Ben Jonson, The Sad Shepherd

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These are fairly lengthy extracts from Ben Jonson’s late, unfinished play, The Sad Shepherd. It was apparently left incomplete at his death in 1637, though it was clearly intended for performance, perhaps as an entertainment for the Duke of Newcastle, who had estates close to Sherwood Forest. Jonson envisaged a painted landscape backcloth for any production, masque-style. Though this text goes unmentioned in books about witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart drama, it features, as you will see, an extensive role for Maudlin, ‘the Witch of Papplewick’ (which is still a village on the road between Nottingham and Mansfield, and was then within Sherwood Forest). Though this is a gently comic pastoral entertainment, in which she functions as a figure of deception and romantic villainy, Jonson characteristically puts into the part, and into discussions by other characters of the witch, more typical and quite sinister witch-lore. Ann Barton wonders whether the witch might have been reconciled to the other characters, and have been at the final banquet.

The extracts can be introduced by Jonson’s own ‘ARGVMENT of the first Act’:

Robin Hood , having invited all the Shepherds and Shepherdesses of the Vale of Belvoir, to a Feast in the Forest of Sherwood, and trusting to his Mistris, Maid Marian, with her Wood-men, to kill him Venison against the day: Having left the like charge with Friar Tuck his Chaplaine, and Steward, to command the rest of his merry men, to see the Bowre made ready, and all things in order for the entertainment; meting with his Guests at their entrance into the Wood, welcomes and conducts them to his Bowre. Where, by the way he receives the relation of the sad Shepherd Eglamour, who is fallen into a deepe Melancholy, for the losse of his beloved Earine*; reported to have beene drowned in passing over the Trent, some few dayes before. They endeavour in what they can to comfort him: but, his disease having taken so strong root, all is in vaine, and they are forced to leave him. In the meane time Marian is come from hunting with the Hunts-men, where the Lovers interchangeably expresse their loves. Robin Hood enquires if she hunted the Deere at force, and what sport he made, how long he stood, and what head he bore: All which is briefly answer'd with a relation of breaking him up, and the Raven, and her Bone. The suspect had of that Raven to be Maudlin, the Witch of Papplewick, whom one of the Huntsmen met i' the morning, at the rowsing of the Deere, and is confirm'd by her being then in Robin Hood s Kitchin, i' the Chimney-corner, broyling the same bit, which was throwne to the Raven, at the Quarry or Fall of the Deere. Marian being gone in, to shew the Deere to some of the Shepherdesses, returnes instantly to the Scene discontented, sends away the Venison she had kill'd, to her they call the Witch, quarrels with her Love Robin Hood , abuseth him, and his Guests the Shep'erds; and so departs, leaving them all in wonder and perplexitie.

*The lost Earine is the captive of the Witch, and is being wooed by the Witch’s son in Act 2.

In this first extract, Maid Marian gives her story of the raven (the witch, shape-shifted) at the butchering of the deer, the witch then appears in the shape of Maid Marian, and has the whole carcass of the stag sent to her cottage. The scene is Sherwood Forest.


On my Marian.

I did but take the Assay. [ceremonial opening of the deer to test its meat quality]


You stop one’s mouth,

And yet you bid 'hem speake---when the Arbor’s made.


Pulled downe, and paunch turn'd out.


He that undoes him;

Doth cleave the brisket-bone, upon the spoone

Of which, a little gristle growes, you call it---


The Ravens-bone. [Birds of carrion apparently used to follow the hunt, and were intelligent enough to be accustomed to being given this particular portion when the stag was ‘broken’, and make an outcry if they weren’t given it]


Now, o’re head sate a Raven!

On a sere bough! a growne great Bird! and Hoarse!

Who, all the while the Deere was breaking up,

So croak'd and cry'd for't, as all the huntsmen,

(Especially old Scathlock) thought it ominous!

Swore it was Mother Maudlin; whom he met,

At the Day-dawne; just as he rous'd the Deere,

Out of his Laire: but we made shift to run him

Off his foure leggs, and sunke him e're we left.

Is the Deere come?


He lies within o’ the dresser!


Will you go see him Mellifleur?

Mellifleur (a shepherdess).

I attend you.


Come Amie, you'll go with us?

Amie (a shepherdess).

I am not well.

Lionel (a shepherd).

She's sick o' the yong Shepherd that bekissed her.


Friend, cheer your friends up, we will eate him merrily.

Alken (an old and wise shepherd).

Saw you the Raven, Friend?

Scathlock (one of Robin’s Men).

Ay, qu'ha suld let me? [who could stop me]

I suld be afraid o’ you sir suld I?

Clarion (a Shepherd, to Scathlock).


A Dram more of Civilitie would not hurt you!


Nay, you must give them all their rudenesses;

They are not else themselves, without their language.


And what do you thinke of her?


As of a Witch.

They call her a Wise-woman, but I thinke her

An arrant Witch.


And wherefore think you so?


Because, I saw her since, broiling the bone

Was cast her at the Quarrie.


Where saw you her?


I' the Chimley nook, within: she's there, now.

Enter the Witch in the shape of Marian



Your Hunt holds in his tale, still; and tells more!

Marian (as Marian).

My Hunt? what tale?


How! cloudie, Marian!

What looke is this?

Maudlin (as Marian).

A fit one, Sir, for you.

To Scathlock.

Hand off rude Ranger! Sirrah, get you in

And beare the Venison hence. It is too good

For these course rustick mouthes that cannot open,

Or spend a thanke for't. A starv'd Muttons carkasse

Would better fit their palates. See it carried

To Mother Maudlin’s, whom you call the Witch, Sir.

