The complaint and lamentation of Mistresse Arden of Feversham in Kent,


The complaint and lamentation of Mistresse Arden of Feversham in Kent,


who for the loue of one Mosbie, hired certaine Ruffians and Villaines most cruelly to murder her Husband; with the fatall end of her and her Associats.

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British Library - Roxburghe, C.20.f.9.156-157; EBBA 30458

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AY me, vile wretch, that ever I was borne,
Making my selfe unto the world a scorne:
And to my friends and kindred all a shame,
Blotting their blood by my unhappy name.
Unto a Gentleman of wealth and fame,
(One Master Arden, he was calld by name)
I wedded was with joy and great content,
Living at Feversham in famous Kent.
In love we livd, and great tranquility,
Untill I came in Mosb[i]es company,
Whose sugred tongue, good shape, and lovely looke,
Soone won my heart, and Ardens love forsooke.
And living thus in foule adultery,
Bred in my husband cause of jealousie,
And lest the world our actions should bewray,
Wee did consent to take his life away.
To London faire my Husband was to ride,
But ere he went I poyson did provide,
Got of a Painter which I promised
That Mosbies sister Susan he should wed.
Into his Broth I then did put the same,
He likt it not when to the boord it came,
Saying, Theres something in it is not so[un]d,
At which inragd, I flung it on the ground.
Yet ere he went, his man I did conjure,
Ere they came home, to make his Master sure,
And murder him, and for his faith and paine,
Susan, and store of gold that he should gaine.
Yet I misdoubting Michaels constancy,
Knowing a Neighbour that was dwelling by,
Which, to my husband bore no great good will,
Sought to incense him his deare blood to spill.
His name was Greene; O Master Green (quoth I)
My husband to you hath done injury,
For which I sorry am with all my heart,
And how he wrongeth me I will impart.
He keepes abroad most wicked company,
With whores and queanes, and bad society;
When he comes home, he beats me sides and head,
That I doe wish that one of us were dead.
And now to London he is rid to roare,
I would that I might never see him more:
Greene then incenst, did vow to be my friend,
And of his life he soone would make an end.
O Master Greene, said I, the dangers great,
You must be circumspect to doe this feat;
To act the deed your selfe there is no need,
But hire some villaines, they will doe the deed.
Ten pounds Ile give them to attempt this thing,
And twenty more when certaine newes they bring,
That he is dead, besides Ile be your friend,
In honest courtesie till life doth end.
Greene vowd to doe it; then away he went,
And met two Villaines, that did use in Kent
To rob and murder upon Shooters hill,
The one calld Shakebag, tother namd Black Will.
Two such like Villaines Hell did never hatch,
For twenty Angels they made up the match,
And forty more when they had done the deed,
Which made them sweare, theyd do it with al speed
Then up to London presently they hye,
Where Master Arden in Pauls Church they spy,
And waiting for his comming forth that night,
By a strange chance of him they then lost sight.
For where these Villaines stood & made their stop
A Prentice he was shutting up his shop,
The window falling, light on Blacke-Wills head,
And broke it soundly, that apace it bled.
Where straight he made a brabble and a coyle,
And my sweet Arden he past by the while;
They missing him, another plot did lay,
And meeting Michael, thus to him they say:
Thou knowst that we must packe thy Master hence
Therefore consent and further our pretence,
At night when as your Master goes to bed,
Leave ope the doores, he shall be murthered.
And so he did, yet Arden could not sleepe,
Strange dreames and visions in his senses creepe,
He dreamt the doores were ope, & Villaines came,
To murder him, and twas the very same.
The second part. To the same tune.
HE rose and shut the doore, his man he blames,
which cunningly he strait this answer frames;
I was so sleepy, that I did forget
To locke the doores, I pray you pardon it.
Next day these Ruffians met this man againe,
Who the whole story to them did explaine,
My master will in towne no longer stay,
To morrow you may meete him on the way.
Next day his businesse being finished,
He did take horse, and homeward then he rid,
And as he rid, it was his hap as then,
To overtake Lord Cheiney and his men.
With salutations they each other greet,
I am full glad your Honour for to meet,
Arden did say; then did the Lord reply,
Sir, I am glad of your good company.
And being that we homeward are to ride,
I have a suite that must not be denide,
That at my house youle sup, and lodge also,
To Feversham this night you must not goe.
Then Arden answered with this courteous speech,
Your Honours pardon now I doe beseech,
I made a vow, if God did give me life,
To sup and lodge with Alice my loving wife.
Well, said my Lord, your oath hath got the day,
To morrow come and dine with me, I pray.
Ile wait upon your Honour then (said he)
And safe he went amongst this company.
On Raymon-Downe, as they did passe this way,
Black-will, and Shakebag they in ambush lay,
But durst not touch him, cause of the great traine
That my Lord had: thus were they crost againe.
With horrid oathes these Ruffians gan to sweare,
They stampe and curst, and tore their locks of haire
Saying, some Angell surely him did keepe.
Yet vowd to murther him ere they did sleepe.
Now all this while my husband was away,
Mosby and I did revell night and day;
And Susan, which my waiting maiden was,
My Loves owne sister, knew how all did passe.
But when I saw my Arden was not dead,
I welcomd him, but with a heavy head:
To bed he went, and slept secure from harmes,
But I did wish my Mosby in my armes.
Yet ere he slept, he told me he must goe
To dinner to my Lords, heed have it so;
And that same night Blacke-will did send me word,
What lucke bad fortune did to them offord.
I sent him word, that he next day would dine
At the Lord Cheinies, and would rise betime,
And on the way their purpose might fulfill,
Well, Ile reward you, when that you him kill.
Next morne betimes, before the breake of day,
To take him napping then they tooke their way;
But such a mist and fog there did arise,
They could not see although they had foure eyes.
Thus Arden scapd these villaines where [?]
And yet they heard his horse goe by that way,
I thinke (said Will) some Spirit is his friend,
Come life or death, I vow to see his end.
Then to my house they strait did take their way,
Telling me how they missed of their pray;
Then presently, we did together gree,
At night at home that he should murdered be.
Mosby and I, and all, our plot thus lay,
That he at Tables should with Arden play,
Black-will, and Sakebag they themselves should hide
Untill that Mosby he a watchword cride.
The word was this whereon we did agree,
Now (Master Arden) I have taken ye:
Woe to that word, and woe unto us all,
Which bred confusion and our sudden fall.
When he came home, most welcome him I made,
And Judas like I kist whom I betraide,
Mosby and he together went to play,
For I on purpose did the tables lay.
And as they plaid, the word was straightway spoke,
Blacke-Will and Sakebag out the corner broke,
And with a Towell backwards puld him downe,
which made me think they now my joyes did crowne
With swords and knives they stabd him to the heart
Mosby and I did likewise act our part,
And then his body straight we did convey
Behind the Abbey in the field he lay.
And then by Justice we were straight condemnd,
Each of us came unto a shamelesse end,
For God our secret dealings soone did spy,
And brought to light our shamefull villany.
Thus have you heard of Ardens tragedy,
It rests to shew you how the rest did die:
His wife at Canterbury she was burnt,
And all her flesh and bones to ashes turnd.
Mosby and his faire Sister, they were brought
To London for the trespasse they had wrought,
In Smithfield on a gibbet they did die.
A just reward for all their villanie,
Michael and Bradshaw, which a Goldsmith was,
That knew of letters which from them did passe,
At Feversham were hanged both in chaines,
And well rewarded for their faithfull paines.
The painter fled none knowes how he did speed,
Sakebag in Southwarke he to death did bleed,
For as he thought to scape and ran away,
He suddenly was murdered in a fray.
In Kent at Osbridge, Greene did suffer death,
Hangd on a gibbet he did lose his breath:
Blacke-Will at Flushing on a stage did burne,
Thus each one came unto his end by turne.
And thus my story I conclude and end,
Praying the Lord that he his grace will send
Upon us all, and keepe us all from ill,
Amen say all, ift be thy blessed will.

