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(Drama for Students)

Sir Benjamin Backbite
Backbite is a suitor to Marie. He is a gossip who will slander anyone, even those he does not know. Lady Sneerwell admires Backbite's wit and poetry. Backbite is an especially malicious character, whose rude behavior is encouraged in the company of his uncle, Lady Sneerwell, and Mrs. Candour.

Sir Harry Bumper
Toby is one of Charles' s friends who spends his time drinking, gambling, and singing.

Mrs. Candour
Mrs. Candour is a good-natured and friendly gossip, whose talkative nature makes her dangerous, since she spreads slander more effectively than Backbite or Crabtree.

Careless is one of Charles's friends. He plays auctioneer when the family pictures are sold to Mr. Premium.

Crabtree is Backbite's uncle and as big a gossip as his nephew.

Maria is Sir Peter's wealthy ward. She is in love with Charles and he is in love with her. Her nature is sweet, and she is very disturbed at the vicious gossip she encounters at social functions. Although Maria is considered a principle character, she has only a small role in the play.

Moses is the moneylender who has been lending money to Charles. He has tried to help Charles with his money problems and bring his spending under control. Moses is honest and helps Sir Oliver in his pretense as a moneylender.

Old Stanley
See Sir Oliver Surface

Mr. Premium
See Sir Oliver Surface

Rowley is Sir Peter's servant and was formally a steward to Joseph and Charles's father. He recognizes that Charles is kind-hearted and good in spite of his problems managing money. Rowley has caught Snake at forgery and uses the information to force Snake to betray Mrs. Sneerwell. Rowley serves as go-between for Sir Oliver when he disguises himself to visit his nephews.

Snake works for Lady Sneerwell; he undertakes the actions that destroy reputations. He is indeed a snake, since his job is to slither around gaining and dispensing gossip. Snake willingly goes to the highest bidder and in the final scene admits that Rowley has paid him a greater fee to betray Lady Sneerwell.

Lady Sneerwell
Lady Sneerwell was the target of slander in her youth. She now directs her efforts at ruining the reputations of other women. She prides herself on her delicacy of scandal, which she manages with only a hint of a sneer (she "sneers well"). Slander is her primary source of pleasure. Lady Sneerwell is secretly infatuated with Charles, and that is the real reason she wants to break up his relationship with Maria. Lady Sneerwell plots with Joseph to secure Charles for herself and Maria for Joseph, but the plot blows up when Joseph is exposed to Sir Peter and when Maria refuses to consider Joseph as a suitor. She forges letters in a final attempt to further her plot but is revealed when her partner, Snake, sells his loyalty to a higher bidder.

Charles Surface
Charles is the protagonist of the play and the younger Surface brother. He is extravagant but good-natured. He is in love with Maria and wishes to marry her. Mrs....

(The entire section is 1,057 words.)