THE SHAKESPEARE IDENTITY PROBLEM

CHAPTER 4: THE CAREEER OF WILLIAM SHAXSPER


We have not yet said goodbye to William Shaxsper (WS). It is almost certain that the poet/dramatist William Shakespeare, whoever he was, knew and had at least seen, if not met, William Shaxsper, and that there was an intermediary who knew both of them. For this reason we need to look at the career of WS and see how and why their paths crossed.

There are several documented pieces of evidence on the spelling of WS's name apart from his own signatures. We have recorded evidence for his name as:

Shaksper, Shaksper, Shaksper, Shaxpere, Shagspere, Shakespeare, Shakspere,

Shaksper, Shackspere, Shaksper, Shak, Shaxper, Shaxpere.

The details are listed in Note A at the end of this chapter.

Two literate references to WS's name are spelled SHAX with per or pere at the end. I propose to refer to him from now on as Shaxper, a clear differentiation from Shakespeare, although to confuse the issue one spelling is Shakespeare out of thirteen we have listed, plus six of his own signatures: 18 to 1.

The word is clearly pronounced SHACK with a short "a" sound. This is quite different from the word "Shake" with a long "a" sound.

To attempt to identify how their paths crossed we need to see what further documentation there is of Shaxper's life, and documented information as to his various activities. Such details are listed in Note B at the end of this Chapter.

Because we know that William Shaxper was involved in the Globe playhouse company we need to find out as best we can what he did there, and if possible get some idea as to his income from that source.

There is an entry in the books of the Treasurer of the Chamber for a payment of £20 to 3 persons, Richard Burbage, Will Kempe, and William Shakespeare "servants of the Lord Chamberlain" for comedies played before the Queen on Dec. 26 and 28, 1594. But in the same books the Admiral's company of actors is recorded as having played before the Queen on Dec.26th, while the diary of Philip Henslowe at the Rose playhouse records that the Lord Chamberlain's company gave "The Siege of London", on Dec.26 at his theatre. On Dec. 28th the Lord Chamberlain's Company presented The Comedy of Errors at Gray's Inn, and not at Court. The payments totalled £20-18-0; not £20. The general rule was for one person, not three, to collect the money for a performance. (£ = pound sterling; 20/- or 20 shillings to a £; 12 pence or 12d to a shilling).

Sir Thomas Heneage was Treasurer of the Chamber from 1569-1592 and Vice Chamberlain from 1588 until he died in 1595. Later it was found he had not made a full accounting of invoices received by him as Treasurer. The Queen wrote to his widow who succeeded him as Treasurer of the Chamber, demanding the shortages be explained or made good. It was apparently after this that the entry was made in the books regarding the payment in this amount of £20 to Burbage, Kempe and Shakespeare. It seems the widow was obliged to 'cooper up' the accounts to cover at least some of the missing money.

There were about ten principal playhouses in London and its suburbs in Elizabeth's reign. The 'Theatre' playhouse, the second oldest, was founded in 1576 by James Burbage, an actor, and father of Richard Burbage, the most famous actor of his day. In about 1598-9 threatened with the demolition of the theatre by the owner of the land on which it stood, Richard Burbage, his brother Cuthbert, and 14 others surreptitiously dismantled it and moved it across the river Thames from its north location to Southwark, Bankside. This was done over the Christmas holiday before the landowner could enforce a writ to stop them. In its new leased location it was called the Globe, and William Shaxper was one of 7 'sharers' or investors or 'housekeepers' there. The yearly rent payable in its new location was £15-10-0 on a 31 year lease. The property apparently had tenants in run down housing, and there were drainage problems with the Sewer Commission. The lease permitted removal of existing buildings provided they were replaced with something better.

The Burbages employed Peter Streete for the dismantling, shipping, and re-assembly. He was a well known builder of playhouses. In October 1601 the description of the property included a playhouse with Richard Burbage and William Shakespeare, gentlemen, listed among the tenants.

We don't seem to have any information as to what the playhouse reconstruction costs were at the new Globe. But we're told the original 'Theatre' cost £700.

We have the contract of Peter Streete, carpenter, for the erection of the Fortune playhouse, dated 8 Jan 1599 (1600 in modern dating). This is also in the parish of St. Saviour in Southwark. The building was to cost £440. It was larger than the Globe, and the price apparently included all material costs.

In the Burbages' case, substantially all the theatre existed, but it had to be dismantled with individual timbers marked, not wrecked, then transported and re-assembled. Reconstruction is messier and takes longer than new construction. Based on the Fortune contract, I would guess the Globe cost and rent in advance of income to be between £300 to £350.

The Globe was destroyed by accident in 1613 during a performance using a cannon for effects, which set fire to the thatched roof and burned the place down in two hours, apparently destroying the business records. As there were no insurance companies, the Burbages had to raise the money to rebuild again.

Fortunately for us, the Burbage family petitioned the Lord Chamberlain in 1635. This is 19 years after the death of William Shaxper. Benfield and Swanston were members of the King's Men acting company, arguing that the "housekeepers" (investors) shared among themselves "the full moyety of all the Galleries and Boxes in both houses and of the tireing house dore at ye Globe" "the actors have the other moyety with the outer dores" but there were more of them (9) and they had to pay the costs of the playhouse including wages of hired men and boys, music expenses and lighting costs.

