Captain Plume, a recruiting officer in the Queen’s army who goes into Shrewsbury to recruit for a French campaign. His chief endeavor, however, is winning Sylvia Balance for his wife. Blatant and ribald, he declares he will not marry, to spend his entire life with a woman, until he knows premaritally whether he will like her company for half an hour. Winning Sylvia after trickery against him has failed, he quits the service to raise recruits in a matrimonial way. His men’s conduct in the town is well described by the accusation that they leave as many recruits in a town as they take away.
Sergeant Kite, his sergeant. He tries to lure recruits by offers of money and gay living. Ineffectual in these efforts, he disguises himself as a conjurer, predicting for men brilliant futures, according to their vocations, if they will enlist. Through his “predictions,” he also brings the principals of the play together, foretelling the plot. Kite procures other enlistments as he cajoles the justices in court to declare men needy, without means of support, and therefore wards of the Crown.
Sylvia Balance, a young woman who spends the greater part of the play dressed as a man, young Mr. Willful. Suspecting Plume of being attentive to Rose, Sylvia, disguised as a recruit, courts Rose to learn of Plume’s relations with other women. She learns that Plume is not the philanderer he is reputed to be. As a result, she disregards her father’s admonition to break off with Plume and becomes his wife. Her handsome income is no small factor in Plume’s love for her.
Melinda, Sylvia’s cousin, a lady of fortune. She adds to the plot with her attitude toward Sylvia and by her attractiveness to Brazen and Worthy. Melinda’s ill temper causes her to be suspected of writing letters to Sylvia’s father, maligning Plume. Melinda’s comment that the confounded captains do more harm by debauching at home than they do good by their defenses abroad epitomizes the tone of the play.
Mr. Worthy, a gentleman of Shropshire who wins Melinda. Never sure of Melinda’s temperament at a given time, Worthy assumes she is in love with Brazen. Easily influenced, Worthy takes Plume’s advice to win Melinda’s...
(The entire section is 972 words.)