Tell her I sent it to make merrie with,

She'll turne us thanks at least! why stand'st thou, Groome?


I wonder he can move! that he's not fix'd!

If that his feeling be the same with mine!

I dare not trust the faith of mine owne senses.

I feare mine eyes, and eares: this is not Marian!

Nor am I Robin Hood ! I pray you aske her!

Aske her good Shepherds! aske her all for me;

Or rather aske your selves, if she be she;

Or I, be I.

Maudlin (as Marian).

Yes, and you are the spie:

And the spi'd Spie, that watch upon my walkes,

To informe what Deere I kill, or give away!

Where! when! to whom! but spie your worst, good Spie!

I will dispose of this where least you like!

Fall to your chese-cakes, curdes, and clawted [clotted] creame,

Your fooles, your flaunes [flans]; and of ale a streame

To wash it from your livers: straine ewes milke

Into your Cider sillabubs, and be drunke

To him, whose Fleece hath brought the earliest Lambe

This yeare; and weares the Baudrick at your bord!

Where you may all goe whistle; and record

This i' your dance: and foot it lustily.

She leaves them.


I pray you friends, doe you heare? and see, as I doe?

Did the same accents strike your eares? and objects?

Your eyes, as mine?


We taste the same reproches!


Have seen the changes!


Are we not all chang'd,

Transformed from our selves?


I do not know!

The best is silence!


And to await the issue.


The dead, or lazie wait for't: I will find it.

Act 2 (Extracts)

(Jonson’s) Argument of the second Act.

The Witch Maudlin, having taken the shape of Marian to abuse Robin Hood , and perplexe his guests, commeth forth with her daughter Douce, reporting in what confusion she hath left them; defrauded them, of their Venison; made them suspitious each of the other; but most of all Robin Hood so jealous of his Marian, as she hopes no effect of love would ever reconcile them; glorying so farre in the extent of her mischiefe, as she confesseth to have surpriz'd Earine, strip'd her of her garments, to make her daughter appeare fine, at this feast, in them; and to have shut the maiden up in a tree, as her sonnes prize, if he could winne her; or his prey, if he would force her. Her Sonne a rude bragging swine'ard, comes to the tree to woo her (his Mother, and Sister stepping aside, to over-heare him) and first boasts his wealth to her, and his possessions; which move not. Then he presents her guifts, such as himselfe is taken with, but she utterly showes a scorne, and loathing both of him, and them. His mother is angry, rates him, instructs him what to doe the next time, and persuades her daughter, to show her selfe about the bower: tells, how she shall know her mother, when she is transformed, by her broidered belt. Meane while the yong shepherdes Amy being kist by Karolin, Earines brother, before, falls in Love; but knowes not what Love is: but describes her disease so innocently, that Marian pitties her. When Robin Hood , and the rest of his Guests invited, enter to Marian, upbraiding her with sending away their Venison to Mother Maudlin by Scathlock, which she denies; Scathlock affirmes it, but seeing his Mistres wep, & to forsweare it, begins to doubt his owne understanding, rather then affront her farder; which makes Robin Hood , and the rest, to examine themselves better. But Maudlin entering like her selfe, the Witch comes to thanke her for her bountie: at which, Marian is more angrie, and more denies the deed. Scathlock enters, tells he has brought it againe, & delivered it to the Cooke. The Witch is inwardly vext, the Venison is so recover'd from her, by the rude Huntsman; and murmurs, and curses, bewitches the Cooke, mocks poore Amie, and the rest, discovereth her ill nature, and is a meane of reconciling them all. For the sage Shepherd, suspecteth her mischeife, if she be not prevented: and so perswadeth to seize on her. Whereupon Robin Hood dispatcheth out his woodmen to hunt, and take her. which ends the Act.

(The wooing of the captive by the witch’s son is modelled partly on an episode in Spenser’s Faerie Queene, and partly on the cyclops Polyphemus wooing Galataea in Theocritus and Ovid.)

Scene I.

The Forest as before – the Witch’s Dimble [a shady dell] cottage, oak, well, etc.

Enter Maudlin in her proper shape, and her daughter Douce in the clothes of the shepherdess Earine


Have I not left 'em in a brave confusion?

Amaz'd their expectation? got their Venison?

Troubled their mirth, and meting? made them doubtful,

And jealous of each other? all distracted?

And, i' the close, uncertaine of themselves?

This can your Mother do my daintie Douce!

Take any shape upon her! and delude

The senses, best acquainted with their Owners!

The jolly Robin, who hath bid this feast,

And made this solemne invitation;

I ha' possessed so, with syke [such] dislikes

Of his owne Marian, that all-bee [albeit] he know her,

As doth the vaulting hart, his venting hind,

He n’ere fra' hence [never from this point on], sall neis her i' the wind,

To his first liking.

Douce, her daughter.

Did you so distaste him?


As farre as her proud scorning him, could 'bate

Or blunt the edge of any Lover’s temper.


But were ye like her, mother?


So like Douce,

As had she seen me her sel', her sel' had doubted

Whether had been the liker off the twâ!

This can your Mother do, I tell you Daughter!

I ha' but dight [clothed] ye, yet; i' the out-dresse;

And 'parraile of Earine! but this raiment,

These very weeds, fall make ye, as but coming

In view or ken of Aeglamour, your forme

Shall show too slipperie to be look'd upon!

And all the Forest sweare you to be she!

They shall rin after ye, and wage the odds,

Upo' their owne deceived sights, ye' are her!

