David Bruce: GEORGE-A-GREENE, THE PINNER OF WAKEFIELD: A Retelling — Acts 4-5, Notes

CHAPTER 4

— 4.1 —

King Edward of England, King James of Scotland, Lord Warwick, Cuddy, and a train of attendants met in the court of King Edward in London. Kings called each other brothers even when they were not related either by birth or by marriage.

King Edward said to the captive King James:

“Brother of Scotland, I do take it hard, seeing that a league of truce was recently confirmed between you and me, that you should make such an invasion in my land without any displeasure offered to you first.

“The vows of kings should be as sacred oracles, not blemished with the stain of any breach, especially where fealty and homage will it.”

Oracles foretell the future. A peace treaty should be like an oracle foretelling a period of peace between countries.

A person who swears fealty swears not to harm the person to whom he swears fealty. In the ceremony of homage, a person acknowledges that he holds his position at the pleasure of his overlord.

English kings continually wanted to be the overlords of Scottish kings.

King James replied, “Brother of England, don’t rub the sore afresh: Don’t remind me of what I have wrongly done. My conscience grieves me for my deep misdeed. I have had the worst; of the thirty thousand men in my army, there escaped not fully five thousand from the battlefield.”

According to King James, he had lost twenty-five thousand soldiers in the battlefield. William Musgrove had led an English army against his.

King Edward said to Cuddy Musgrove, “Gramercy, Musgrove. Thank you, for otherwise the battle had gone hard against us. Cuddy, I’ll reward thee well before we two part.”

King James said, “But if his old father, William Musgrove, had not played twice the man — if he had not fought as well as two men — I would not now have been here in your court as a royal prisoner. A stronger man I have seldom felt before; but a man of more resolute valiance — valor — does not tread, I think, upon the English ground.”

“I know this well,” King Edward said. “Old Musgrove shall not lose his hire. He will be rewarded for what he has done.”

Luke 10:7 states that “the labourer is worthy of his hire” (King James Version).

Cuddy said, “And if it pleases your grace, my father was five-score and three at the last midsummer.”

In other words, in the middle of the most recent summer, William Musgrove had turned 103 years old!

Cuddy continued, “Yet if King Jamy had been as good as George-a-Greene, my father, Billy Musgrove, still would have fought with him.”

King Edward recognized George’s name:

“As George-a-Greene!

“Please, Cuddy, let me question thee. Much have I heard, since I came into my crown, many people say as if they reciting a proverb, ‘Even if he were as good as George-a-Greene, I would strike him surely.’

“Please, tell me, Cuddy, if thou can inform me, who is that George-a-Greene?”

“Know, my lord, that I never saw the man,” Cuddy said, “but mickle — much — is said about him in the country. They say that he is the Pinner of the town of Wakefield. But as for his other qualities, I will not speak of them.”

Lord Warwick spoke up: “May it please your grace, I know the man too well.”

“Too well!” King Edward said. “Why is that, Warwick?”

“Because he once beat me until my bones ached,” Lord Warwick said.

“Why, does he dare strike an earl?” King Edward said.

“An earl, my lord!” Lord Warwick said. “Nay, he will strike a king, as long as the king is not King Edward. As for his stature and build, he is framed like the image of brave Hercules, and as for his carriage and bearing, he surpasses Robin Hood. The boldest earl or baron of your land who offers harm to the town of Wakefield by allowing his horse to eat its fill in a wheat-hold, George will arrest his pledge — his horse — and take it to the pound. And whosoever resists him carries away the effects of George’s blows because George is as good a fighter by himself as are three men.”

George would impound the horse and not release it until the damage the horse had caused was paid for.

King Edward said:

“Why, this is wondrous.

“My Lord of Warwick, badly do I long to see this George-a-Greene.

“But leaving him, what shall we do, my lord, in order to subdue the rebels in the north? They are now marching up to Doncaster.”

A man arrived with the Earl of Kendal, who was a prisoner.

King Edward said, “Wait! Who do we have there?”

“Here is a traitor, the Earl of Kendal,” Cuddy said, recognizing him.

“Aspiring traitor!” King Edward said to the Earl of Kendal. “How dare thou once cast thine eyes upon thy sovereign who honored thee with kindness, and with favor? But I will make thee pay dearly for this treason.”

The Earl of Kendal began, “My good lord —”

King Edward interrupted, “Don’t reply, traitor.”

He then said, “Tell me, Cuddy, whose deed of honor won the victory against this rebel?”

