Your Five Gallants

Your Five Gallants

"Your Five Gallants" is a Jacobean comedy by Thomas Middleton. It falls into the sub-genre of city comedy. Allusions in the play point to a date of authorship of 1607.

The play was entered into the Stationers' Register on March 22, 1608. The quarto published by bookseller Richard Bonian is undated, but probably followed the registration by a small gap and appeared later in 1608. The title page states that the drama was acted by the Children of the Chapel, and assigns the authorship to "T. Middleton." [E. K. Chambers, "The Elizabethan Stage," 4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923; Vol. 3, p. 440.]

The five "gallants" of the play's title are frauds, poseurs, and con men — a pickpocket, pimp, pawnbroker, cheat, and whoremonger — who compete with the protagonist, Fitzgrave, for the affections of Katherine, a wealth orphan. (The five conspire to woo Katherine together; the one who wins her will help out the others.) Fitzgrave manipulates them into exposing their own crimes and vices through a masque. Fitzgrave marries Katherine, while the "gallants" marry the five prostitutes who are their shadows in the play. Between the two groups of ne'er-do-wells, Middleton provides a vigorous satire on the manners and mores of London society of the day. [Swapan Chakravorty, "Society and Politics in the Plays of Thomas Middleton," Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996; pp. 61-2.]



-PRIMERO, the bawd-gallant (pimp)

-FRIP, the broker-gallant (pawnbroker)

-TAILBY, the whore-gallant (gigolo) -PURSENET, the pocket-gallant (pickpocket) -GOLDSTONE, the cheating-gallant (con man) -KATHERINE, an heiress -FITZGRAVE, a gentleman, later disguised as Bowser -BUNGLER, a gentleman from the country (Mistress Newcut’s cousin) -PIAMONT, a gentleman -FIRST GENTLEMAN-GALLANT -SECOND GENTLEMAN-GALLANT -FIRST ANCIENT GENTLEMAN -SECOND ANCIENT GENTLEMAN -NOVICE Courtesan -FIRST COURTESAN -SECOND COURTESAN -THIRD COURTESAN

-Mistress NEWCUT, a merchant's wife



Act 1, Scene 1: Frip’s Pawnshop
A customer enters Frip’s pawnshop and attempts to pawn the lower half of a gentlewoman’s gown. Frip rejects the pawn because he is afraid the garment might be infected with the plague. Another customer (“Second Fellow”) enters and—after a bit of shrewd haggling on Frip’s part—pawns a gentlewoman’s suit.

Primero (the pimp) enters. Frip asks Primero to teach him the secret of a card trick called “the twitch.” Primero says he will divulge the secret of the trick if Frip will agree to supply clothing for “The Novice,” a “courtesan” (prostitute) who has recently entered his brothel. Frip gives Primero the gentlewoman’s suit he has just acquired. The Novice enters. Frip tells her that she is going to have to learn how to cheat and steal if she is going to do well in the brothel.

Frip and Primero discuss a meeting they will both attend that night at the home of a recently deceased knight. They both hope to woo the knight’s daughter and heir, Katherine, but they are worried the competition will be fierce; three other “gallants” (Tailby, Pursenet and Goldstone) will also attend. Primero exits. Frip curses Primero and delivers a short speech boasting how his cunning has enabled him to pull himself out of poverty. Noting that money is the best way to win a woman’s heart, he says he will woo Katherine by pretending to be a wealthy gentleman (a persona he will affect by clothing himself in a gentleman’s pawned suit).

Act 1, Scene 2: Katherine’s Home
Fitzgrave (Katherine’s only reputable suitor) gives Katherine a chain of pearl. Katherine gives him a jewel in return. Frip, Primero, Goldstone (the con man), Tailby (the gigolo), Pursenet (the pickpocket) and Pursenet’s Boy enter. They are not pleased to see Katherine conversing with Fitzgrave. Katherine welcomes the five gallants; in a short speech, she promises that she will choose her future husband within a month. While she is speaking, Pursenet’s Boy steals the chain of pearl (from Fitzgrave) out of her pocket; he gives it to Pursenet.

In an aside, Fitzgrave says that he does not trust the gallants. He says he will disguise himself as a “credulous scholar” so he can infiltrate their group and discover their true natures.

Act 2, Scene 1: Primero’s Brothel
Mistress Newcut (a wealthy merchant’s wife) has come to Primero’s brothel to have sex with the customers—for pleasure, not to make money. She is concerned that her husband will discover her dalliances. Primero assures her that her secret is safe; he shows her a spy-hole through which she can observe (and choose from among) the gentlemen who enter the brothel. The Novice Courtesan enters with two other Courtesans; they are dressed as ladies and carry musical instruments. Primero explains that that he disguises his brothel as a music school; the Courtesans pose as student boarders from wealthy families.

