A Woman Killed with Kindness

by Thomas Heywood

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Characters Discussed

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John Frankford

John Frankford, a well-to-do gentleman. Generous and just to his whole household, he wins undying loyalty from his servants. He finds his trust betrayed by his beloved wife and his friend Wendoll, whom he had taken into his home. Although he is reluctant to accept his servant Nick’s revelation of their guilt, he forces himself to try to learn the truth. Too merciful to take the bloody revenge demanded by convention from an injured spouse, he satisfies himself by banishing his wife to his manor in the country, where she dies heartbroken.

Anne Frankford

Anne Frankford, his wife. She seems at the time of her marriage the epitome of gracious, chaste womanhood, but she cannot resist the persistent advances of Wendoll, whom her husband leaves alone with her. After the discovery of her infidelity, she is so overcome by her sense of guilt and by her husband’s generosity that she starves herself and dies, forgiven on her deathbed, in Frankford’s arms.

Wendoll

Wendoll, her lover, Frankford’s protégé. Although his conscience rebels at his base betrayal of Frankford’s hospitality, he gives in to passion and persuades Anne to return his love, shamelessly baiting her husband with double entendres as they play cards. Once discovered, he repents and sees that he must wander, like Cain, to escape the report of his ingratitude.

Charles Mountford

Charles Mountford, an impulsive country squire. In a heated quarrel over his hawk’s prowess, he kills two of the servants of his friend Sir Francis Acton and makes a bitter enemy of their master. Freed from prison at the cost of his entire fortune, he lives in the country with his sister, contented with their simple life, until he is again arrested, this time at the request of a creditor whom he trusted. Released by Acton’s intercession, he feels obligated to repay his debt to his enemy and offers him his only remaining treasure, his sister, a gesture understandable only in terms of his rigid code of honor.

Susan

Susan, his loyal sister, who shares his misfortunes. She is appalled at first by her brother’s proposal that she give herself to Sir Francis, but she finally accepts his view of the matter enough to explain his offer to their enemy, swearing at the same time that she will kill herself rather than stain her honor. Relieved of this grim choice by Sir Francis, she accepts his proposal of marriage.

Sir Francis Acton

Sir Francis Acton, Anne Frankford’s brother. The slaying of his servants makes him Charles Mountford’s implacable enemy until he sees Susan and falls in love with her. Unable to purchase her favors, he resolves to win them by his kindness in freeing her brother. He is so overcome by Charles’s offer that he refuses to dishonor their house and asks for the young woman as his bride.

Malby

Malby and

Cranwell

Cranwell, friends of Sir Francis.

Shafton

Shafton, a greedy opportunist who offers Charles a large loan under the cover of friendship, then has him imprisoned for debt.

Nicholas

Nicholas, Frankford’s watchful manservant. He distrusts Wendoll from the moment of his entrance into the house and later reveals his villainy to his master.

Jenkin

Jenkin,

Cicely

Cicely, and

Spigot

Spigot, good-humored members of Frankford’s household who are devoted to their master and well aware of what goes on in his home.

Jack Slime

Jack Slime and

Roger Brickbat

Roger Brickbat, country men who dance to celebrate Frankford’s marriage.

Old Mountford

Old Mountford,

Sandy

Sandy,

Roger

Roger, and

Tidy

Tidy, hard-hearted relatives and former friends of Charles. They refuse Susan’s plea for money to free her brother, who had been their benefactor in better times.

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