Lady Isabella's Tragedy
DESCRIPTION: Isabella's envious step-mother bargains with the cook to kill Isabella. He does and bakes her into a mince pie. The scullion-boy, a witness, tells her father. Step-mother is burned at the stake. Cook is boiled in lead. Scullion-boy becomes heir.
EARLIEST DATE: before 1667 (broadside, Bodleian Douce Ballads 1(111a))
KEYWORDS: execution homicide cannibalism father stepmother cook
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Bord))
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Lyle-Andrew-CrawfurdsCollectionVolume1 7, "The Cruel Stepmother" (1 text)
GlanbuchatBallads, pp. 145-145, "The Cruel Stepmother" (1 text)
Percy/Wheatley-ReliquesOfAncientEnglishPoetry III, pp. 155-158, "The Lady Isabella's Tragedy" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: J Woodfall Ebsworth, The Roxburghe Ballads, (Hertford, 1888 ("Digitized by Microsoft")), Vol. VI Part 3 [Part 18], pp. 650-652, "The Lady Isabella's Tragedy" or "The Step-Mother's Cruelty" (1 text)
Thomas Percy, Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (London, 1887 ("Digitized by Google")), Vol. III, #14 pp. 155-158, "Lady Isabella's Tragedy" (1 text)
John Ashton, _A Century of Ballads_, Elliot Stock, London, 1887; reprinted 1968 by Singing Tree Press, pp. 302-305, "Lady Isabella's Tragedy" (1 text)
Bodleian, Douce Ballads 1(111a), "The Lady Isabella's Tragedy" or "The Stepmothers Cruelty" ("There was a lord of worthy fame"), Elizabeth Andrews (London), 1664-1666; also Wood E 25(54), Douce Ballads 2(142b), "The Lady Isabella's Tragedy" or "The Step Mothers Cruelty"; Harding B 5(6), "The Lady Isabella's Tragedy" or "The Step Mother Cruelty; Douce Ballads 2(142b), Douce Ballads 3(60a), "The Lady Isabella's Tragedy" or "The Step-Mother's Cruelty"
cf. "The Lady's Fall" (tune, per Pepys Collection)
cf. "Fair Rosamond" or "Chivy Chase[sic]" (tune, per broadside, Bodleian Douce Ballads 1(111a))
The Step-Mother's Cruelty
NOTES [235 words]: Percy: "This ballad is given from an old black-letter copy in the Pepys Collection, collated with another in the British Museum, H. 263, folio. It is there intitled, 'The Lady Isabella's Tragedy, of the Step-Mother's Cruelty .... To the tune of, The Lady's Fall.'" Child (Francis James Child, English and Scottish Ballads (Boston, 1860) ("Digitized by Google")), Vol. III, pp. 366-368, "Lady Isabella's Tragedy" (1 text)) quotes Percy's statement and adds, "The copy in Durfey's Pills to Purge Melancholy, v.53, is nearly verbatim the same."
Ebsworth adds "Their Lamentation," four verses describing the confession and execution of the master-cook and step-mother. "Now let their deaths a warning be to all that hear this song."
Ebsworth dates the Roxburghe text from a broadside to "c.1672."
"Cannibalism" is planned but not realized. Father comes home and asks that his daughter carve the meat. Stepmother says that the daughter "into some nunnery she is gone." The stepmother then tells the father to "sit downe to meat." The scullion-boy says, "If now you will your daughter see, My lord, cut up that pye: Wherein her fleshe is minced small and parched with the fire." - BS
The similarity to the story of Atreus, Thyestes, and the children of Thyestes is obvious; I have to suspect literary dependence. This may explain Child's sarcastic remark that this is "the silliest ballad that was ever made." - RBW
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