Frip, Goldstone, Tailby, Pursenet and Pursenet’s Boy enter. They are accompanied by Bungler (a dimwitted gentleman from the country) and Fitzgrave, who has disguised himself as a scholar named ‘Bowser’. Goldstone introduces ‘Bowswer’/Fitzgrave as “an excellent scholar,” fresh from university, who has recently inherited a great deal of money. He tells ‘Bowser’ that Primero’s ‘music school’ is an excellent place to meet the “bashful” daughters of men of worship. The Courtesans sing a song. While they are singing, Pursenet’s Boy steals a jewel out of ‘Bowswer’/Fitzgrave’s pocket (the jewel Katherine gave him in 1.2).

Observing the proceedings from her hiding place, Mistress Newcut recognizes her idiot cousin, Bungler. She does not want Bungler to see her in the brothel. Frip courts The Novice; he gives her some (pawned) jewels. Pursenet courts The First Courtesan; he gives her the chain of pearl (stolen from Katherine in 1.2). Goldstone talks to The Second Courtesan; he cons a ring from her by pretending to be heartbroken because she has withheld “favors” (a euphemism for sex).

Goldstone’s servant, Fulk, enters and shows Goldstone a pair of counterfeit beakers. Goldstone plans to switch the beakers for a more expensive pair at an inn called The Mitre. At Goldstone’s suggestion, the gallants agree to dine at the Mitre that night. Primero is persuaded to allow the ‘music students’/Courtesans to attend the dinner as well. ‘Bowswer’/Fitzgrave realizes he has lost the jewel Katherine gave him. He stamps his foot in anger. Goldstone asks him what his problem is. Anxious to protect his true identity, ‘Bowswer’/Fitzgrave says that foot-stamping is symptomatic of a disease that typically plagues scholars. Goldstone buttonholes Frip and pawns the ring he took from The Second Courtesan.

The First Courtesan gives Tailby the chain of pearl (she received it from Pursenet, who stole it from Katherine). Like all of the women in this play—except Katherine—The First Courtesan is in love with Tailby. She kisses him, proclaims her love for him, and exits. The Second Courtesan enters. She is also in love with Tailby. She gives him Fitzgrave’s jewel (which she has presumably received as a gift for having sex with Pursenet, who stole the jewel from Fitzgrave) and exits. The Novice enters. She is in love with Tailby too. She gives him the ring that Goldstone pawned to Frip (she has presumably received the ring as a gift for having sex with Frip).

Act 2, Scene 2: A London Street
Fitzgrave (still disguised as ‘Bowser’) is upset that he has lost the jewel Katherine gave him. He now realizes that the ‘music school’ is a brothel and Primero is a pimp. Katherine’s servant enters and informs him that the chain of pearl he gave Katherine has been stolen.

Act 2, Scene 3: Primero’s Brothel
Mistress Newcut (still spying from her hiding place) tells Primero that she has seen the man she wants to have sex with: Tailby. Primero takes Tailby to Mistress Newcut.

Act 2, Scene 4: The Mitre
The gallants’ dinner at the Mitre is drawing to a close. They begin playing dice (a form of gambling). Fitzgrave enters, disguised as ‘Bowser’. Fulk gives Goldstone the counterfeit beakers and a pair of loaded dice. Goldstone switches the counterfeit beakers for the Mitre’s expensive beakers. The Vintner (host) enters; worried that Goldstone might steal his beakers, he takes the counterfeits (which he thinks are genuine) away; Goldstone hides the genuine beakers under his coat.

The gallants begin playing dice; Pursenet’s Boy picks their pockets as they play. Frip stands to the side, waiting to offer his services to the losers, whom he expects will offer pawns when they run out of cash. Goldstone manages to switch the dice for the loaded pair Fulk gave him. Fulk wins several rounds of dice in a row (because he is cheating). Goldstone feigns anger, claiming that it is disrespectful for a mere servant to win so many rounds when he is playing with gentlemen. He threatens to kick Fulk out of the game; the other gallants encourage him to be less severe. Goldstone agrees to allow Fulk to stay in the game.Tailby—who has lost several rounds at dice—pawns almost everything on his person, including his doublet. Bungler pawns his grandfather’s seal ring (the coat of arms arms on the ring shows a codpiece with nothing in it). Goldstone uses a bit of wax to stick an expensive goblet under the table. The gallants settle their bill and prepare to leave. The Vintner announces that an expensive goblet is missing. Goldstone collects money from each of the gallants to pay for the goblet. The Vintner is satisfied. Everyone exits except Goldstone and Fulk. Goldstone tells Fulk to collect the goblet from under the table.

