Daily (?) Captain Cox–“The Hundred Merry Tales”

Pedigree:  “A C. (Hundred) Mery Talys” was printed in 1526 by Johannes (John) Rastell.    There is a surviving, whole copy of this edition, edited by Dr. Herman Oesterly .     Other printings are known but surviving copies are imperfect or fragmentary.      The author is unknown / anonymous.    This is the book Shakespeare referred to in “Much Ado About Nothing”, when Beatrice says, “…that I had my good wit out of the Hundred Merry Tales…well, this was Signior Benedick that said so.”


Synopsis:   Number 66 is a particular favorite of mine.     I adapted it for performance but transcribe it here verbatim:

“A young man lately married to a wife though it was good policy to get the mastery of her in the beginning, and came to her when the pot was seething over the fire.    Although the meat therein were not enough, he suddenly commanded her to take the pot from the fire–which answered and said that the meat was not ready to eat.  And he said again:  ‘I will have it taken off for my pleasure.’

“This good woman, loath yet to offend him, set the pot beside the fire as he bad.   And, anon after, he commanded her to set the pot behind the door.   And she said thereto again:  ‘Ye be not wise therein.’

“But he precisely said it should be so as he bad, and she genteely again did his commandment.    This man yet not satisfied, commanded her to set the pot ahigh upon the hen roost.   ‘What!’ quod the wife again. ‘I trow ye be mad.’

“And he fiercely then commanded her to set it there or else, he said, she should repent.    She somewhat afraid to move his patience, took a ladder and set it to the roost, and went herself up the ladder, and took the pot in her hand–praying her husband then to hold the ladder fast for sliding, which he so did.

“And when the husband looked up and saw the pot stand there on high, he said thus: ‘Lo, now standeth the pot there as I would have it.’       This wife, hearing that, suddenly poured the hot pottage on his head and said thus:  ‘And now been the pottage there as I would have them.’

“By this tale men may see it is no wisdom for a man to attempt a meek woman’s patience too far, lest it turn to his own hurt and damage.”


Availability:     Online,    “The Hundred Merry Tales” appears in Volume 1 of William Carew Hazlitt’s 1864 collection “Shakespeare’s Jest Books”, at Internet Archive:


There is a hard copy as part of a 1963 collection, “A Hundred Merry Tales and other jestbooks of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries”, edited by P.M. Zall,  ASIN  #    B000N334ES




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