41  The Woful Lamentation of Mistris Jane Shore, a Goldsmiths Wife/ in London, sometime King Edward the Fourth's Concubine [Euing 394]

Author: Anonymous

Recording: The Woful Lamentation of Mistris Jane Shore (part 1)

Recording: The Woful Lamentation of Mistris Jane Shore (part 2)

Bodies - looks/physique Crime - clipping coins Crime - immorality Crime - punishment Death - result of immorality Emotions - anger Emotions - excitement Emotions - greed Emotions - longing Emotions - shame Emotions - sorrow Employment - professions Gender - adultery/cuckoldry Gender - marriage Gender - sex History - medieval Morality - romantic/sexual Places - European Places - extra-European Places - travel/transport Politics - controversy Politics - court Politics - domestic Politics - power Religion - Christ/God Religion - charity Religion - conjuration/witchcraft Religion - divine intervention Royalty - general Violence - punitive

Song History

The woman who became known as ‘Jane Shore’ was actually baptised as Elizabeth Lambert on an unknown date in the mid-fifteenth century. She was the daughter of a London mercer and his wife, and she went on to marry a man named William Shore. This marriage was annulled in 1476 because of William’s impotence. By this date, Jane was probably already established as a mistress of Edward IV, a position she continued to occupy until the king’s death in 1483. The ballad describes a much reduced life of miserable poverty that began at this point, largely because the new king, Richard III, saw fit to punish his brother’s ‘concubine’. In reality, Jane seems to have done rather better than this. She was indeed imprisoned but managed to resume a fairly privileged life by becoming the mistress of at least one significant protector and then by marrying Thomas Lynom, a royal servant. He died in 1518 and Jane may have encountered misfortune at this stage, though it seems likely that that the literary sources substantially exaggerate her destitution. She probably died in the 1520s (Horrox).

The story of Jane Shore was exceptionally well-known, re-told many times from the early sixteenth century through to the present day. Over the centuries, there have been poems, songs, novels, films and several plays (Scott provides a comprehensive survey of this material). Shore’s tale has been credited with a major role in the development of two literary genres: ‘female complaint’ poems of the Elizabethan period, and ‘domestic tragedy’ in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the early modern period, her example was also mentioned more fleetingly in hundreds of literary works, and there can be little doubt that she was one of the most frequently discussed of all historical women.

Pictures of Shore were frequently owned and displayed, as the auction catalogues of the later seventeenth century demonstrate, and one London address was identified by ‘the Sign of the Jane Shore’ (see Anon, The liberty of the mannor of Stepney).  The column of prose that appears on the right side of the ballad notes the existence of a painting of Shore, apparently on public display somewhere in London. Perhaps this was the piece referred to as ‘the Original at White-Hall’ in a catalogue of 1691 (see A curious collection, no. 6). In the artwork referred to on the ballad, Shore has ‘nothing on but a rich mantle cast under her arm’, as if she has just risen from bed.

Surviving images, mostly from the eighteenth century, reinforce the impression that Shore was often pictured naked or barely concealed behind wisps of diaphanous muslin (see Berwick and National Portrait Gallery). These are unquestionably salacious images, opening up questions about the early-modern male gaze in relation to Shore (numerous authors, led by Thomas More, dwelt on her physical appearance, and the ballad is actually quite restrained in this regard). Suggestive and very similar paintings of Shore were on display during this period both at King’s College, Cambridge (in the Provost’s Lodge), and at Eton College (apparently in the Library).

In these works, she wears nothing except for an ornate necklace, a string of pearls and jewelled decorations in her hair. Since King’s and Eton were both male-only educational establishments, one wonders about the role that Shore played in the lives of the residents. At Eton, a story has circulated since the eighteenth century that Shore had protected the School from closure in the 1460s by interceding on its behalf when Edward IV drew up plans to appropriate its assets (Berwick). Whether this provides adequate justification for encouraging generations of schoolboys to gaze at her breasts while studying in the Library, it is difficult to say. Was she on display as a moral warning and, if so, how did the educators expect their young charges to respond?

The Woful Lamentation played an important part in generating and sustaining the remarkable early-modern interest in Shore, following its original publication in the late 1590s. There are many surviving works about her but none matched the ballad in its combination of accessibility and longevity (see Related texts). The song also appeared regularly in chapbook-format, providing consumers with a very different material object through which to explore the story (see Anon, The history of Mistris Jane Shore). In the preface to a hit play of 1714, Nicholas Rowe noted the ‘homely wise’ in which the ballad told Shore’s story, while also mentioning its capacity to induce tears. The song can also be found in some of the published ballad-collections of the eighteenth century (Philips and Percy).

The long-term success of the Shore narrative in all forms has been attributed firstly to its concentration on sex, power and class, and secondly to its ‘infinitely adaptable’ central character (Scott). Maria Scott sub-titled her book on the subject, ‘Harlot and Heroine’, and Jane Shore is indeed capable of playing both roles, with many subtle variations in between. Opinions have clearly varied in all periods, and she has been  criticised, mocked, pitied and desired. As so often, the successful story is one that provokes animated disagreement.

The specific success of this ballad during the seventeenth century might also be discussed in relation to other factors. From the Elizabethan period onwards, stories about historical women with complicated lives were emerging as highly successful, and Jane Shore is an outstanding example because of the manner in which she combines the positive and negative characteristics of conventional femininity in a single personality. In the ballad, Shore is most often ‘wanton’ and ‘lewd’ but she is also ‘gentle’,  ‘honest’, ‘loving’ and ‘comely’. Her repentance and shame counterbalance her inconstancy.

More specifically, Shore’s role as a royal favourite during the succession crisis that marked the transition from Edward IV to Richard III may have rendered her appealing to late-Elizabethan audiences, as they wondered who was to replace their ageing and childless monarch. Sensibly, the ballad-makers avoided explicit comparison (Kews has argued that the succession crisis of 1714 may also have been a factor in the success of Rowe’s play about Shore).

Similarly, the ballad – frequently republished through the seventeenth century - may have provided listeners/readers with a safe space in which to contemplate and criticise the many mistresses of Charles II in the Restoration  period. Some dared to draw explicit comparison, and in 1662 Samuel Pepys reported an argument between the Duchess of Richmond and the Countess of Castlemaine, a famous royal mistress. The former 'call[ed] the latter Jane Shoare, and did hope to see her come to the same end that she did'. In A dialogue between the D of C and the D. of P (1682), ‘the ghost of Jane Shore’ intervenes in an imagined conversation between the Duchesses of Cleveland and Portland, two more of the king’s mistresses. Shore, visiting from hell, urges the two women to repent and reform as a matter of urgency (‘What you are now I once was long before,/ Yet I am damn’d altho’ a Royal Whore’).

Some time later, the anonymous author of The unfortunate concubines compared Jane Shore to the ‘Royal misses’ of Charles II’s reign and found the latter group to be generally far less impressive in their charitable work than Edward IV’s mistress had been. Clearly, such comparisons sprang readily to English minds in this period.

Jane Shore was also notable as a commoner who rose to a position of privilege and influence. Her origins set her apart from other ballad characters such as Dido and the Duchess of Suffolk. During the early modern period, the market for the cheaper forms of print probably centred on the middling ranks of London society, exactly the sector from which Jane Shore originated. Perhaps the success of the ballad reflected the desire of ordinary Londoners to see themselves represented in song (while also fantasising about escape to the refined world of the royal court).

The song also drew together a variety of tried and trusted ballad themes: tragic love; historical romance; encounters between kings and commoners; the dangers of forced marriage; the fragility of friendship; and extreme social transformation, first upwards then down again (the late sixteenth century was a period of economic instability during which individuals could rise and fall with alarming rapidity).

And the ballad was also a moral story of a sort that early-modern consumers clearly appreciated. Maids, wives and ‘all women’ are urged to learn lessons, and husbands are warned to marry only ‘for love’. The capacity of the song to educate while entertaining may explain an eighteenth-century reference to children ‘who never would have learn’d to read, had they not took a Delight in poring over Jane Shore, or Fair Rosamond’ in ballad-form (Philips). Both of the songs he mentioned were highly successful and both focused on the rise and fall of royal mistresses during the medieval period. Parents perhaps provided their offspring with such publications, knowing that literacy, history and morality could all be learned from a single sheet.

The song may well have appealed particularly to women, despite the liberality with which the term ‘wanton’ was thrown around. As noted above, the heavy didacticism is only one aspect of the text, and numerous sources suggest that the real power of Jane Shore’s story lay in its capacity to induce sympathy. As ever, it is difficult to find evidence that relates particularly to interpretation of the ballad, but Thomas Heywood’s play about Shore (see Related texts) was criticised by Christopher Brooke in 1614 because of the way in which it encouraged female audience members to ‘commiserate’.