Whilst she (poore Lasse) is stock'd up in a tree:

Your brother Lorel’s [‘lorel’ means a worthless person] prize! For so my largesse,

Hath lotted her, to be your brother’s Mistresse;

Gif she can be reclaim'd: gif not, his Prey!

And here he comes, new claithed, like a Prince

Of Swineherds! sike he seemes! dight i'the spoiles

Of those he feedes! A mightie Lord of Swine!

He is command now, to woo. Let’s step aside,

And hear his love-craft!

Enter Lorel gaily dressed, he releases Earine from the oak

See, he opes the dore!

And takes her by the hand, and helpes her forth!

This is true court-ship, and becomes his ray.


Ye kind to others, but ye coy to me

Deft Mistres! whiter then the chese, new pressed!

Smoother then cream! and softer then the curds!

Why start ye from me, ere ye heare me tell

My wooing errand; and what rents I have?

Large herds, and pastures! Swine, and Kie [kine, cattle], mine owne!

And though my na'se be camus'd [pug-nosed], my lips thick,

And my chin bristled! Pan, great Pan, was such!

Who was the chief of Herdsmen, and our Sire!

I am na' Fay! na' Incubus! na' Changlin!

But a good man, that lives o' my awne geere.

This house! these grounds! this stock is all mine awne!

Earine (a shepherdess).

How better 'twere to me, this were not knowne!


She likes it not: but it is boasted well!


An hundred Udders for the payle I have,

That gi' me Milke and Curds, that make me Chese

To cloy the Mercatts! [weasels?] twentie swarme of Bees,

Whilke (all the Summer) hum about the hive,

And bring me Waxe, and Honey in by live.

An aged Oake the King of all the field,

With a broad Beech there growes afore my dur,

That mickell Mast [acorns] unto the ferme doth yeild.

A Chestnut, whilk hath larded [fatted] money [many] a Swine,

Whose skins I weare, to fend me fra the Cold.

A Poplar greene, and with a kerved Seat,

Under whose shade I solace in the heat;

And thence can see gang out, and in, my neat [animals].

Twa trill and brookes, each (from his spring) doth meet,

And make a river, to refresh my feet:

In which, each morning ere the Sun doth rise,

I look my selfe, and cleare my pleasant eyes,

Before I pipe; For, therein I have skill

'Bove other Swineherds. Bid me, and I will

Straight play to you, and make you melodie.


By no meanes. Ah! to me all minstrelsie

Is irksome, as are you.


Why scorne you me?

He drawes out other presents.

Because I am a Herdsman, and feed Swine!

I am a Lord of other geere! this fine

Smooth Bawson’s [badger’s] Cub, the young Grice of a Gray;

Twa tynie Urshins [hedgehogs], and this Ferret gay.


Out on 'hem! what are these?


I give 'hem ye;

As presents Mrs [mistress].


O the fiend on thee!

Gar take [cause to take] them hence: they fewmand [make smelly] all the claithes [clothes]

And prick my Coates: hence with 'hem, limmer [scoundrelly] lowne [loon],

Thy vermin, and thy selfe, thy selfe art one;

I lock me up. All's well when thou art gone.

(She shuts herself back in the oak)


Did you heare this? she wish'd me at the feind,

With all my presents!


A tu [and to] luckie end

She wishend [wished] the, fowle Limmer [scoundrel]! drittie [dirty] Lowne [loon]!

Gud faith, it duills [grieves] me that I am thy Mother!

And see, thy Sister scornes thee, for her Brother!

Thou woo thy Love? thy Mistresse? with twa Hedgehogs?

A stink and brock? a polecat? out thou houlet [owlet]!

Thou shoul'dst ha' given her, a Madge-Owle! and then

Tho' hadst made a present o' thy selfe, Owle-spiegle [owlglass=fool]!


Why, Mother, I have heard ye bid to give;

And often, as the Cause calls.


I know well,

It is a wittie part, sum-times, to give.

But what? to whame? no monsters! nor to maidens!

He suld present them with mare pleasand things,

Things naturall, and what all women covet

To see: the common Parent of us all! [ie, the penis]

Which Maids will twire [peep] at, 'twen their fingers, thus!

With which his Sire gat him! He's gett another!

And so beget posteritie upon her!

This he should do! (false Gelden) [eunuch] gang thy gait [go your ways]

And du thy turnes, betimes: or, I'is gar take

Thy new breikes [trousers] fra' the, and thy duiblet tu.

The Talleur [tailor], and the Sowter fall undu'

All they ha' made; except thou manlier woo!

Lorel goes out.


Gud Mother, gif yow chide him, he'll du wairs.


Hang him: I geif him to the Devills eirs [arse].

But, ye my Douce, I charge ye, shew your sell [self],

To all the Shepherds, baudly [boldly]: gaing amang 'hem.

Be mickell i' their eye, frequent, and fugeand [‘lively’? A coinage].

And, gif they aske ye of Earine,

Or of these claithes; say, that I ga' hem ye,

And say no more. I ha' that wark in hand,

That web upo' the Luime [loom], fall gar 'hem thinke [must make them think]

By then, they feelin their owne frights, and feares,

I'is pu' [I shall pull] the world, or Nature, 'bout their eares.

But, heare ye Douce, because, ye may met me

In mony shapes today; where ere you spie

This [em]broidered belt, with Characters, tis I.

