Kemp, Pope, Falstaff and Bottom (1993)

Insertions in the Quarto and Folio texts of the names of the actors, instead of the parts they performed, give us some vital information about the casting of Shakespeare’s plays. Just such an insertion tells us that Will Kemp played the servant, Peter, in Romeo and Juliet. The study of this character provides the key to ascertaining Kemp’s repertoire. 

Peter as a named character appears in two scenes, II, iv and IV, v, but Kemp was no doubt also given the “Clown” of I, ii who identifies himself as a Capulet servant; the Capulet Servingman of I, iii; the 1st Servingman of I, v, including the brief speech at l. 43; and the Servingman of IV, ii.

The Clown is on stage during the short scene in which Capulet urges Paris to woo Juliet. At the conclusion of the scene Capulet gives the Clown a list of people whom he is to invite to supper. Capulet and Paris exit.

Clown. Find them out whose names are written here! It is written that the shoemaker should meddle with his yard and the tailor with his last, the fisher with his pencil and the painter with his nets. But I am sent to find those whose names are here writ, and can never find what names the writing person hath here writ. I must to the learned. In good time! (I, II, 38-43)

Romeo and Benvolio enter and after a brief exchange, the Clown approaches Romeo:

 Clown. God gi’god-den, I pray, sir, can you read?
Romeo. Ay, mine own fortune in my misery.
Clown. Perhaps you have learned it without book: But, I pray, can you read anything you see?
Romeo. Ay, if I know the letters and the language.
(I, II, 58-62)

After reading the letter, Romeo inquires:

 Romeo. …whither should they come?
Clown. Up.
Romeo. Whither?
Clown. To supper; to our house.
Romeo. Whose house?
Clown. My master’s.
Romeo. Indeed, I should have asked thee that before.
Clown. Now I’ll tell you without asking. My master is the great Capulet; and, if you be not of the house of Montagues, I pray come and crush a cup of wine. Rest you merry. (I, II, 74-83)

These brief scenes reveal a character we will see over and over again. First, he is a servant. Second, he is a dolt—Peter confuses various tradesmen and their tools. Third, he is illiterate—he cannot read. Fourth, he is impertinent, as when Peter says to Romeo that he will tell him without asking.

This servant can also play the merry but boorish jester who plies his master with unwanted jokes.

 Capulet. Sirrah, go hire me twenty cunning cooks.
Servingman. You shall none ill, sir; for I’ll try if they can lick their fingers.
Capulet. How canst thou try them so?
Servingman. Marry, sir, ‘tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers: therefore he that cannot lick his fingers goes not with me.
Capulet. Go, be gone. (IV, II, 2-8)

A specialty of this clown is the bawdy joke. The Nurse reviles Peter for standing by while Mercutio, Benvolio and Romeo share some laughter at her expense:

 Nurse. …And thou must stand by too, and suffer every knave to use me at his pleasure!
Peter. I saw no man use you at his pleasure. If I had, my weapon should quickly have been out. I warrant you I dare draw as soon as another man, if I see occasion in a good quarrel, and the law on my side. (II, iv, 148-153)

This is more subtle than the first Quarto version:

 Peter. I see nobody use you at his pleasure; if I had, I would soon have drawn: you know my tool is as soon out as another’s if I see time and place. (line 949)

While the above suggests some of the elements of Kemp’s stage persona, it is Peter’s scene with the musicians following the discovery of Juliet’s feigned death that enables us to begin to identify Kemp’s other roles.

 Peter. O musicians, because my heart itself plays ‘My heart is full of woe’. O play me some merry dump to comfort me.
1 Musician. Not a dump we! ‘Tis not time to play now.
Peter. You will not then?
1 Musician. No.
Peter. I will then give it you soundly.
1 Musician. What will you give us?
Peter. No money, on my faith, but the gleek. I will give you the minstrel.
1 Musician. Then will I give you the serving creature.
Peter. Then will I lay the serving-creature’s dagger on your pate. I will carry no crotchets. I’ll re you, I’ll fa you. Do you note me?
1 Musician. An you re us and fa us, you note us. Pray you put up your dagger, and put out your wit.
Peter. Then have at you with my wit! I will dry-beat you with an iron wit, and put up my iron dagger. Answer me like men: “When griping grief the heart doth wound, And doleful dumps the mind oppress, The music with her silver sound—“ (IV, v, 100-127)

Since Peter sings, we can add singing to Kemp’s list of talents. We do not know how well he sang, but regardless of vocal quality, he could no doubt “sell” a song. Far more important, however, is his comic threat, “I’ll re you, I’ll fa you.” Kemp may actually have sung, possibly improvised, on the re and the fa. The notes lend themselves to such treatment, and Kemp could have milked them for extra laughs. The musical notes, as we shall see, provide a signature to many of Kemp’s roles.

