The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Disguising at Hertford

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Title: The Disguising at Hertford

Author: John Lydgate

Release date: October 1, 2001 [eBook #2878]
Most recently updated: February 6, 2013

Language: English

Credits: Produced by: An Anonymous Volunteer and David Widger



By John Lydgate

c.1370 - 1449

A verse play written circa 1427.

This version is made available with the permission of the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, England, the owners of the unique original manuscript.

For the purposes of this multi-platform electronic text, the medieval 'thorn' (a character representing 'th') has been changed to 'th'. It was impracticable to reproduce the original punctuation, which mainly consisted of the virgule or slash. Modern commas and full stops have been sparingly imposed. Superscript tildes and mid-script tildes have been removed. Mid-script dots have been changed to colons as they seem to indicate a deliberate suspension. The last four words of the initial rubric (Brys : slayne at Loviers) appear to have been added to the manuscript at a date slightly later than when it was first written. Section marks occur in the original without consistency; where these clearly indicate a new section, a blank line has been inserted to produce a similar effect.

The endnotes include the original stage directions. Two lacunae in the manuscript have been supplied by reference to John Stow's late 16th- century manuscript copy of the text. The other endnotes are glosses of particular words in the text.

The transcription of Lydgate's text has also been published in book form under the title 'Lydgate's Disguising at Hertford Castle', including a modern verse translation of the text, an editor's introduction and notes, and a study of the literary and historical background of the play and of its first performance, which took place at Hertford Castle as part of the royal Christmas festivities of, probably, 1427. It is hoped that this additional material will become available as a Project Gutenberg etext. Readers interested in the book may wish to have its publication details

  Lydgate's Disguising at Hertford Castle by Derek Forbes
  with Foreword by Glynne Wickham
  First published by Blot Publishing, Pulborough, 1998.
  Pp. xiv + 82, f'piece, and 4 plate ills.
  Decorated and laminated card cover. ISBN 1 900929 03 1.
  Retail price in 2000 six pounds GBP.

  Copies of the book are available from
  Blot Publishing, 8 Chanctonbury, Ashington, West Sussex, RH20 3QE, UK.
  or from the Society for Theatre Research, c/o The Theatre Museum,
  1E Tavistock Street, London WC2E 7PA, UK.

Copies of the book were distributed by the Society for Theatre Research to its members worldwide in 1998, and can be consulted in the libraries of institutions which subscribe to the Society.




Nowe folowethe here the maner of a bille by wey of supplicacon putte to the kyng holding his noble feest of Cristmasse in the Castel of Hertford as in a disguysing : of the Rude upplandisshe people compleyning on hir wyves with the boystous aunswere of hir wyves devysed by lydegate at the Request of the Countre Roullour Brys : slayne at Loviers

  Most noble prynce :  With support of your grace,
  Ther beon entred : in to youre royal place
  And late coomen in to youre castell,
  Youre poure lieges, wheche lyke no thing weel.
  Nowe in the vigyle of this nuwe yeere
  Certayne sweynes, ful [froward of ther chere],
  Of entent comen, [fallen on ther kne],
  For to compleyne vn to yuoure magestee
  Vpon the mescheef of gret aduersytee,
  Vpon the trouble and the cruweltee                      10
  Which that they haue endured in theyre lyves
  By the felnesse of theyre fierce wyves,
  Which is a tourment verray importable,
  A bonde of sorowe, a knott vnremuwable.
  For whoo is bounde or locked in maryage,
  Yif he beo olde, he falleth in dotage,
  And yong folkes, of theyre lymes sklendre,
  Grene and lusty, and of brawne but tendre,
  Phylosophres callen in suche aage
  A Chylde to wyve, a woodnesse or a raage.               20

  For they afferme ther is noon eorthly stryff
  May beo compared to wedding of a wyff,
  And who that euer stondethe in the cas
  He with his Rebecke may sing ful oft ellas,
  Lyke as theos hynes, here stonding oon by oon,
  He may with hem vpon the daunce goon.
  Leorne the traas, boothe at even and morowe
  Of Karycantowe in tourment and in sorowe....
  Weyle the while ellas that he was borne.
  For Obbe, the Reeve, that goothe heere al to forne,     30
  He pleynethe sore, his mariage is not meete,
  For his wyff, Beautryce Bittersweete,
  Cast vpon him an hougly cheer ful rowghe
  Whane he komethe home, ful wery frome the ploughe,
  With hungry stomake, deed and paale of cheere,
  In hope to fynde redy his dynier.