The gist of the Burbage family's defence (Cuthbert and Winifred, Richard's widow) is that they suffered manifold law suits, the leases' expiration, loss of business in sickness times (the plagues) and other accidents that " cut from them the best part of the gains said to have been received"....

Their defence continues "The 'Theatre' he (their father) built with many hundreds of pounds taken up at interest. The players (then) had only the profits arising from the doors, but now (they) receive all the comings in at the doors for themselves and half the galleries from the housekeepers. He built this house upon leased ground, we then thought of altering from thence and at like expense built the Globe with more sums of money taken up at interest which lay heavy on us many years and to ourselves were joined those deserving men, Shakspere, Hemings, Condall, Philips and others, partners in ye profits of that they call the house, but making the leases for 21 years has been the destruction of ourselves and others, they dying at the expiration of 3 or 4 years of their lease, the subsequent years became dissolved to strangers as by marrying with their widows and the like by their children.

Thus as concerning the Globe, where we ourselves are but lessees."

This apparently tells us that Shaxper as a 'sharer' would have received his share of the gallery income, that the sharers were parties to the original lease, that the benefits and liabilities of the lease could pass to their spouses and children and that the Burbages arranged and carried the financing costs of the Globe reconstruction. But we don't know whether the 'sharers' or 'housekeepers' had equal shares, or where the Burbages got their financing.

The appeal continues:

"Now for the Blackfriars. That is our inheritance, our father purchased it at extreme rates and made it into a playhouse with great change and trouble, which after was leased out to one Evans that first set up the Boys company called the Queen's Majesty's Children of the Chapel. In process of time the boys growing up to be men which were Vnderwood, Field, Ostler, and were taken to strengthen the King's service, the boys daily wearing out, it was considered the house would be as fit for ourselves and so purchased the lease remaining from Evans with our money and placed men Players, which were Hemings, Condall, Shakspeare, etc. And.... these new men that were never bred from our children in the king's service,

.....we refer to your honour's judgement to consider their profits, .....for it appears by their own accomptes for one whole year last past .....each of these complainants gained severally as he was a Player and noe Howskeeper £180 besides Mr Swanston has received from Blackfriar's this year as he is there a housekeeper about £30 all which being accompted together may very well keep him from starving..... wherefor your honour's supplicants entreat.....they may not further be trampled upon than this estates can bear.... submitting ourselves to part with one part to them for valuable consideration and let them seek further satisfactions .... of the heirs or assigns of Mr. Hemings and Mr. Condall who had theirs of the Blackfriars of us for nothing...."

This seems to tell us that while Hemings and Condell got their shares for nothing, presumably because of their superior acting services, Shaxper didn't and so apparently paid for his share, or got a smaller share.

So now we have some numbers, but for the Blackfriars, an indoor theatre, while the Globe was an outdoor theatre, an amphitheatre. In 1635 for one year past each actor 'gained' £180. That would have to be adjusted for inflation from 1635 back to 1600. The £180 would become about £144 for the year 1600, presumably less share of playhouse expenses not given to us but let's say about 30% to 40% leaving about £86 to £101 net, and the "housekeepers" £30 would become about £24. This gives us some idea of the monies involved. In 1600 the actors didn't share half the galleries intake, and received only the "comings in at the doors". So the "housekeepers" in 1600 would on that basis have received each £24 x 2 or about £48 a year and the actors, say, about £95 less say £24 = £71 . If Shaxper was an actor and a sharer he probably earned say about £71 + £48 = about £120 a year at the Globe once he became a 'sharer'. He had a wife and 3 children for 11 years, and then 2 female children and a wife to support back at Stratford on Avon.

The capacity of the largest theatre is said to have been about 3,000, standing and seated. Some young "gallants" or gentlemen would sit in chairs on the stage itself. There were several clowns among the players. These would come on stage in the prologue and the epilogue, as well as acting their parts during the plays. They would swap one-liners with the audience, and sometimes, but rarely, would be the losers in this quick fire repartee.

Not all the playhouses were profitable. The Globe was, partly because Shakespeare's plays were popular. They generally had lots of violence, were ribald, bawdy, and had good plots and action, moving along at a fast pace. Shakespeare seems to have frequently revised his plays to keep them up-to-date with topical references the audience would relate to.

In 1600 the agricultural labourer's average daily wage was 9d and a carpenter's was 1/-. In 1635 the carpenter's about 1/3 d. So in 1600 if an agricultural labourer worked 6 days a week, say 300 days a year, this is about £11-5-0 a year. A carpenter would have earned about £15 a year. If Shaxper was, as suggested, making about £120 a year once he became a 'sharer', you can see why he had left Stratford attracted by the theatres in London.

If we take the Globe's capacity at say 2000, working forward from that and the two days performances of £20.18.0 we have for revenue a rough estimate of annual income for the Globe in about 1600 of say £2,400 a year. Working backwards from the 1635 Blackfriars numbers gives about £2,584 a year which gives us some idea of the size of the Globe operation. (See Note C for more details).

