drama within the context of Dekker’s career and in the general literary scene of the period.
Logan, Terence, and Denzell S. Smith, eds. “Thomas Dekker.” In The Popular School: A Survey and Bibliography of Recent Studies in English Renaissance Drama. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1975. A sourcebook for additional information about Dekker and his plays.
Price, George. Thomas Dekker. New York: Twayne, 1969. A basic study of Dekker’s life and work that is especially valuable as a starting place. A helpful discussion of Old Fortunatus.