  Thanne sittethe Beautryce, bolling at the nale,
  As she that gyvethe of him no maner tale.
  For she alday with hir iowsy nolle,
  Hathe for the collyk pouped in the bolle                40
  And for heed aache : with pepir and gynger
  Dronk dolled ale, to make hir throte cleer,
  And komethe hir hoome, whane hit drawethe to eve.
  And thanne Robyn, the cely poure Reeve,
  Fynde noone amendes of harome ne damage
  But leene growell, and soupethe cold potage,
  And of his wyf hathe noone other cheer
  But cokkrowortes vn to his souper.
  This is his servyce sitting at the borde,
  And cely Robyn, yif he speke a worde,                   50
  Beautryce of him doothe so lytel rekke
  That with hir distaff she hittethe him in the nekke,
  For a medecyne to chawf with his bloode.
  With suche a metyerde she hathe shape him an hoode.

  And Colyn Cobeller, folowing his felawe,
  Hathe hade his part of the same lawe,
  For by the fayth that the preost him gaf
  His wyff hathe taught him to pleyne at the staff.
  Hir quarter strooke were so large and rounde
  That on his rigge the towche was alwey founde.          60

  Cecely Sourechere, his owen precyous spouse,
  Kowde him reheete whan he came to house.
  Yif he ought spake whanne he felt peyne,
  Ageyne oon worde alweys he hade tweyne.
  Sheo qwytt him euer, ther was no thing to seeche,
  Six for oon, of worde and strookes eeche.
  Ther was no meen bytweene hem for to goone.
  What euer he wan : clowting olde shoone
  The wykday, pleynely this is no tale,
  Sheo wolde on Sondayes drynk it at the nale.            70
  His part was noon, he sayde not oonys nay.
  Hit is no game, but an hernest play
  For lack of wit a man his wyf to greeve.
  Theos housbondemen : who so wolde hem leeve,
  Koude yif they dourst telle : in Audyence,
  What folowethe ther of wyves to doone offence.
  Is noon so olde ne ryveld on hir face,
  Wit tong or staff but that she dare manase.
  Mabyle, God hir sauve and blesse,
  Koude yif hir list bere here of witnesse,               80
  Wordes, strookes vnhappe, and harde grace,
  With sharp nayles kracching in the face.
  I mene thus, whane the distaff is brooke
  With theyre fistes wyves wol be wrooke.

  Blessed thoo men that cane in suche offence
  Meekly souffre, take al in pacyence
  Tendure suche wyfly purgatorye.
  Heven for theyre meede, to regne ther in glorye.
  God graunt al housbandes that beon in this place
  To wynne so heven for his hooly grace.                  90

  Nexst in ordre, this bochier stoute and bolde
  That killed hathe bulles and boores olde,
  This Berthilmew, for al his broode knyff,
  Yit durst he neuer with his sturdy wyff
  In no mater holde chaumpartye.
  And if he did, sheo wolde anoon defye
  His pompe, his pryde, with a sterne thought,
  And sodeynly setten him at nought.
  Thoughe his bely were rounded lyche an ooke
  She wolde not fail to gyf the first strooke.           100
  For proude Pernelle lyche a Chaumpyon
  Wolde leve hir puddinges in a gret Cawdroun,
  Suffre hem boylle and taake of hem noon heede,
  But with hir skumour reeche him on the heued.
  Shee wolde paye him and make no delaye,
  Bid him goo pleye him a twenty deuel way.
  She was no cowarde founde at suche a neode,
  Hir fist ful offt made his cheekis bleed.
  What querell euer that he agenst hir sette,
  She cast hir not to dyen in his dette.                 110
  She made no taylle, but qwytt him by and by.
  His quarter sowde, she payde him feythfully.
  And his waages, wt al hir best entent,
  She made ther of noon assignement.

  Eeke Thome Tynker, with alle hees pannes olde
  And alle the wyres of Banebury that he solde,
  His styth, his hamour, his bagge portatyf,
  Bare vp his arme whane he faught with his wyff:
  He foonde for haste no better bokeller,
  Vpon his cheeke the distaff came so neer.              120
  Hir name was cleped Tybot Tapister.
  To brawle and broyle she nad no maner fer,
  To thakke his pilche stoundemel nowe and thanne
  Thikker thane Thome koude clowten any panne.

  Nexst Colle Tyler, ful hevy of his cheer,
  Compleynethe on Phelyce his wyff the wafurer
  Al his bred with sugre nys not baake,
  Yit on his cheekis some tyme he hathe a caake
  So hoot and nuwe, or he can taken heede,
  That his heres glowe verray reede                      130
  For a medecyne whane the forst is colde,
  Makyng his teethe to ratle that beon oolde.