It's a small world, this Elizabethan world. Lady Heneage, with her Treasurer's account problems, had been the second Countess of Southampton. It was the third Earl of Southampton, known as her son, to whom William Shakespeare had dedicated his two very long poems, "Venus and Adonis", and "The Rape of Lucrece". Southampton, in 1594, we are told, according to letters still in existence, was spending most of his time at the theatre and was a patron, meaning he provided financial assistance to playwrights and playhouses.

I have been careful to cite only known official documents and records and avoid any hearsay evidence. But because it may have some element of truth, I now mention the so-called first biography relating to WS comprising about 4 pages, published by a Nicholas Rowe of London in 1709, close to 100 years after Shaxper's death. Rowe claimed his information came from Thomas Bitterton, an actor, obtained on a visit to Stratford on Avon. But Bitterton's stepson, an actor, said that his stepfather had never been to Stratford on Avon. For what it's worth, then, Rowe says Shaxper was the eldest of 10 children and his father was a wool dealer and butcher who could give his eldest son no better education than his own employment, and withdrew him from school at an unusually early age. Rowe tells the story of the deer poaching incident by Shaxper who fled to London to escape punishment and then starting in a theatre company in a very mean rank reached the top of his performance as the ghost in Hamlet. Rowe quotes Sir William D'Avenant as saying that the Earl of Southampton gave Shaxper £1,000 for the purchase of property.

Since we now know Shaxper from his own signatures is shown to have been incapable of writing the Shakespearean plays and poems, of special interest to us is why - if he did so - would Southampton pay £1,000 to William Shaxper.

In 1587, when the Queen's players on tour came to Stratford on Avon, Shaxper was 23 years old, with a wife and 3 young children. He'd been obliged to marry an older woman who was pregnant. His father was a poor business man who apparently lost possession of what acreage his wife had brought him when they married. William Shaxper saw no future as the eldest son trying to help his debt ridden father. He must have been impressed with the amount of cash money the players collected for their performances, and this new art form would have been a revelation to him. Either he talked them into taking him on as one of them, there and then, in a very lowly capacity, or he followed on soon afterwards to London determined to get into the theatre business.

In 1596 William Shaxper's prospects were still not very bright, at 32 years of age. He had left behind in Stratford on Avon an illiterate father who was bankrupt, an illiterate mother, one illiterate daughter and the other who could just write her name, and an illiterate wife who at some unspecified time had to borrow money from a shepherd still not repaid at the time of the shepherd's death 5 years later. In London William Shaxper owed money for back taxes. In 1596 the name of William Shakespeare was returned as a tax defaulter in St. Helen's Bishopsgate, for an earlier assessment of which 5/- was unpaid, and in 1597 the name William Shakespeare was returned as a tax defaulter at the same address for the unpaid portion of 13/- on another assessment. In those days law enforcements were harsh. You did not want to risk owing taxes unless you had to.

The theatre company he worked with in London could not help him much financially. He was not a famous or leading actor. The bit part actors and lesser lights, the stage hands, and so on were paid very little. We saw that the entire proceeds for two days performances were £20.18.0 . This had to be divided between a cast of say 15 to 20 actors, stage hands, grooms, prop. personnel, wardrobe staff (no dry cleaning then), maintenance staff, lighting staff; rent had to be paid on the premises, and scripts purchased frequently to keep up with the competition and ensure the customers kept coming. Then there were the 'sharers' who had invested in the company and wanted a return on their investment, and finally, there was maintenance on the theatre building, such as painting and decorating, to be taken into account. There were no long runs, performances changed every few days.

Shaxper may have had to start as a youth minding patrons' horses, clearing up the manure, raking and sweeping the playhouse after each performance, digging fresh latrines every few days for the patrons and staff, and so on. This was not well paid work. But by about 8 years later he had advanced from that kind of existence to at least playing some small parts as a actor. By 1596 when William Shaxper was 32 years of age he had made some headway in the theatre world, but was involved in a public brawl as well as being in arrears for paltry tax assessments.

Suddenly a remarkable change in fortune takes place for Mr. Shaxper. Within a year of being a tax defaulter he has contracted to buy the 2nd largest house in Stratford on Avon. His father, no doubt on his behalf and with his money, is trying to get a coat of arms and be styled a 'gentleman' as then would be his son William, who had no justification for claiming it for himself. Shaxper has enough funds to be the 3rd largest grain hoarder in his home county. He soon becomes a partner or joint venturer with the Burbages in the re-located and rebuilt Globe theatre. Within 8 years he has bought tithes in 4 jurisdictions. He has been dealing in grain, malt, and stone, making loans, and going to court to enforce payments.

How did he come by so much money? It's clear he could not have earned it in the theatre business because a rough estimate is that he invested well over £900 . It appears that even if he invested every penny he earned at the Globe for 8 years, and even assuming he earned at the actor/sharer level throughout that time, which is almost certainly not the case, and provided no support at all to his Stratford family, and lived on absolutely nothing himself, he could not have accumulated £1,000.