Shared misery was one possible response, but women may also have experienced something more invigorating when singing or hearing the lines about Shore’s experiences at the top of Fortune’s wheel: ‘I was thus advanc’d on high,/ Commanding Edward with mine eye’.

The ballad was also an accessible and engaging performance piece. Two songs, one for a woman and one for a man, are set out together, both set to the same memorable melody (see Featured tune history). There are many appealing lines, and the use of the first person encourages a close identification between singer and character. Anybody with the ability to hold a tune could become Jane Shore or her husband and escape temporarily into a different age and a different social context.

Christopher Marsh


Anon, The unfortunate concubines: the history of fair Rosamond, mistress to Henry II; and Jane Shore, concubine to Edward IV (1708), pp. 83-156.

Anon, A curious collection of painting, being most originals (1691), no. 6.

Anon, A continuation of the curious collection of paintings and other curiosities (1692), no. 288.

Anon, A dialogue between the D of C and the D of P at their meeting in Paris, with the ghost of Jane Shore (1682).

Anon, The history of Mistris Jane Shore (1660).

Anon, The liberty of the mannor of Stepney (1640).

Anon, Memoirs of the lives of King Edward IV And Jane Shore (1714). Extracted from the best historians (1714), p. 14.

Helen Berwick, ‘Jane Shore: The ‘Grey Lady’ of Eton College’: https://collections.etoncollege.com/jane-shore-the-grey-lady-of-eton-college/

Broadside ballads from the Bodleian Libraries: http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/ 

Christopher Brooke, The ghost of Richard the Third (1614), F1r.

English Broadside Ballad Archive: https://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/

English Short Title Catalogue.

James L. Harner, ‘”The wofull lamentation of Mistris Jane Shore”: the popularity of an Elizabethan ballad’, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 71 (1977), pp. 137-49.

Richard Helgerson, ‘Weeping for Jane Shore’, South Atlantic quarterly, 98.3 (1999), pp. 451-76.

Thomas Heywood, The first and second partes of King Edward the Fourth containing his mery pastime with the tanner of Tamworth, as also his love to faire Mistrisse Shore (1599).

Rosemary Horrox, ‘Shore [née Lambert], Elizabeth [Jane]’, Oxford dictionary of national biography.

Pauline Kewes, ‘”The state is out of tune”: Nicholas Rowe’s Jane Shore and the succession crisis of 1713-14’, Huntington Library quarterly, 64.3/4 (2001), pp. 283-308.

Thomas More, The history of Richard the Third (c. 1514), ed. George M. Logan (Bloomington, Indiana, 2005), pp. 55-56, 62-67 and 84.

National Portrait Gallery: https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp69361/jane-shore

Samuel Pepys, The diary of Samuel Pepys, ed. R. C. Latham and W. Matthews, 11 vols. (1995), vol. 3, p. 68.

Thomas Percy, Reliques of ancient English poetry, 3 vols. (1765), vol. 2, pp. 248-58.

Ambrose Philips, A collection of old ballads (1723), pp. vii and 145-52.

Samuel L. Pratt, ‘Jane Shore and the Elizabethans: some facts and speculations’, Texas studies in literature and language 11.4 (1970), pp. 1293-1306.

Hyder E. Rollins, An analytical index to the ballad-entries (1557-1709) in the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London (1924; Hatboro, Pennsylvania, 1967), nos. 1272, 1273, 1452 and 2986.

Nicholas Rowe, The tragedy of Jane Shore. Written in imitation of Shakespear’s style (1714), prologue.

Maria M. Scott, Re-presenting ‘Jane’ Shore: harlot and heroine (Aldershot, 2005).

Wit and mirth or, Pills to purge melancholy, vol. 5 (1714), pp. 213-22.

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Featured Tune History

To the tune of ‘Live with me’ (standard name: Come live with me and be my love)

The purpose of this section is to provide brief notes on the melody followed by detailed evidence relating to  its career, paying particular attention to the ‘echoes’ (inter-song associations and connections) that may have been set up if it was nominated for the singing of more than one ballad. In the list presented in the ‘Songs and Summaries’ section below, we have endeavored to include as many of the black-letter ballads that used the tune as possible, under any of its variant names. Titles from our chart of best-sellers are presented in bold type (these are also in colour when there is a link to the relevant ballad page on the website). It should be noted that it is extremely difficult to date many ballads precisely and the chronological order in which the songs are listed is therefore very approximate (we have drawn on previous attempts to date the ballads, making adjustments when additional evidence can be brought into play).  In most cases, we list the earliest surviving edition of a ballad, though in many instances there may have been earlier versions, now lost.

Versions and variations

Notation for this melody was rarely recorded. An early example in lute tablature occurs in William Corkine’s Second Book of Ayres (1612) and we have used this for our recording. The melody that appears with this hit ballad in the 1714 edition of Wit and Mirth is different, though it shares several points of contact with the earlier tune (particularly the cadence point at the end of the second line). It seems plausible to hear this as an example of a tune moving away from its original form, frozen at a moment just before it became unrecognisable. The melody was most often known as ‘[Come] live with me, [and be my love]’, though the hit ballad under discussion here also generated the new titles, ‘Shore’s wife’, ‘Shore’s wife’s lamentation’ and ‘Jane Shore’.

Echoes (an overview)

This tune was well-known as a result of its nomination on at least two highly successful songs, and it was called for more widely than this. Seven ballads are listed below, most of them published before c. 1620. Three of the seven deal with love, including both of our hits. There is no soppy romance here, however, for each of the love songs presents relations between the sexes as extremely problematic. A most excellent Ditty is the expanded broadside version of a famous poetical exchange said to have involved Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh, and in it the woman rejects the man’s invitation to ‘Live with me and be my Love’. The outcomes are much worse in The dying tears of a true Lover forsaken and The Woful Lamentation of Mistris Jane Shore, both of which highlight disloyalty and disaster.

A most sorrowfull Song, is rather different in that it tells a story of male intrigue, but perhaps the darkly romantic melody connects betrayal in love with betrayal in politics (a link that is further encouraged by the explicit comparisons drawn in the ballad with the case of Jane Shore). Other sorts of male betrayal are described in A warning for all Souldiers and The lamentation of Henrye Adlington, the gallows speeches of a deserter and a murderer respectively. The remaining song is in the ‘ages of man’ tradition and seems to stand apart from the other ballads to the tune.

The songs are connected not only by their tune but also by numerous textual cross-references, only a few of which can be mentioned here. The Woful Lamentation of Mistris Jane Shore and A most sorrowfull Song were clearly composed with reference to one another, and the second feels like a response to the first (though it is possible that the relationship was the other way round). A most sorrowfull Song is about a male servant’s betrayal of his master, but it includes an unusually direct attempt to compare one case with another: ‘Jane Shore, the time I knew full well,/ like me you climbd, like me you fell,/ The Duke did me to honour bring,/ thou wast advanced by the King’. It is also worth comparing the opening lines of the two songs:

‘If Rosamund that was so fair,/ Had cause her sorrows to declare/ Then let Jane Shore with sorrow sing/ That was beloved of a King’ (The Woful Lamentation of Mistris Jane Shore).

‘If ever wight had cause to rue/ a wretched deede, vilde and untrue,/ Then Banister with shame may sing,/ who sold his life that loved him’ (A most sorrowfull Song).

The fact that the two songs are both set in the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III strengthens the comparison considerably.

There are several close links between The lamentation of Henry Adlington and A warning for all Souldiers, including the following couplets: ‘In quarrels, brawles, debate, and strife,/ I spent the springtyme of my lyfe’ and ‘Licentiously I spent my lyfe,/ and gave my minde to brawles and stryfe’. Similar affinities occur in other ballads: ‘For love of me he left his life,/ Because I would not be his wife’ (The dying tears); ‘No London Dame, nor Merchants wife/ Did lead so sweet and pleasant Life’ (The Woful Lamentation of Mistris Jane Shore); and ‘No he must leave Children and Wife,/ To give the world, cant save his life’ (The Age and Life of Man). Other recycled rhymes in this series of songs include sheet/street, cry/die, love/prove and sing/king. Overall, there can be little doubt that these ballads were not only discrete items but members of a closely interwoven group.

[See 'Postscript', below, for additional notes on the melody].

Songs and Summaries

A most excellent Ditty of the Lovers promises to his beloved. To a sweet new tune called, Live with me and be my Love (composed before 1600; ‘Printed by the Assignes of Thomas symcock’, 1628-31). Roxburghe 1.205; EBBA 30141. Gender – courtship; Environment – landscape, flowers/trees, birds, animals; Emotions – love, longing, suspicion; Recreation – music, food; Employment – agrarian; Bodies – clothing; Society – rural life. In the first part, a man asks a woman to be his love, but in the second she politely declines, citing the changeable nature of all earthly phenomena, including love.

