Date of Composition: c. 1350-70
Place of Composition: Northeast Midlands
Keywords: Exile, Familial Discord, Forest, Friendship, Marriage, Religious Figures, Sacrament, Secular Spaces, The Third Estate, Treachery
On his deathbed, Sir John of Boundis divides his land between his three sons: Johan, Ote and Gamelyn. Although his knights suggest that he split it between the oldest two, he insists that the youngest has his share. As soon as he is dead, however, the eldest son Johan appropriates Gamelyn’s land and takes the child into his castle, treating him poorly and letting his property fall into disrepair. Years pass and Gamelyn grows into a strong young man. When he realises that his inheritance has been wasted he curses his brother, beating off the men that Johan sets on him. Claiming that he was simply ‘testing’ Gamelyn, the scheming Johan apologises and seals his false promise with a kiss.
Gamelyn wins a wrestling match, but when he returns to Johan’s castle with the crowd, he finds the doors bolted. He breaks them down, throws the porter into a well and holds a week-long feast. Johan hides in a tower and plots his revenge: when the guests finally depart, Gamelyn is captured. He observes that fifteen years of wasted rent should pay for the feast and Johan pretends to relent, promising to make Gamelyn his heir. He then tricks his brother into fetters and, telling the court that he is mad, binds him to a post in the hall. The spencer, Adam, helps Gamelyn escape and the two plan his revenge. The following Sunday Johan holds a feast for wealthy churchmen. Gamelyn stands at his post but when the churchmen ignore his pleas for help he casts off his fetters and, taking a staff from Adam, beats them while joking about religious rituals. Johan is bound and when the sheriff sends men to investigate they are beaten too. Reinforcements arrive and Gamelyn and Adam flee into the forest. There they meet a troop of outlaws who recognise Gamelyn and eventually appoint him as their King.
Meanwhile, Johan becomes sheriff and declares his brother an outlaw. When Gamelyn hears how badly his tenants are being treated, he returns to the court to confront Johan and is imprisoned. The middle brother Ote rebukes Johan and releases Gamelyn, pledging himself as surety. Gamelyn returns to the forest, promising to attend his trial, and Johan sets about bribing the justice and jury to hang him. When he arrives on the appointed day and finds Ote in chains, Gamelyn beats the corrupt judge and takes his place at the bench. With his outlaws acting as jury he tries the justice, jurors and sherriff, sentencing them all to be hanged. This done, Ote and Gamelyn travel to the king, who makes Ote justice and Gamelyn Chief Justice of the Forest. Ote and Gamelyn share their inheritance, Gamelyn marries and lives happily.
From: Donald Sands, Middle English Verse Romances. Exeter, University of Exeter Press, 1986.
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Alexander Chalmers, ed., The Works of the English Poets from Chaucer to Cowper (London: J. Johnson, 1810)Taken from Urry's 1721 edition.
D. B. Sands, ed., Middle English Verse Romances (Exeter: Exeter University Press, 1986)Pp. 154-81. Base-text not specified.
F.J. Furnivall, ed., A Six-Text Print of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. for The Chaucer Society, 1868)Uses Royal 18.C.II, Harley 1758, Sloane 1685, Corpus, Petworth and Lansdowne 851.
F.J. Furnivall, ed., The Harlean MS of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. for The Chaucer Society, 1868)Based on Harley 7334.
John Bell, ed., The Poets of Great Britain Complete From Chaucer to Churchill (London, 1782)Taken from Urry's 1721 edition.
John M. Manly and Edith Rickert, ed., The Text of the Canterbury Tales Studied on the Basis of All Known Manuscripts, 8 vols (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940)All MSS.
John Urry, T. Thomas, J. Dart and W. Thomas, eds., The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Compared with the former editions, and many valuable mss, out of which, three tales are added which were never before printed. (London: Bernard Lintot, 1721)Includes readings from 9 MSS, though base text is uncertain.
Neil Daniel, ed., The Tale of Gamelyn: A New Edition. Indiana University Ph.D., 1967Based on the Corpus MS
Nila Vazquez, The Tale of Gamelyn of the Canterbury Tales: An Annotated Edition (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2009)Uses Corpus Christi College Oxford MS 198 as base text for critical edition. Contains diplomatic transcriptions of 9 other MSS (Harley 7734, Lansdowne 851, Petworth, CUL Mm.2.5, Lichfield, Royal 18.C.II, Fitzwilliam McClean 181, Christ Church 152, Ha
Richard Morris, ed., The Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. 6 vols. (London: George Bell & Sons, 1866)Based on Wright's 1847-51 edition.
Robert Anderson, ed., The Works of the British Poets (London, 1785)Taken from Urry's 1721 edition.
Robert Bell, ed., Annotated Edition of English Poets (London, J.W. Parker & Son, 1854-56)Based on Wright's 1847-51 edition.
Stephen Knight and Thomas H. Ohlgren, ed., Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1997)Uses Petworth MS as base text.Available online at: http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/gamelyn.htm
Thomas Wright, ed., The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer: A New Text with Illustrative Notes. 3 vols. (London: Richards for the Percy Society, 1847-51)Uses British Library MS Harley 7334 as base text.
W. W. Skeat, ed., The Tale of Gamelyn (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1884)Uses Harley 7334 as base text.
Walter Hoyt French and Charles Brockway Hale, eds., The Middle English Metrical Romances, 2 vols (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1930; rpt. New York: Russell & Russell, 1964)Vol 1, pp. 207-35. Based on Harley 7334.