A Stratfordian professor writing on the Web tells us that Shakespeare's play scripts sold for £6 each. That's very useful information. 'Shakespeare', whoever he was, has about 36 plays attributed to him, plus 2 major poems, some shorter ones, and 154 sonnets. Let's say 40 plays or equivalents.

Then, 40 x £6 = £240 for the entire life's work of someone said to be the greatest poet/dramatist that ever lived. That's only a quarter of the amount Shaxper was able to invest in about 8 years.

So if Shaxper could not have accumulated from his work at the Globe the wealth he came by, then how did he come by it? It begins to look as though Sir William D'Avenant was right and that the Earl of Southampton gave Shaxper £1,000 'for the purchase of property'.

Let's convert this money into modern value. A carpenter then earned about 1/- a day, £1,000 is 1,000 x 20 = 20,000/- (shillings). So the amount is 20,000 times the daily wage of a carpenter.

Let's say a carpenter in 2000 AD in Canada is earning at least $20 an hour. We have $160 for an 8 hour day. So $160 x 20,000 = $3,200,000.

That means the Earl of Southampton paid William Shaxper well over 3 million dollars in modern money. And Shaxper paid £60 for Newplace in Stratford on Avon or $192,000, and £440 for tithes, or $1,408,000 in modern money. These are not the funds available to small-time actors today, and as we've shown, nor were they in the Elizabethan age. These sums were presumably paid out in cash. There were no banks in those days, so you were wise to invest your money somewhere. Shaxper was clearly spending and investing money far beyond his income, and we have been given a plausible explanation as to how he came by it. Someone paid him a huge lump sum, and we've even been given a plausible name, the Earl of Southampton. But so far we have no motive as to why Southampton would do this.

Here's my interpretation of events:

Cuthbert Burbage was apparently not an actor, but was a sharer in the Globe with his brother Richard, the famous actor. Shaxper was a minor actor, but he became a sharer. Philip Henslowe, manager at the Rose playhouse, kept good records on which many generations of scholars have since relied. But as the records were lost at the Globe, presumably in the fire, we can only surmise that Cuthbert probably wrote up the records and Shaxper assisted in controlling the collection and distribution of the daily cash receipts to staff and sharers, and payment of bills. Richard Burbage, having so many leading roles to learn and perform would have had little time for either record keeping or cash control. He was busy being Hamlet, Shylock, Macbeth, King Lear, Henry V, Othello, to name but a few roles.

Southampton, born in 1573 had entered St. John's College Cambridge in 1585, took his MA degree in 1589 and was entered at Gray's Inn before leaving the university, so he apparently had legal training. Then he was well received at Court, and became a patron of the theatre. He was obviously well educated, very intelligent, and apparently a fine specimen of manhood.

In 1593 the narrative poem Venus and Adonis was published and was an instant success. In 1594 The Rape of Lucrece was another success. The titles alone would have encouraged sales. Richard Field who printed both could have told his fellow emigrant from Stratford on Avon about this, perhaps even given him a copy of each, because the poet's name was shown as William Shakespeare. And so William Shaxper would have known that the poems were dedicated to the Earl of Southampton.

England seems always to have been a class conscious society. Even into the 20th century the classes were sectioned off by their accents. You could not go to the right places and do the right things with the right people if you did not have the right accent. Although geographically a very small country, only about 600 miles north to south and less than that east to west, the variety of accents is remarkable, perhaps due to the various invasions and influxes of peoples over the centuries. Before radio and television smoothed the raw edges and created some mutual comprehension in the society, a Cornishman or a highland Scotsman, or a Welshman had difficulty in communicating with a Londoner. It's said, and probably correctly, that the Elizabethan court used to laugh (behind his back) at the accent of Drake (a Devon man) when he first came there.

William Shaxper would have had the lower class Warwickshire accent of his day and this could have been an embarrassment to him and amusement to the London actors he worked with, until the rough edges of his country accent began to wear off. It certainly would not have helped him in speaking roles if he aspired to an acting career. His Warwickshire name Shaxper could have been refined to Shakespeare among the actors at the Globe. If not, it would have been a serious impediment to his progress as an actor in London.

Shaxper may have attended at the Royal Court for performances as a minor 'player' at the Globe theatre, as indicated in the suspect December 1594 entry in the official records which mention William Shakespeare by name. If he did play the ghost in Hamlet, the ghostly voice would have tended to mask his poor accent. In any case, William Shaxper either was already starting to represent his name as Shakespeare or did so immediately on hearing about the name of the poet in the 1593 Venus publication. I suggest he waited until both poems were published and successful and then went to see Southampton. This would not have been difficult as the young Earl was said to be spending almost all his time at the theatres.

Shaxper may have been poor, but he was a shrewd business man. To judge by his various legal actions to collect debts he would have pursued this matter with some diligence.

I suggest dialogue such as this took place between them:

Shaxper: 'Your poet is using my name, without my permission, and I want a share of the proceeds.'

Southampton: 'prove it's your name.'

Shaxper: 'no problem'

Shaksper then pulled out of his pocket an official tax demand with the name William Shakespeare written on it.