The Peter character is a descendent of the commedia dell’arte zanni, for he exhibits many, if not all, of the characteristics of that famous clown. In England, the most popular zanni was Arlecchino (Englished as Harlequin). This ever-hungry servant, was a bundle of contradictions. Arlecchino was both credulous and diffident, a lazy-bones and a busybody, cunning and ingenuous, awkward and graceful. He took little or no part in the development of a plot. His contribution was mainly physical—dancing, somersaulting, and walking on his hands. Arlecchino, as all stock commedia characters, had a collection of lazzi, or gags, such as farcical weeping, laughing, and gulping down food. Arlecchino often commented on contemporary events. He was also a singer, specializing in a parody of Italian bel canto. [1]

In the same way we know that Kemp played Peter in Romeo and Juliet, we know he played Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing—his name instead of the character’s appears in the Quarto text (IV, ii), a prompter’s note. The comedy of Dogberry is derived mainly from his ignorance. He showers us with malapropisms: “senseless” for sensible; “tolerable” for intolerable; “confidence” for conference; “descerns” for concerns; “blunt” for sharp; “tedious” for generous; “a[u]spicious” for suspicious; “suspect” for respect; “dissembly” for assembly; “losses” for leases; “redemption” for damnation; and “opioned” for pinioned. Dogberry also demonstrates that he knows nothing about the law, mistaking, alternately, in more malapropisms, slander and burglary for perjury. In his most famous verbal lapse, Dogberry tells us that “Comparisons are odrous” instead of odious.

Not only does Dogberry know nothing about the law, he ironically instructs the Watch, with much palaver, to do nothing. One of the best comic set-pieces in all of Shakespeare is Dogberry’s response to Conrad for calling him an “ass.” In utter shock, Dogberry winds up and unloads the following:

 Dogberry. Dost thou not suspect my place? Dost thou not suspect my years? O that he were here to write me down an ass! but, masters, remember that I am an ass—though it not be written down, yet forget not that I am an ass. No, thou villain, thou art full of piety, as shall be proved upon thee by good witness. I am a wise fellow, and which is more—an officer, and which is more—a householder, and which is more—as pretty a piece of flesh as any in Messina; and one that knows the law, go to, and a rich fellow enough, go to, and a fellow that hath losses, and one that hath two gowns and and everything handsome about him. Bring him away. O that I were writ down an ass! (IV, ii, 74)

Dogberry, the bungling, narcissist constable, could only catch wrongdoers by accident. He thinks himself the epitome of cunning, but we know that he is a fool. In addition to clownish servants, Kemp portrayed inept country lawkeepers.

In 1598 Kemp was in the cast of Ben Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour, as we learn from the list of actors set forth for that play in the Jonson Folio of 1616. In the Quarto version, the play has an Italian setting. Jonson later revised it with an English setting, altering the characters’ names accordingly. Oliver Cob represents a third type—the comic tradesman—that was another of Kemp’s specialties. Jonson, as well as Shakespeare when he wrote, knew who was going to be playing the parts, and he designed Cob for Kemp.

We meet Cob, a water-bearer, in I, iv. He has a short scene with Mathew, which has little purpose beyond supplying some low comedy. There is much punning on Cob’s name which signifies a herring (a cob is usually the head of the herring). The scene closes with a set-piece for Cob, a speech in which he reveals his ignorance, his hatred of poetry, and facility with swearing. Cob is inserted at the beginning of II, iii to provide a bawdy joke as he walks across the stage:

 Kitley. What, Cob! our maids will have you by the back, i’faith, for coming so late this morning.
Cob. Perhaps so, sir; take heed somebody have not them by the belly, for walking so late in the evening.

III, iv, provides another showcase for Kemp, this time in a brief scene with Thomas Cash. Cob tells us, with numerous plays on words, that he loathes Ember days and Fridays for they keep him constantly hungry with fasting. We are also treated to the malapropism “Hannibal” for “cannibal.” In III, v, Captain Bobadil, a great lover of tobacco, is extolling its virtues when Cob enters and delivers a diatribe against the substance. Cob consequently receives a beating. In III, vii, Cob complains to Justice Clement of the maltreatment he received at Bobadil’s hands. The Justice is inclined to jail Cob for bothering him over a matter as trifling as tobacco, but lets him off with a warrant. The remainder of Cob’s part is taken up with the supposed infidelity of his wife, Tib, whom he believes has made him a cuckold. At the end of the play all is sorted out happily.

