294. The Old Wives’ Tale by George Peele, c. 1591

Three lost servants are taken in for the night by an old couple, and told a tale of sorcery, love and just desserts; about a sorcerer turning into a dragon and abducting a princess. Her two brothers follow to attempt her rescue, as do other adventurers, some less noble and competent. They encounter speaking heads bobbing in a well, two ugly sisters who find suitors uniquely suited to them, a were-bear, and a ghost who saves the day but demands an equal share in the prize, Princess Delia.

The framing story is not really necessary but does add to the fairy tale-type feel to the fantasy. The structure has more diversity and linkage than Peele’s earlier Edward I, but is still simplistic, and not particularly lyrical compared with Marlowe and Shakespeare, but this can be forgiven for the sheer joy of reading for the first time those immortal words … fe, fi, fo, fum. (it was actually fe, fa, fum but you get the drift) and means “Behold, here is food which is good to eat and will satisfy my hunger!” according to the annotated source I read at http://elizabethandrama.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/The-Old-Wives-Tale-Annotated.pdf

Rating : 4/10

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