The Woful Lamentation of Mistris Jane Shore, a Goldsmiths Wife in London, sometime King Edward the Fourth's Concubine... The Tune is, Live with me (composed before 1600; F. Coles, T. Vere, and J. Wright, 1665-74). Euing 394; EBBA 32019. Gender – adulltery/cuckoldry, marriage, sex; History – medieval; Politics – domestic, controversy, power, court; Royalty – general; Morality – romantic/sexual; Bodies – looks/physique; Death – result of immorality; Emotions – longing, greed, excitement, anger, sorrow, shame;  Religion – charity, conjuration; Christ/God, divine intervention, Employment – professions; Crime – immorality, clipping coins, punishment; Places – European, extra-European, travel/transport; Violence – punitive. Two songs in which Jane Shore and her estranged husband take turns to explain how her decision to become the king’s concubine eventually destroyed them both.

A most sorrowfull Song, setting forth the miserable end of Banister, who betraied the Duke of Buckingham... To the tune of, Live with me and be my love (registered 1600; F. Coules, 1624-80). Pepys 1.64-65; EBBA 20265. History – medieval, villainy; Politics – domestic, court, plots; Religion – divine intervention; Crime – murder; Death – unlawful killing, accident, suicide; Violence – interpersonal; Emotions – shame; Employment – apprenticeship/service; Family – children/parents; Morality – political, general; Recreation – music. Banister laments his duplicity in betraying the Duke of Buckingham to King Richard, and he then addresses Jane Shore directly, pointing out that his shame and suffering have been far worse than hers.

A warning for all Souldiers that will not venture their lyves in her Majestye’s cause and their Countrie’s right... To the Tune of Shore’s wive’s Lamentation (copied by hand, 1600-03). Shirburn ballads, XLVII. Crime – robbery/theft, desertion; Death – execution; Violence – punitive, interpersonal; Emotions – sorrow, shame; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Recreation – alcohol; Religion – sin/repentance, Bible, divine intervention, Christ/God; Gender – masculinity; Politics – foreign affairs, war; Family – parents/children; Morality – general. A man faces execution for deserting the army, so he begs forgiveness for his sins and asks others to learn from his example (‘a bullet’s better than a rope’).

The lamentation of Henrye Adlington, a fencer, one of the cuttinge crewe of London, who, for murther, was executed without Algate, and yet hangeth in chaines. To the Tune of Shore’s wife (copied by hand, 1603-16). Shirburn ballads, XXV. Death – execution, unlawful killing, godly end; Crime – murder, prison; Violence – interpersonal; Emotion – sorrow, shame; Religion – prayer, sin/repentance, Bible, church; Employment – apprenticeship/service; Family – children/parents, kin; Gender – masculinity, sex; Morality – general; Recreation – alcohol, theatre; Places – English. A young man faces execution for two murders, repents his wickedness and urges others not to follow his example.

The dying tears of a true Lover forsaken, Made on his Death-bed; the hour before his Death. The Tune is, Come live with me (composed before 1616; F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, J. Clarke, W. Thackeray, and T. Passinger, 1680-81). Euing 64; EBBA 31742. Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Death – heartbreak, suicide; Emotions – anger, despair, shame; Morality – romantic/sexual; Religion – ghosts/spirits, church; Recreation – music; Employment – crafts/trades; Bodies – looks/physique, health/sickness. In the first part, a man approaches death and is in no doubt that the inconstant woman who broke his heart will suffer for her actions; in the second part, she does.

The Age and Life of Man... To the Tune of, Jane Shore (Ric. Burton, 1640-76). Euing 11; EBBA 31654. Religion – Christ/God; Family – children/parents; Economy – money, hardship/prosperity; Gender – marriage; Recreation – games/sports; Death – old age; Employment – agrarian; Society – education. This divides a man’s life into ten ages, each of seven years duration, and describes the rise and fall that he experiences.


The tune was also nominated in several song-books of the early seventeenth century. See, for example: Richard Johnson, Crowne Garland (1612), in which it is chosen for ‘The life and death of the great Duke of Buckingham’ (a topic also covered in one of the ballads listed above); and Thomas Deloney, Strange Histories (1602), where it provides the music for ‘The imprisonment of Queene Elenor, wife to King Henrie the second’. Clearly it was a melody with pronounced historical overtones.

One of the ‘godly meditations’ in Nicholas Breton’s The Soules Heavenly Exercise (1601) opens with the line, ‘Come live with mee, and be my love’. Although no tune is specified, the verses are probably to be understood as a response to the romantic poem/song allegedly by Marlowe and Raleigh (issued in ballad form as A most excellent Ditty of the Lovers promises to his beloved: see above). In Breton’s moralised version, the language of courtship is re-purposed for the expression of devotion to God (‘Oh thou more faire then fairness is/... More kinde then lovers when they kisse’).

Ross Duffin shows that playwrights of the period also drew inspiration from the original ‘Come live with me’ text, composing stage songs that must have been intended for the tune.

Christopher Marsh


Nicholas Breton, The Soules Heavenly Exercise (1601), pp. 128-57.

William Corkine, Second Book of Ayres (1612), G2v (transcription in Simpson).

Thomas Deloney, Strange Histories (1602), B2v-B3v.

Ross W. Duffin, Some other note. The lost songs of English Renaissance comedy (Oxford, 2018), pp. 101, 238 and 571.

Richard Johnson, Crowne Garland (1612), B8v-C2r.

Claude Simpson, The British broadside ballad and its music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp. 119-122.

Wit and Mirth (1714), vol 5, p. 213.

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Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Queen Elizabeth

The purpose of this section is to provide evidence relating to  the career of the image under discussion, paying particular attention to the ‘reflections’ (inter-song associations and connections) that may have been set up if it was chosen to illustrate more than one ballad. The list given below includes all ballads from the Pepys and Roxburghe collections that feature this woodcut or a close variant (these are the two largest collections, including approximately 3300 sheets, in total). References to ballads from other collections occur only when the featured edition of the song under consideration here (or the featured edition of another song from our list) comes from such a source. Ballads from our chart of best-sellers are presented in bold type, and they also appear in colour where there is a link to another song in the database. Please note, however, that the editions of hit songs listed below are not necessarily those for which digital images are presented on this website. Cross-references to other examples of our featured woodcuts are also presented in bold. It is extremely difficult to date many ballads precisely and the chronological order in which the songs are listed is therefore very approximate (we have drawn on previous attempts to date the ballads, making adjustments when additional evidence can be brought into play).

Reflections (an overview)

This was an extremely familiar image in the seventeenth century. Many ballads, issued by numerous publishers, displayed it, and the slight variations in detail suggest that several different woodblocks were in existence (though copy-cat carvers typically stuck very closely to the existing design). Printers clearly understood the value of having their own copies of the block in stock. The depicted queen clearly must have begun life as a representation of Elizabeth I – the woodcut closely resembles numerous contemporary prints and paintings of the famous monarch - but on ballads of the period she played an intriguing variety of roles.

There were three main clusters, and plentiful potential existed for tensions and interplay between them. Elizabeth I was, of course, remembered with great affection in the seventeenth century, and so it is not surprising that, in the world of woodcuts, she often played a desirable and admirable romantic partner. There was also something haughty about the representation, however, and this seems to have fitted ballads in which the woman being courted was either reluctant to participate or frustrated with her suitor in some way (see for, example, The Maidens Nay and The loving Virgins Complaint).

Such ballads shade into the second category, made up of those in which the main female character has either been badly let down by a man or is angry with men in general (examples include The distressed Virgin and The Maidens complaint of her Loves inconstancie). In these cases, the queen’s posture can be understood as indignant, angry or affronted. The general shape of the image gives the impression that she has her hands on her hips – a combative gesture that was considered inappropriate for all women other than aristocrats – although on closer inspection this turns out to be an illusion.

A third category of roles suggests that the potentially indignant body language could also be interpreted as undesirable female forwardness or even ‘frowardnes’: Queen Elizabeth also appeared on ballads about women who were outspoken, deceitful, disdainful, pretensious or lascivious. In The Whoremongers Conversion, for instance, a man describes to his friend the harm he has suffered as a result of his addiction to lewd women. The fact that one of the derogatory terms he applies to such women is ‘queans’ may also be significant, connecting with the picture and with the manner in which prostitutes reportedly dressed in fine clothes in order to trick and tempt potential customers (he calls them ‘these painted courterfeits’).

The appearance of the queen/quean on The Woful Lamentation of Mistris Jane Shore taps into several of these contrasting associations, mirroring an ambivalence about the charitable concubine that can also be discerned in the text and the tune. It clearly worked, and most seventeenth-century editions displayed it as the only woodcut.

Only rarely did this image actually represent a female monarch, perhaps because of these complicated associations. An isolated case was Great-Brittains Renown, a song of 1689 that celebrated the arrival in England of King William and Queen Mary, and it seems possible that many ballad-consumers found the effect just a little curious!