Interim 1: Tailby’s Front Door
Mistress Cleveland’s servant brings a new satin suit to Tailby (Mistress Cleveland is one of Tailby’s many female admirers). Tailby’s servant, Jack, accepts the suit and says his master will be happy to have it.

Interim 2: Tailby’s Home
Jack brings the satin suit to Tailby. They discuss Tailby’s losses at the dicing table and Goldstone’s harsh treatment of his servant, Fulk. Jack says he is happy his master is Tailby—not Goldstone—even though Tailby does not pay him a regular wage. Tailby reminds him that he makes excellent tips running errands to Tailby’s many admirers.

Mistress Newblock’s servant brings Tailby a letter and a new beaver hat. Tailby thanks the servant and tells him to tell his mistress that he will “dispatch her out of hand the first thing I do o’ my credit” (i.e. make love to her soon). Mistress Tiffany’s servant brings Tailby ten pounds in gold. Tailby praises his good luck and says that women are his best friends: “Take lands, give me good legs, firm back, white hand, black eye, brown hair, and add but to these five a comely structure. Let others live by art, and I by nature.”

Act 3, Scene 1: A London Street
Tailby reads the letter from Mistress Newblock: she asks him to come to Kingston immediately because her husband is away on business. (This would be a dangerous journey; in order to get to Kingston Upon Thames, a traveler would have to pass through Coombe Park, which was the scene of frequent highway robberies.

Tailby runs into Pursenet; he asks him to accompany him on his journey to Kingston. Pursenet declines. Tailby exits. Pursenet makes plans to disguise himself and rob Tailby as he passes through Coombe Park.

The location shifts to Coombe Park without a scene break. Pursenet (who disguises his face with a scarf) accosts Tailby. Tailby good-naturedly allows the ‘thief’ to take everything on his person: a purse of gold, a letter, and Katherine’s chain of pearl. Pursenet ties Tailby up and sends him away. Tailby exits.

Pursenet examines his loot and recognizes the chain of pearl (he stole it from Katherine and gave it to The First Courtesan, who gave it to Tailby). He also recognizes the purse of gold, which was also a gift from him to The First Courtesan. He reads the letter, in which The First Courtesan entreats Tailby to keep the chain of pearl and purse out of Pursenet’s sight. Pursenet realizes that he has been played for a fool.

‘Bowser’/Fitzgrave enters. Pursenet tries to rob him, but Fitzgrave resists, overpowers Pursenet, and stabs him. Pursenet loses the scarf disguising his face and runs away, dropping Tailby’s letter as he leaves. Fitzgrave catches a glimpse of Pursenet’s face, but pretends as though he does not recognize him. He picks up the letter Pursenet has dropped and begins reading it.

Act 3, Scene 2: Not far from Coombe Park
Pursenet attends to his wound and expresses surprise at ‘Bowser’s’ ferocity. He vows that he will kill Bowser if he ever gets a chance to sneak up on him unawares.

Act 3, Scene 2
Fitzgrave shows the letter (from The First Courtesan to Tailby) to a gentleman. He has now “discovered” three of the five gallants: He knows that Primero is a pimp, he knows that Pursenet is a thief, and he knows that Tailby is a gigolo.

Act 3, Scene 4: Pursenet’s Home
The First Courtesan visits Pursenet, whose arm is now bandaged. She asks how he hurt himself. He tells her that he started a fight with a stranger because the stranger was wearing the chain of pearl he gave her. The First Courtesan claims that the ‘stranger’ was her cousin; she says she lent him the chain of pearl so he could wear it to impress his mistress. Pursenet pretends to buy the story. They kiss and make up.

Goldstone, Tailby, ‘Bowswer’/Fitzgrave, Bungler, The Second Courtesan, and Pursenet’s Boy enter. Pursenet tells them that he received his wound when he was attacked by three robbers. Tailby says that he was also attacked by a gang of three. The First Courtesan scolds Tailby for letting Pursenet see the chain of pearl. Putting things together, Tailby realizes that Pursenet was the masked thief who robbed him.

