Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/233

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penny and often contained a clumsy wood-cut at the top, were not the old English and Scottish ballads of good poetical repute, but, rather, verses of very mediocre quality that related for the most part, as has been said, to contemporary events of public and private interest. In fact, the ballads and short pamphlets of the day which were hawked about the streets in the same manner as the penny ballads, supplied in a measure the place of such publications as The Spectator of a later date and the newspapers of to-day. There was, for instance, a complete catalogue of the Marian Martyrs written in verse and peddled all over the kingdom by the ballad-mongers. The following examples serve to show how the ballads served the people with an account of current events in the capital. A picturesque presentation of the ballad-monger is to be found in the person of Autolycus of The Winter's Tale. On August 5, 1597, immediately after the appearance of Romeo and Juliet, a ballad on the story was entered in the Stationer's Register, and on August 27, T. Millington was fined for printing ballads on The Taming of the Shrew and on Macbeth. (Fleay.)

The following selection from an old ballad on the execution of a noted wizard in 1597 serves to show the character of these productions: