Greatest 12 Characters Between 1400-1599

Who is on this list, what this list is about and how they got on the list!

Who is Robin Hood?


This is one of a set of lists I made showing a progression of the greatest characters in a heroic style throughout time. Focusing for the most part on one decade at a time. The heroes that we know and love today were inspired by heroes before them. Some are even real people who moved into folklore. Before comics there were pulp magazines. Before that there was dime novels and before that was the penny dreadfuls. There were many others as well like Gothic novels, story papers and yes even a real novel.  

The List 

 This is a list of the greatest characters who first appeared in print between 1400-1599.  These would be characters who will go on to be the biggest influences in comics either directly or indirectly.  In other words these will become great inspirations to future comic characters and stories. Right now they are in order of year.  

 I am everywhere!

New Stuff

Well here we are with another list.  This time instead of making it a decade long list.  I made it a two century long list.  You may have noticed that I have more than 12 that is because I may break this up into two lists at a later date if I get enough diverse characters of note.  If you have any suggestions let me know.

Here is the past list 

Greatest 12 Characters Between 1200-1399 

Here is the next list   

Greatest 12 Characters Between 1600-1799

List items

Posted by Mr.Q
I believe many historians now believe Robin was a character of fiction now. not like it matters.
Posted by Liberty
@Mr.Q:  I did say that.  No one is sure however.
Edited by Mr.Q
@Liberty: probably hyperbole or something like many folk heroes. either way he is an icon.
Edited by cbishop

I recommended it, because Robin Hood is a huge favorite of mine.  I only recently read the book in its entirety though.  There's stuff left out of so many adaptations that should really be included, but the 1950's TV show The Adventures of Robin Hood, from the BBC, did a far better job than I thought it had (having watched the show before reading the book).  I want the last 3 seasons of the show now. :) 
Although, I will say: in the version I read, Maid Marian was mentioned once, but never actually appeared in the story.  Talk about your retcons.

