Black Bateman of the North, Parts 1 and 2

Black Bateman of the North, Part I (1598)
Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, Michael Drayton, Robert Wilson

Black Bateman of the North, Part II (1598)
Henry Chettle, Robert Wilson

Historical Records


To playwrights in Philip Henslowe’s diary

Fol. 45v (Greg I.86)

lent vnto cheattell vpon the playe called }
blacke batmone of the northe the some of } xxs
wittnes Thomas dowton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . }

Fol. 46 (Greg I.87)

Bowght of mr willsones drayton & dickers & cheattell for }
the company a boocke called blacke battmane of the northe }
the 22 of maye 1598 wch coste sixe powndes J saye } vjli
layd owt for them . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . }

lent vnto thomas dowton the 13 of June 1598 to bye }
divers thinges for blacke batmane of the northe } vli
the some of five pownd J saye lent . . . . . . . . . . . . }

lent vnto thomas dowton the 14 of June 1598 to bye }
divers thinges for blacke batmane of the northe the some } iijli

Fol. 47 (Greg I.89)

Lent vnto Cheattell the 26 of June 1598 in }
earneste of a boocke called the 2 parte of blacke }
battman of the north & mr harey porter } xxs
hath geven me his worde for the performance }
of the same & all so for my money . . . . . . . . . . }

Lent vnto mr Cheattell the 8 of July 1598 vpon }
a Boocke called the 2 parte of blacke battman } xxs
the some of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . }

lent vnto mr willsones the 13 of July 1598 in }
part of payment of a boocke called the 2 part of blacke } xs
battman the some of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . }

lent vnto mr wilsone the 14 of July 1598 in }
part of payment of a boock called the 2 part of } xvs
black battman the some of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . }

pd vnto mr cheattell the 14 of July 1598 in }
fulle paymet of a boocke called the 2 part of } xvs
black battmane the some of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . }


Philip Henslowe's papers in the Dulwich College Library

List of playbooks

Greg, Papers (APX. I, art. 1, col. 2, ll. 193 & 194, p. 121)

Heading: "A Note of all suche bookes as belong to the Stocke, and such as I have bought since the 3rd of March 1598"
Blacke Battman.
2 p. black Battman.

Theatrical Provenance

The plays were acquired during late spring and summer of 1598 by the Admiral’s Men for performance at the Rose.

Probable Genre(s)

Tragedy? (Harbage) Robin Hood play? (See Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues below)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Young Bateman (ballads)

Greg II names a chapbook (c. 1710) entitled “Bateman’s Tragedy: Or, the Perjur’d Bride justly Rewarded. Being the History of the Unfortunate Love of German’s Wife and Young Bateman,” accompanied by a ballad. However, he has no confidence in the chapbook or ballad as source, thinking “[t]he story … can hardly be as old as the play, and relates, moreover, to a James Bateman of Notts” (# 134 & 139).

A ballad in Roxburghe is called “A Warning for Maidens; or, Young Bateman.” The headnote to the ballad provides the alternate title, “A godly warning for all maidens, by the example of God’s judgment shewed on one Jerman’s wife of Clifton, in the county of Nottingham, who, lying in Child-bed, was born away, and never heard of after.” Still later versions have the prefix, “Young Bateman’s Ghost.” EBBA

The story of the ballad (the first stanza of which is a familiar warning to naïve young women tempted to forsake their loves) is as follows: A young woman from Clifton, Nottingham, is beautiful but fickle (“The fairest dame the falsest heart/ and soonest will deceive” ll. 15-16). She has many suitors, including “a comelie proper youth,/ young Bateman call’d by name” (ll. 21-2). She returns his love and swears to be faithful. He breaks a piece of gold in two, giving her a half as pledge of their vow. Within two months, however, she drops Bateman for another suitor, “Old Jerman” (l. 44), a rich widower. Bateman vows she will “not live one quiet day” (l. 57) after his death, and on her wedding day he hangs himself “before the bride’s own door” (l. 72). From that point on, Bateman’s ghost haunts the young bride. During her pregnancy, her “babe unborn” protects her from any harm by the ghost (l. 93), but, being delivered of the child, she predicts her capture: “‘This night … out of my bed/ I shall be born awaie’” (ll. 103-4). She accepts responsibility for having been the one who gave false promise, yet asks her friends to keep watch over her. They are unable to stay awake, and she vanishes in the night. The ballad ends on a closing admonition to young women to keep their betrothal promises.

Bateman of Kendall (a Robin Hood connection?)

