Bendo (or Byndo) and Richardo

Anon. (1592)

Historical Records

Performance Records

Playlists in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 7 Greg I, 13

Res at bendo & Richardo the 4 of marche 1591 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvjs

Fol. 7v Greg I, 14

Res at byndo & Richardo the 12 of aprell 1591 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxiijs

Fol. 8 Greg I, 15

Res at Bendo & Richardo the [2] 5 [4] of [maye] June 1592 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxxijs

Theatrical Provenance

Acted by Lord Strange’s Men at the Rose, for three performances between March 4, 1591/2 and June 5, 1592.

Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

A version of William Painter’s novella “Of a Duke of Venice and Ricciardo” in an edition of The Palace of Pleasure Beautified (sig. Xxxiiv-Zzziis) is the likely source for the lost play.

In the initiating action, a Venetian Duke, a man “verray stout and riche” and “of great experience and wisdome,” seeks out the most skilled architect in Italy to renovate the church of San Marco’s steeple which has fallen into ruin. He selects Bindo, a Florentine architect, who travels to Venice with his wife and his son Ricciardo. Bindo’s work so impresses the Duke that he is awarded Venetian citizenship and commissioned to build a magnificent ducal treasure house.

The completed treasure house excels everyone’s expectations. In a measure of extraordinary security, five keys are necessary to unlock the building. In an act of cunning, however, Bindo contrives a removable stone high in one of the walls, allowing him private access to the Duke’s hoard of gold, silver, silks, hangings, and rich furniture.

When lavish spending by Bindo and Ricciardo make it impossible to maintain the lifestyle of Venetian citizens, father and son enter the treasure house through Bindo’s secret portal and successfully steal a golden cup. The Duke and his chamberlains are at first dismayed by the theft but eventually locate the point of access by sealing the treasure chamber and tracing the escaping smoke to Bindo’s hole. The Duke orders that a cauldron of burning pitch be kept beneath the hole. When Bindo and Ricciardo once more financially overreach themselves, they attempt another theft, and Bindo is ambushed, crawling through the hole and plunging fatally into the cauldron.

In his dying speech, he cries:

Ricciardo mine owne sweete sonne, death hath taken me prisoner, for halfe my body is dead, and my breath also is ready to depart. Take my heade with thee, and burie it in some place that it be not knowen, which done, commend me to thy mother, whome I pray thee to cherish & comforte, and in any wise take heede that warelie and circumspectlie thou doe depart hence. And if any man doe aske for me, say that I am gone to Florence about certaine businesse.” (Xxxiiiiv)

Ricciardo complies. He “toke vp his fathers heade, and went his way, and the reste of is bodie remayned in the caldron, like a blocke without forme.” After burying the head, he and his mother struggle to remain silent.

The Duke is certain two thieves were involved and so devises a second trap. He gives orders for Bindo’s headless body to be dragged through the streets as a means of drawing out his loved ones. From a window, Bindo’s wife cries out at the sight, forcing Ricciardo to improvise by cutting his own hand with a blade and dissembling that the wound caused his mother’s panic.

When the Duke orders Bindo’s headless body suspended upside down in a marketplace, Ricciardo’s mother becomes “froward” and vows to seize the body in the night. Ricciardo conceives a different plan:

He borrowed twelue friers frockes or cowles, and in the euening went downe to the hauen, and hired twelue Mariners, and placed the[m] in a backe house, giuing them so much meate and drinke as they would eate. And when they had well whitled & tippled themselues, he put vpon them those friers cowles, with visardes vpon their faces, & gaue euery of them in their handes a burning torche, seming as though they had bene diuels of hel. And he him self, rode vpo[n] a horse all couered with black, beset round about with mo[n]strous and vglie faces, euery of them hauing a burning candle in his mouth, and riding before with a maruelous hideouse visarde vpon his heade, sayde vnto them: doe as I doe: And then marched forwarde to the market place. When they came thether they ran vp & downe making a great roring, being then past midnight and very darke. When the watch saw that straunge sight, they were affrayde, thinking yt they had bene Diuels of hel, and that he on horsbacke in that forme, had bene the great deuil Lucifer himself. And seeing him runne towards the gibet, the watch toke ther legges & ranne away. The yong man in the shape of the great Diuel, toke downe the body, and layde it before him on horsebacke, who calling his companye awaye, rode before in post. When they were come home, he gaue them their money, and vncasing them of their cowles, sent them away, and aferwards buried the body so secretly as he coulde. (sig. Yyyiv-Yyyii)