A Gypsan [gypsy] Ladie, and a right Beldame,

Wrought it by Moone-shine for me, and Star-light,

Upo' your Granams [Grandmother’s] grave, that verie night

We earth'd [buried] her, in the shades; when our Dame Hecat,

Made it her gaing-night [night for riding], over the Kirk-yard,

Withall the barke and parish tykes [dogs] set at her,

While I sate whyrland [spinning], of my brasen spindle:

At every twisted thrid my rock [distaff] let flie

Unto the sew'ster [sempstress], who did sit me nigh,

Under the towne-turne-pike; which ran each spell

She stitched in the worke, and knit it well.

See, ye take tent [pay attention] to this, and ken [know] your Mother.

- The enchanted belt or girdle is a motif in many folk tales (and appears again in Spenser). It will be useful for the audience too, helping them distinguish the witch when she appears as Marian.

In the following scene, Robin mets the real Maid Marian again after the Witch (in her shape) offended him.


O', are you here, my Mistress?


I my Love!

She seeing him, runs to embrace him. He puts her back.

Where should I be, but in my Robins armes?

The Sphere which I delight in, so to move?


What the rude Ranger? and spied Spie? hand off:

You are for no such rusticks.


What meanes this,

Thrice worthy Clarion? or wise Alken? know ye?


'Las no, not they! a poore sterv'd Mutton’s carkasse

Would better fit their palats, then your Venison.


What riddle is this! unfold your selfe, deare Robin.


You ha' not sent your Venison hence by Scathlock,

To Mother Maudlin?


I to Mother Maudlin?

Will Scathlock say so?


Nay, we will all sweare so.

For all did heare it, when you gave the charge so.

Both Clarion, Alken, Lionel, my selfe.


Good honest Shepherds, Masters of your flocks,

Simple, and vertuous men, no others’ hirelings;

Be not you made to speake against your Conscience,

That which may soile the truth. I send the Venison

Away? by Scathlock? and to mother Maudlin?

I came to shew it here, to Mellifleur,

I doe confesse; but Amies falling ill,

Did put us of it: Since we imployed our selves

Scathlock enters.

In comforting of her. O', here he is!

Did I, Sir, bid you beare away the Venison,

To mother Maudlin?


I gud faith, Madam,

Did you, and I ha' done it.


What ha' you done?


Obey'd your hests, Madam; done your Commaunds.


Done my Commaunds, dull groome? Fetch it againe

Or kennel with the hounds. Are these the Arts

Robin, you read your rude ones o' the wood,

To countenance your quarrells, and mistakings?

Or are the sports to entertaine your friends

Those formed jealousies? Aske of Mellifleur,

If I were ever from her, here, or Amie,

Since I came in with them; or saw this Scathlock,

Since I related to you his tale, o' the Raven?

Scathlock goes out.


I, say you so?


She never left my side

Since I came in, here, nor I hers.


This 's strange!

Our best of Senses were deceiv'd, our eyes, then!


And eares too.


What you have concluded on,

Make good I pray you.


O' my heart, my heart!


My heart it is, is wounded prettie Amie;

Report not you your greifes: I'll tell for all.


Some body is to blame, there is a fault.


Try if you can take rest. A little slumber

Will much refresh you, Amie.


What's her grief?


She does not know: and therein she is happie.

Enter John, Maudlin, and Scathlock after.

Little John

Here's Mother Maudlin come to give you thanks,

Madam, for some late guift, she hath receiv'd---

Which she's not worthie of, she saies, but crakes [boasts],

And wonders of it; hoppes about the house;

Transported with the joy.

She daunceth.


Send me a Stagge!

A whole Stagge, Madam! and so fat a Deere!

So fairelie hunted, and at such a time too!

When all your freinds were here!


Do you mark this, Clarion?

Her owne acknowledgement?


'Twas such a bountie

And honour done to your poore Bedes-woman,

I know not how to owe it, but to thanke you.

And that I come to du: I shall goe round,

And giddie with the toy of the good turne.

She turnes round, till she falls.

Looke out, looke out, gay folke about,

And see me spin; the ring I' am in

Of mirth, & glee, with thanks for fee

The heart putts on, for th'Venison

My Lady sent, which shall be spent

In draughts of Wine, to fume up fine

Into the braine, and downe againe

Fall in a Swoune, and upo' the growne.


Look to her, she is mad.


My Son hath sent you

A pot of Strawberries, gather'd i' the wood

(His Hoggs would els have rooted up, or trod)

With a choice dish of wildings [crab apples] here, to scald

And mingle with your Creame.


Thank you good Maudlin,

And thanke your Sonne. Go, beare 'hem in to Much

Th'Acater [caterer, chef], let him thanke her. Surelie, Mother

You were mistaken, or my Woodmen more,

Or most my selfe, to send you all our store

Of Venison, hunted for our selves, this day!

You will not take it, Mother I dare say,

If we'ld intreat you; when you know our guests:

Red Deere is head still of the forest feasts.


But I knaw ye, a right free-hearted Ladie,

Can spare it out of superfluitie:

I have departit it 'mong my poore Neighbours

To speake your Largesse.


I not gave it, Mother;

You have done wrong then: I know how to place

My gifts, and where; and when to find my seasons

To give, not throw away my Curtesies.


Count you this thrown away?


What's ravish'd from me

I count it worse; as stolen: I lose my thanks.

But leave this quest: they fit not you, nor me,

Maudlin, contentions of this qualitie [nature].

How now?


Your Stag's return'd upon my shoulders,

Scathlock enters.

He has found his way into the Kitchin againe:

With his two Leggs, If now your Cooke can dresse him;

Slid, I thought the Swine'ard would ha' beat me,

He lookes so big! the sturdie Karle, lewd Lorel!