[See 'Postscript', below, for additional notes on the woodcut].

Songs and summaries

The Lovers Guift, Or a Fairing for Maides (John Trundle, 1597-1626).  Pepys 1.250-51; EBBA 20115.  Gender – courtship; Emotions – longing, love, joy.  A dialogue ballad in which Prisilly initially rejects Edmund’s declarations of love but then changes her mind in time for a happy ending (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, alongside Akimbo man with plumed hat).

The lamentable Ditty of Little Mousgroue, and the Lady Barnet (H. Gosson, 1601-29).  Pepys 1.364-65; EBBA 20172.  Gender – marriage, adultery, sex, masculinity; Death – tragedy; Emotions – anger; Society – service and apprenticeship.  A man commits adultery with the wife of an aristocrat and all three parties face the consequences (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, alongside Gallant with small hand).

The Constant Lover.  Who his affection will not move, Though he live not where he love (Henry Gosson, 1601-40).  Roxburghe 1.68-69; EBBA 30047.  Gender – courtship, masculinity; Emotions – love, frustration; History – ancient/mythological, romance; Religion – ancient gods. A man declares his undying devotion for a woman who lives some distance away (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, next to Akimbo man with plumed hat).

The Maidens complaint of her Loves inconstancie (H. G., 1601-40).  Roxburghe 1.248-49; EBBA 30172.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity, Cupid; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – love, anger, despair; Bodies – health/sickness, physique/looks. A woman, deserted by a manipulative lover, laments her sad state and criticises the ways of ‘false men’ (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, to the right of an Akimbo man  with plumed hat).

The two Notinghamshire Lovers: or, The Maid of Standon in Notingham-shire, and the Leicestershire man (H. G., 1601-40).  Roxburghe 3.178-79; EBBA 30475.  Gender – courtship; Family – children/parents, kin; Death – suicide, heartbreak; Morality – familial;  Emotions – love, despair, guilt; Society – friendship; Violence – interpersonal, self-inflicted; Environment – birds, weather.  A woman plans to elope with her sweetheart but he fails to turn up for their meeting, initiating a chain of events that leads to the death of both parties (picture placement: she appears on the right of the sheet, next to a Gallant on tiles).

A mery new Jigge.  Or, the pleasant wooing betwixt Kit and Pegge (H. Gosson, 1601-40).  Pepys 1.258-59; ESTC 20119.  Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Humour – mockery.  A dialogue ballad in which a man declares his love for a woman but is rejected with disdain (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, next to a Turning man in hat).

A Posie of rare Flowers, Gathered by a Young-man for his Mistrisse (H. Gosson, 1601-40).  Pepys 1.308-09; EBBA 20146.  Gender – courtship; Emotions – love; Nature – flowers and trees. A wholsome romantic ballad in which a man describes the posie he has prepared for his sweetheart (picture placement: she appears on the right side of the ballad, alongside a man in dark clothes with one hand on his hip).

The Essex man coozened by a Whore (H. Gosson, 1601-40).  Pepys 1.290-91; EBBA 20136.  Gender – courtship, marriage; Places – English; Society – rural life, urban life. An honest man travels to London and is tricked into marriage by a disreputable woman (picture placement: she stands beneath the title and alongside an Akimbo man with plumed hat).

An Excellent Sonnet: OR, The Swaines complaint, whose cruell doome, It was to love hee knew not whom (J. Wright, 1602-46).  Roxburghe 1.110-11; EBBA 30072.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, singles; Humour – extreme situations/surprises, mockery, satire; Emotions - confusion. A young man is deeply in love but cannot identify the object of his affections, and he asks us not to laugh at him in his predicament (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, alongside a Courtier and countryman).

The Maidens Nay, Or I loue not you (John Wright, 1602-46).  Pepys 1.298-99; EBBA 20140.  Gender – courtship; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – love. A man courts a woman, who turns him down initially before reversing her position in the second half of the song (picture placement: she stands beneath the title, alongside a man in dark clothes with one hand on his hip).

Constance of Cleueland. A very excellent Sonnet of the most faire Lady Constance of Cleveland, and her disloyall Knight (I. Wright, 1602-46).  Pepys 1.138-39; EBBA 20060.  Gender – marriage, adultery; Morality – sexual; Crime – murder; Emotions – love, anger; Death – execution, unlawful killing, result of immorality; Violence – interpersonal. An incredibly loyal and long-suffering wife endures her husband’s affair with a harlot and offers to die in his place when he is convicted of murder (picture placement: she stands on the right side of the sheet, alongside a nobleman and a woman holding a bouquet).

The cunning Age. OR A re-married Woman repenting her Marriage (John Trundle, 1624-26). Pepys 1.412-13; EBBA 20194. Gender – marriage, masculinity, femininity; Emotions – sorrow; Recreations – good fellowship.  Three women discuss marriage and the many failings of men (picture placement: she appears on the right side of the ballad, alongside a Woman in charge).

The distressed Virgin: OR, The false Young-man, and the constant Maid (F. Coules, 1624-80).  Roxburghe 1.90-91; EBBA 30062.  Gender – courtship, Cupid, masculinity, femininity; Morality – romantic/sexual; Death – heartbreak; Emotions – sorrow.  A young woman, abandoned by the man to whom she was engaged, expresses her extreme sadness and declares her readiness to die (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, alongside Turning man  in hat).

The lovely Northerne Lasse, Who in this ditty here complaining, shewes What harme she got milking her dadyes Ewes (F. Coules, 1624-80).  Roxburghe 1.190-91; EBBA 30133.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity, sex; Morality – romantic/sexual;  Employment – agrarian, female/male; Family – children/parents. A maiden becomes pregnant by a seductive but unreliable shepherd’s boy but eventually another man falls in love with her and all is well (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, alongside Turning man in hat).

The Lovers delight: OR, A pleasant Pastorall Sonnet (Francis Coules, 1624-80).  Roxburghe 1.198-99; EBBA 30137.   Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Environment – flowers/trees; Bodies – physique/looks; Recreation – music, games/sports; Emotions – longing; Employment – agrarian; History – ancient/mythological, romance; Religion – ancient gods. An assortment of shepherds and nymphs gather in the idyllic countryside so that Phillis can choose her favourite young man under the guidance of ‘the faire Queene of chastity’ (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, to the right of Akimbo man with plumed hat).

The paire of Northerne Turtles: Whose love was firme till cruell Death, Depriv'd them both of life and breath (F. Coules, 1624-80).  Roxburghe 1.318-19; EBBA 30219.  Death – illness, heartbreak; Emotions – love, sorrow, grief; Nature – birds; Bodies – health/sickness; Gender – marriage. In the first part, a dying woman bids a sad farewell to the man she loves, and, in the second, her grieving partner pours out his heart and expresses his wish to join her beyond the grave (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, to the left of an Akimbo man with plumed hat).

The Whoremongers Conuersion, And his Exhortation to's worshipfull friend, To leaue haunting whores (Fr. Cowles, 1624-80).  Roxburghe 1.478-79; EBBA 30319. Society – friendship; Employment – prostitution; Gender – sex, masculinity, femininity; Morality – general; Bodies – health/sickness, adornment; Recreation – alcohol, tobacco, theatre; Economy – hardship, money; Emotions – sorrow, guilt; Places – English; Religion – body/soul.  A once-wealthy man, fallen into hardship because of his love of whores, strumpets and ‘queans’, expresses his regrets and warns a friend to avoid such courses (picture placement: she appears on the right side of the sheet, alongside a Gallant with small hand and close to the text’s references to disreputable ‘queans’).

The wofull complaint of a Love-sicke Mayde (F. Coules, 1624-80).  Roxburghe 1.280-81; EBBA 30199.  Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity, Cupid; Emotions – despair, love, anger; Morality – romantic/sexual; Bodies – health/sickness. A young woman is convinced that her sweetheart has deserted her, but he pops up in the second half of the song to deliver reassurance and to explain that he was merely testing her loyalty (picture placement: she appears beneath the title).

The loving Virgins Complaint. Or, her destre [sic] to obtaine the loue of a young man (Fr. Coules, 1624-80). Pepys 1.328-29; EBBA 20157.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Emotions – love, longing, sorrow. The narrator hears a young woman lamenting her devotion to a bashful youth and intervenes to save her from despair (picture placement: she stands beneath the title and next to a Turning man in hat).

A good Wife, or none (Francis Coules, 1626-44). Roxburghe 1.140-41; EBBA 30086. Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity, Cupid; Emotions – anger; Morality – sexual; Environment – animals, birds, flowers/trees. A man, let down by an inconstant sweetheart, resolves to make do without women in the future unless he can find a more reliable one (she stands alongside an Akimbo man with plumed hat on the right side of the sheet).