Edited by Byzantine

- William Shakespeare did not create Hamlet.  What gave you that idea? Scholars have noted reference to an earlier play "Hamlet" which was popular in the 1590s. There are references to this Ur-Hamlet "(source-Hamlet" in the works of Thomas Nashe, Philip Henslowe and Thomas Lodge. This early play may have been written by Thomas Kyd (1558-1594) and probably inspired Shakespeare to give his own spin on the tale. Unfortunately, the other Hamlet has not survived for comparison reasons.  
But Neither Kyd or Shakespeare created the character. They probably used a translation of "Histoires Tragiques" (Tragic Stories, 1566-1583) by Francois de Belleforest (1530-1583)  . A collection of historical tales and legends, translated into French and (often embelished) from various sources. 
Belleforest was translating the Vita Amlethi (Latin: Life of Amleth/ Hamlet) by Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1150-1220). A tale included in the Gesta Danorum ("Deeds of the Danes") , Saxo's 12th century masterpiece. In this tale Amleth is the son of Horvendill, governor of Jutland and Gerutha, Princess of Denmark. His maternal grandfather being Rorik Slyngebond  (Ringslinger or Ring Scatterer), King of Denmark. A legendary monarch of the 7th century.  
- In the tale, Horvendill is a successful military leader who wins the favor of the Rorik. And with that his daughter. But Feng, a brother of Horvendill, grew jealous of his success. Managing to both murder Horvendill and seducing Gerutha. Amleth is afraid that his uncle will also slay him. So he pretends to be an imbecile to escape. Horvendill is at first suspicious and puts Amleth into various tests. Such as tempting Amleth into sleeping with his foster sister. Which he does, but only after swearing her into secrecy. 
At last, Feng placed a man to spy on Amleth, hiding and eavesdropping at whatever the "fool" said. Amleth found and murdered this man. The disappearance of the spu confirmed Feng's suspicions. Feng wanted to kill the young man. But couldn't without angering both Rorik and Gerutha. So, he arranged for Amleth to travel to Britain with two companions. The two of them carried written instructions for the "King of Britain", that Amleth should be killed. 
Amleth replaced the instructions with his own written letters.The new instructions suggested that the British King should slay Amleth companions but have Amleth himself marry to his daughter. Which he did. He returned to Jutland months later. Ready for his vengeance. He got the courtiers of Feng drunk and set the palace on fire. Then went searching for the sleeping Feng. 
He managed to steal Feng's sword.  " Then, awakening his uncle, he told him that his nobles were perishing in the flames, and that Amleth was here, armed with his crooks to help him, and thirsting to exact the vengeance, now long overdue, for his father's murder. Feng, on hearing this, leapt from his couch, but was cut down while deprived of his own sword"  
The people of Jutland at first have no idea how to react. Amleth delivers a firey speech which wins them over. Allowing him to become their new leader. Amleth eventually returns to Britain in order to retrieve his wife. But his father-in-law was bound by oath to Feng and reluctantly attempts to avenge his old ally. By sending Amleth to woo Hermuthruda, A queen reigning in Scotland. A queen known to kill her suitors.  
Long story short, because there are several further chapters, Amleth wins the hand of the Scottish queen. Returning to Jutland with two wives. But he was gone for a while and his grandfather is dead. The throne of Denmark has been claimed by Wigleg. Who challenges Amleth to War for the possession of Jutland.  
Amleth is killed in battle. Wigleg wins the day and the hand of Hermuthruda in marriage.  " So ended Amleth. Had fortune been as kind to him as nature, he would have equalled the gods in glory, and surpassed the labours of Hercules by his deeds of prowess. A plain in Jutland is to be found, famous for his name and burial-place. Wiglek's administration of the kingdom was long and peaceful, and he died of disease." The tale continues with the descendants of Wigleg.   
As you can see many of the details of the story were lifted up by Shakespeare. Only the names differ. 
- Saxo is great as always. But probably didn't create Hamlet either. The "Chronicon Lethrense" , one of Saxo's sources, has a version of the same story. Though, as always in its case,  " considerably smaller and of much lesser quality." Hamlet/Amleth appears in the Chronicon as "Amblothe". His father as Orwende, Feng is Feng.  
There is a reference to Amlodi (Hamlet) in the Prose Edda (13th century). The context is unclear, but the author  Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) claims to be quoting an earlier work. By someone called Snaebjorn. Which might indicate our 12th and 13th century sources were quoting an earlier version of Hamlet.  
"Believe it or not the great Shakespeare did not create Romeo and Juliet. They first appear in a poem called The Tragicall History of Romeus and Juliet in 1562 by Arthur Brooke. He is reported to have translated it from an Italian novella by Matteo Bandello. Amazing. "   
Not so much. Matteo Bandello (c. 1480-1562) works were translated in several languages and were available in England by the 1590s. Shakespeare must have liked them. "Twelfth Night" is also inspired by one of Bandello's tales. Though Shakespeare got it by way of  Barnabe Rich's adaptation of the tale.  
But "Giulietta e Romeo" (1554) by Bandello might not be original either. Bandello certainly created the characters of Giulietta's Nurse and Benvolio (Good will).  
But Bandello was adapting  " Historia novellamente ritrovata di due nobili amanti"  ("Newly found story of two noble lovers", c. 1530) by Luigi Da Porto (1485-1529). Da Porto's story has it all. The correct name of the characters, the rivalry between the Montecchi and Capuleti, the location in Verona. And even the first known versions of a couple of new characters: Mercutio, Tybalt and Paris. He claimed this was a historical tale which happened while Bartolomeo II della Scala ruled Verona. So between 1375 and 1381.  
There is one little problem. Da Porto seems to have extensively revised an older tale. But it is still recognizable. It was the story of Mariotto and Gianozza by Masuccio Salernitano (1410-1475). Salernitano's early version has the basic elements of the tale: " the secret marriage, the colluding friar, the fray where a prominent citizen is killed, Mariotto's exile, Gianozza's forced marriage, the potion plot, and the crucial message that goes astray. " 
The main differences are the names of the characters, the action taking place in Siena and the finale. Where Mariotto (Romeo) is executed by decapitation and Gianozza (Juliet) dies of grief.  
So where do the Montecchi and Capuleti come from? Loon no further than the "Divine Comedy" by Dante Alighieri (c. 1265-1321) . Which includes the lines:   
"Come and see, you who are negligent,/ 
Montagues and Capulets, Monaldi and Filippeschi: / One lot already grieving, the other in fear." 
Dante is listing prominent families who suffered from the political struggles in Italy. The  historical  Montecchi (Montagues) were a political party in Verona, the  Cappelletti (Capulets) a family of Cremona. Probably not particularly connected to each other. Until the romance writers reinterpreted the verses to suit their purposes. 

Posted by Liberty
@byzantine:   I know about Romeo and Juliet and it is on my other list.  Hamlet origins are deeper than Shakespeare's Hamlet.  The play within the play is a tribute to that.  This is a character who has evolved.  I belive that Shakespeare's character is unique compared to all the remaining texts that are still available.  On another list I have the Pied Piper.  No one really knows when the character fisrt appeared and the first appearance that was know was destroyed.  This was the best date I could place this character.  What would be your suggestion of a text that still exists for this character.