“George-a-Greene, the Pinner of Wakefield,” Cuddy answered.

King Edward replied, “George-a-Greene! Now shall I hear news certainly about who this Pinner is. Tell me briefly, Cuddy, how it befell.”

Cuddy answered, “Kendal and Bonfield, with Sir Gilbert Armstrong, came in disguise to the town of Wakefield and there spoke ill about your grace. George, hearing their insults, felled them at his feet, and had rescue not come to the place, George would have slain them in his wheat-close.”

Cuddy was exaggerating a little.

“But, Cuddy,” King Edward said, “Can’t thou tell how and where I might give and grant something that might please and highly gratify the Pinner’s thoughts?”

He wished to reward George-a-Greene for his services to the crown.

Cuddy, who had earlier said that he had never met George-a-Greene, now said, “This at their parting George did say to me: ‘If the king wishes to grant me something for my service, then, gentle Cuddy, kneel upon thy knee, and humbly crave a boon from him for me.’”

“Cuddy, what is it?” King Edward said.

“It is his will that your grace would pardon them, and let them live, although they have offended,” Cuddy said.

King Edward said:

“I think the man strives to be glorious.

“Well, George has asked for it, and it shall be granted, which no one but he in England would have gotten.”

He then said, “Live, Kendal, but as a prisoner. Thou shall end thy days within the Tower of London.”

“Edward is gracious to offending subjects,” the Earl of Kendal said.

“My Lord of Kendal, you’re welcome to the court,” King James of Scotland said.

They would be fellow prisoners until King James was ransomed.

King Edward said:

“Nay, not well-come, but ill-come as it falls out now.”

His coming to the court was ill for the Earl of Kendal.

He continued:

“Aye, it would be ill-come indeed, were it not for George-a-Greene.”

If not for George-a-Greene, the Earl of Kendal would have arrived at the court seeking to depose King Edward. That coming would have been ill for King Edward whether or not Kendal’s rebellion was successful. No king wants a rebellion.

King Edward then took off his hat and said ironically to King James and to the Earl of Kendal:

“But, gentle king, because you would like to claim that you are king over me, and because you would like to claim that you are Edward’s betters, I salute you both.”

Edward’s “betters” were King James and the Earl of Kendal.

Earlier, the Earl of Kendal had said to George-a-Greene, “Why, there is a prophecy that says that King James and I shall meet at London, and King Edward will take off his hat to us both.”

King Edward then put on his hat and said unironically:

“And here I vow by good Saint George, patron saint of England, that you will gain but little when your sums are counted.”

They had lost more than they had gained by warring against King Edward.

He continued:

“I very much long to see this George-a-Greene, and because I have never seen the north of England, I will immediately go and see it, and so that no one will know who I am, we will disguise ourselves and steal down secretly, King James — thou and I, Cuddy, and two or three more — and we will make a merry journey for a month.

“Away, then, conduct the Earl of Kendal to the Tower of London.

“Come on, King James, my heart must necessarily be merry, if Fortune makes such havoc of our foes.”

— 4.2 —

In Robin Hood’s retreat, Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Will Scarlet, and Much the Miller’s son talked together. The word “Maid” in “Maid Marian” meant “maiden” — a young woman.

“Why isn’t lovely Marian blithe and cheerful? What ails my leman — my sweetheart — so that she begins to frown? Tell me, good Marian, why are thou so sad?”

“Nothing, my Robin, grieves me to the heart except that, whenever I walk abroad, I hear no songs at all except songs about George-a-Greene,” Maid Marian said. “Bettris, his fair sweetheart, surpasses me, and this, my Robin, galls and irritates my very soul.”

“Be content and happy,” Robin said. “What does it matter to us that George-a-Greene is valiant, as long as he does us no harm? Envy seldom does any hurt except to itself, and therefore, Marian, smile upon thy Robin.”

Maid Marian replied, “Never will Marian smile upon her Robin, nor lie with him under the greenwood shade, until thou go to Wakefield, and beat the Pinner on a green for the love of me.”

“Lie with him” means “have sex with him.”

A green is a public open area outside.

“Be content, Marian,” Robin said. “I will ease thy grief. My merry men and I will stray there, and I vow here that, for the love of thee, I will beat George-a-Greene, or he shall beat me.”

Will Scarlet said, “As I am Scarlet, second to Little John, one of the boldest yeomen of the crew, so will I go with Robin all along, and test this Pinner to see what he dares to do.”