There Scathlock, for thy paines, thou hast deserv'd it.

Marian gives him Gold.


Do you give a thing, and take a thing, Madam?


No, Maudlin, you had imparted to your Neighbours;

As much good do't them: I ha' done no wrong.

[With the venison returned, the Witch now curses it]


The Spit stand still, no Broches [also means roasting spits] turne

Before the fire, but let it burne

The first Charme.

Both sides, and haunches, 'till the whole

Converted be into one Cole.


What Devil’s Paternoster [curse, evil prayer] mumbles she?


Stay, you will heare more of her witcherie


The Swill and Dropsie enter in

The Lazie Cuke [cook], and swell his skin;

And the old Mort-malon [gangrene] his shin

Now prick, and itch, withouten blin. [cease]


Speake out Hagge, we may heare your Devil’s Mattens.


The Pæne [pain], we call S. Antons fire

The Gout, or what we can desire,

To crampe a Cuke, in every limb,

Before they dine, yet; seize on him.


A foule ill Spirit hath possessed her.


O Karol, Karol, call him back againe.


Her thoughts do worke upon her, in her slumber.

And may expresse some part of her disease.


Observe, and Marke, but trouble not her ease.


Oh, Oh!


How is't Amie?


Wherefore start you?


Oh Karol, he is faire, and sweet.


What then?

Are there not flowers as sweet, as faire, as men?

The Lillie is faire! and Rose is sweet!


I', so!

Let all the Roses, and the Lillies goe:

Karol is only faire to me!


And why?


Alas for Karol, Marian, I could die.

Karol! He singeth sweetly too!


What then?

Are there not Birds sing sweeter farre, then Men?


I grant the Linet, Larke, and Bul-finch sing,

But best, the deare, good Angell of the Spring,

The Nightingale.


Then why? then why, alone,

Should his notes please you?


I not long agone

Tooke a delight, with wanton kidds to play,

And sport with little Lambes a Summers Day!

And view their friskes! me thought it was a sight

Of joy, to see my two brave Rammes to fight!

Now Karol, onely, all delight doth move!

All that is Karol, Karol I approve!

This verie morning, but---I did bestow

(It was a little' gainst my will, I know)

A single kisse, upon the seelie Swaine,

And now I wish that verie kisse againe.

His lip is softer, sweter then the Rose

His mouth, and tongue with dropping honey flowes.

The relish of it was a pleasing thing.


Yet like the Bees it had a little sting.


And sunke, and sticks yet in my Marrow deepe

And what doth hurt me, I now wish to keepe.


Alas, how innocent her Storie is!


I doe remember, Marian, I have oft

With pleasure kist my Lambes, and Puppies, soft,

And once a daintie fine Roe-fawne I had,

Of whose out-skipping bounds, I was as glad

As of my health: and him I oft would kisse:

Yet had his, no such sting, or paine, as this.

They never prick't or hurt my heart. And, for

They were so blunt, and dull, I wish no more.

But this, that hurtes, and prickes doth please; This swet,

Mingled with sower, I wish againe to met:

And that delay, me thinks, most tedious is

That keepes, or hinders me of Karol’s kisse.


We'll send for him sweet Amie, to come to you.


But, I will keepe him off if Charmes will doe it.

She goes murmuring out.


Doe you Mark the murmuring hagge, how she doth mutter?


I like her not. And lesse her manners now.


She is a shrewd deformed piece, I vow.


As crooked as her bodie.


I believe

She can take any Shape; as Scathlock saies.


She may deceive the Sense, but really

She cannot change her selfe.

[This is a very orthodox view of what the devil’s power is limited to: apparent, but fallacious ‘miracles’]


Would I could see her,

Once more in Marian’s forme! for I am certaine

Now, it was she abus'd us; as I think

My Marian, and my Love, now, innocent:

Which faith I seale unto her, with this kisse,

And call you all to witnesse of my penance.


It was believ'd before, but now confirm'd,

That we have seen the Monster.

Friar Tuck, Little John, Much and Will Scarlet enter.

[They will report the efficacity of the witch’s curse]:


Heare you how

Poore Tom, the Cooke, is taken! All his joynts

Do crack, as if his Limbes were tied with points:

His whole frame slackens; and a kind of rack

Runs downe along the Spondylls [vertebrae] of his back;

A Gowt, or Crampe, now seizeth on his head,

Then falls into his feet; his knees are lead;

And he can stirre his either hand, no more

Then a dead stumpe, to his office, as before.


He is bewitched.


This is an Argument

Both of her malice, and her power, we see.


She must by some device restrained bee,

Or she'll goe far in mischiefe.


Advise how,

Sage Shepherd, we shall put it straight in practice.


Send forth your woodmen, then, into the walkes,

Or let 'em prick her footing hence; A Witch

Is sure a Creature of Melancholy,

And will be found, or sitting in her fourme [lair],

Or else, at releife [feeding], like a Hare.


You speake

Alken, as if you knew the sport of Witch-hunting,

Or starting of a Hag.

Enter George to the Huntsmen; who by themselves continue the Scene. The rest going off.


Go sirs about it,

Take George here with you, he can helpe to find her;

Leave Tuck, and Much behind to dresse the Dinner,

I' the Cook’s stead.


We'll care to get that done.


Come Marian, lets withdraw into the bowre.

(exit Robin, Marian).