  This is the compleynt that theos dotardes oolde
  Make on theyre wyves that beon so stoute and bolde,
  Theos holy martirs preued ful pacyent,
  Lowly beseching, in al hir best entent,
  Vnto youre noble ryal magestee,
  To graunte hem fraunchyse and also liberte
  Sith they beothe fetird and bounden in maryage,
  A saufconduct to sauf him frome damage.                140
  Eeke vnder support of youre hyeghe renoun
  Graunt hem also a proteccyoun.

  Conquest of wyves is rone thoroughe this lande,
  Cleyming of Right to haue the hyegher hande.
  But if you list, of youre Regallye,
  The olde testament for to modefye,
  And that yee list asselen theyre request
  That theos poure husbandes might lyf in rest,
  And that theyre wyves in theyre felle might
  Wol medle amonge mercy with theyre right.              150
  For it came neuer of nature ne raysoun
  A lyonesse toppresse the lyoun,
  Ner a wolfesse for al hir thyraunye
  Ouer the wolf to haven the maystrye.
  Ther beon nowe wolfesses moo thane twoo or three
  The bookys recorde, wheeche tht yonder bee.
  Seothe to this mater of mercy and of grace,
  And or thees dotardes parte out of this place,
  Vpon theyre compleynt to shape remedye,
  Or they beo likly to stande in iupardye.               160
  It is no game with wyves for to pleye,
  But for foolis, that gif no force to deye.

  Takethe heed of thaunswer of the wyves.

  Touching the substance of this hyeghe discorde,
  We six wyves : beon ful of oon acorde,
  Yif worde and chyding may vs not avaylle
  We wol darrein it in chaumpcloos by bataylle,
  Iupart oure right laate or ellys raathe.
  And for oure partye, the worthy Wyff of Bathe
  Cane shewe statutes moo than six of seven
  Howe wyves make hir housbandes wynne heven,            170
  Maugre the feonde and al his vyolence.
  For theyre vertu of parfyte pacyence
  Partenethe not to wyves nowe adayes,
  Sauf on theyre housbandes for to make assayes.
  Ther pacyence was buryed long agoo,
  Gresyldes story recordethe pleinly soo.

  It longethe to vs to clappen as a mylle,
  No counseyle keepe, but the trouth oute telle.
  We beo not borne by hevenly influence
  Of oure nature to keepe vs in sylence.                 180
  For this is no doute, euery prudent wyff
  Hathe redy aunswere in al suche maner stryff,
  Thoughe theos dotardes, with theyre dokked berdes
  Which strowtethe out as they were made of herdes,
  Haue ageyn hus a gret quarell nowe sette.
  I trowe the bakoun was neuer of hem fette
  Awaye at Dounmowe in the Pryorye.
  They weene of vs to haue ay the maystrye.
  Ellas theos fooles let hem aunswere here to,
  Whoo cane hem wasshe, who can hem wring alsoo,         190
  Wryng hem, yee wryng, so als god vs speed,
  Til that some tyme we make hir nases bleed,
  And sowe hir cloothes whane they beothe to rent,
  And clowte hir bakkes til some of vs beo shent.
  Loo yit theos fooles, god gyf hem sory chaunce,
  Wolde sette hir wyves vnder gouuernaunce,
  Make vs to hem for to lowte lowe:
  We knowe to weel the bent of Iackys bowe.
  Al that we clayme, we clayme it but of right.
  Yif they say nay let preve it out by ffight.           200
  We wil vs grounde not vpon womanhede.
  Fy on hem, cowardes.  When hit komethe to nede,
  We clayme maystrye by prescripcyoun,
  Be long tytle of successyoun
  Frome wyff to wyff, which we wol not leese.
  Men may weel gruchche, but they shal not cheese.
  Custume is vs for nature and vsaunce
  To set oure housbandes lyf in gret noysaunce.
  Humbelly byseching nowe at oon worde
  Vn to oure liege, and moost souerein lord,             210
  Vs to defende of his regallye,
  And of his grace susteenen oure partye,
  Requering the statuyt of olde antiquytee
  That in youre tyme it may confermed bee.

The complaynte of the lewed housbandes wt the cruwell aunswers of theyre wyves herde, the kyng yivethe ther vpon sentence and iugement.