Cob provides links to Peter and Dogberry. Like Peter and Dogberry, Cob is ignorant. Like Peter, he has a bawdy joke. Like Dogberry, Cob has a malapropism. And, demonstrating the influence of Arlecchino, Cob is constantly hungry, and receives a beating.

It is well known that performances in the Elizabethan public theatres concluded with a dance called a jig. The jig, in its earliest form, was an odd metrical composition either spoken or sung by the clown and accompanied by dancing and playing on the pipe and tabor. It was therefore a kind of solo morris dance. But contemporary references to leaping suggests that the jig combined with the morris some steps of the courtly galliard. Indeed, in Old Meg of Herefordshire (1609), we find, “Kemp’s morris to Norwich was no more to this than a galliard on a common stage, at the end of an old dead comedy.” [2]

In the public theatres more than one actor could be employed in the jig. Four seems to have been a standard number—two couples, the women’s parts, of course, taken by men. As the jig developed in the hands of the actors, who were skilled in singing and dancing, it became something of a mini-operetta. Richard Tarlton may have been responsible for this further development. Tarlton, a founding member and leader of the Queen’s company, was the most famous clown prior to Kemp. In Tarlton’ Jests we learn that he engaged in extemporal rhyming matches with members of the audience at the conclusion of a play. It would only be a short step from there to a scripted format.

Indeed, contemporary evidence suggests that audience participation was part of the jig’s appeal—the public sang the refrains. Performances could be of considerable duration, even as much as an hour. It may be that the jig, starting around dusk in winter, was performed by torchlight and lanterns, making it a rather spectacular affair.

The jig might also constitute a solo performance outside the theatre, and Will Kemp, after Tarlton’s death, was the reigning master of the form. In Nine Days’ Wonder, Kemp’s own account of his morris from London to Norwich, he tells us that he had “spent [his] life in mad jigs,” [3] and to one of those many entertainments the playwright John Marston alludes in The Scourge of Villainy (1599):

Praise but Orchestra and the skipping Art,
You shall command him; faith, you have his heart
Even cap’ring in your fist. A hall, a hall,
Room for the spheres! the orbes celestial
Will dance Kemp’s Jig. They’ll revel with great jumps,
A worthy poet hath put on their pumps. [4]

Not all playwrights were as delighted as Marston seems to have been with the jig. On the contrary, many resented this sequel, especially to their serious work. Thomas Dekker lamented the “nasty, bawdy, jig” which followed a “worthy tragedy.” [5] Marlowe’s prologue to the first part of Tamburlaine claims to be letting his audience escape “From jigging veins of rhyming mother-wits / And such conceits as clownage keeps in pay.” The association of the jig with the clown, together with published evidence, makes it clear that this dance was one of Kemp’s onstage drolleries. It is also clear that he performed the jig solo in situations outside the public theatres.

Jigs were occasionally published. One of these was entered in the Stationers Register (21 October, 1595) as ‘Kemps newe Jygge betwixt a souldior and a Miser and Sym the clown”. Singing Simpkin (Appendix A), is unquestionably the Kemp jig of the soldier, miser, and Sym the clown. In this text, the miser is called “Old Man.” I do not believe that this departure from the nomenclature in the registered jig interferes with the identifcation of the piece. There is a suggestion of the miser in the husband of the jig.

In Singing Simpkin the wife hides one lover, Sim, at the approach of another, the soldier. When her husband appears, she makes the soldier leave, threatening an imaginary enemy, so that neither the soldier nor the hidden Sim, when he is disclosed, arouses the husband’s suspicion. The lecherous Sim is the “star” part and was certainly taken by Kemp. Hidden in the chest, he periodically pops out, like a jack-in-the-box, to deliver a punchline capping a series of quatrains. He sings of grafting horns on the husband’s head. In the end he is the victim of a beating.

Lechery, talk of horns and cuckoldry, and beatings are also components of Kemp’s characters. The chief features of the story come from Boccaccio’s Decameron, though its setting and tone is modified in Tarlton’s News out of Purgatory (1589). Since News is called in its title “Only such a jest as his jig,’ Baskervill, the authority on the jig, believes that the story had already appeared as a jig when News was published, and that it passed from Tarlton’s repertoire to Kemp’s. [6].

