“Bastards All” is a play featuring a cast of colorful and dubious characters set in a rowdy London tavern. Presented in a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith circa March 1929, the play explores themes of deception, infidelity, and societal norms through its satirical and bawdy narrative. The characters navigate through schemes, misunderstandings, and humorous conflicts, creating a vivid portrayal of human folly and vice.

The opening of the play goes like this:

Act .I.
Scene .1.
A Tavern in London.
(Enter Gowtu)
Gowtu: “Now, by all living devils and dead gods, may I roast in Hell! What a coil this is! This false knight, this beer keg, this mole, this ox penis, this mule’s rump, this bent rapier, this blunted dagger, this great-belly, this ale guzzler, why, out on him! A curse on him, say I or damn all!”
(Enter Eve Hotbreech)
“Good master, why rantest thou in such manner? Wouldst have the neighbors cry out on thee for a wild man?”

“Bastards All!” or “All the Brothers Were Bastards” is a parody play set in a tavern in London.

Detailed summary

Act I

Scene 1

The play opens in a London tavern where Gowtu, the tavernkeeper, curses Sir John Crappo. Eve Hotbreech, a serving woman, enters and tries to calm Gowtu down. Gowtu threatens her, reflecting the rough and crude environment of the tavern. Sir John Crappo arrives and shares his plan to trick Lady Joan Waist into thinking he is a sultan to seduce her. Despite Gowtu’s initial reluctance, he agrees to help Sir John for the promise of repayment of a debt.

Scene 2

In a gaming room, Sir John and Sir Onan Waist discuss Lady Joan’s supposed infidelity. Sir John convinces Sir Onan to catch his wife in the act at Gowtu’s tavern. Matthew Mule, a comical character, enters and mocks Sir Onan. The scene highlights the men’s crude humor and schemes, setting the stage for the ensuing chaos.

Act II

Scene 1

Sir John and Gowtu discuss the plan in the tavern. Gowtu assists Sir John in disguising as Sultan Ali El Bawdytoole. A servant humorously describes the antics with hoop-skirts, adding to the play’s comedic tone. Sir John enters the Elephant Room to meet the veiled woman he believes to be Lady Joan.

Scene 2

In the Elephant Room, Sir John woos the veiled woman with grandiose lies about his harem. The woman, however, is revealed to be Bet Reddrawers, who had been part of Eve’s scheme. Sir Onan, Lady Joan, and others burst in, exposing the deception. Lady Joan is furious at the trick, while Sir Onan commands her to lift her dress so Sir John can write on her buttocks as a mark of her infidelity. The play concludes with a humorous resolution where Damnbo, a blackamoor slave, is introduced, causing a final uproar among the characters.


  • Sir John Crappo: A knight who devises a scheme to seduce Lady Joan by pretending to be a sultan.
  • Damnbo: A blackamoor, introduced humorously in the final scene.
  • Gowtu: The tavernkeeper who assists Sir John in his plan.
  • Eve Hotbreech: A serving woman who schemes against Gowtu and Sir John.
  • Lady Joan Waist: The wife of Sir Onan Waist, targeted by Sir John’s scheme.
  • Sir Onan Waist: A nobleman and husband to Lady Joan, concerned about his wife’s fidelity.
  • Bet Reddrawers: A prostitute who plays a key role in Eve’s scheme.
  • Dorinda Bareseat: A serving wench who adds to the comedic elements.
  • Matthew Mule: A jackass who provides comic relief.
  • A servant: Minor character providing additional humor in the tavern setting.

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