It may be, however, that "Black Bateman of the North" refers to an entirely different Bateman. In The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntingon (printed 1601), the character Scarlet recounts the fortunes of Robin Hood's men:

Its ful seauen years since we were outlawed first,
And wealthy Sherewood was our heritage:
For all those yeares we raigned uncontrolde:
From Barnsdale shrogs, to Notinghams red cliffes,
At Blithe and Tickhill were we welcome guests.
Good George a Greene at Bradford was our friend,
And wanton Wakefields Pinner lou'd vs well.
At Barnsley dwels a Potter tough and strong,
That never brookt, we brethren should haue wrong.
The Nunnes of Farnsfield, pretty Nunnes they bee,
Gaue napkins, shirts, and bands to him and mee.
Bateman of Kendall, gaue vs Kendall greene,
And Sharpe of Leedes, sharpe arrowes for vs made:
At Rotheram dwelt our bowyer, God him blisse,
Iackson he hight, his bowes did neuer misse. (F.E4v)

As Jeffrey L. Singman observes, "Many of the allusions are readily recognizable from the Robin Hood legend: Barnsdale, along with Sherwood, was often identified as Robin's principal haunt, and many of his adventures took place in Nottingham; George a Greene, the Pinner of Wakefield, meets with Robin in one of the early ballads (Munday divides him into two characters); and Kendall green was the outlaws' traditional cloth of choice" (66-67). Singman does not speculate about "Bateman", but from the context it appears that he was an outlaw (or, at the very least, a purveyor of clothing to outlaws). Kendal is in the north-west of England, about fifty miles south of the border with Scotland, while Clifton is in the midlands about a hundred miles further south, making Bateman of Kendal perhaps a likelier candidate than Young Bateman to be "Black Bateman of the North".

References to the Play

Roxburghe, headnote to the ballad, “A Warning for Maidens; or, Young Bateman,” quotes lines from Monsieur Thomas, by John Fletcher, in which a fiddler lists his repertoire (III.iii), one item of which is “The Devil and Ye dainty dames,” which the editor appears to read as an allusion to the Bateman ballad (vol. 3, p. 193).

Critical Commentary

Young Bateman (ballads)

Greg II grapples with the excessive payments to dramatists for the two plays, deciding that Chettle’s accounts are kept largely off book (#134, #139, p. 193).

Jenkins considers the evidence from the ballads and chapbook of Young Bateman sufficient to conclude that "Bateman was a well-known figure all through the seventeenth century" (p. 213).

Tillotson offers support for an argument that the story of Black Bateman was old enough to have served as source for the lost plays of 1598. Picking up threads in previous scholarship that had connected William Sampson’s The Vow-Breaker or the Faire Maide of Clifton (1636) through its main character (James Bateman) to the Bateman plays in Henslowe’s Diary, Tillotson lists several reasons for a connection: (1) Sampson claimed that his story was as old as 90 years in a “Prologue to Censurers,” which, taken literally, makes the age of the chapbook/ballad matter old enough for use in 1598; (2) Drayton, a collaborator on part 1, shows a knowledge in his other works of Clifton and a reference to Nottinghamshire “as ‘the North’ would be perfectly natural” for him (p. 378); (3) the use of “black” need not refer to criminality but to “‘deadly, baneful’” (p. 378); (4) Sampson was “an imitative poet” who might have known Drayton (p. 378). JSTOR

Bateman of Kendal (a Robin Hood connection?)

Both The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntingon (see "Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues" above) and its second part, The Death of Robert, Earl of Huntingdon (printed 1601), were performed by the Admiral's Men in 1598: Henslowe records the payment of 14 shillings for their licencing on 28 March (F.45, Greg I.85; see also F.44-F44v, Greg I.83-84). About three months later, Black Bateman of the North, Part I appears to have entered the repertory. If this is the same Bateman as the one referred to by Scarlet, then the alternatives seem to be:

  1. Black Bateman of the North, Part I was written following the success of a Robin Hood play that referred to this character
  2. When Munday wrote The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntingon, he knew that a play about Bateman was being prepared and he deliberately included a reference to it
  3. The reference to Bateman was inserted in the The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntingon in between its original performance and the date of its printing in 1601 as a topical allusion to another current play.

For What It's Worth

information welcome.

Works Cited

English Broadside Ballad Archive, University of California, Santa Barbara EBBA
Jenkins, Harold. The Life and Work of Henry Chettle. London: Sedgwick & Jackson, LTD. 1934.
Munday, Anthony. The dovvnfall of Robert, Earle of Huntington. London, 1601 EEBO
Munday, Anthony, and Henry Chettle. The death of Robert, Earle of Huntington. London, 1601 EEBO
Singman, Jeffrey L. "Munday's Unruly Earl". Lois Potter ed., Playing Robin Hood: The Legend as Performance in Five Centuries. Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1998: 63-76.
Tillotson, Kathleen. "William Sampson's 'Vow-Breaker' (1636) and the Lost Henslowe Play, 'Black Batman of the North." Modern Language Review 35.3 (1940): 377-8 JSTOR.

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 6 February 2012; updated by Tom Rutter, 01 June 2011.