Much said:

“As I am Much, the miller’s son, who left my mill to go with thee, and repent nothing that I have done, I say that this pleasant life contents me.

“In anything I may do, to do thee good,

“I’ll live and die with Robin Hood.”

Maid Marian said:

“And, Robin, Marian will go with thee,

“To see how bright fair Bettris is of blee.”

“Blee” means hue. Maid Marian wanted to see how bright was the face of beautiful Bettris. This society valued light skin more than it valued dark skin.

Robin Hood said, “Marian, thou shall go with thy Robin.”

He then said to Will Scarlet and Much the miller’s son, “Bend your bows, and see that your strings are tight, the arrows have sharp, keen points, and everything is ready, and each of you carry a good bat on his neck, a bat able to lay a good man on the ground.”

A bat is a staff.

“I will borrow Friar Tuck’s,” Will Scarlet said.

“I will borrow Little John’s,” Much the miller’s son said.

Robin Hood said, “I will have one made out of a plank of ash wood, able to bear a bout or two.”

Of course, he wanted a bat able to bear up during many more bouts than one or two.

He continued: “So then, come on, Marian, let us go, for before the sun shows the morning day, I will be at Wakefield to see this Pinner, George-a-Greene.”

They exited.

— 4.3 —

At Bradford, a shoemaker was at work in his shop. Jenkin, carrying a staff on his neck, entered the scene.

Jenkin said to you, the readers of this book, “My masters, he who has neither food nor money, and has lost his credit with the alewife, for anything I know, may go supperless to bed.”

Seeing the shoemaker, he said, “But, wait! Who is this man here? Here is a shoemaker; he knows where the best ale is.”

Jenkin then asked, “Shoemaker, please tell me where the best ale is in the town?”

“Ahead of you,” the shoemaker said, without looking up. “Just ahead of you. Follow thy nose, and you will come to the sign of the Eggshell.”

The inn was named the Eggshell Inn. Its sign depicted an eggshell.

“Come, shoemaker, if thou will, and take thy part of a pot of ale,” Jenkin said.

The shoemaker looked up at Jenkin and noticed that he was carrying a staff — which could be used as a weapon — on his neck. That is, he was carrying his staff in back of his head with his arms holding the staff near each shoulder.

Coming toward Jenkin, the shoemaker said, “Sirrah, down with your staff. Take down your staff.”

He wanted Jenkin to hold his staff in one hand and let the end trail on the ground as he passed through the town of Bradford.

“Why, what is this now! Is the fellow mad?” Jenkin said to himself.

He then asked the shoemaker, “Please tell me, why should I take down my staff?”

“You will take it down, won’t you, sir?” the shoemaker asked.

“Why should I?” Jenkin asked. “Tell me why.”

The shoemaker answered, “My friend, this is the town of merry Bradford, and there is a custom here that no one shall pass with his staff on his neck unless he has a bout of fighting with me; and so shall you, sir.”

“And so will I not, sir,” Jenkin said.

He did not want to fight. But the best way not to fight would be to take down his staff, and he did not want to do that because it would be a sign of submission.

“That I will test,” the shoemaker said. “Barking dogs bite not the sorest.”

Talkers are not the best fighters.

Jenkin said to himself, “I wish to God I would be once and for all well rid of him.”

He really did not want to fight.

“Now, what will you do?” the shoemaker asked. “Will you take down your staff?”

“Why, you are not in earnest, are you?” Jenkin asked.

“If I am not, take that,” the shoemaker said, hitting him.

“You whoreson cowardly scab,” Jenkin said. “It is just the part of a clapperdudgeon — a born beggar — to strike a man in the street. But do thou dare to walk to the town’s end with me?”

“Aye, that I dare to do,” the shoemaker said, “but wait until I put up my tools, and I will then go with thee to the town’s end immediately.”

As the shoemaker put his tools away, Jenkin said to himself, “I wish I knew how to be rid of this fellow.”

The shoemaker said, “Come, sir, will you go to the town’s end now, sir?”

“Aye, sir, come,” Jenkin said.

Having arrived at the town’s end, which was not far away, Jenkin said, “Now that we are at the town’s end, what do you say now?”

“By the Virgin Mary,” the shoemaker said, “come, let us even have a bout.”

“Umm, wait a little bit,” Jenkin said. “Hold back thy hands, please.”

“Why, what’s the matter?” the shoemaker said.