On June 19, 1592, Henslowe’s Diary informs us, the combined forces of Strange’s men and the Admiral’s men presented Knack to Know a Knave. The play was published two years later without an acknowledgement of authorship, but the title page nonetheless gives us some valuable information: A most pleasant and merie new Comedie, Intituled, A Knacke to knowe a Knave. Newlie set foorth, as it hath sundrie tymes bene played by Ed. Allen and his Companie. With Kemps applauded Merrimentes of the men of Goteham, in receiving the King into Goteham. [7] “Kemps applauded Merrimentes” is understood to be the following scene:

 Enter mad men of Goteham, to wit, a Miller, a Cobbler, and a Smith.

 Miller. Now let us constult among ourselves to the King’s worship, Jesus bless him! and when he comes, to deliver him this petition. I think the Smith were best to do it, for he’s a wise man.
Cobbler. Neighbor, he shall not do it as long as Jeffrey the Translator is Mayor of the town.
Smith. And why, I pray? because I would have put you from the Mace?
Cobbler. No, not for that, but because he is no good fellow, nor will he not spend his pot for company.
Smith. Why, sir, there was a god of our occupation; and I charge you by virtue of his godhead to let me deliver the petition.
Cobbler. But soft you; your god was a cuckold, and his godhead was the horn; and that’s the arms of godhead you call upon. Go, you are put down with your occupation; and now I will not grace you so much as to deliver the petition for you.
Smith. What dispraise our trade?
Cobbler. Nay, neighbor, be not angry, for I’ll stand to nothing only but this.
Smith. But what? bear witness a gives me the But, and I am not willing to shoot. Cobbler, I will talk with you: nay, my bellows, my coletrough, and my water shall enter arms with you for our trade. O neighbor, I can not bear it, nor I will not bear it.
Miller. Hear you, neighbor; I pray consuade yourself and be not willful, and let the cobbler deliver it; you shall see him mar all.
Smith. At your request I will commit myself to you, and lay myself open to you like an oyster.
Miller. I’ll tell him what you say. Hear you, neighbor: we have constulted to let you deliver the petition; do it wisely for the credit of the town.
Cobbler. Let me alone; for the King’s carminger was here; he says the King will be here anon.
Smith. But hark, by the mass he comes.

Enter the King, Dunston, Perin.

King. How now, Perin, who have we here?
Cobbler. We the townsmen of Goteham,
Hearing your Grace would come this way,
Did think it good for you to stay—

But hear you, neighbors, bid somebody ring the bells–
And we are come to you alone,
To deliver our petition.
King. What is it, Perin? I pray thee read.
Perin. Nothing but to have a license to brew strong ale thrice a week, and he that comes to Goteham and will not spend a penny on a pot of ale if he be a dry, that he may fast.
King. Well, sirs, we grant your petition.
Cobbler. We humbly thank your royal majesty.
King. Come, Dunston, let’s away. Exeunt omnes

“Kemps applauded Merrimentes” means nothing more than ‘merriments in which Kemp had been applauded.’ It is difficult to imagine that this eminently forgettable scene could have been received with any unusual degree of enthusiasm even by the rudest audience. But since the publisher heralded the scene with the horn of Roland, the probability is that Kemp enlivened his part, the Cobbler, with some memorable clowning. The Cobbler’s speech to the King looks like one of those odd metrical constructions mentioned in connection with the jig. Various Cobbler tunes, interestingly, are listed in Chappell’s Popular Music. It may be that Kemp made a jig of his presentation of the petition to the King. A Knack to Know a Knave certainly needed help.

Kemp undoubtedly figured in other ”merrimentes” besides those of the men of Goteham, but no records of them have survived. “But,” says Nashe to Gabriel Harvey, “by the means of his death [Robert Greene, who sparred with Harvey in print] thou art deprived of the remedy in law which thou intendedest to have made against him for calling thy father Ropemaker [a derogatory reference to Harvey’s father’s trade]. Mass, that’s true, what action will it bear? Nihil pro nihilo, none in law; what it will do upon the stage I cannot tell, for there a man may make actions besides his part, when he hath nothing at all to say: and if there, it is but a clownish action that it will bear; for what can be made of a Ropemaker more than a Clown? Will Kemp, I mistrust it will fall to thy lot for a merriment one of these days.” [8] Here we have proof that clowns padded their roles, that such additions were known as merriments, and that Kemp observed the practice.

