In I. 2, we have the story of Bishop Hatto and the Rats told briefly but effectively. Mr. Baring-Gould in his Curious Myths of the Middle Ages has investigated the sources of the legend with much fulness. He refers us specially to Wolfius’s Lect. Memorab., Lavingae, 1600, tom. i. p. 343. From the Stationers’ Registers it appears that a ballad of The Wrathfull Judgement of God upon Bishop Hatto was licensed to H. Carre on 15th August, 1586. The dramatist has invested the story with the glamour of that poetical strangeness which is the very salt of such narrations:—
“Alf. He did proclaime reliefe unto the poore; Assembled them unto a private Barne, And, having lockt the doore, set it on fire, Saying hee’de rid the countrie of such Mice: And Mice and Rats have rid him from the World.
* * * * *
Duke. Could not this palace, seated in the Rheine In midst of the great River, (to the which No bridge, nor convay, other then by boats Was to be had) free him from vermine Rats?
Alf. Against their kind the land Rats took the water And swomme in little armies to the house, And, though we drownd and killed innumerable, Their numbers were like Hydra’s heads increasing; Ruine bred more untill our brother died.
Duke. The house is execrable; Ile not enter.
Hat. You need not feare, my Lord; the house is free From all resort of Rats; for at his death, As if a trumpet sounded a retreat, They made a kind of murmure and departed.”
A COMICALL HISTORIE,
Acted by the companie of the Revels.
LONDON Printed by Augustine Mathewes, for WILLIAM
SHEARES, and HVGH
PERRIE, and are to be sold at their shoppe, in Brittaines Burse. 1633.
The Actors Names.
Duke of Saxonie. Fredericke his sonne. Hatto, | Brothers to the Duke. Al[f]rid, | Montano, kinsman to the Duke. Euphrata, daughter to the Duke. Constantine, a lover of Euphrata. Otho, a friend to Constantine. Alberto, | Two Lords. Reynaldo, | Vandermas, a Pander. Valentia, the Costly Whore. Julia, a Gentlewoman to Euphrata. Two Maides. Petitioners. Beggers. Servants.