In this next part of the scene, Robin Hood’s men discuss the witch hunt they anticipate, which converges with hare-hunting via terms like ‘fourme’ (as in ‘fourmeth’), the nest or resting place of a hare (the transformations from witch to hare should be familiar). Alken, the wise old shepherd, acts as adviser to the witch-hunt. His set-piece descrition of the witch’s dwelling is recalls similar passages in Marston (out of Lucan).

Little John.

Rare sport I sweare! this hunting of the Witch

Will make us.


Let's advise upon't, like huntsmen.


And we can spie her once, she is our owne.


First, think which way she fourmeth, on what wind:

Or North, or South.


For, as the Shepherd said,

A Witch is a kind of Hare.


And Marks the weather,

As the hare does.

Little John.

Where shall we hope to find her?

Alken returnes.


I have ask'd leave to assist you, jollie huntsmen,

If an old Shep'herd may be heard among you;

Not jeer'd or laugh'd at.

Little John

Father, you will see

Robin Hood ’s house-hold, know more Curtesie.


Who scornes at eld, peeles off his owne young haires.


Ye say right well. Know ye the Witches Dell?


No more then I do know the walkes of Hell.


Within a gloomie dimble, she doth dwell

Downe in a pit, ore-growne with brakes and briars.

Close by the ruines of a shaken Abbey

Torne, with an Earth-quake, down unto the ground,

'Mongst graves, and grotts, neare an old Charnell house,

Where you shall find her sitting in her fourme,

As fearfull, and melancholique, as that

She is about; with Caterpillers kells [cocoons]

And knottie Cobwebs, rounded in with spells;

Thence she steales forth to releif [feed], in the foggs,

And rotten Mistes, upon the fens, and boggs,

Downe to the drowned Lands of Lincolneshire;

To make Ewes cast their Lambs! Swine eate their Farrow!

The House-wife’s Tun not worke! Nor the Milk churne!

Writhe Childrens’ wrists! and suck their breath in sleepe!

Get Vials of their blood! And where the Sea

Casts up his slimie Ooze, search for a weed

To open locks with, and to rivet Charmes,

Planted about her, in the wicked feat,

Of all her mischiefes, which are manifold.

[A typical list of minor acts of malefice: ewes abort their lambs, brewing of beer fails (the reference to the housewife’s tun), the failure of the churn to produce butter. Bewitched children whose hands are turned backwards on their arms appear in witch pamphlets of the period. Lunary or moon wort was the herb used magically to open locks: Jonson seems to associate it with the seaside.]

Little John

I wonder such a storie could be told,

Of her dire deeds.


I thought a Witches bankes

Had inclos'd nothing, but the merrie prankes

Of some old woman.


Yes, her malice more!


As it would quickly appeare, had we the Store

Of his Collects. [If we had his store of knowledge, lore]


I, this gud learned Man

Can speake her right.


He knowes, her shifts, and haunts!


And all her wiles, and turnes. The venom'd Plants

Where with she kills! where the sad Mandrake growes,

Whose grones are deathfull! the dead-numbing Night-shade!

The stupifying Hemlock! Adder’s tongue!

And Martagan! [a form of lily] the shreikes of lucklesse Owles,

We heare! and croaking Night-Crowes in the aire!

Greene-bellied Snakes! blew fire-drakes in the skie!

And giddie Flitter-mice, with leather wings!

The scalie Beetles, with their habergeons [coats of armour, properly, of mail],

That make a humming Murmur as they flie!

There, in the stocks of trees, white Fayes doe dwell,

And span-long Elves, that dance about a poole!

With each a little Changeling, in their armes!

The airie spirits play with falling starres!

And mount the Sphere of fire, to kisse the Moone!

While, she sits reading by the Glowwormes light,

Or rotten wood (o're which the worme hath crept)

The banefull schedule of her nocent [harmful] charmes,

And binding Characters, through which she wounds

Her Puppets [effigies used in image-magic], the Sigilla [little images] of her witch-craft.

All this I know, and I will find her for you;

And shew you'her sitting in her fourme; I'le lay

My hand upon her; make her throw her skutt [the hare’s tail]

Along her back, when she doth start before us.

But you must give her Law [in hare coursing, giving the hare a start over the greyhounds]: and you shall see her

Make twentie leapes, and doubles; crosse the pathes,

And then squatt downe beside us.

Little John

Craftie Croane!

I long to be at the sport, and to report it.


We'll make this hunting of the Witch, as famous,

As any other blast of Venerie.


Hang her foule hagge, she'll be a stinking Chase!

I had rather ha' the hunting of heir heyre.


If we could come to see her, cry, so haw, once!


That I doe promise, or I'am no good Hag-finder.


The Argument of the third Act.

