Women Beware Women

by Thomas Middleton

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Women Beware Women by Thomas Middleton is a play about several affairs and how the people involved in them intersect and work against each other. The play is a tragedy.

Leantio is a poor man who works and has recently married Bianca. He is so jealous and paranoid that he instructs his mother to hide her away when he is at work. Once Bianca begins her affair, he starts one of his own with Livia. He is eventually murdered by the Duke of Florence and Livia's brother in order to protect Livia's honor and to allow Bianca to marry the Duke.

Bianca is the daughter of a wealthy family. She marries and moves in with Leantio. When he leaves and she is stuck at home, she sees the Duke of Florence. Livia schemes to bring Bianca into the Duke's orbit; Bianca is upset by it but does eventually fall for the Duke. She tries to poison the Cardinal—the Duke's brother—at the end of the play at a masquerade to celebrate her second wedding. Distraught when the Duke accidentally drinks the poison, she drinks it herself and dies.

Livia is a wealthy woman who arranges for her niece to have an affair with her brother by lying and saying that they are not related by blood. Later, she sets up Bianca and the Duke of Florence. She is killed by Isabella at the end of the play once Isabella knows the truth about the blood connection between her and the uncle she has been having an affair with.

Isabella is Livia and Hippolito's niece. Hippolito is in love with her, but she initially rebuffs him. They have an affair once she believes that they are not related. She dies when Livia pours heated gold on her at the end of the play.

Hippolito is Livia's brother and Isabella's uncle. He has an affair with Isabella. He is shot by poison arrows at the end of the play. The pain makes him throw himself on a sword.

Fabricio is Isabella's father.

Ward is a young man who gets engaged to Isabella.

Guardiano is the uncle of Ward. He is involved in Livia's plan to kill Hippolito.

The Duke of Florence falls in love with Bianca. He does not care that she is married and works to marry her. He dies accidentally drinking from a cup Bianca poisoned.

Lord Cardinal is the brother of the Duke. Bianca suspects he wants to take the Duke's position, so she tries to poison him.

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