“Indeed, I am the Under-Pinner of a town, and there is an order, which if I do not keep it, I shall be turned out of my office and fired.”

“What order is that, sir?” the shoemaker asked.

“Whenever I go to fight with anybody, I am to flourish — wave — my staff thrice about my head before I strike, and then show no favor to my opponent.”

“Very well, sir,” the shoemaker said. “Until you have done that, I will not strike thee.”

Flourishing his staff around his head, Jenkin said, “Well, sir, here is once, twice.”

He then held out his hand for shaking and said, “Here is my hand. I will never flourish my staff the third time.”

“Why, then, I see we shall not fight,” the shoemaker said.

“Truly, no, we won’t,” Jenkin said. “Come, I will give thee two pots of the best ale, and we will be friends.”

Bemused, the shoemaker said to himself, “Truly, I see it is as hard to get water out of a flint as to get him to have a bout of fighting with me; therefore, I will be friends with him for some good ale.”

He said out loud, “My friend, I see thou are a faint-hearted fellow and thou have no stomach to fight; therefore, let us go to the alehouse and drink.”

“Well, I am content,” Jenkin said. “Go thy ways and say thy prayers. Thou have escaped my hands today.”

Jenkin was joking that the shoemaker was lucky not to have had to fight him.

They went together to the alehouse.

— 4.4 —

George-a-Greene and Bettris talked together at Wakefield.

“Tell me, sweet love, how content is thy mind?” George asked. “Can thou endure living with me: George-a-Greene?”

“Oh, George,” Bettris said. “How little pleasing are these words! Haven’t I come from Bradford for the love of thee, and left my father for so sweet a friend?”

Bradford and Wakefield were approximately twenty miles apart.

This sweet kind of friend is a loved one, one she wanted to marry.

She continued, “Here will I live until my life does end.”

“I am happy to have so sweet a love,” George said.

George wanted to marry her.

Seeing some people approaching, he said, “But who are these people who are heading here?”

Bettris said, “Three men come striding through the corn, my love.”

Robin Hood, Will Scarlet, and Much the miller’s son walked over to them across a field of grain. So did Maid Marion, whom Bettris had not seen at first.

“Go back again, you foolish travelers, for you are wrong, and you may not go this way,” George said.

By walking in the grainfield, they were trampling the plants.

“That would be a great shame,” Robin Hood said. “Now, by my soul, proud sir, we are three strong yeomen, and thou are just one man.”

He said to his followers, “Come, we will go forward in spite of him.”

“Leap the ditch, or I will make you skip,” George said.

“Leap the ditch” was an expression that meant, “Do what I tell you to do.” It may have also literally meant leap over the ditch between the grainfield and the road.

He reasonably pointed out, “Can’t the highway serve your need? Must you make a path over the corn?”

“Why, are thou mad?” Robin Hood said. “Do thou dare to fight three men? We are no babes, man. Look at our limbs.”

Robin Hood and his men had big arms and muscles.

“Sirrah, the biggest limbs don’t have the stoutest, bravest hearts,” George said.

Not always, anyway. George had big arms, and he had a brave heart.

George continued:

“Even if you were as good as Robin Hood and his three merry men, I’ll drive you back the same way that you came.

“If you are men, you will scorn to fight me all at once, three against one.

“But if you are cowards, then all three of you set upon me and test the Pinner to see what he dares to perform.”

Will Scarlet said, “If thou were as high in deeds as thou are haughty in words, thou well might be a champion for the king. But empty vessels have the loudest sounds, and cowards prattle more than men of worth.”

George said, “Sirrah, do thou dare to test me?”

“Aye, sirrah, that I dare to do,” Will Scarlet answered.

Will Scarlet fought George, and George beat him.

Much the miller’s son said to Will Scarlet, “What is this now! What! Are thou down?”

Much the miller’s son fought George, and George beat him.

Robin Hood said, “Come, sirrah, now fight me. Don’t spare me, for I won’t spare thee.”

“Have no doubt that I will be as liberal with my blows to thee,” George replied.

They fought for a while, and then Robin Hood paused and said, “Pause, George, for here I do avow, thou are the bravest champion whom I ever laid hands upon.”

“Stop, you sir!” George said. “By your leave, you lie. You have never yet laid hands on me.”

“George, will thou forsake Wakefield and go with me?” Robin Hood said. “Two liveries I will give thee every year, and forty crowns shall be thy fee.”