Puck-hairy discovers himselfe in the Forest, and discourseth his offices with their necessities, breifly; After which, Douce, entring in the habit of Earine, is pursued by Karol; who mistaking her at first to be his Sister, questions her, how she came by those garments. She answers, by her mothers gift. The sad Shepherd comming in the while, she runs away affrighted, and leaves Karol, sodainely; Aeglamour thinking it to be Earines ghost he saw, falls into a melancholique expression of his phantsie to Karol, & questions him sadly about that point, which moves compassion in Karol of his mistake still. When Clarion, and Lionel enter to call Karol to Amie; Karol reports to them Aeglamours passion, with much regreet. Clarion resolves to seeke him. Karol to returne with Lionel. By the way Douce, and her Mother (in the shape of Marian) met them, and would divert them, affirming Amie to be recovered, which Lionel wondred at to be so soone. Robin Hood enters, they tell him the relation of the Witch, thinking her to be Marian; Robin suspecting her to be Maudlin, lay's hold of her Girdle sodainely, but she striving to get free, they both run out, and he returnes with the belt broken. She following in her owne shape, deMaudlinnding it, but at a distance, as fearing to be seiz'd upon againe; and seeing she cannot recover it, falls into a rage, and cursing, resolving to trust to her old artes, which she calls her daughter to assist in. [The rest of the synopsis describes the latter unwritten part of the act]:The Shepherds content with this discovery, goe home triumphing, make the relation to Marian. Amie is gladded with the sight of Karol, &c. In the meane time enters Lorel, with purpose to ravish Earine, and calling her forth to that lewd end, he by the hearing of Clarions footing, is staid, and forced to commit her hastily to the tree againe, where Clarion comming by, and hearing a voyce singing, drawes neere unto it, but Aeglamour hearing it also, and knowing it to be Earine's, falls into a superstitious commendation of it, as being an Angells, and in the aire, when Clarion espies a hand put forth from the tree, and makes towards it, leaving Aeglamour to his wild phantsie, who quitteth the place, and Clarion beginning to court the hand, and make love to it, there ariseth a mist sodainely, which, darkning all the place, Clarion loseth himselfe, and the tree where Earine is inclosed, lamenting his misfortune, with the unknowne nimph’s miserie. The Aire clearing, enters the Witch, with her Son and Daughter, tells them how she had caused that late darkenesse, to free Lorell from surprisall, and his prey from being reskued from him: bids him looke to her, and lock her up more carefully, and follow her, to assist a work, she hath in hand, of recovering her lost Girdle; which she laments the losse of, with cursings, execrations, wishing confusion to their feast, and meting: sends her Sonne, and Daughter to gather certaine Simples, for her purpose, and bring them to her Dell. This Puck hearing prevents, & shewes her error still. The Hunts-men having found her footing, follow the tract, and prick after her. She getts to her Dell, and takes her Forme. Enter the Huntsmen: Alken has spied her sitting with her Spindle, Threds, and Images. They are eager to seize her presently, but Alken perswades them to let her begin her charmes, which they doe. Her Sonne and Daughter come to her, the Hunts-men are afrighted as they see her worke goe forward. And over-hastie to apprehend her, she escapeth them all, by the helpe and delusions of Puck.

Scene I.


The Fiend hath much to doe, that keepes a Schoole;

Or is the Father of a familie;

Or governes but a country Academie:

His labours must be great, as are his cares,

To watch all turnes, and cast how to prevent 'hem.

This Dame of mine here, Maudlin, growes high in evill,

And thinkes she does all, when 'tis I, her Divell,

That both delude her, and must yet protect her:

She's confident in mischeife, and presumes

The changing of her shape will still secure her.

But that may faile, and diverse hazards mete

Of other consequence, which I must looke to.

Not let her be surpriz'd on the first catch.

I must goe daunce about the Forest, now,

And firke it like a Goblin, till I find her.

Then will my service come worth acceptation;

When not expected of her, when the helpe

Metes the necessity, and both doe kisse

'Tis call'd the timing of a dutie, this.

Enter Karol and Douce.


Sure, you are very like her! [ie, Earine] I conceiv'd

You had been she, seeing you run afore me:

For such a suite she made her 'gainst this Feast;

In all resemblance, or the verie same;

I saw her in it; had she liv'd t'enjoy it

She had been there an acceptable Guest

To Marian, and the gentle Robin Hood ,

Who are the Crowne, and Ghirland of the Wood.


I cannot tell: my Mother gave it me,

And bad me weare it.


Who, the wise good Woman?

Old Maudlin of Pappelwicke? [notice Karolin speaking politely about the witch]


Yes. (Sees Aeglamour) This sullen Man.

I cannot like him. I must take my leave.

Aeglamour enters, and Douce goes out.


What said she to you?





I saw her talking with you, or her Ghost;

For she indeed is drown'd in old Trents bottom.

Did she not tell who would ha' pull'd her in?

And had her Maidenhead upon the place?

The river’s brim, the Mariangin of the Flood?

No ground is holie enough (you know my meaning)

Lust is committed in Kings’ Palaces,

And yet their Majesties not violated!

No words!


How sad, and wild his thoughts are! gone?

Aeglamour goes out, but comes in againe.

[This is conventional mad behaviour, as in Hamlet]


But she, as chaste, as was her name, Earine,

Died undeflowr'd: and now her sweet soule hovers,

Here, in the Aire, above us; and doth haste

To get up to the Moone, and Mercury;

And whisper Venus in her Orbe; then spring

Up to old Saturne, and come downe by Mars,

Consulting Jupiter; and seate her selfe

Just in the midst with Phoebus; tempring all

The jarring Spheres, and giving to the World

Againe, his first and tuneful planetting!

O' what an age will here be of new concords!

Delightfull harmonie! to rock old Sages,

Twice infants, in the Cradle o' Speculation,

He goes out againe, but returnes as soone as before.

And throw a silence upon all the creatures!


A Cogitation of the highest rapture!


The loudest Seas, and most enraged Windes

Shall lose their clangour; Tempest shall grow hoarse;

Loud Thunder dumbe; and every speece of storme

Laid in the lap of list’ning Nature, husht;

To heare the changed chime of this eighth sphere!

Take tent, and harken for it, lose it not.

Aeglamour departs.

(Clarion, Lionel and Karol on stage together.)


O', here is Karol! was not that the sad

Shep'erd, slip'd from him?


Yes, I guesse it was:

Who was that left you, Karol?


The last man!