Bungler catches Pursenet’s Boy trying to pick his pocket. Pursenet gives The Boy a harsh scolding and threatens to send him to prison. Bungler begs Pursenet to be lenient; he argues that The Boy will be corrupted even further if he is sent to prison. Pursenet agrees to let the boy off. Everyone exits except Goldstone and The Second Courtesan. Goldstone calls a tailor in and orders him to make a satin gown for The Second Courtesan.

Act 4, Scene 1: 'Bowser'/ Fitzgrave's home
Goldstone goes to 'Bowser'/Fitzgrave's home. Fitzgrave is still in bed. Goldstone notices an expensive cloak; he decides to steal it. He pretends to be angry that 'Bowser' is not ready to leave (as promised) and storms off, taking the cloak with him.

Act 4, Scene 2: A London Street
Frip is wearing Fitzgrave's cloak (Goldstone has just pawned it to him); he notes that Goldstone has also pawned the very same jewels he gave to the Novice in 2.1. He wonders aloud if the Novice has been untrue to him.Pursenet sees Frip wearing Fitzgrave's cloak and mistakes him for 'Bowser'. He believes that he has stumbled on his chance for revenge (for the wound Fitzgrave gave him in Coombe Park). He surprises Frip from behind and stabs him: "Take that in part payment for Coombe Park!" Fitzgrave enters (disguised as 'Bowswer') and attends to the wounded Frip. He notices that Frip is wearing his cloak. Frip tells him that the cloak was a pawn from Goldstone. Fitzgrave now knows that Goldstone is a cheat and Frip is a pawnbroker. Thus he has "discovered" all of the five gallants.

Act 4, Scene 3
Marmaduke (Mistress Newcut's servant) tells Bungler that his cousin (Mistress Newcut) has invited him to dinner and encourages him to bring any gentleman he pleases along with him (Mistress Newcut is of course hoping that Bungler will bring Tailby to dinner). Bungler invites Goldstone to the dinner. Goldstone--attracted by the prospect of stealing whatever he can from Mistress Newcut's home--accepts the invitation. Fitzgrave/'Bowswer' enters; he asks Goldstone where his cloak is. Goldstone says that he was attacked by four men, who took the cloak from him. Fitzgrave pretends to accept this excuse; Goldstone exits. Fitzgrave makes plans to expose the five gallants.

Act 4, Scene 4: St Paul’s
Pursenet and his Boy are at St Paul’s, scouting for gentlemen to rob (note: the first scene of Middleton's "Michaelmas Term" is also set at St Paul’s). Pursenet's Boy points out a gentleman (Piamont) who is carrying a large amount of money; he says Piamont will be difficult to rob because he has both of his hands in his pockets. Pursenet greets Piamont (pretending to mistake him for someone else) thus forcing Piamont to take his hands out of his pocket so he can salute, thus giving Pursenet's Boy an opportunity to pick Piamont's pocket. The trick fails because Piamont is carrying his money in another pocket. Hoping to create another diversion, Pursenet pretends to faint; Piamont and Bungler rush to help him. Pursenet's Boy picks Piamont's pocket. Pursenet and his Boy exit. Piamont exits. Goldstone enters with his servant, Fulk; both of them are disguised. Goldstone tells Bungler that he is also Mistress Newcut's cousin, and that he has also been invited to her home for dinner that afternoon. They make plans to go to the dinner together.

Act 4, Scene 5: Mistress Newcut's home
Bungler arrives at Mistress Newcut's home with Goldstone (who is disguised as Mistress Newcut's 'other cousin'. Mistress Newcut greets Goldstone/'cousin' (she is under the impression that he is a friend of Bungler's whom she has never met). She asks Bungler if he invited Tailby. Bungler tells her that he invited Goldstone, whom he expects will arrive shortly. Mistress Newcut says she does not trust Goldstone. She exits. Goldstone/'cousin' tells Bungler that he wants to play a trick on Mistress Newcut: He will take the silver salt cellar and hide so that Mistress Newcut will think that the salt cellar has mysteriously disappeared. He warns Bungler not to say anything or the joke will be ruined. Bungler promises to keep quiet. Goldstone exits with the salt cellar. Mistress Newcut returns. She notices that the salt cellar is missing. Bungler tells her that her 'cousin' has taken it as a joke. Mistress Newcut thinks he is crazy; she has no idea what 'cousin' Bungler is talking about. Goldstone enters, no longer disguised. Bungler asks Goldstone if he saw a fellow with a silver salt cellar leaving. Goldstone says he has seen no such man.