Liveries are suits of clothing that a servant or assistant wears. Robin Hood wanted George to become one of his followers, like Will Scarlet and Much the miller’s son.

“Why, who are thou?” George asked.

“Why, I am Robin Hood. I have come here with my Marian and with these my yeomen in order to visit thee.”

“Robin Hood!” George said. “Next to King Edward are thou dearest to me. Welcome, sweet Robin. Welcome, Maid Marian.”

He then said to Will Scarlet and Much the miller’s son, “And welcome, you friends of mine.”

He asked them all, “Will you go to my poor house? You shall have your fill of wafer-cakes, a piece of beef hung up since Martlemas, mutton, and veal. If you don’t like this, then take whatever you find in my pantry, or whatever you have brought with you, I say.”

“God-a-mercies, good George,” Robin Hood said. “Thank you. I’ll be thy guest today.”

“Robin, therein thou honor me,” George said. “I’ll lead the way to my house.”

 

CHAPTER 5

— 5.1 —

At Bradford, several shoemakers were at work.

King Edward and King James, each of them disguised and carrying a staff on his neck, entered the scene.

“Come on, King James,” King Edward said. “Now that we are thus disguised, I know there’s no one who will take us to be kings. I think we are now in Bradford, where all the merry shoemakers dwell.”

“Down with your staves, my friends,” the first shoemaker said. “Down with them.”

“Staves” is the plural of “staff.”

“Down with our staves!” the disguised King Edward said. “Please tell me why.”

“My friend, I see thou are a stranger here,” the first shoemaker said, “else thou would not have questioned the thing. This is the town of merry Bradford, and here a custom has been kept for a long, old time that no one may bear his staff on his neck, but instead they must trail it all along throughout the town, unless they mean to have a bout of fighting with me.”

“But listen, sir,” the disguised King Edward said. “Has the king granted you his permission to follow this custom?”

“King or kaiser, no one shall pass this way, except King Edward, with his staff on his neck — no, not even the bravest follower who haunts his court,” the first shoemaker said. “Therefore, down with your staves and trail them on the ground.”

A kaiser is an emperor.

“What would be best for us to do?” the disguised King Edward asked the disguised King James.

“Indeed, my lord, they are stout fellows, and, because we will see some sport, we will trail our staves,” the disguised King James said.

The sport they would see would be a fight between them and the first shoemaker. The disguised King James wished to avoid that sport.

The disguised King Edward said to the first shoemaker, “Do you hear, my friend? Because we are men of peace and because we are travelers, we are content to trail our staves.”

The disguised kings were agreeing to hold their staves in one hand and let the end trail on the ground as they traveled through Bradford.

They lowered the staves.

“The way lies before you,” the first shoemaker said. “Go along.”

Robin Hood and George-a-Greene, both of whom were disguised, entered the scene.

The disguised Robin Hood said, “Look, George, two men are passing through the town, two vigorous, healthy men, and yet they trail their staves.”

The disguised George said, “Robin, they are some peasants tricked out in yeoman’s clothing.”

Both George and Robin Hood looked down on men who would trail their staves as a sign of submission. Such men could not be of a higher social class than peasants. Yeomen would fight.

“Hey, you two travelers!” the disguised George called.

“Do you call us, sir?” the disguised King Edward asked.

“Aye, you,” the disguised George said. “Aren’t you big and strong enough to bear your bats on your necks, but instead you must trail them along the streets?”

“Yes, sir, we are big and strong enough,” the disguised King Edward said. “But there is a custom kept here that no one may pass with his staff on his neck, but he must instead trail it at the weapon’s point. Sir, we are men of peace, and we love to sleep in our whole skins, and therefore quietness is best.”

To sleep in whole skins meant to sleep in skins not broken because of a fight.

“Base-minded peasants, worthless to be men!” the disguised and disgusted George said. “What, have you bones and limbs to strike a blow, and yet your hearts are so faint you cannot fight? If not for shame, I would drub your shoulders well, and teach you manhood in preparation for another time.”

George would be ashamed if he were to fight such cowardly peasants. They were beneath him.

“Well preached, Sir Jack!” the first shoemaker said to the disguised George. “Down with your staff!”

“Do you hear, my friends?” the disguised King Edward said. “If you are wise, keep down your staves, for all the town will rise up against you.”

The disguised George said to the disguised King Edward, “Thou speak like an honest, quiet fellow.”