Whom, we shall never see himselfe againe;

Or ours, I feare! He starts away from hand, so,

And all the touches, or soft stroke of reason!

Ye can applie. No Colt is so unbroken!

Or hawke yet halfe so haggard, or unmann'd!

He takes all toyes that his wild phantsy proffers,

And flies away with them. He now conceives

That my lost Sister, his Earine,

Is lately turn'd a Sphere amid the seven:

And reades a Musique-Lecture to the Planets;

And with this thought, he's run to cal 'hem, Hearers!


Alas, this is a strayn'd, but innocent phant'sie!

I'le follow him, and find him, if I can:

Meane time, goe you with Lionel, sweet Karol,

He will acquaint you with an accident

Which much desires your presence, on the place!

(leaves Karol and Lionel alone).


What is it, Lionel, wherein I may serve you?

Why doe you so survey, and circumscribe me?

As if you stuck one Eye into my brest,

And with the other took my whole dimensions?


I wish you had a windo' i' your bosome

Or i’your back: I might look thorough you,

And see your in-parts, Karol, liver, heart;

For there the seat of Love is. Whence the Boy

(The winged Archer) hath shot home a shaft

Into my sister’s brest, the innocent Amie,

Who now cries out, upon her bed, on Karol,

Sweet singing Karol! the delicious Karol!

That kist her like a Cupid! In your eyes,

She says, his stand is! and betwen your lips

He runs forth his divisions, to her eares,

But will not bide there, 'lesse your selfe do bring him.

Goe with me Karol, and bestow a visit

In charitie, upon the afflicted Maid,

Who pineth with the languor of your love.

Enter to them Maudlin (in the shape of Marian) and Douce.

[In the following dialogue, the witch tries to represent herself as a cunning woman who effects cures, here, on the love-sick Amie]:

Marian [ie, Maudlin].

Whither intend you? Amy is recover'd,

Feeles no such griefe as she complain'd of, lately:

This Maiden hath been with her from her Mother

Maudlin, the cunning Woman, who hath sent her

Herbes for her head, and Simples of that nature,

Have wrought upon her a miraculous Cure;

Setled her braine, to all our wish, and wonder!


So instantly? you know, I now but left her,

Possess'd with such a fit, almost to'a phrensie;

Your selfe too fear'd her, Marian; and did urge

My haste, to seeke out Karol, and to bring him.


I did so. But the skill of that wise woman

And her great charitie of doeing good

Hath by the readie hand of this deft lasse

Her daughter, wrought effects, beyond belief,

And to astonishment; we can but thanke

And praise, and be amazed, while we tell it.

They go out.


'Tis strange, that any art should so helpe nature

In her extremes.


Then, it appeares most real

When th'other is deficient.


Wherefore stay you

Discoursing here, and haste not with your succours

To poore afflicted Amie, that so needes them?


She is recover'd well, your Marian told us

But now here: See, she is return'd t'affirme it!

Enter Maudlin like Marian. Maudlin, espying Robin Hood, would run out, but he stayes [grabs hold of] her by the Girdle, and runs in with her. Her returnes with the Girdle broken, and she in her owne shape.


My Marian?


Robin Hood ? Is he here?



What was't you ha' told my friend?


Helpe, murder, helpe.

You will not rob me Out-law? Thief, restore

My belt that ye have broken!


Yes, come neere,


Not i' your gripe.


Was this the charmed circle? [ie, the belt]

The Copy that so couzen'd, and deceiv'd us?

I'le carry hence the trophie of your spoiles.

My men shall hunt you too upon the start,

And course you soundly.


I shall make 'hem sport

And send some home, without their leggs, or armes.

I'le teach 'hem to climbe Stiles, leape Ditches, Ponds,

And lie i'the Waters, if they follow me.


Out, murmuring Hagge! (Exit Robin and his men)


I must use all my powers,

Lay all my wits to piecing of this losse.

Things run unluckily, Where's my Puck-hairy?

Hath he forsooke me? [Puck features as her familiar and protector]


At your beck, Madame.


O Puck, my Goblin! I have lost my belt,

The strong theife, Robin Outlaw, forc'd it from me.


They are other Cloudes and blacker threat you, Dame;

You must be wary, and pull in your sailes,

And yield unto the wether of the tempest.

You thinke your power's infinite as your malice;

And would do all your anger prompts you to:

But you must wait occasions, and obey them:

Saile in an egg-shell, [It was a superstition that egg shells should be broken to stop witches sailing in them]

make a straw your mast,

A Cobweb all your Cloth, and passe, unseen,

Till you have scap'd the rockes that are about you.


What rock's about me?


I do love, Madam,

To shew you all your dangers, when you are past 'hem.

Come, follow me, I'll once more be your pilot,

And you shall thanke me.


Lucky, my lov'd Goblin!

(To Lorel, who enters)

Where are you gaang [going] now?


Unto my tree,

To see my Maistres.


Gang thy gait, and try

Thy turnes, with better luck, or hang thy sel'.

Here the play ends unfinished: Ann Barton* suggests that as, among the cast is one ‘Reuben, the Reconciler’, Jonson would have had the witch and her children at the final delayed banquet of venison. She sees in the text ‘a strong suggestion’ that this would have been the ending. If so, it would have been reMariankable. Note also Barton’s suggestion that ‘There is no sense of cosmic evil surrounding Maudlin’. Do you agree? Note that she also suggests that Alken, the sage old shepherd, is the last of Jonson’s many self-portraits (and he leads the witch hunt). *In her Ben Jonson, Dramatist.