Act 4, Scene 6: A London Street
Piamont has realized that his purse was stolen. He says he is angry enough to fight with a windmill (an interesting reference to Don Quixote, which had not been published in English when this play was first performed). Pursenet enters. Piamont confronts Pursenet; he draws his sword. Pursenet runs away, but drops the chain of pearl as he leaves. Piamont swears he will kill Piamont if he ever sees him again.

Act 4, Scene 7: A London Street
Goldstone enters and finds the chain of pearl that Pursenet dropped in 4.6. Primero and Frip enter. Tailby enters. He sees Goldstone with the chain of pearl and assumes that Goldstone was the thief who robbed him at Coombe Park. He exits for a moment and returns with two constables. At Tailby's suggestion, the constables arrest Goldstone on suspicion of felony. Goldstone swears that he has just found the chain of pearl on the street. Pursenet enters looking for the chain of pearl he has dropped. He sees that Goldstone now has the chain of pearl; he asks Goldstone to give it up. Goldstone happily hands the chain of pearl over. The constables begin to arrest Pursenet. Pursenet asks the constables to step aside for a moment so that he can confer with the other four gallants in private. In a short speech, he argues that, since they are all rogues of one stripe of another, they should stick together rather than fighting amongst themselves. The gallants with him. Goldstone sends the constables away. He tells the other gallants that they should all work together to win Katherine's affection. He suggests that they perform a masque for Katherine so that she can choose from among them. The gallants agree to the plan. Pursenet gives Frip the chain of pearl in exchange for supplying masquing costumes. Fitzgrave/ 'Bowser' enters; Goldstone asks him to write a masque for them; Fitzgrave agrees.

Act 5, Scene 1: Primero's brothel
The First Courtesan, Second Courtesan and Novice curse Mistress Newcut; they do not like her because she has sex with men at the brothel in secret. Mistress Newcut insults them; they attack her. Fitzgrave enters and breaks up the fight. He tells the women about the masque the gallants will perform for Katherine. The Courtesans feel betrayed; they swear to work together in order to "reveal" the gallants during the masque. Piamont, Bungler and the two gentlemen (Fitzgrave's friends) enter. They all make plans to help reveal the gallants during the masque. A painter enters with five shields that Fitzgrave has ordered for the masque. There is a shield for each of the gallants. Each shield is decorated with an emblem and an inscription in Latin. The shields are intended to reveal each gallant's true nature. For example, the emblem on Pursenet's shield is a purse wide open with the mouth downward; the inscription in Latin is "Alienis ecce crumenis" ("one that lives out of other men's pockets").

Fitzgrave says that he has written a long speech in Latin, which Pursenet's Boy will recite during the masque. The speech will further expound on each gallant's true nature (note: Fitzgrave's strategy hinges on the gallants' ignorance of Latin; they will not understand the speech or the text written on their shields). Goldstone, Pursenet, Tailby, Frip, Primero and Pursenet's Boy enter. Fitzgrave shows them their shields and leads them to believe that the Latin inscriptions are favorable. For example, he tells Pursenet that the inscription on his shield (which shows a purse turned upside down) means "Your bounty pours itself open to all men." The gallants approve of the shields. They rehearse the masque with Pursenet's Boy.

The audience is asked to commit to an interesting bit of suspension of disbelieve at this point in the play. The 'Latin' speech that Pursenet's Boy recites is actually recited in English, but all of the characters onstage act as tough he is speaking Latin; the gallants do not understand that they are being insulted. It seems as though Pursenet's Boy is also unable to understand the meaning of the words he is reciting.

Pursenet's Boy gives each of the gallants an insulting introduction. For example, Tailby is introduced as "a notorious lecher maintained by harlots."

Act 5, Scene 2: Katherine's home
The gallants perform their masque for Katherine. Frip gives Katherine the chain of pearl, which she recognizes. Frip is forced to admit that the chain of pearl was pawned to him.

In a dramatic climax, 'Bowser' reveals that he is actually Fitzgrave. He also reveals that Goldstone, Pursenet, Tailby, Frip and Primero are rogues. Primero is sent of for a whipping. The remaining four gallants are forced to marry the Courtesans as punishment for their malfeasance (Mistress Newcut--whose husband has just died--is counted as one of the Courtesans). Mistress Newcut argues that the forced marriages are a great deal for the women: "Let's marry 'em an it be but to plague 'em; for when we have husbands, we are under covert-baron (the legally protected position of a married woman) and may lie with whomever we list."

In the final lines of the play, Katherine thanks Fitzgrave for his help and agrees to marry him.


External links

* [;idno=P1.0178 The play text online.]

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