PEDIGREE–The version of this tale believed most likely to have been known to Captain Cox would be a printing which originated in Antwerp, by John Dosborowghe / Jan van Doesborch, “The Story of Lord Fred Ricke of Jennen”, or a printing by Pinson (Frederyke of Jennen), date unknown.
SYNOPSIS: This story has appeared both earlier (Bocaccio’s Decameron day two, ninth tale, where the lady’s name is Zinevra) and later (the plot / subplot of Posthumus and Imogen in Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline”) than the version discussed here. In all three, a man separated from his lady / wife boasts of, and wagers on, the virtues and fidelity of said lady. The man with whom he wagers sets out to win the bet by any means necessary, travels to
seduce meet the lady and fails, then fraudulently obtains evidence of his “success” and “wins” the wager in that manner. The husband is so distraught in all three tales that he orders the death of his lady, but the lady wins the pity of the “faithful servant” who was dispatched to execute her. Servant reports the lady killed, lady escapes, and enters service, disguised as a man. After numerous adventures, the lady is granted / contrives an opportunity to vindicate herself, to a happy conclusion.
“Frederick of Jennen” is, I believe, unique among versions of this tale for its inclusion (and repetition) of a particular “proverb” or colloquialism, “That which even the Devil cannot will not do, that an old woman can / will.” The deceitful bettor purchases the aid of such an old woman as he contrives to win his wager.
AVAILABILITY: Alas, I have been unable to locate an online copy of Dusborowghe’s English printing of “Frederyke of Jennen” at this time. One scholar (whose source I mislaid) led me to The Arden Shakespeare’s 1955 edition of “Cymbeline”, whose editor, J.M. Nosworthy, included a reprint of “Frederyke of Jennen” in it.. Readers interested in the other versions of the tale are referred to online versions of “The Decameron” and “Cymbeline”.
This is a link to an Amazon listing for a 1969 printing of Nosworthy’s edition. I believe this is the version I found at NYPL’s Performing Arts Library. If you’re thinking of purchasing, I would look first at a library copy if possible to confirm that it has “Frederick of Jennen” in the back.
Online “Decameron” : http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Italian_Studies/dweb/texts/
Online “Cymbeline” http://www.shakespeare-literature.com/Cymbeline/index.html