He then said to both disguised kings, “But listen to me, you two. In spite of all the swains — peasants — of the town of Bradford, bear your staves on your necks, or, to begin with, I’ll baste — beat — you both so well, you were never better basted in your lives.”

“We will hold up our staves,” the disguised King Edward said.

George-a-Greene fought with the shoemakers and beat them all down.

“Have you any more fighters?” the disguised George said. “Call all your town forth, cut and longtail.”

“Cut and longtail” usually referred to dogs: dogs with docked tails, and dogs with long tails. But George was using the expression to say that he would fight any men, no matter who they were, in the town.

“Cut and longtail” could also mean “vulva and penis.” In that case, George was saying that he would fight everyone, women and men, in the town.

The shoemakers recognized George-a-Greene because his disguise had fallen off during the fight.

The first shoemaker said, “What! George-a-Greene, is it you?

He joked, “A plague confound you! I think you longed to swinge — beat — me well.”

He then said, “Come, George, we will crush a pot before we part.”

George said, “A pot, you slave! We will have a hundred pots.”

He said to one of the shoemakers, “Here, Will Perkins, take my purse. Fetch a stand — an open barrel — of ale, and set it in the marketplace, so that all who are thirsty may drink this day. For this barrel of ale is a gift for all to welcome Robin Hood to the town of Bradford.”

Robin Hood took off his disguise. The open barrel of ale was brought out, and they all began to drink.

George-a-Green said, “Here, Robin, sit thou here. For thou are the best man at the table this day.”

He then said to the two disguised kings, “You who are strangers, place yourselves where you will.”

Finally, he said, “Robin, here’s a carouse — a large quaff — to good King Edward’s self. I wish we had had a little beating of those who do not love him.”

The Earl of Warwick and other noblemen entered the scene. They brought out King Edward’s rich garments so he could wear them.

Recognizing their king, George-a-Greene, Robin Hood,  and the others knelt down to him.

“Come, masters, we are all fellows,” King Edward said.

On this day, they were friends.

George-a-Greene, Robin Hood, and the others remained kneeling.

King Edward said to Robin Hood, “Nay, Robin, you are the best man at the table today.”

He then said to George-a-Greene, “Rise up, George.”

George answered, “Nay, my good liege, ill-nurtured we were, previously.”

He and Robin Hood had thought that the then-disguised King Edward was a cowardly peasant for trailing his staff behind him.

George continued, “Although we Yorkshire men are blunt of speech, and we are little skilled in court or such refined fashions, yet nature teaches us our duty to our king. Therefore, I humbly beseech you to pardon George-a-Greene.”

Robin Hood said, “And, my good lord, I beseech a pardon for poor Robin. And I beseech for us all a pardon, good King Edward.”

The first shoemaker said, “Please, give a pardon for the shoemakers.”

“I frankly and freely grant a pardon to you all,” King Edward said.

Those kneeling all rose.

King Edward then said, “And, George-a-Greene, give me thy hand. There’s none in England who shall do thee wrong. Even from my court I came to see thyself, and now I see that your reputation is nothing but truth.”

“I humbly thank your royal majesty,” George said. “That which I did against the Earl of Kendal was only a subject’s duty to his sovereign, and therefore it little merits such good words.”

King Edward replied, “But before I go, I’ll grace thee with good deeds. Say what King Edward may perform, and thou shall have it, it being in England’s bounds.”

“Say what King Edward may perform” meant “name your own reward.”

“Being in England’s bounds” meant “within reason.”

“I have a lovely sweetheart,” George said. “She is as bright of hue as is the silver moon, and old Grime, her father, will not let her marry me because I am a Pinner, although I love her, and she loves me, dearly.”

“Where is she?” King Edward asked.

“At home at my poor house,” George answered, “and she vows never to marry unless her father gives his consent, which is my great grief, my lord.”

“If this is all, I will dispatch it straightaway,” King Edward said. “I’ll send for Grime and force him to give his permission for his daughter to marry you: He will not deny King Edward such a request.”

Jenkin entered the scene and said, “Ho, who saw a master of mine? Who has seen my master?”

He had stopped being a magician and was again George’s man-servant.

Seeing George and the others, Jenkin said, “Oh, he has gotten into company, and a body should rake hell for such company.”

Jenkin was criticizing the people whom George was with.

“Be quiet, you slave!” George said. “See where King Edward is.”

King Edward asked, “George, who is he?”

George replied, “I beseech your grace to pardon him. He is my serving-man.”