Southampton: 'meet me next week and we'll discuss it.'

The Earl then told the poet, who kept in the background. Both of them knew that the poet also had a whole series of plays in the works, and didn't want to publish them anonymously because there would then be no writer's copyright control, and 'pirated' or 'foul' copies of works kept appearing with many errors in them. The poet, self opinionated as he was, knew that his work was ageless, and destined for great fame (he tells us that in his sonnets); he had his own reasons for wanting to keep the pseudonym he had already given himself, and to change it now might mean more problems with someone else. This Shaxper incident could be a real nightmare. Southampton, probably wealthier than the poet, might have said 'don't worry, I'll take care of it. I'll pay him off, make him sign for it as final, and get rid of the problem before it gets any worse.'

Then Southampton met Shaxper again.

Southampton: 'I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll pay you a lump sum and you sign this quit claim I have here.'

Shaxper: 'how much?'

Southampton: '£1,000, buy yourself some property and you'll be set up for life.'

Shaxper probably could have been knocked over with a feather. It was an enormous sum for Shaxper, but a relatively modest one for Southampton. So Shaxper signed the form.

Shaxper contracted that he had never had did not now have and would not in the future have any right title or interest in any or all of the existing or future works of the poet/dramatist whose pseudonym was William Shakespeare never to aspire to any future payments in any way shape or form and to acknowledge that the anonymous poet had full rights to the use of the name William Shakespeare without let or hindrance from Shaxper, his legal representatives heirs and assigns.

Shaxper was wise enough to honour the deal for the rest of his days. He could have risked his life by trying to double cross an Earl of Southampton's resources and power. These Earls had small private armies of retainers. There were no police.

Shaxper did indeed invest the money in various properties; Newplace, acreage, tithes, loans, inventories of grain, malt, stone, and the Globe theatre enterprise. He was able to live comfortably for his station in life for the rest of his days and paid for registration so that he could call himself 'gentleman.'

We're told that nowhere has any part in any play at any time been found assigned to "William Shakespeare" or William Shaxper during his lifetime. There are many records of parts in plays by leading actors of the day. Sometimes the name of an actor was even substituted for the name of a character in a play. It's said his name does not appear in any municipal record of theatrical performances in London or any of the provincial towns or cities in England although plays were given in about 70 such places during this period and names of leading actors recorded.

When Shaxper died in 1616 no notice was made of it in London, or Stratford on Avon. In 1605 William Camden, the antiquarian, published his Britannica. It listed the worthies of Stratford-on-Avon. There was no mention of William Shaxper, or Shakespeare. In Camden's Annuals of the events in 1616 there is no mention of Shaxper or his death. Stowe's Annuals (Stowe was a contemporary historian) also makes no mention of his death.

The scenario I provided is at least based on known facts which are not easily otherwise explained. I admit it's a rather light hearted attempt to suggest how the supposed transaction took place. But my main, more serious point is this: it doesn't much matter how Shaxsper came by this £900 to £1,000. However he came by it I think we have shown he could not have done so by the theatre evidence we have for him - as a minor role actor. It has to be by some form of business transaction. His skill was in trading for profit, money lending, speculating, and investing, not in acting. His main contribution as a 'sharer' at the Globe was more likely cash receipts control of the money flowing in at the door, than in acting. He was a merchant and a trader. That was in his background and he was much better at it than was his father.

There is one more piece of direct evidence to tell us what Shaxper was like, and that is his will. So that's what we'll consider next, to see if it confirms or negates what I've said about him.

 


NOTE A

3RD PARTY EVIDENCE FOR THE SPELLING OF WILLIAM SHAXPER'S NAME

1. We don't know when WS was born, but there is an entry in the Stratford Parish Register: "C. Gulielmus Filius Johannes Shaksper was christened April 26, 1564."

2. In 1575 John Shaksper, WS's father, acquired the house in Henley St. Stratford on Avon, now misrepresented as William's "birthplace".

3. On March 29, 1577 a writ of habeus corpus showed that John Shaksper had been in prison.

4. An entry was made dated November 27, 1582, in the Bishop of Worcester's Register of betrothals in Stratford on Avon, licensing the marriage of Wm Shaxpere to Anna whately of Temple grafton.

5. On November 28, 1582, a bond was filed in the same registry, signed by two bondsmen to guarantee the Bishop against all liability, should a lawful impediment exist to the marriage of Willm Shagspere to Anne Hathwey of Shottery. The bond notes that they were permitted to marry with only one reading of the banns (instead of three). (She was about 8 years older than he was). There is apparently no evidence of a marriage to either Anne.

6. The register lists on May 26, 1583, the baptism of 'Susanna daughter to William Shakespeare' This is the first time we've met this spelling.

7. A February 2, 1585, entry in the Registry at Stratford was the baptism of twins 'Hamnet & Judith sonn and daughter to William Shakspere.' (Hamnet died at age eleven).