The Duke is incredulous when told that Lucifer ate the headless corpse. He plots again, this time issuing a decree that no fresh meat will be sold at market for twenty days. He then orders a “fayre fatte Calfe” to be sold at an exorbitant rate in another effort to lure the thief into the open. Ricciardo’s mother again threatens to pursue the bait, leading an annoyed Ricciardo to acquire the veal in “a counterfait beard and cloke” using a pie drugged with a sleeping agent to disable its guards. The Duke attempts to trace the stolen meat by enlisting an army of beggars:

These beggers dispersed themselues into euery corner of the citie, demaunding their almes, amongs whome one of them asked his almes at the house of Ricciardo, and approching nere, espied openly fleshe at the spitte, and asked a morsell thereof for goddes sake: to whom the vndescrete woman, seeing that she had plentie, gaue a litle pece. The poore man thanked the good wife, and prayed God to saue her life. And as he was going downe the steppes of the dore, Ricciardo met him with the fleshe in his hande. Wherewithall astonned, he willed him to retourne in againe, and sayde he would giue him more. The begger gladde of that, wente in againe, whome Ricciardo caried into his chamber, and when he was within, he strake suche a full blowe vppon his heade, with an axe, that he kylled him, and threwe him into a [j]akes, shutting the dore after him. (sig. Yyyiii-Yyyiiiv)

In a final effort to trap the culprit, the Duke summons the twenty-five most reputedly lascivious young men in Venice to assemble at his palace, reasoning that the stolen veal will inspire lechery in the mysterious thief. Ricciardo is among them. Twenty-five palace beds are prepared for the men who are to remain overnight, each with acces to a great bed of state in which, the men are told, the Duke’s exceedingly fair daughter sleeps. Meanwhile, the Duke gives his daughter a black dye to mark the face of anyone who comes to her in the night. Thrill addicted, Ricciardo silently makes his way to the young woman’s bed, but when he is marked on the face he cleverly anticipates the trap and quickly marks the faces of all the other sleeping male guests.

The next morning, the Duke discovers all the faces scored with black. He is so impressed by the thief’s ingenuity that he earnestly offers him a pardon and his daughter’s hand in marriage:

Wherefore Ricciardo vnderstanding the Dukes minde, toke hym asyde, and tolde him the whole matter particularly from the beginning to the ende. The Duke imbraced him, and gaue him his pardon, and with great ioy and triumph he solemnized the mariage betwene him & his daugh|ter. Wherewithal Ricciardo encoraged, proued a very stoute and valiaunt man, in suche wise almost, as the affaires of the whole state passed through his handes. And liued a long time after, with the loue & good will of the whole co|minaltie of Venice. (sig. Yyyiiiiv-Zzzi)

References to the Play

None are known.

Critical Commentary

Neither Malone (p. 291), nor Collier (p. 22), nor Fleay, BCED (2.298 #106) suggests a source or narrative for this play. Greg II proposes William Painter's Palace of Pleasure as a source, observing also Italian precedents in Il Pecorone and Bandello. (#12, p. 152)

Manley observes that the probable use of a cauldron in the lost play is consistent with the company style of Strange's Men, whose known repertory typically features the skillful and meaningful staging of fire. He notes further that the company had such a cauldron for use in the final scene of The Jew of Matla ("Playing with Fire," p. 119). There was still such a cauldron at the Rose in 10 March 1598; it is itemized as "j cauderm for the Jewe" in Philip Henslowe's "Enventary tacken of all the properties for my Lord Admeralles men" (Greg, Papers [1] p. 118).

Manley and MacLean consider "Bendo and Richardo" an "unusual play for its time" in "its combination of comedy with grotesque violence and by its sympathy for guilty parties being hounded by the authorities" (p. 144).

Wiggins, Catalogue #900 assigns the play to 1591 within a range of 1576-92. Basing his argument on its few performances (a mere 3), he considers the play "in the later stages of its repertory life" compared with other plays performed by Strange's Men that were not marked "ne" (see a discussion of the problem of non-ne plays in Henslowe's playlists @ Wiggins #878).

For What It's Worth

If “Bendo and Richardo” staged the cauldron, hanging corpse, devil costumes, and friars' cowls featured in Painter’s novella, these properties were conceivably the same used in the most popular surviving plays from Strange's repertory: Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and The Jew of Malta, as well as their "fryer bacvne" (widely identified as John of Bordeaux).

Works Cited

Manley, Lawrence. "Playing with Fire: Immolation and the Repertory of Strange's Men," Early Theatre 4 (2001): 115-129.
Painter, William. The palace of pleasure beautified, adorned and well furnished, with pleasaunt histories and excellent nouelles, selected out of diuers good and commendable authors. London, 1566. EEBO

Site created and maintained by Christopher Matusiak, Ithaca College; updated 5 June 2012; updated 16 May 2019.