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March 15,
1595

E 351/542, membrane 207d

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E 351/542, membrane 207d
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Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Images reproduced by permission of The National Archives, London, England.

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The National Archives give no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for the purpose of the information provided.
Images may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education. Applications for any other use should be made to The National Archives Image Library, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, Tel: 020 8392 5225   Fax: 020 8392 5266.

Document-specific information
Date: March 15, 1595
Repository: The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call number and opening: E 351/542, membr. 207d
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Item Date
March 15, 1595
Repository
The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call Number
E 351/542, membr. 207d

Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Images reproduced by permission of The National Archives, London, England.

Terms of use
The National Archives give no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for the purpose of the information provided.
Images may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education. Applications for any other use should be made to The National Archives Image Library, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, Tel: 020 8392 5225   Fax: 020 8392 5266.

Document-specific information
Date: March 15, 1595
Repository: The National Archives, Kew, UK
Call number and opening: E 351/542, membr. 207d
View online bibliographic record

By March 15, 1595, and inferentially by Christmas 1594, William Shakespeare had become a leading member of his company, the Lord Chamberlain’s players, sufficiently senior to serve with William Kempe and Richard Burbage as a financial trustee.

The large parchment roll now catalogued as E 351/542 contains the declared accounts of Sir Thomas Heneage, Treasurer of the Household, from 1579 to 1596. Since Heneage died on October 17, 1595, his widow submitted the accounts. Clerks compiled the accounts, however, from year to year, mostly under Heneage’s guidance, and current members of the Privy Council signed off on the accounts each year. In 1594–5 William Cecil Lord Burghley, Lord Treasurer, Sir John Fortescue, Robert Clerke or Clarke, Second Baron of the Treasury, Matthew Ewens, and John Conyers, Auditor signed the accounts. While only the official auditor may have been acquainted with all the entries in detail, the full set of signatures gives the document authority and personality.

The document shown here, from the back (or dorse) of the 207th parchment membrane, includes two payments for royal entertainments during the 1594–5 Christmas season. The payments record the genre and the date of performance, commonly under the saint’s day. The first payment was to Edward Allen (Alleyn), Richard Jones, and John Singer, servants to the Lord Admiral, for “three seuerall Comedies or Enterludes showed by them before her maiestie in Christmas tyme laste paste viz the xxviijto of December, on New Yeres daye & Twelfe daie.” The second payment was to William Kempe, William Shakespeare, and Richard Burbage, servants to the Lord Chamberlain, “for twoe seuerall Comedies or Enterludes shewed by them before her maiestie in Christmas tyme laste paste viz vpon St Stephens daye & Innocents daye.”

As the three Lord Admiral’s plays were reimbursed at £30, the two Lord Chamberlain’s plays at £20, it is clear that the plays were reimbursed at a flat rate of £10 each. Substituting calendar dates for saint’s days, the Lord Admiral’s company performed on December 28, January 1, and January 6, while the Lord Chamberlain’s company performed on December 26 and 28. The date of payment was March 15, 1595. From independent evidence we know that the court over Christmas 1594 was situated at Greenwich.

The two payments confirm the existence, by Christmas 1594, of the two important London playing companies: the Lord Admiral’s and the Lord Chamberlain’s. Charles Howard was the Lord Admiral at the time of the 1595 payment, while Henry Carey, Baron (or Lord) Hunsdon was the Lord Chamberlain. Carey had served as Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth since 1585, and would retain the post until his death in 1596.

The payments also identify chief members of each company: Alleyn, Jones, and Singer for the Lord Admiral’s; Kempe, Shakespeare, and Burbage for the Lord Chamberlain’s. Although payments for comedies and interludes were commonplace, the payment to the trio Kempe, Shakespeare, and Burbage was unique to this year. Subsequent payments were made to John Heminges (and sometimes one other company member), who seems to have served as chief financial officer of the company from about 1597 until his death in 1630.

The puzzle of both companies performing on December 28, 1594 is further complicated by evidence that The Comedy of Errors may have been acted at Gray’s Inn on the very same date—but under such confusing circumstances that the evening became known as “The Night of Errors.” A possible explanation is that the Lord Chamberlain’s players performed Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors at Greenwich in the afternoon, and then again at Gray’s Inn in the evening, while the Lord Admiral’s players performed at Greenwich the same evening. Another possible explanation is that at least one of the entries in the Exchequer accounts contains a dating error.

Written by Alan H. Nelson

Sources

Edmund K. Chambers, William Shakespeare: William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems, vol. 2, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930), 319.

B. Rowland Lewis, Shakespeare Documents, vol. 1, (Stanford University, California: Stanford University Press, 1940), 206-7.

Samuel Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), 136.

William Streitberger, ed..“Dramatic Records in the Declared Accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber 1558-1642,” Malone Society Collections, vi (1977), vii-xxx, 1-176.

David Thomas, Shakespeare in the Public Records (London: H.M.S.O., 1985), No. 12.
 

Last updated July 2, 2016