8. In 1589 William Shaksper's name appears as a party to a court action.

9. A letter from Richard Quiney addressed to Mr. Wm. Shackspere, asking for a loan. (See under 1598 below)

10. A letter from Abraham Sturley to Richard Quiney asking that "our countriman" Mr. Shaksper procure a loan for him. (See under 1598)

11. In another letter Abraham Sturley refers to him as "Mr. SHAK" and makes the same request.

12. T. Whittington's will shows SHAXPER. (See under 1601).

13. WS's father's name was signed as a witness to a conveyance as SHAXPERE by Walter Roche, a literate Stratford ex-school master, the father being illiterate.

Back to text

 

NOTE B

3RD PARTY EVIDENCE FOR THE LIFE AND ACTIVITIES OF WILLIAM SHAXPER OF STRATFORD ON AVON

In 1587 the Queen's Players theatrical company on tour performed at Stratford on Avon.

In 1592 it is recorded that John Shaksper was one of 15 persons who "come not to church for fear of process of debt." And we're told he was fined for allowing filth to accumulate in front of his house.

In 1593 the long narrative poem Venus and Adonis was published in London. It was printed by Richard Field ( baptized in Stratford on Avon November 16, 1561. He left Stratford on Avon where his father was a tanner, and at age 17 became apprenticed to a London printer. He completed his apprenticeship, and took over the business in 1588, after his master printer's death, and marrying his widow). The Venus poem was dedicated to the Earl of Southampton by the poet William Shakespeare who in the dedication described it as "...the first heir of my invention..." This poem is discussed at some length in a later chapter.

In 1594 an even longer narrative poem, The Rape of Lucrece, was published, printed by Richard Field, and dedicated to the Earl of Southampton by the poet, William Shakespeare. The dedication to the Earl was quite formal for the Venus poem but was quite intimate in this next poem. The poem and dedication are discussed in some detail in a later chapter.

In 1596 there is an entry in London records referring to a William Shakespare as one of the defendants, with Francis Langley, Dorothy Soer, wife of John Soer, and Anne Lee, in a warrant to keep the peace "for fear of death" etc. by the plaintiff William Wayte who sought an order restraining them.

In 1596 the name of William Shakespeare was returned as a tax defaulter in St. Helen's Bishopsgate, London, for an earlier assessment of which 5/- was unpaid. (5/- = 5 shillings, 20 shillings to one pound sterling = £1, and 12 pence to a shilling = 12d.)

In 1597 at the same address William Shakespeare was returned as a tax defaulter for the unpaid portion of 13/- on another assessment. To put this in perspective, a carpenter's daily wage at the time was about 1/- and an agricultural worker's about 9d.

William's father John Shaksper was in 1564 a trader and farmer and said to be prosperous. But as William was growing up John Shaksper fell gradually into poverty; he parted with the land his wife -- Mary Arden, a woman of good connections -- had brought him, was prosecuted for debt, and lost his office of alderman.

In 1596 John Shaksper filed an application in London for a Coat of Arms, with the statement that he had married Mary, daughter of Robert Arden of Warwickshire, a yeoman branch of a family that bore arms, and the proposal therefore submitted that John Shaksper be allowed to impale the arms of Arden. A draft of a "coat arman" was drawn up in the College of Arms to John Shaksper (or Shakspere) dated October 1596. It was not ratified by the College of Heralds which apparently did not authorize the impaling of the Arden arms, and this claim was abandoned, it seems because both of John Shaksper's parents were peasants. The claim was denied by the Garter King-at-arms with the note "Non, Sans Droit", meaning he didn't have the right to make the claim.

But in 1597 there were changes at the college of Heralds and Shaksper now claimed a certain draft grant prepared by the Heralds in the previous year had been assigned to John Shaksper while he was bailiff, and the Heralds instead of being asked for a 'grant of arms' were asked for this to be acknowledged or certified, something more easily obtained. The Heralds could choose to accept this without examination of an applicant's statement that his family had borne arms long ago.

In 1597 William Shaxsper contracted to buy "Newplace" in Stratford on Avon. But the vendor was murdered by his son, so this wasn't completed until 1601 when he obtained a deed.

In 1597 he was recorded as a "householder" in Stratford and listed as the owner of "ten quarters of grain". (= 640 UK gallons capacity).

In January 1598 William Shaxsper is recorded as the 3rd largest hoarder of grain (corn) in Warwickshire. Records show a shortage of grain there in 1597-8 due to a drought and the effects of the Spanish wars.

In 1598 Richard Quiney wrote to Wm. Shackspere asking for a loan of £30.

In 1598 Abraham Sturley wrote to Richard Quiney to ask Shaksper to procure a loan for him and followed it with a second request letter.

In 1598 The plays Richard II and Richard III were published with the name of WILLIAM SHAKE-SPEARE (hyphenated) and Love's Labour's Lost with the name William Shakespere.

And in 1598 William Shakspere was paid for a load of stone in Stratford on Avon.

In 1599 Sir William Dethick, Garter King at Arms, was charged with having granted coats to persons of base origins not entitled to and the case of John Shaksper was one of those complained of.

In 1599 William Shakespeare is recorded as one of 7 'sharers' ?partners? ?Investors? ?joint venturers? In the Globe theatre which had been dismantled and moved to Southwark. The reconstruction was apparently completed in that year.