  This noble Prynce, moost royal of estate,
  Having an eyeghe to this mortal debate,
  First aduerting of ful hyeghe prudence,
  Wil vnavysed gyve here no sentence
  With oute counseylle of haste to procede
  By sodeyne doome, for he takythe heede                 220
  To eyther partye as iuge indifferent,
  Seing the paryll of hasty iugement.
  Pourposithe him in this contynude stryffe
  To gif no sentence ther of diffynytyff
  Til ther beo made examynacyoun
  Of other partye, and inquysicyoun.
  He considerethe, and makethe Raysoun his guyde,
  As egal iuge enclyning to noo syde.
  Not with standing, he hathe compassyoun
  Of the poure housbandes trybulacyoun,                  230
  So afft arrested with theyre wyves rokkes
  Which of theyre distaves haue so many knokkes,
  Peysing also in his regallye
  The lawe tht wymmen allegge for theyre partye,
  Custume, Nature and eeke prescripcyoun,
  Statuyt vsed by confirmacyoun,
  Processe and daate of tyme oute of mynde,
  Recorde of Cronycles, witnesse of hir kuynde.
  Wher fore the Kyng wol al this nexst yeere
  That wyves fraunchyse : stonde hoole and entier,       240
  And that no man withstonde it ne withdrawe,
  Til man may fynde some pcesse oute by lawe
  That they shoulde by nature in theyre lyves
  Haue souerayntee on theyre prudent wyves,
  A thing vnkouthe, which was neuer founde.
  Let men be ware ther fore, or they beo bounde.
  The bonde is hard, who soo that lookethe weel.
  Some man were leuer fetterd beon in steel.
  Raunsoun might help his peyne to aswaage,
  But whoo is wedded lyuethe euer in suage.              250
  And I knowe neuer, nowher fer ner neer,
  Man that was gladde to bynde him prysonier,
  Thoughe that his prysoun, his castell, or his holde
  Wer depeynted with asure or with golde.



  5  vigyle of this nuwe yeere = this new year's eve
  6  froward of ther chere:  lacuna made up from Stow
  7  fallen on ther kne:  lacuna made up from Stow
  13  importable = unbearable
  16  dotage = feeble-mindedness
  20  woodnesse = madness
  24  Rebecke = fiddle;  ellas = alas!
  25  stage direction - demonstrando vj Rusticos
  27  traas = course
  28  possible lacuna follows here?
  37  bolling at the nale = quaffing at the ale-house
  39  iowsy nolle = juicy noddle
  40  pouped = gulped
  42  dolled = mulled
  44  cely = silly, i.e. simple, innocent
  45  harome = harm
  46  growell = gruel
  48  cokkrowortes = stale brew-mash
  53  to chawf with his bloode = to chafe his blood with
  54  metyerde = meteyard or yardstick
  55  stage direction - demonstrando pictaciarium
  57  preost = priest
  60  rigge = back
  62  reheete = attack, scold
  65  qwytt = requited;  ther was no thing to seeche = it was plain to see
  67  meen = middle way
  68  wan = earned;  clowting = mending
  71  oonys = once
  74  leeve = believe
  77  ryveld = shrivelled
  78  Wit = with;  manase = menace
  79  Mabyle = Mary
  80  Koude yif hir list = could if it please her
  84  wol be wrooke = will wreak revenge
  85  thoo men = those men
  87  Tendure = to endure
  88  meede = reward
  90  so = to?
  91  stage direction - demonstrando Carnificem
  95  holde chaumpartye = divide power, or resist
  104  skumour = skimmer;  reeche = strike;  heued = head
  111  qwytt him by and by = repaid him in due time
  112  quarter sowde = surrender sued for
  113  wt = with
  115  stage direction - demonstrando the Tynker
  117  styth = anvil
  119  bokeller = buckler, shield
  121  cleped = called
  122  she nad no maner fer = she feared not
  123  thakke his pilche = thwack his great-coat;  stoundemel = sometimes
  124  Thikker = more stoutly
  126  wafurer = waferer, i.e. pastry-cook
  129  or = ere
  130  heres = ears
  135  preued = proved
  139  fetird = fettered
  140  him = them
  145  Regallye = regality
  147  that yee list = if you please;  asselen = authorize
  150  medle = mingle
  153  thyraunye = tyranny
  156  tht = that;  stage direction - distaves
  157  Seothe = see
  162  that gif no force = that are of no consequence
  166  darrein = decide;  chaumpcloos = tilting-field
  167  Iupart = imperil;  raathe = soon
  169  of = or
  171  Maugre the feonde = in spite of the devil
  174  assayes = attempts, i.e. attacks
  177  longethe = belongs;  clappen = clatter or prattle
  183  dokked = trimmed
  184  herdes = coarse flax, 'hards'
  186  fette = fetched
  192  hir = our?
  193  rent = torn
  194  shent = injured
  197  lowte lowe = bow, make reverence
  205  leese = lose
  206  gruchche = grumble;  cheese = choose
  218  vnavysed = unadvised
  220  doome = judgment
  222  paryll = peril
  223  Pourposithe him = He purposeth
  231  rokkes = distaffs, also as rocking, set-backs
  233  Peysing = weighing
  234  tht = that
  239  the Kyng wol = the king wills
  242  pcesse = process
  248  were leuer fetterd beon = were rather to be fettered
  250  suage = s(er)vage, servitude