Anon. (1594)

Historical Records

Performance Records

Playlists in Henslowe's diary

F. 9 (Greg I.17)

Under the play list "begininge at newington for "my Lord Admeralle men & my Lorde chamberlen men" for 10 performances, June 3-13:

ye 8 of June 1594 . . . ne . . . Res at bellendon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvijs

In Henslowe's play lists beginning 15 June 1594, the date on which W. W. Greg decided that the Admiral's players had returned to the Rose after their 10-day run at Newington with the Chamberlain's players:

ye 15 of June 1594 . . . . . . . . Res at bellendon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iijli iiijs
ye 20 of June 1594 Res at bellendon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxxs

F. 9v (Greg I.18)

ye 2 of Julye 1594 . . . . . . . . Res at bellendon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxxxijs vjd
ye 6 of Julye 1594 Res at bellendon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxxiiijs
ye 11 of Julye 1594 Res at bellendon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxvijs
ye 20 of Julye 1594 Res at bellendon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxvijs
ye 25 of Julye 1594 Res at bellendon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xlviijs
ye 31 of Julye 1594 Res at bellendon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxvijs
ye 10 of aguste 1594 Res at bellendon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxxiijs
ye 19 of aguste 159 Res at bellendon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xxjs

F. 10 (Greg I.19)

ye 29 of aguste 1594 Res at belendon xxs vjd
ye 11 of septembʒ Res at bellendon xxiiijs vjd
ye 23 of septembʒ Res at bellendon xvjs vjd
ye 13 of octobʒ 1594 Res at bellendon xxjjs

F. 10v (Greg I.20)

ye 2 of novembʒ 1594 Res at bellendon [t] vijs
ye 15 of novmbʒ 1594 Res at bellendon xijs

F. 21v (Greg I.42)

ye 11 of July 1596 Res at bellendon [t] xxxvs

On 24 January 1597 Henslowe changed his system of entering receipts to the following three-column format:

F. 26 (Greg I.51)

[March 1597] mr pd 31 tt at belendon 01— 15— 00-04-00

F. 26v (Greg I.52)

[April 1597] 11 —[11]— tt at belendon 01— 00— 00 - 14 - 00
19 tt at belendon 00— 09— 02 - 00 - 00
28 mr pd tt at bellendon 0[0]1— 00— 00 - 13 - 00
[May 1597] 20 tt at bellendon 00— 10— 00 - 00 - 00

F. 27 (Greg I.53)

[June 1597] 15 tt at bellendon 00— 13— 00 - 00 - 00
25 tt at bellendon 00— 07— 02 - 00 - 00


Philip Henslowe's papers in the Dulwich College Library

Greg, Papers (Appx. I, art. 1, p. 117. l. 75)

Under the heading “The Enventary tacken of all the properties for my Lord Admeralles men, the 10 of Marche 1598”:

Item, ... Belendon stable ...

Book Trade Records

Stationers' Register

The Stationers' Register contains three entries relevant to the play, "Bellendon." Insofar as is known, the texts associated with these entries are lost.

The first entry is dated 17 May 1594 and reads as follows:

Tho. Gosson/ Entred for his copie vnder thand of mr warden Cawood, a booke intituled The famous Cronicle of Henrye the first, with the life and death of Bellin Dun the firste thief that ever was hanged in England." (S.R. I, 2.307b/650 CLIO; Greg, BEPD, I.11) 

 The second is dated 2 August 1594:

John Danter./. Entred alsoe for his Copie vnder th[e h]andes of bothe the wardens an other ballad entituled BELLIN DUNS Confession & (S.R.1, 2.310b/656 CLIO; not in Greg, BEPD)

The third is dated 24 November 1595:

Will[ia]m Blackwell  Entred for his Copie vnder the wardens hand[es] a booke intituled. The true tragicall historie of kinge Rufus the first with the life and deathe of Belyn Dun the first thief that ever was hanged in England (S.R.1, 3.5b/54 CLIO; Greg, BEPD, I.12)

Theatrical Provenance

"Bellendon" appears in Henslowe's diary first on 8 June 1594 in the list of plays offered by the Admiral's Men and Chamberlain's Men playing at the playhouse in Newington. It next appears as the initial offering in the playlists beginning 15 June 1594, a date that marks the return of the Admiral's Men to the Rose playhouse (according to W. W. Greg and accepted universally by subsequent scholars). It receives 16 performances in that run. In 1596 it appears for a solo showing on 11 July. Beginning in March 1596/7 it appears into June for a run of 7 performances. There is a note in the margin at the initial March performance of the play, as follows: "begynyng in leant marche 1597." Marginal notes also mark the appropriate change of months in 1597 to April, May, and June. One of the properties for "Bellendon," "Belendon stable," is listed in the 1598 inventory transcribed by Edmond Malone. These papers were loaned to Malone by the librarians at Dulwich College, and the originals were subsequently lost.