In 1601 William Shaxsper was described as a "householder" of Stratford on Avon. His father John Shakspere died in 1601.

In 1601 Thomas Whittington, a shepherd, died. His will is said to state in part "unto the poore people of Stratford x1.l that is in the hand of Anne Shaxper and is due debt unto me, beying paid to mine executor by the said Wyllyam Shaxper or his assignees according to the true meanyng of this my Will." One writer says she owed him 40 shillings (= 40/-, or £2, but the foregoing numerals quoted elsewhere and copied above seem to me to indicate £11. Comments on this apparent discrepancy would be welcome.)

In 1602 William Shaxper bought 107 acres in Stratford on Avon.

In 1603 the name William Shakespeare is included in a list of nine actors licensed to act as the King's Company. There is a record of 'cloth's' being issued to 9 actors which included William Shakespeare, to enable them to take part in a procession on 15 March 1604.

In July 1604 William Shaxper's legal action against Philip Rogers was tried in a Stratford Court. It was for two shillings loaned to Rogers and for £1-15-0, the purchase price of malt sold to Rogers by Shaxper in March 1604.

In 1605 Shaxper bought tithes from the towns of Stratford, old Stratford, Bishopton and Welcombe for £440 .

In 1605 Augustine Phillips, an actor, in his will left to William Shakespeare a 30/- piece in gold.

In February 1609 William Shaxper obtained judgement for £6 and £1-5-0 costs in Stratford against a Stratford man named John Addenbroke, and a surety, Thomas Hornely, who went to prison for the unpaid judgement, as Addenbroke had left town.

In 1612 Shaxper's name was on a bill of complaint about the tithes.

Also in 1612 Shaxper made a deposition in a lawsuit in London between a plaintiff Belott and his father-in-law, Mountjoy, a wigmaker, alleging Shaxper was a lodger in the home of Mountjoy in London in 1604 and helped to effect a match between Belott and Moutjoy's daughter, having knowledge of the promise by the father of a dowry, now sued for. We have already discussed the signature of Shaxper on the deposition.

In March 1613 there is a record of the sum of 44/- paid to "Mr. Shakspere for work about my Lord's impresa" and 44/- paid to Richard Burbage "for paynting and making it". An impresa is a pictorial design relating to some significant ability or events in the person's life. It is in the household's expense accounts of Francis, 6th Earl of Rutland at Belvoir Castle. The phrase "work about" is vague, we don't know what Mr. Shakspere did. Rutland is the smallest county in England. It's about 85 miles almost due north from London, and 50 miles east from Stratford on Avon. Stratford on Avon is about 80 miles northwest from London. Richard Burbage is said to have been the greatest actor of his time. He was also known as a painter. We're not told whether the work was done in London or at Belvoir Castle in Rutland.

In 1613 Shaxper and two others bought a property in Blackfriars, London, and negotiated a mortgage. We discussed the relevant signatures in chapter 3.

In 1614 William Shaxsper and 2 others attempted to enclose the common pasture lands near Stratford on Avon. The only recorded conversation of Shaxper's apparently so far found is with his 'cosen' Thomas Green, town clerk, who recorded it in his diary; that they meant to enclose the commons no further than to Gospell Bush. The Town of Stratford was able to prevent this from happening.

Also in 1614 the Chamberlain's accounts of Stratford on Avon record that the town is charged for one quart of claret given to a preacher at William Shaxper's home in 1614.

In April 1616 Doctor John Hall, William Shaxper's son in law, wrote in his diary "My father in law died on Thursday."

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NOTE C

ESTIMATED AVERAGE ANNUAL INCOME OF THE GLOBE ABOUT 1600 AD

Now that we have a few numbers to work with, although the information is far from complete, let's see if we can form a rough estimate of the size of the Globe playhouse business in, say, 1600.

If 2 days takings in 1594 were £20.18.0, say per performance in 1600 = £11

We can test this roughly against the observer's report. The Globe was

smaller than the largest 3,000 capacity theatre, say 2000 for the Globe.

Here's a suggested breakdown for the various prices:

LOCATION

NUMBER

PRICE

TOTAL

Groundlings

1,200

1d

1,200d

Galleries

500

2d

1,000d

Boxes

300

3d

900d

TOTAL FROM ESTIMATED CAPACITY

3,100d

3,100 d =258/- = £13

Let's average these at £12. For say 300 performances a year = £3,600

This is suggested gross annual revenue, but supposes full capacity every day.

Probable attendance average is more likely 2/3 capacity = £2,400

So now we have our first estimated gross annual income, £2,400

Now let's take the 1635 information for Blackfriars and Globe and try to work this backwards to about 1600.

The average carpenter's daily wage in 1635 was 1/3, but was 1/- in 1600.

The Blackfriars was an indoor theatre but the Globe was an outdoor, amphitheatre type of playhouse. We don't appear to have capacity for either, but the Blackfriars was probably smaller, having been part of a monastery, with prices higher being indoors, so we'll assume these differences tend to even out, then:

DESCRIPTION

NUMBER

ANNUAL COST EACH, IN £

TOTAL COST IN £

   

Actors

9

180

1,620

   

Housekeepers

? 7

30

210

   

Sharers

? 7

200

1,400

 

Total revenue before wages for men, boys, lighting, music, etc.

