Young, pretty, headstrong and intelligent, Lady Teazle is the young wife of Sir Peter Teazle. Although she was raised in the countryside, she has quickly adopted city manners, learning how the gossip mill operates… read analysis of Lady Teazle
Sir Peter Teazle
An older man with fixed habits, Sir Peter married the much younger Lady Teazle seven months before the play begins and is having trouble adapting to married life. Sir Peter believes that he is always… read analysis of Sir Peter Teazle
A sharp-tongued, hypocritical schemer and gossipmonger, Lady Sneerwell is the center of a group of high-society men and women who spend their time gossiping and creating scandals. Lady Sneerwell ruins reputations by submitting stories to… read analysis of Lady Sneerwell
Joseph Surface / Mr. Surface
A selfish, greedy hypocrite and liar, the older Surface brother pretends to be a “man of sentiment,” but is actually a “sentimental knave.” This means that he speaks eloquently about the proper, moral way to… read analysis of Joseph Surface / Mr. Surface
Sir Oliver Surface / Mr. Premium / Mr. Stanley
The wealthy uncle of Joseph and Charles Surface. After sixteen years doing business in the East Indies (colonial India), Sir Oliver returns to London to pick one of his nephews as an heir to… read analysis of Sir Oliver Surface / Mr. Premium / Mr. Stanley
The former steward to the Surface brothers’ deceased father, Mr. Rowley is a trusted confidante, advisor, and go-between for the Surface and Teazle families. He is an eminently reasonable man, and generally serves to clarify… read analysis of Mr. Rowley
A recently orphaned young woman, Maria is the ward of Sir Peter and thus heiress to his fortune. She is in love with Charles Surface, but is also being courted by Joseph Surface and… read analysis of Maria
An “honest Hebrew,” Moses is a Jewish moneylender. It is suggested that he is more scrupulous than other Jews, but his character nevertheless embodies several stereotypes about Jews prevalent in British society in the late… read analysis of Moses
A high-society lady who spends her time spreading rumors, Mrs. Candour pretends to be good-natured and honest, but is actually just as malicious as the other gossips. Her name ironically references the word “candor,” another word for honesty.
Sir Benjamin Backbite
A young gentleman who hopes to marry Maria, Sir Benjamin spends his time spreading gossip about members of society. He is also an amateur poet and writes rhymes mocking people he knows. The word “backbite” means to say unkind things about someone who is not present.
A gossip who invents extremely specific details when spreading false stories, Mr. Crabtree is hoping to help his nephew Sir Benjamin woo Maria. A “crabtree” is a tree that produces only sour apples (crabapples), and so his name is a comment on this character’s own sourness.
An amoral opportunist, Snake is paid by Lady Sneerwell to place false stories in the gossip columns and to forge incriminating letters.
One of Charles Surface’s drinking buddies, Careless (true to his name) is even less responsible than Charles.
An infamous gossipmonger who never appears in the play in person. A “clacket” is a loud noise made by striking two objects together.
An acquaintance with a good reputation who the gossipmongers say is pregnant out of wedlock and must marry her footman.
Miss Letitia Piper
A woman Crabtree says was falsely accused of giving birth to twins out of wedlock.
An acquaintance mocked by the group of gossipmongers for the way she wears makeup. “Vermillion” is a shade of red that could be used as blush.
An acquaintance mocked by the group of gossipmongers. To be “prim” means to be stiff and overly proper.
An acquaintance mocked by the group of gossipmongers for trying to look young forever—that is, to stay “evergreen.”
An acquaintance mocked by the group of gossipmongers. To “simper” is to smile in a silly or overly self-deprecating way.
Charles Surface’s servant.