The first shoemaker said to Jenkin, “Sirrah, the king has been drinking with us, and he did pledge us, too.”

The king had drunk a toast to them.

“Has he pledged you?” Jenkin said. “Kneel. I dub you gentlemen.”

“Beg it from the king, Jenkin,” the first shoemaker said.

“I will,” Jenkin replied.

He then said to King Edward, “I beseech your worship to grant me one thing.”

“What is that?” King Edward asked.

“Listen in your ear,” Jenkin said.

He whispered in King Edward’s ear.

King Edward said, “Go, and do it.”

Jenkin said to the shoemakers, “Come, get down on your knees. I have got it.”

“Let us hear what it is first,” the first shoemaker said.

“By the Virgin Mary, because you have drunk with the king, and the king has so graciously pledged you, you shall no more be called shoemakers; but instead you and yours, to the world’s end, shall be called the trade of the Gentle Craft.”

“I beseech your majesty reform this which he has spoken,” the first shoemaker said.

“I beseech your worship consume this which he has spoken,” Jenkin said.

Recognizing that both men had used the wrong verb — “reform” and “consume” — King Edward said, “You mean you want me to confirm it.”

He added, “Well, Jenkin has done it for you, and it is sufficient.”

King Edward had confirmed it: The shoemakers would henceforth be known as practitioners of the Gentle Craft.

The word “gentle” means “suited to people of good breeding, aka gentlemen.” It also means “refined.” Shoemaking was now a trade or craft suitable for gentlemen.

The king then said, “Come, George, we will go to Grime, and you will have thy love.”

Seeing people coming, Jenkin said, “I am sure your worship will pause for a while; for yonder are coming old Musgrove and mad Cuddy, his son.”

Seeing some other people coming, Jenkin then said to George, “Master, my fellow Wily comes dressed like a woman, and Master Grime intends to marry Wily. Here they come.”

Old Musgrove and Cuddy, his son, entered the scene. Following them were Grime and Wily, who was disguised as a woman. Following Grime and Wily were Maid Marian and Bettris.

King Edward asked, “Which is thy old father, Cuddy?”

Pointing to his father, Cuddy said, “This man is, if it pleases your majesty.”

Old Musgrove knelt before the king.

King Edward said, “Ah, old Musgrove, stand up. It is not fitting for such grey hairs to kneel.”

Old William Musgrove rose and said:

“Long live my sovereign! Long and happy be his days!

“Deign to receive, my gracious lord, a simple gift from Billy Musgrove’s — my — hand.”

He showed King Edward a sword and said, “King James at Middleham Castle gave me this sword; this hand won the honor, and this sword I give to thee.”

He gave the sword to King Edward.

“God-a-mercy, Musgrove,” King Edward said. “Thank you for this friendly gift. And, because thou defeated a king with this same weapon, this blade shall here knight valiant Musgrove.”

He tapped old Musgrove’s shoulder with the sword.

“Alas, what has your highness done?” Old Musgrove said. “I am poor.”

Being a knight was expensive. They were expected to have a horse, weapons, and a certain amount of income.

King Edward said, “To mend thy living, take thou Middleham Castle — take the stronghold from me — and if thou still lack sufficient income, make a formal statement of grievance to me, and thou shall have more to maintain thine estate.”

He then asked, “George, which woman is thy love?”

Pointing to Bettris, George said, “This woman is, if it pleases your majesty.”

King Edward asked Grime, “Are thou her aged father?”

“I am, if it pleases your majesty,” Grime replied.

“And thou will not give thy daughter to George?” King Edward asked.

“I will give my daughter to George, if he will let me marry this lovely lass,” Grime said, pointing to George’s serving-boy, Wily, who was disguised as a woman.

In this society, masters had much control over their servants.

“What do thou say, George?” King Edward asked.

“With all my heart, my lord, I give my consent,” George said.

“Then I give my daughter to George,” Grime said.

“Then the marriage shall soon be at an end,” Wiley said. “Witness, my lord, whether I am a woman.”

He threw off his disguise and said, “For I am Wily, serving-boy to George-a-Greene, for whom to benefit my master I wrought this cunning trick.”

King Edward said:

“What! Is it a boy?

“What do thou say to this, Grime?”

“By the Virgin Mary,” Grime said, “my lord, I think this boy has more knavery than all the rest of the world. Yet I am content that George shall have both my daughter and my lands.”

George would receive some land now as a dowry and he would inherit the rest of the lands when Grime died.