 

3,230

 

Less inflation adjustment, 1/3 reduced to 1/- for 1600 AD

 

(646)

 

Gross income calculation based on 1635 AD items

 

 

2,584

The difference between these two calculation is not great, using best reasonable intercalations, and suggests a gross annual revenue for the Globe, at about the time William Shaxper became a sharer, of about £2,500.

In these calculations we have not considered the effect of English weather. The players apparently closed the open theatre Globe for the winter months and retreated to one of the inns, for example the Cross Keys. Capacity there would be very much smaller, and prices no doubt higher than at the Globe. In the summer and autumn months the rainfall for the London area (Heathrow and Greenwich statistics) for the 20th century was about 12 to 13 inches total for the months of May to October, when the average daily temperature was 50 degrees fahrenheit or above. Assuming Elizabethan age weather was similar, overall this could mean a downshift in income due to reduced attendances which it has not seemed practical to attempt to take into account.

Please also see Note D.

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NOTE D

Since writing this chapter I have found some sites on the Web which between them provide the following information related to the Globe playhouse financing:

  1. The Globe had 2,000 seats with an overall capacity of 2,700.
     
  2. The original Globe held up to 3,000 of which 1,000 were groundlings.
     
  3. Richard and Cuthbert Burbage owned half the lease on the property on which the Globe stood.
     
  4. For 6d you could sit in the Lord's Room, on the balcony at the back of the stage.
     
  5. In the indoor theatres the cheapest seats were 6d; these theatres could hold far less people (300 to 600).
     
  6. In 1608 Cuthbert Burbage, Thomas Evans, Shakespeare, Heminge, Richard Burbage, and 2 others formed a syndicate to run the Blackfriars.
     
  7. There were 8 partners (sharers) in the (Globe) company who shared in the profits after half the gallery's taking had been paid to the Burbages as rent. Kempe, Pope, Bryan, Cowley, Philips, Heminge, R. Burbage and Shakespeare were (according to this web site, apparently) the 8 with Sly replacing Bryan and Condell replacing Pope.
     
  8. Court performance was worth four or five full houses in a public theatre.
     
  9. The old theatre was resurrected on the other side of the road (sic) as the new Globe. The Burbage brothers supplied half the capital and the other half was supplied by Shakespeare, Philips, Pope, Heminge, and Kempe. Each member of this syndicate of housekeepers, as they were called, was entitled to his share of the profits, and liable for his proportion of the ground rent and other expenses.
     
  10. (James) Burbage purchased the Blackfriars for £600. It would be years before the players were allowed to use the Blackfriars as a playhouse.
     

My comments on these various statements are:

1 & 2 above. I think the ratio of 700 groundlings and 2,000 seats is suspect. The Globe was an open air amphitheatre type of construction and the groundlings area or 'pit' without seats could probably be packed for a popular performance. I suggest the 1,200 I proposed is a reasonable number.

As to capacity variously 2,700 and 3,000, we just don't seem to know what the capacity was. We do know that the Fortune contract called for timbers "lardyer and bigger in assize" than for the existing (Globe) playhouse. The largest capacity ever mentioned for any playhouse seems to have been 3,000 but this could not have been by seat count as a substantial proportion had no seats. There is the further complication that the Globe burned down in 1613 and we don't know the capacity of its replacement either.

What we know for a fact is that the 20th century imitative replacement Globe has a 1,400 capacity. This is in a London with a population of over 8 million plus a world wide reputation. The original Globe had a London population, we're told, of only about 200,000 to draw on. I suggest my estimate of that Globe's capacity as 2,000 is reasonable in the circumstances.

3, 7 & 9 above. If the Burbages took half the gallery's takings this would reduce my calculations for the sharers. If this information is correct then Shaxper as a sharer would only have received 1/6 of 50%, not 1/7 of 100%. Elsewhere it's reported that there were 7 sharers, not 8, at the Globe. The difference may be because Kempe is said to have left soon after the rebuilt Globe opened. Cuthbert Burbage is not mentioned here as a sharer.

4 above. I was aware of the 6d charge for a seat on the stage but thought the number who could sit there would be very small and so immaterial for practical purposes of calculating income. But a Lord's Room suggests a greater number, perhaps even 20 to 30. If there were, say, 26 seats taken this would only increase the gross income per performance by 6d x 26, or 13/-.

5 above. My estimate that the Blackfriars being indoors would be smaller and the seating more expensive has support here.

6 above. The total sharers given here for the Blackfriars is 7, which happens to be the number I assumed and used for the Blackfriars calculation.

8 above. This seems to me an ambiguous statement. It could mean a Court performance (which we have evidence for as worth about £10 to £11) was 4 or 5 times the money taken in at a full house. This seems unreasonable. The phrase probably means that the good publicity from a play performance at Court would generate a capacity attendance for 4 or 5 performances of the same play at the playhouse.

10 above. This cost seems to agree reasonably with the numbers we have for the Globe and Fortune costs.

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