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Betley Window


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A painted glass window, formerly in Betley Hall, Staffordshire, but now at Leigh Manor, near Minsterley, Shropshire, and dated between 1509 and 1536. The window has twelve roughly diamond-shaped panels which portray, in colour, six dancers, a musician, a hobby horse, a friar, a fool or jester, a female character, and a maypole with the words ‘a mery May’ across it. The window's content was first brought to the attention of scholars by George Tollett, who contributed a description to Johnson and Steevens's influential edition of Shakespeare published in 1778, as a note to Henry IV part 2. It was long thought to be one of the most important pieces of visual evidence regarding the early history of morris dance, the hobby horse, and the May games, but the nature of this evidence is, however, problematic. Some of the figures on the window are so similar to those on a work by the 15th-century Flemish engraver Israelvan Meckenhem as to call into serious question their relevance to England, and Dean-Smith deplores the false conclusions based on the assumption that the figures are English.

E. J. Nicol, JEFDSS 7:2 (1953), frontispiece, 59–67;Margaret Dean-Smith, Folklore 79 (1968), 161–75.


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