The Brides Good-morrow (‘Printed by the Assignes of Thomas Symcocke’, 1628-31).  Roxburghe 1.15; EBBA 30019.  Gender – marriage; Emotions – joy; Recreation – weddings, food, music; Religion – church, Christ/God; Bodies – clothing, nourishment; Family – children/parents, kin; Society - friendship. This addresses a bride on her wedding day, emphasising the joy of the occasion and the benefits of marriage (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, and there are no other woodcuts)

The Revolted Louer. OR A young Maiden is apt to be wonne, Approued by what this Damsell hath done (‘Printed by the Assignes of Thomas Symcock’, 1628-31).  Roxburghe 1.350-51; EBBA 30239.  Gender – courtship, femininity; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – anger; Bodies – physique/looks; Religion – church. A man regrets his engagement, now broken, to a beautiful woman who turned out to be wanton and disloyal (picture placement: she appears on the right side of the sheet, next to a finely-dressed gallant).

Seldome comes the better: OR, An admonition to all sorts of people, as Husbands, Wives, Masters, and Servants, &c. to auoid mutability, and to fix their minds on what they possesse (‘Printed at London’, c. 1629).  Roxburghe 1.382-83; EBBA 30256.  Gender – marriage, femininity, masculinity; Employment – apprenticeship/service, alehouses/inns; Recreation – alcohol; Economy – household; Society – criticism. This warns us to make the best of what we have (wives, servants, employers), rather than to be constantly thirsting after change –  ‘for seldome comes the better’ (picture placement: she appears on the right side of the sheet, next to a man in black clothing).

The Honest Wooer, His minde expressing in plaine and few termes, By which to his Mistresse his love he confirmes (F. C., c. 1632).  Roxburghe 1.156-57; EBBA 30098. Gender – courtship; Emotions – love; History – ancient/mythological, romance. A plain-talking man declares his love for a woman, and she reciprocates (picture placement: she appears on the right side of the sheet, next to Akimbo man with plumed hat). 

The fetching home of May: OR, A pretty new Ditty wherein is made knowne, How each Lasse doth strive for to have a greene Gowne (J. Wright junior, 1634-58).  Roxburghe 1.538-39; EBBA 30357.  Recreation – fairs/festivals, games/sports; Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity, sex, Cupid; Nature – flowers/trees; History – ancient/mythological; Emotions – longing. An exuberant courtship ballad in which the fetching home of May is strongly associated with youthful love-making (picture placement: she stands on the left side of the sheet, alongside Akimbo man with plumed hat).

The Marryed Mans Lesson: OR, A disswasion from Jealousie (John Wright the younger, 1634-58).  Roxburghe 1.510-11; EBBA 30343. Gender – marriage, femininity, masculinity; Humour – domestic/familial. The narrator warns men to accept all sorts of wives and avoid jealousy because it only leads to further problems (picture placement: she appears alongside Akimbo man with clouds on the right side of the sheet).

A pleasant new Ditty: intituled, Though rich golden Booties your luck was to catch, Your last was the best, 'cause you met with your match (J. Wright junior, 1634-58). Roxburghe 1.508-09; EBBA 30342.  Gender – courtship, marriage, masculinity; Humour – domestic/familial, extreme situations/surprises, bawdry; Bodies – physique/looks, health/sickness; Death – old age, illness; Disability – physical; Society – old/young; Economy – money; Recreation - food. A greedy bachelor marries three old widows in succession, inheriting all their wealth, but is then undone by his fourth wife, a teenager, who ends up inheriting everything (picture placement: she stands beneath the title, to the right of Akimbo man with plumed hat and a woman with a fan).

The Wooing Lasse, and the Way-ward Lad (J. Wright junior, 1634-58).  Roxburghe 1.532-33; EBBA 30354.  Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Emotions – frustration, longing, love; Employment – agrarian; History – ancient/mythological, romance; Humour – mockery. A young woman is frustrated that her chosen man will not leave his work to sport with her, but he finally changes his tune following Cupid’s forceful and decisive intervention (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, to the left of a Turning man in hat).

A Penny-worth of good Counsell. To Widdowes, and to Maides (no imprint, c. 1638).  Roxburghe 1.312-13; EBBA 30215. Gender – courtship, marriage, masculinity; Emotions – frustration; Bodies – clothing, nourishment, physique/looks; Recreation – walking, music, games/sports, dance, food, alcohol, theatre;  Environment – birds, seasons. A woman complains that the handsome, vibrant man she thought she was marrying has turned into a thoroughly unpleasant and useless husband who ‘hath no fore-cast in him’ (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, to the left of Akimbo man with plumed hat).

A Womans Work is never done (John Andrews, 1654-63).  Roxburghe 1.534-35; EBBA 30355.  Employment – female/male; Family – children/parents; Gender – marriage, femininity, masculinity, sex; Economy – household, livings; Bodies – nourishment; Emotions – sorrow. A wife describes her life of continual toil in support of her husband and children, and she concludes that the lot of an unmarried maiden is ‘merrier’ by far (picture placement: she appears on the right side of the sheet, next to a forward-facing gallant).

A New, Rare, and Exellent sonnet of A Brave and lusty youth full Groome, that Was in Love and could not tell with Whom (F. C., J. W., T. V., and W. G., 1655-58).  Roxburghe 3.186-87; EBBA 30654. Gender – courtship, masculinity, singles; Humour – extreme situations/surprises, mockery, satire; Emotions – confusion. A young man is deeply in love but cannot identify the object of his affections, and he asks us not to laugh at him in his predicament (picture placement: she stands beneath the title, to the right of a Gallant on tiles).

The Woful Lamentation of Mistris Jane Shore, a Goldsmiths Wife in London, sometime King Edward the Fourth's Concubine (F. Coles, T. Vere, and J. Wright, 1665-74). Euing 394; EBBA 32019. Gender – adulltery/cuckoldry, marriage, sex; History – medieval; Politics – domestic, controversy, power, court; Royalty – general; Morality – romantic/sexual; Bodies – looks/physique; Death – result of immorality; Emotions – longing, greed, excitement, anger, sorrow, shame;  Religion – charity, conjuration; Christ/God, divine intervention, Employment – professions; Crime – immorality, clipping coins, punishment; Places – European, extra-European, travel/transport; Violence – punitive. Two songs in which Jane Shore and her estranged husband take turns to explain how her decision to become the king’s concubine eventually destroyed them both (picture placement: she stands over the opening lines, and there are no other woodcuts).

Constance of Cleveland (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1675-80).  Pepys 1.476-7; EBBA 20223.  Gender – marriage, adultery; Morality – sexual; Crime – murder; Emotions – love, anger; Death – execution, unlawful killing, result of immorality; Violence – interpersonal. An incredibly loyal and long-suffering wife endures her husband’s affair with a harlot and offers to die in his place when he is convicted of murder (picture placement: she appears beneath the title and is approached by Respectful man with raised foot).

The Women and Maidens Vindication OF TOP-KNOTS: At a Parliament Holden by them near Pimlico (J. Gilbertson, 1685-88).  Pepys 4.367; EBBA 22031.  Bodies – clothing; Recreation – fashions; Gender – femininity; Humour – satire, mockery; Politics – parliament, domestic; Emotions – anger; Employment – crafts/trades, female/male;  Economy – livings; Places – English. This describes the proceedings in a recent parliament of women, where a law was passed that forbade man from criticising the female fashion for top-knots (picture placement: she appears above the opening lines, to the left of a gathering of women).

Great-Brittains Renown, Or, The Princely TRIUMPH of the Glorious CORONATION of K. WILLIAM and Q. MARY (G. Conyers, 1689).  Pepys 2.269; EBBA 20882. Politics – celebration, domestic, Royalist; Religion – Catholic/Protestant, heroism; Royalty – praise;Emotions – joy, hope; Recreation – music; Gender – marriage. This describes the coronation and celebrates the arrival of William and Mary as saviours of English Protestantism (picture placement: she appears beneath the title, alongside assorted small images that seek to capture the atmosphere of the coronation).


This picture was also used repeatedly in chapbook versions of Jane Shore’s story. See, for example, The history of Mistris Jane Shore (London, 1660), in which the woodcut is used on four occasions.

Christopher Marsh

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Related Texts

Shore’s story was told in print on numerous occasions and it is clear that most of the authors who tackled the topic were aware of some or all of the pre-existing texts (see list below).

The most obviously influential version was by Thomas More, included in his History of Richard the Third (c. 1514). He anticipated criticism for including ‘so slight a thing’ as the tale of a royal mistress in his heavyweight history but he clearly had an inkling that the story might prove compelling, and his efforts set Jane Shore on the road to stardom.

Many of the core features of her narrative as it later developed are already present in More’s work: her background within the London citizenry and her marriage at an unsuitably young age; her status as Edward IV’s most beloved and ‘meriest’ mistress; her beauty and her wit; her generosity to the less fortunate in society; and her victimisation at the hands of Richard III (who confiscates her goods and orders her to perform public penance for her sins). More’s aim was to serve the Tudor cause by disparaging Richard III, and this priority helps to explain his unmistakable sympathy for Shore. He was aware of her weaknesses but chose to stress her strengths.

Traces of More’s account can be found in all later versions of the story. Many early-modern chronicles quoted him verbatim, and his influence over the more imaginative sources is only a little less noticeable. Authors did, however, vary considerably in their emphases and their levels of sympathy. The title of Thomas Churchyard’s poem of 1563, for example, signalled an intention to go even further than More in expressing sympathy for Shore. His text also emphasised her influence over the king and her broad popularity among her contemporaries. It was also the first to describe the disloyalty of Shore’s friends in the years following her fall from favour.

Churchyard’s poem, written in the voice of Shore’s ghost, proved highly successful and led to the composition of several other ‘female complaints’ about unfortunate historical women. One of these works was Anthony Chute’s own contribution to the literature about Shore, a lengthy poem of 1593 that highlighted in particular her beauty and her skill in exploiting it. Chute also went further than his predecessors in discussing her marriage, arguing that Shore had been forced to wed an elderly man for whom she felt disdain.

Deloney's 'new sonnet' was also published in 1593 but he was less sympathetic than Chute. The poem argues that Shore rebelled against her father and became very unpopular after the collapse of her influence. The anonymous author of the play, The true tragedie of Richard the third (1594), was similarly critical, presenting Shore as a self-absorbed character whose occasional statements of repentance were less than convincing. The play’s subtitle identifies her clearly as ‘an example for all wicked women’.

In 1597, Michael Drayton included a fictional exchange of letters between Edward IV and ‘Shore’s wife’ in Englands heroicall epistles (‘Shore’s wife’ was the standard term used to identify her at this date, for nobody had yet called her Jane). These texts, written in verse, are particularly important because they influenced our ballad directly in several respects. Various details that appear in The Woful Lamentation make their first appearance in Drayton’s poems, including Shore’s address in Lombard Street and her husband’s work as a goldsmith. Furthermore, the prose ‘Description’ of Shore that appears in the second part of our featured edition, squeezed uncomfortably between two columns of verse, is lifted directly from the contextual notes provided by Drayton at the end of his poems.

The clear relationship between the poems and the ballad can also be seen in in the following paired quotations (in each case, the first lines are by Drayton and the second from the song): ‘Or once a weeke to walke into the field;/ Small is the pleasure that these toyes doe yeeld’ and ‘once a week to walk in field,/ To see what pleasure it would yeild’; ‘And what though married when I was but young,/ Before I knew what dyd to love belong’ and ‘I married thee whilst thou wert young/ Before thou knew’st what did belong/To husbands love’; ‘Yet he which now’s possessed of the roome,/ Cropt beauties flower when it was in the bloom’ and ‘But when the King possesst my Room,/ And cropt my Rosse [rosy] gallant bloom’. There can be little doubt that the ballad-makers were thoroughly familiar with Drayton’s work and ready to re-deploy it without much alteration.

Unusually, Drayton’s Shore seems to be writing before she succumbs to the king’s advances and there are therefore no expressions of contrition. It is difficult to say whether or not Drayton’s text amounts to a sympathetic representation of Shore. As far as we can tell, all of the texts listed below were exercises in ventriloquism; men imagine the words of women, and every example bears traces of its origins in a male mind. Drayton’s Shore does a lot of complaining and tends towards an abdication of personal responsibility. She wishes that the king had never chosen her, and she blames her forced marriage for throwing her into disarray. She argues that she has been manipulated by men, and she criticises husbands in general for jealously curtailing the freedom of their wives. Her constricted state as a young wife has left her highly susceptible to the king’s promises of ‘libertie’ and even ‘soveraigntie (o that bewitching thing)’. She emphasises the weakness of women and their vulnerability to acquisitive men. Few can resist the commands of a king, and Shore blames her monarch for the fact that her husband no longer pleases her. Although she has not yet sinned, the direction of travel is clear and she seems to be preparing her excuses in readiness for the journey from city to court.

There is some dispute over the order in which our ballad and Thomas Heywood’s play about Shore were written. Both texts, it seems, were probably composed between 1597 and 1600, and it is currently impossible to establish with absolute certainty which came first. Heywood’s First and second partes of King Edward the Fourth was originally published in 1599 and was probably written a little earlier. No edition of the ballad has survived from this date, but other songs were already nominating its tune – as ‘Shore’s wife’ – by 1600. Again, this probably indicates that the ballad had already been in circulation for at least a year or two.

The balance of probability suggests that the ballad pre-dated the play, and there are three main arguments in favour of this view. First, the ballad lifts text freely from Drayton’s work but does not appear to echo Heywood in the same way. It might well have done so if, as Harner suggests, the ballad was an attempt to capitalise on the success of the play (rather than vice versa). Second, the ballad displays none of the cryptic sections that are so common in songs that were hurriedly-written contractions of much longer texts (see, for example, A Pleasant Song of the Valiant Deeds of Chivalry. Atchieved by that Noble Knight Sir Guy of Warwick). Instead, the ballad seems to form a coherent whole (it draws on Drayton but is in no sense a summary of his text).

Third, the comic sub-plot in Heywood’s play – featuring the Tanner of Tamworth – was quite definitely based upon a song that already existed (see A Pleasant new Ballad betweene King Edward the fourth, and a Tanner of Tamworth), and it seems plausible to argue that the playwright’s trick was to produce a dramatic work that skilfully wove together and developed the subject matter of two hit ballads of the moment. Perhaps this novelty helps explain the early-modern popularity of a play that has not, in general, impressed modern critics.

If this makes sense, then the ballad stands out as a genuinely innovative composition that added fresh features and re-set Shore’s story for a new century. It includes many details that were not in previous publications but that appeared regularly in subsequent texts: ‘Shore’s wife’ becomes Jane Shore and her husband is identified as Matthew; although the forced marriage remains, Jane tells us that she loved her husband for ten years before the king took her as his concubine; Mistress Blague appears for the first time and plays an important role; Matthew Shore emerges as an important character in his own right for the first time, and nearly every aspect of his life is therefore new (his disgraced departure from England, his stay in Turkey, his return home and his execution for clipping gold); the single individual who offers Jane support in her destitution is hanged for his efforts; and we are told that ‘Shoreditch’ in London was named after her (sadly, this seems to be untrue).

The ballad is also notable for the unresolved tensions that are written into the personalities of Jane Shore and her husband. This brings to the story a degree of psychological complexity that amounts to another innovation. Jane, on the one hand, is wilfully wanton, and she rejoices in the splendour, privilege and power of her life at court. She is driven by lust and a thirst for pleasure. On the other hand, she expresses deep contrition for the manner in which she has wronged her husband, and she uses her influence with the king for the benefit of others. She maintains ‘an honest mind’, despite everything, and devotes herself to charitable work. She describes her punishment by Richard III but she accepts it as a legitimate consequence of her sin.

Matthew is similarly torn, though in his case the tension is between his anger at his wife for shaming him so openly and his lingering love for ‘gentle Jane’. He blames her for the fact that he ends up in Turkey but, while there, he sets up a picture of her and describes her beauty to anyone who will listen.

And just as Jane and Matthew are tugged this way and that, so too are we, the listeners. Should we blame Jane, as she blames herself, or shed tears for her in her suffering? Where might we position ourselves in relation to Matthew’s combination of pride, anger and romantic obsession? And to what extent should we castigate the king for luring an impressionable young woman away from a pleasant life on Lombard Street and into a new world that can only destroy her? Skilfully, the ballad-makers leave open all sorts of answers to each of these questions, even while producing the most didactic of all the Shore-texts.

One of the most successful of the ballad-makers’ innovations is the attention they pay to the role of gold in holding all parts of the story together. Drayton had made Matthew a goldsmith for the first time but the ballad goes further than he did in exploiting the poetical possibilities of this new scenario. Jane is first placed on show to the world in her work for the family business (‘My beauty in a shop of Gold’). This leads directly to a life at court that is even more splendid, and she wears ‘gowns beset with Pearl and Gold’ along with ‘chains and jems and golden rings’. And this leads in turn to Matthew Shore’s sad death, at the very end of the ballad, as the consequence of his illegal activities in ‘clipping Gold’. The wheel has come full circle and, just in case we have not been concentrating, Matthew drives home the point: ‘By Gold was my best living made,/ And so by gold my life decai’d’.

Heywood’s play, if it did indeed follow the ballad, picks up on almost all of this and develops the story further (he also draws extensively on Drayton). The ballad’s fleeting revelation that Jane loved Matthew before going astray is placed at the centre of the new work. Heywood gives us a happy marriage that is torn apart by the interventions of a charismatic but thoroughly disreputable monarch. The love of Jane and Matthew somehow survives and they are reunited at the end of the play, albeit in wretched circumstances (they die together).