Probable Genre(s)

History (Harbage uses the title "Rufus I with the Life & Death of Belyn Dun")

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Dun is a mythical thief, supposedly active in the reign of Henry I (1100-35 C.E.), and associated with the town of Dunstable in Hertfordshire. Among the very numerous fictional accounts of and references to him, one might mention Sir John Hayward's discussion in 1613:

In these times were mighty woods about the place where the two high wayes Watling and Ikening doe ioyne together; which woods were a safe couert and retreite for many robbers, who much infested those high wayes. The most famous thiefe among them, was named [marg. Dunne a famous thiefe.] Dunne, a man mischieuous without mercie, equally greedie of blood and of spoile, the first infamie of his name: Hee was in a sort as the most villanously aduentrous and vile; (for in lewd actions, the worst are greatest) Commander ouer the rest, and of him the place was called Dunstable. To represse this annoyance, the King caused the woods to bee cut downe, built there a Borough, to which hee granted Faire & Market, and that the Burgesses should be so free as any other Burgesses within the Realme. Hee erected there also a Palace for himselfe, and also a faire Church or Priorie; whereto he gaue large priuiledges and endowments. By these meanes hee made the place first populous, and consequently both plentifull and safe. (Hayward, 282-3)

There is also a pamphlet biography of Dun, which goes through many versions and ends up as part of that famous nineteenth-century anthology of criminal biographies, The Newgate Calendar. This account portrays Dun as a violent and immoral thief.

References to the Play

Rollins traces the ballad entered by Danter on 2 August 1594 to a quatrain quoted in John Taylor's Works, sig. L 1 4 and connects it with the two S.R. entries of 17 May 1594 and 24 November 1595 (Item #180, pp. 23-4).

Spraggs cites the Taylor poem, "An Arrant Thief" and notes that "[a]ccording to the legend, the king founded the market town of Dunstable in order to provide refuge for travellers and a base from which Dun’s activities might be controlled" (n.2) The relevant lines from Taylor's poem as follows:

And England still hath bin a fruitfull Land
Of valiant Thieues, that durst true men stand.
One Bellin Dun, a famous thiefe suruiu'd,
From whom the towne of Dunstable's deriv'd.

Critical Commentary

Fleay, BCED identified "Bellendon" with the "prose story" entered by Gosson (above, 17 May 1594) and the Blackwell entry (above, 8 June 1595). He also linked it with the entry in Henslowe's inventory (2. 302).
Greg II accepts Fleay's identifications and comments further that the Gosson (17 May 1594) is "probably … a chap-book" and notes the name change of the king from Henry I to Rufus (p. 164 #42). In the "Lost Plays" section of BEPD , Greg lists "Henry the First (King Rufus), and cites the 17 May 1594 entry in the Stationers' Register. He points out that the two plays with Henry I" in the title in the diary are "too late for identification" with "Bellendon" (i.e., "The Life and Death of Henry the First and "The Famous Wars of Henry the First and the Prince of Wales"; he also points out that the "Henry I" ascribed to Shakespeare and Davenport in 1653 is later still (II. pp.966-7, #14).
Gurr identifies "Bellendon" with the Gosson entry (Appx I, p. 203) and the Blackwell entry (Appx I, p. 204n). Discussing the Admiral's Men's plays generally, he makes two points about "Bellendon": (1) he calls the play-character "the clown Belin Dun" (p. 50), and (2) he claims that the play was "never revived" after its disappearance in 1597 from the lists in the diary (p. 36).
Steggle, in work arising from the LPD, adduces numerous retellings of the story of Dun of Dunstable, spread in time from 1290 to the twenty-first century. He documents the tradition that Dun had a special underground hiding-place for himself and his horse, something that gives a clue to the nature of the prop "Belendon stable." Steggle believes that Dun "is a particularly interesting figure to find on the early modern stage because he constitutes, in effect, an evil twin of that seminal character in early modern drama, Robin Hood" (77).
Wiggins, Catalogue adds to the significance of that stable as a property by retelling an episode in the the conflict between Belin Dun and King Henry I in which "the King affixes a ring to the stable ... and dares [Dun] to steal it," which he does; but "the ring is found in his mother's house," prompting the thief's hanging (Catalogue #956).

For What It's Worth

In Henslowe's Diary for 30 October 1594, there is an entry for "bullen" and receipts of xvs (F. 10v, Greg I.20). There is no repeat of the entry, and it is possibly yet another performance of "Bellendon."

Holinshed, in the 1577 edition, gives Simon Dunelmensis as the authority on the introduction of hanging in the reign of Henry I (Dr. Henry Summerson of The Holinshed Project identifies this man as Symeon of Durham). For the Holinshed text, see Holinshed

Works Cited

Gurr, Andrew. Shakespeare's Opposites: The Admiral's Company 1594-1625. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Hayward, John. The liues of the III. Normans, Kings of England (London: R.B., 1613).
Rollins, Hyder R. An Analytical Index to the Ballad-Entries (1557-1709). Hotboro, PA: Tradition Press, 1967, Item #180, pp. 23-4.
Spraggs, Gillian. Outlaws and Highwaymen: The Cult of the Robber in England from the Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century. London: Pimlico, 2001. (
Steggle, Matthew. Digital Humanities and the Lost Drama of Early Modern England: Ten Case Studies. Farnham: Ashgate, 2015.

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita,  University of Arkansas at Little Rock; updated 6 February 2012; updated 17 May 2019. Additions by Matthew Steggle.