Method of Punishment

burning, hanging, hanging in chains,




Execution Location

Various: Canterbury (burning), Smithfield (hanging), Feversham (hanging in chains), Osbridge in Kent (hanging)

Printing Location

Printed at London for C.W.


Wikipedia:  Thomas Arden, or Arderne, was a successful businessman in the early Tudor period. Born in 1508, probably in Norwich, Arden took advantage of the tumult of the Reformation to make his fortune, trading in the former monastic properties dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538. In fact, the house in which he was murdered (which is still standing in Faversham) was a former guest house of Faversham Abbey, the Benedictine abbey near the town. His wife Alice had taken a lover, a man of low status named Mosby; together, they plotted to murder her husband. After several bungled attempts on his life, two ex-soldiers from the former English dominion of Calais known as Black Will and Loosebag (called Shakebag in the play) were hired and continued to make botched attempts. Arden was finally killed in his own home on 14 February 1551, and his body was left out in a field during a snowstorm, hoping that the blame would fall on someone who had come to Faversham for the St Valentine's Day fair. The snowfall stopped, however, before the killers' tracks were covered, and the tracks were followed back to the house. Bloodstained swabs and rushes were found, and the killers quickly confessed. Alice and Mosby were put on trial and convicted of the crime; he was hanged and she burnt at the stake in 1551. Black Will may also have been burnt at the stake after he had fled to Flanders: the English records state he was executed in Flanders, while the Flemish records state he was extradited to England. Loosebag escaped and was never heard of again. Other conspirators were hanged in chains. One - George Bradshaw, who was convicted by an obscure passage in a sealed letter he had delivered - was wrongly convicted and posthumously acquitted.




“The complaint and lamentation of Mistresse Arden of Feversham in Kent,,” Execution Ballads, accessed July 17, 2024,

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