In Heywood’s hands, Jane Shore’s story becomes for the first time a full-blown domestic tragedy in which the focus is as much on the ill-treated citizens as on their monarch. A consequence of Heywood’s innovation is a central character who is more thoroughly admirable – her one big mistake notwithstanding - and therefore somewhat less complicated than the woman encountered in the ballad.

The other main development in Heywood’s play is the introduction of a significant political element. In particular, Matthew Shore establishes himself as a brave and loyal citizen at the start of the play when he helps to counter the Falconbridge rising. This has the effect of magnifying the abusive arrogance of Edward IV when he responds to Matthew’s loyalty by visiting his wife in disguise and forcing her into an affair with him. Heywood's approach to the story was clearly successful and people seem to have referred to his play not by its cumbersome printed title but instead by names such as 'The Book of Shoare' or 'Shore's wife' (Phillips).

Few new texts were published about Jane Shore during the seventeenth century, though it would be a mistake to suppose that English people had lost interest. Further editions of Heywood’s play were printed until the 1620s, and The Woful Lamentation seems to have been available throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Several of the other texts outlined above were also reissued, sustaining interest in Jane Shore until the anonymous publication of a new version, The unfortunate concubines, in 1708. This placed the story alongside that of ‘Fair Rosamond’, another royal mistress from the medieval age. Jane Shore is here described in largely familiar terms, with an emphasis upon her beauty, misfortune and underlying innocence. The unfortunate concubines was much longer than previous versions and it therefore included a wealth of new detail. Jane’s father, for example, is identified (incorrectly) as Mr. Thomas Wainstead, and Matthew Shore’s face is said to be marked by smallpox. This version was regularly republished and clearly played its part in the enhanced interest in Jane Shore that can be detected in the eighteenth century.

Most of this is beyond the scope of this website, but one work in particular deserves mention. In 1714, the ballad inspired the playwright, Nicholas Rowe, to write The tragedy of Jane Shore. According to one commentator, ‘Mr. Rowe seems to have a great Regard for this old Ballad, and has follow’d it more nearly than any History we have extant’ (Philips).

The influence of the ballad is indeed apparent, though the traces of Heywood’s play seem even more noticeable. In particular, the focus is heavily upon Jane’s suffering and the fundamental admirability of her marriage to Matthew. Her anguish is a constant reminder of her sin, and the play ends with a moralising warning about the dangers of breaking one’s marital vows, but the author’s primary purpose was clearly to stir sympathy for Jane and her husband. Wisely, he nevertheless reassured his audiences in the prologue that the matter of interpretation was up to them: ‘For her Example whatsoe’er we make it,/ They have their Choice to let alone, or take it’. This was in itself an incitement to audience debate and the approach clearly worked; the eighteenth century witnessed numerous spin-off publications that capitalised on the success of the play by telling Jane Shore’s story again and again (a small selection of these is included below).

Early modern English people encountered Jane Shore through a wide variety of different media, and it seems likely that each individual’s interpretation of the hit ballad must have been heavily conditioned by the other forms in which he or she had experienced the story. Those who had seen salacious pictures of Shore may, for example, have been more likely than others to focus on the sex-power nexus that lies at the heart of the ballad (see Song history). Might some consumers even have found the little woodcut of a queen in her finery arousing as a result of this connection?

Similarly, those who knew the various ‘female complaint’ texts, in which Shore and other characters speak from beyond the grave, may have been particularly likely to imagine the ballad’s central characters – Jane and her husband – as ghosts. And people who had seen Heywood’s play may well have been tipped towards understanding the relationship of the Shores as deeply loving, despite the torment through which it had passed. In these and other ways, different consumers probably processed the ballad differently, depending on the nature of their prior exposure to the Shore story.

Christopher Marsh

Texts (in chronological order)

Thomas More, The history of Richard the Third (c. 1514), ed. George M. Logan (Bloomington, Indiana, 2005), pp. 55-56, 62-67 and 84. Versions of More’s text also appeared in later chronicles by Hall, Grafton, Holinshed and Stow.

Thomas Churchyard, ‘How Shores wife, Edward the fowerthes concubine, was by king Richarde despolyed of all her goodes, and forced to do open penance’, in Anon, A myrrour for magistrates (1563), fos. clv-clxii.

Anthony Chute, Beawtie dishonoured written under the title of Shores wife (1593).

Thomas Deloney, ‘A new sonnet, containing the Lamentation of Shore’s wife’ in The garland of good-will  (registered 1593; edition of 1678), A7r-8v.

Anon, The true tragedie of Richard the third wherein is showne the death of Edward the fourth, with the smothering of the two yoong princes in the Tower; with a lamentable ende of Shore’s wife, an example for all wicked women (1594).

Michael Drayton, ‘Edward the fourth to Shores wife’ and ‘The epistle of Shores wife, to King Edward the Fourth’ in Englands heroicall epistles (1597), fos. 53v-60v.

The Woful Lamentation of Mistris Jane Shore... The Tune is, Live with me (probably composed 1597-99; edition of 1663-74).

Thomas Heywood, The first and second partes of King Edward the Fourth containing his mery pastime with the tanner of Tamworth, as also his love to faire Mistrisse Shore (probably composed 1597-99; published 1599).

Anon, The unfortunate concubines: the history of fair Rosamond, mistress to Henry II; and Jane Shore, concubine to Edward IV (1708), pp. 83-156.

Nicholas Rowe, The tragedy of Jane Shore. Written in imitation of Shakespear’s style (1714).

Anon, Memoirs of the lives of King Edward IV And Jane Shore (1714). Extracted from the best historians (1714).

Anon, A review of the tragedy of Jane Shore (1714).


James L. Harner, ‘”The wofull lamentation of Mistris Jane Shore”: the popularity of an Elizabethan ballad’, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 71 (1977), pp. 137-49.

Richard Helgerson, ‘Weeping for Jane Shore’, South Atlantic quarterly, 98.3 (1999), pp. 451-76.

Ambrose Philips, A collection of old ballads (1723), p. 147.

Harriet Phillips, Nostalgia in print and performantce, 1510-1613 (Cambridge, 2019), pp.147-55,

Samuel L. Pratt, ‘Jane Shore and the Elizabethans: some facts and speculations’, Texas studies in literature and language 11.4 (1970), pp. 1293-1306.

Maria M. Scott, Re-presenting ‘Jane’ Shore: harlot and heroine (Aldershot, 2005).

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The Woful Lamentation of Mistris Jane Shore, a Goldsmiths Wife/ in London, sometime King Edward the Fourth’s Concubine, who for her wanton life, came to a miserable end.  Set/ forth for the example of all lewd Livers.  The tune is, Live with me.

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its text]


IF Rosamond that was so fair,

Had cause her sorows to declare

Then let Jane Shore with sorrow sing

That was beloved of a King:

Then wanton wives in time amend,

For love and beauty will have end.


In Maiden years my beauty bright

Was loved dear of Lord and Knight,

But yet the love that they requir’d,

It was not as my friends desir’d


My Parents they for thirst of gain,

A Husband for me did obtain;

And I their pleasure to fulfil,

Was forc’d to wed against my will:


To Mathew Shore I was a wife,

Till lust brought ruine to my life,

And then my life so lewdly spent,

Now makes my soul for to lament


In Lumbard street I once did dwell,

As London yet can witness well,

Where many gallants did behold

My beauty in a shop of Gold:


I spread my plumes as wantons do,

Some sweet and secret friend to woe,

Because my love I did not find,

Agreeing to my wanton mind.


At last my name in Court did ring,

Into the ears of Englands King

Who came and lik’d and love requir’d,

But I made coy what he desir’d:


Yet Mistress Blague a neighbour ne’r,

Whose friendship I esteemed dear,

Did say it was a gallant thing:

To be beloved of a King.


By her perswasions I was led,

For to defile my Marriage bed,

& wrong’d my wedded husband Shore

Whom I had lov’d ten years before


In heart and mind I did rejoyce:

That I had made so sweet a choice,

And therefore did my Estate resign

To be King Edwards Concubine;


From City then to Court I went

To reap the pleasures of Content,

And had the joys that love could bring

And knew the secrets of a King,


When I was thus advanc’d on high,

Commanding Edward with mine eye,

For Mistriss Blague I in short space

Obtain’d a living of his Grace.


No friend I had but in short time

I made unto promotion climb:

But yet for all this costly Pride,

My Husband could not me abide:


His bed though wronged by a King

His heart with grief did deadly sting,

From England then he goes away,

To end his life upon the Sea,


He could not live to see his name

Impared by my wanton shame:

Although a Prince of Peerless might

Did reap the pleasures of his right


Long time I lived in the Court,

With Lords and Ladies of great port,

For when I smil’d all men were glad

But when I mourn’d my Prince grew sad


But yet an honest mind I bore,

To helpless people that were poor,

I still redrest the Orphans cry

And sav’d their lives condemn’d to dye,


I still had ruth on Widdows tears

I succour’d Babes of tender years,

And never lookt for other gain,

But Love and thanks for all my pain.


