Among the characters Beatrice seems to be the most duplicitous in her inability to evaluate her motives and control her urges, whilst believing herself to be highly virtuous. She condemns the sexual appetite in other women such as Diaphanta, whilst refusing to recognise anything of the sort in herself, acknowledging only a “giddy turning” on meeting Alsemero, which is representative of her strong sexual desire for him.
In the context of the time in which the play was written there was heightened awareness amongst the educated of the Aristotelian concept of the harmony of outward beauty and inner morality, which is challenged by the reader’s changing perception of Beatrice Joanna throughout the play. De Flore’s cynicism of Beatrice who is “a woman dipp’d in blood and talk[s] of modesty” again shows her refusal to digress from the accepted belief that physical appearance mirrors one’s morality and consequent incapability to see both the sexual and flawed aspects of herself.
A character within the play who is completely unmotivated by subconscious desire seems to be Isabella whose judicious mind prevents her entrapment by Lollio and Antonio. Isabella also seems to act as a foil to the general portrait of women painted in the play. She chides Antonio with the words “you are a fine fool indeed”, revealing her knowledge of the pretence, whilst seemingly feigning naivety, before coolly telling him that “All this while you have but played the fool” and seeming disinterested in his advances, just as with Lollio to whom she says “Sirrah, no more!
“Her observation that a woman “need not gad abroad to seek her sin” is a reassertion of the fact that whilst she is aware of the potential and opportunity open to her to transgress she has no intention of doing so, due to her recognition of her own personal dignity and self-worth. Within “The Changeling” there are multiple layers of sexual self-awareness within the characters with instances of both conscious and unconscious passion driving the events.
However, it is only the shrewder and more discerning of the characters such as De Flores, Lollio and Isabella who are able to identify their feelings and thereby fathom both their own actions and the events unfurling around them. Parallel to this, the likes of Beatrice are swept up by their subconscious urges and driven into precarious and threatening situations, stemming from their repression of self-discovery.