King Edward said, “Now, George, it remains for me to gratify thy worth and reward you as you deserve for what you have done for me by stopping Kendal’s rebellion. And therefore here I bequeath to thee, on your full possession, half of all the wealth that Kendal has, and I give all the property that the monarchy has in Bradford freely and without restriction to thee forever.”

He then said, “Kneel down, George.”

“What will your majesty do?” George asked.

“I will dub thee a knight, George,” King Edward said.

“I beseech your grace to grant me one thing,” George said.

“What is that?” King Edward asked.

“To let me live and die a yeoman always,” George said. “A yeoman my father was, and a yeoman his son must live. For it is more credit to men of base degree to do great deeds, than to men of dignity.”

Men of dignity may be expected to do great deeds. Lowly born men may not be expected to do great deeds, and so they get greater credit when they do them.

“Well, let it be so, George,” King Edward said, agreeing to the request.

King James of Scotland, who was still a prisoner, said, “I beseech your grace to settle my situation and set down my ransom.”

Captured kings could expect to be ransomed at a great price.

King Edward said, “George-a-Greene, decide what will be the King of Scots’ ransom.”

“I beseech your grace to pardon me from doing that,” George said. “It surpasses my skill.”

 “Do it,” King Edward said. “The honor’s thine.”

“Then let King James pay reparations to those towns that he has burned upon the borders between Scotland and England, and let him give a small pension to the fatherless whose fathers he caused to be murdered in those wars,” George said to King Edward.

He then said to King James, “Swear that you will do these things, and so return to Scotland.”

“King James, are you content with this?” King Edward asked.

“I am content,” King James said, “if it pleases your majesty, and I will leave good castles as security.”

George had not asked for anything for King Edward from King James. Realizing that and knowing that King Edward would want more for the ransom, King James had offered to do as George wanted and to give King Edward some castles.

King Edward said, “I crave no more.”

 Her then said, “Now, George-a-Greene, I’ll go to thy house; and when I have supped, I’ll go to Aske in North Yorkshire and see if Jane-a-Barley is as beautiful as good King James reports her to be.”

Finally, he said to the shoemakers, “And as for the ancient custom of Vail Staff, or Lower Your Staff, keep that custom always. Claim that privilege from me. If anyone asks for a reason why, or how, say that English Edward lowered his staff to you.”

NOTES

— 2.3 —

Kendal. Sirrah, those three horses belong to us,

154 And we put them in,

And they must tarry there and eat their fill.

Source of Above: 2.3.153-155

Anonymous, George-a-Greene, the Pinner of Wakefield. Edit. Peter Lukacs.

http://elizabethandrama.org/the-playwrights/anonymous-plays/george-a-greene-the-Pinner-of-wakefield/

This information about Grain Overload comes from Horse Side Vet Guide:

Consumption of large quantities of high starch grain can have drastic consequences to a horse’s intestinal health, causing digestive upset, abdominal pain (colic), and diarrhea. The most notable consequence of this occurrence is the development of laminitis (founder), which might only become evident days later.

Source: “Grain Overload, Horse Got into Feed Room.” Horse Side Vet Guide. Accessed 29 September 2021

https://horsesidevetguide.com/drv/Observation/23/grain-overload-horse-got-into-feed-room/

— 4.3 —

And here hath been a custom kept of old,

That none may bear his staff upon his neck,

16 But trail it all along throughout the town,

Unless they mean to have a bout with me.

Source of Above: 4.3.14-17

Anonymous, George-a-Greene, the Pinner of Wakefield. Edit. Peter Lukacs.

What does it mean to “bear his staff upon his neck”?

It could mean to carry the staff across the back of the neck with one’s hands holding the staff beside one’s shoulders. Or it could mean to carry the staff on one shoulder by the neck.

Quarterstaffs are six to nine feet long, and if one carries the quarterstaff that way, one is taking up a lot of space on both sides of one’s body. No wonder the shoemakers want the quarterstaffs lowered as the traveler goes through town!

More likely, in my opinion, the bat or staff is a walking-staff, which is shorter and could be carried that way. In that case, the shoemakers are either bullies or are simply letting travelers know that some people in town will fight them if necessary. The challenge can be a way of keeping the peace. Or fighting may simply be a form of entertainment.

George-a-Greene kills Sir Gilbert Armstrong with a walking-staff.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “bat” as “A stick, a club, a staff for support and defence.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce

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