At last my Royal King did dye,

And then my days of woe grew nigh

When Crookback Rich. got the Crown;

King Ed. friends were soon put down,


I then was punisht for my sin

That I so long had lived in.

Yea every one that was his friend

This Tyrant brought to shameful end


Then for my rude and wanton life,

That made a strumpet of a Wife

I pennance did in Lumbard-street

In shameful manner in a sheet.


Where many thousands did me view

Who late in court my Credit knew,

which made the tears run down my face

To think upon my foul disgrace:


Not thus content they took from me

My Goods, my Livings, and my Fee

And charg’d that none should me relieve

Nor any succor to me give.


Then unto Mistriss Blague I went

To whom my jewels I had sent,

In hope thereby to ease my want

When riches fail’d and love grew scant


But she deni’d to me the same,

When in my need for them I came;

To recompence my former love,

Out of her doors she did me shove:


So love did vanish with my state,

Which now my soul repents too late;

Therefore example take by me,

For friendship parts in poverty;


But yet one friend among the rest,

Whom I before had seen distrest,

And sav’d his life condem’d to die,

Did give me food to succour me.


For which by law it was decreed,

That he was hanged for that deed:

His death did grieve me so much more,

Then had I died my self therefore:


Then those to whom I had done good,

Durst not restore me any food;

Whereby in vain I beg’d all day,

And still in streets by night I lay.


My gowns beset with Pearl and Gold

Are turn’d to simple garments old;

My chains and jems and golden rings,

To filthy rags and loathsom things,


Thus was I scorn’d of Maid and wife

For leading such a wicked life;

Both suckling babes and children small

Did make a pastime at my fall,


I could not get one bit of bread,

Whereby my hunger might be fed.

Nor drink but such as channels yield,

Or sticking ditches in the field:


Thus weary of my life at length

I yielded up my vital strength,

Within a Ditch of loathsome scent

Where carrion dogs do much frequent


The which now since my dying day,

Is Shoreditch cal’d as writers say:

Which is a witness of my sin,

For being Concubine to a King:


You wanton wives that fall to lust,

Be you assur’d that God is just,

Whoredom shall not escape his hand,

Nor Pride unpunisht in this Land;


If God to me such shame should bring,

That yielded only to a King;

How shall they escape that daily run,

To practice sin with every Man:


You Husbands match not but for love,

Lest some disliking after prove,

women be warn’d when you are wives

What plagues are due to sinful lives,

Then Maids and wives in time amend,

For love and Beauty will have end.


The second Part of Jane Shore, wherein her sorrowful husband bewaileth his own estate, and/ Wives wantonness, the wrong of Marriage, the fall of Pride, being a warning for all women to take/ heed by.  To the same tune.


IF she that was fair Londons pride,

For beauty fam’d both far and wide,

With swan=like Song in sadness told

Her deep distresses manifold.


Then in the same let me also,

Now bear a part of such like woe.

Kind Matthew Shore men called me,

A Goldsmith once of good degree,


And might have lived long therein

Had not my Wife been wed to sin:

Ah gentle Jane thy wanton race,

Hath brought me to this foul disgrace.


Thou hadst all things at wish and will

Thy wanton fancy to fulfill,

No London Dame, nor Merchants wife

Did lead so sweet and pleasant Life,


Then gentle Jane the truth report

Why left’st thou me to live in Court?

Thou hadst both Gold and silver store

No wife in London then had more?


And once a week to walk in field,

To see what pleasure it would yeild,

But woe to me that liberty

Hath brought me to this misery:


I marri[e]d thee whilst thou wert young

Before thou knew’st what did belong

To husbands love or marriage state,

Which now my soul repents too late:


Thus wanton Pride made thee unjust,

And so deceived was my trust,

But when the King possest my Room,

And cropt my Rosse gallant bloom,


Fair Londons blossom and my joy,

My heart was drown’d in deep annoy:

To think how unto publique shame,

Thy wicked life brought my good name


And then I thought each man & wife,

In jesting sort accus’d my life

And every one to the other said,

that Shores fair wife the wanton plaid


Thereby in mind I grew to change

My dwelling in some Country strange,

My Lands and Goods I sold away,

And so from England went to Sea;


Opprest with grief and woful mind

But left my cause of grief behind,

My loving Wife whom I once thought

Would never be to lewdness brought,


But women now I well espy,

Are subject to inconstancy;

And few there be so true of love,

But by long suit will wanton prove,


For flesh is frail and women weak

When Kings for love long suit do make

But yet from England my depart,

Was with a sad and heavy heart,


Whereat when as my leave I took,

I sent back many a heavy look,

Desiring God if it might be,

To send one sigh sweet Jane to thee.


For if thou hadst but constant been,

These days of woe I ne’r had seen,

But yet I grieve and mourn full sore,

To think what plagues are left in store


For such as careless tread awry,

The modest path of constancy:

Ah gentle Jane if thou didst know,

The uncouth paths I daily go,


And woful tears for thee I shed,

For wronging thus my Marriage bed,

Then sure I am thou wouldst confess,

My love was sure though in distress:


Both Flanders, France, and Spain I past

And came to Turky at the last;

And there within that mighty Court,

I lived long in honest sort,


Desiring God that sits in Heaven,

That Lovers sins might be forgiven;

And there advanc’d thy loving name,

Of living Wights the fairest Dame.


The praise of Englands beauty stain,

All which thy Husband did maintain,

And set thy picture there in gold,

For Kings and Princes to behold;


But when I thought upon thy sin,

Thy wanton thoughts delighted in;

I griev’d that such a comely face,

Should hold true honour in disgrace,


And counted it a luckless day,

When as thou first didst go astray;

Desiring then some news to hear,

Of her my soul did love so dear,


My secrets then I did impart,

To one well skil’d in Magick Art,

Who in a Glass did truly show,

Such things as I desire to know,


I there did see thy Courtly state,

Thy pomp, thy Pride, thy Glory great

And likewise there I did behold

My Jane in Edwards arm infold.


Thy secret love I there espy’d,

Thy vice, thy fall, and how thou died,

Thy naked body in the street,

I saw do Penance in a sheet:


Barefoot before the Beadles wand

With burning taper in thy hand,

And Babes not having use of tongue,

Stood pointing as she went along:


Thus ended was the shame of thine,

Though God gave yet no end to mine;

When I suppos’d my name forgot,

And time had washt away my blot,


And in another Princes Reign,

I came to England back again:

But staying there my friends decay’d,

My Princes Laws I disobey’d,


And by true justice judg’d to die,

For clipping Gold in secresie.

By Gold was my best living made,

And so by gold my life decai’d.


Thus have you heard the woful strife,

That came by my unconstant Wife;

Her fall, my Death, wherein is shew’d

The story of a Strumpet Lewd.

In hope thereby all women may,

Take heed how they the wanton play.


The Description/ OF/ Jane Shore.

This womans/ beauty hath/ been highly prais-/ed by a famous/ writer that lived/ in her time named/ Thomas Moor,/ who described her/ in this manner.

Before her death/ she was poor and/ aged, her stature/ was mean, her hair/ of a dark yellow,/ her face round and/ full, her eyes gray,/ her body fat white/ and smooth,/ her countenance/ cheerful, like to/ her conditions.

There is a piecture/ of hers to be seen/ in London, it is/ such as she was/ when she rose out/ of her bed in the/ morning, having/ nothing on but a/ rich mantle cast/ under her arm, o-/ver which her na-/ked arm did lye.

What her Fa-/thers name is, or/ where she was/ born, is not cer-/tainly known, but/ her Husband Ma=/thew Shore, a/ Young Man of/ right good Pa-/rentage, wealth/ and behaviour, a-/bandoned her bed/ after the King had/ made her his Con=/cubine,

Printed for F. Coles, T. Vere and J. Wright.

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This ballad is included according to the criteria for List A (see Methodology). The evidence presented here is accurate, to the best of our knowledge, as of 1st January 2024.

Shirburn ballads: not included.

Appearances on Ballad Partners' lists: Pavier and partners, 1624 (as 'Jane Shore'); Coles, Vere, Wright and Clarke, 1675; and Thackeray, 1689 ('Jane Shore').

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: 1603.

No. of known editions c.1560-1711: 10

No. of extant copies: 10

New tune-titles generated: 'Jane Shore' (1 ballad).

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: none known.

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library databases:  31 references, with no evidence of later collection as a folk-song (Roud no. V5248).

POINTS: 0 + 30 + 5 + 20 + 10 + 2 + 0 + 3 = 70

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