Brunne, Handl. Synne, Dulw. AIS. 2837, So were hebetter For to haue broke Jiat yche vowe. c. 1350 Alex. & Dind. 962, We ben beture of our lif &
swich bote finden.
c. 1450 Towneley Mist. XIII 44, 1 were beiter be hangyd. c. 1450 Bev. of Hamt. Manch. MS. 996, Euer more thou shalt be the better.
Ibid. Camb. MS. 1843, Thou were ellys where bettur |>an her, cl Naples MS. Thou were hens better. Ibid. Camb. MS. 3381, hc were bet ter to be at Rome.
1469 Malory, Morte Darthur 228/33, Thou ware better flee by tymes.
In modern English this construction is still vigorously alive; it is constantly met with in iöth century literature; in Shakespeare there are 10 instances of forms of be bet ter and no less than 26 of be best. In Present Eng. it survives in phrases like 'You are better in bed'=it is better for you to be in bed; 'he was better where he was'= is was better for him &c. Me is good does not appear to have adopted the D construction, but he, you were as good... occurs a few times in Shakespeare:
Measure f. Meas. III II, 38 he were as good go a niile on his errand.
Troyl & Cres. II I 111, he were as good cracke a fustie nut with no kernell.
Andronicus IV lil 57, You were as good to shoote against the winde.
The prototype of this is found in:
Thom. of. Ere. 223 L, me were as goodc be hengyd Chaucer, Pari. of. F. 511, him were as good be stille. 54. 1 had better does not occur before the beginning of the 15th century The four oldest instances I know of are:
Torr. of Port. 1 186, Better he had to have be away. Sir Cleges 425, Thou haddest better have gold or fee. Towneley PI. XXIII 105, thou had better laft The tales that thou has told.
Gesta Rom. p. 63, We had better counseill in |iis cas. The blending of me were better and I had beller resulted