The Cobbler, like Peter, is given to bawdiness. He upbraids the Smith, saying, “Your god was a cuckold, and his godhead the horn.” We have seen that Sim the clown also used “horns.” Like Dogberry, the Cobbler reveals his ignorance through malapropisms: “consuade” for “persuade” and “carminger” for harbinger. The Cobbler character, another comic tradesman, was merely a footnote to the role of Peter.

I stated earlier that one of the keys to Kemp’s repertoire was Peter’s comic threat to the musicians, “I’ll re you, I’ll fa you.” There is a variation of this in The Taming of the Shrew. Petruchio asks his knave of a servant, Grumio, to knock on the gate. When Grumio refuses, we get:

 Petruchio. … Faith, sirrah, an you’ll not knock, I’ll ring it! I’ll try you how you can sol, fa and sing it. (he wrings him by the ears)
Grumio. Help, masters, help! my master is mad! (I, ii, 16-18)

Kemp played Grumio. And it appears that he was fond of caterwauling tricks, perhaps running up and down the musical scale. This gag has its roots in solfeggio, a type of voice practice, in which scales are sung to the sol-fa syllables. Upon being wrung by the ears, Kemp had ample opportunity, and the actor of Petruchio encourages him, to launch into this favorite crowd-pleasing gag.

In I, ii, Grumio is employed to undermine the credibility of old Gremio with comic asides, just as Arlecchino commonly made fun of Pantalone. The parallel is quite striking—Shakespeare even refers to Gremio as a “pantaloon.” Reminiscent of the Cobbler’s references to cuckoldry, Grumio tells Curtis, that his “horn is a foot [in length]” (IV, i, 25). More bawdry develops in the scene with the Tailor (IV, iii), Grumio twice making puns on the idea of taking up his mistress’ gown. Grumio quibbles with Curtis:

Curtis.…You must meet my master to countenance my mistress.
Grumio Why, hath she no face of her own?
Curtis. Who knows not that?
Grumio Thou, it seems, that calls for company to countenance her. (IV, i, 89-92)

We find, textually, a fuller version of Kemp’s caterwauling routine in of The Merchant of Venice. Lorenzo and Jessica are interrupted by the clown, Launcelot, Shylock’s servant, with the following gratuitous business:

Launcelot. Sola, sola! wo ha, ho, sola, sola!
Lorenzo. Who calls?
Launcelot. Sola! did you see Master Lorenzo? master Lorenzo? sola, sola!
Lorenzo. Leave hollaing, man—here!
Launcelot. Sola! where? where?
Lorenzo. Here!
Launcelot. Tell him there’s a post come from my master with his horn full of good news. My master will be here ere morning. (V, i, 39-49)

Howard Staunton was the first editor to explicate the complete meaning of the last line. Launcelot is imitating the horn of the courier, or post as he was called, who always wore that appendage suspended from his neck. Due a disturbance of a bibliographical kind in the received text, Dover Wilson and W. W. Greg, thought that this tidbit of scene was an interpolation. It certainly can be ommitted since it has no relevance to the plot. The scene thus provides another Kemp link to Arlecchino. The insertion can only have been made for one purpose: to give the actor playing Launcelot an opportunity to make the theatre ring with his sola.

We meet Launcelot at II, ii. In a lengthy soliloquy he weighs the pros and cons of running away from Shylock, his master. He is alternately pulled this way by his “fiend,” then that way by his “conscience.” This looks like a stock lazzo that can be easily adapted to any scenario containing a servant. Kemp and Shakespeare must have gotten together and decided that here is where we put the Gag of Running Away. More and more, it seems that Kemp contributed heavily to the composition of the low-comedy parts in which he appeared.

Launcelot, like Peter, Dogberry, Cob and Grumio, is ignorant. Like Dogberry and Cob, Launcelot uses malapropisms. He will “frutify” instead of “notify” Bassanio. Like Peter, Launcelot is impertinent. Mimicking Shylock he yells out, “Why, Jessica!” to which Shylock replies, “Who bids thee call? I do not bid thee call” Launcelot answers, “Your worship was wont to tell me I could do nothing without bidding” (II, v, 6-9). Like Peter, Launcelot is employed to deliver a letter by Jessica, though in this instance he gets the recipient, Lorenzo, correctly. Launcelot is given to lechery—he impregnates the mooress. Launcelot, like Cob, is much concerned with eating and complains that Shylock has starved him.

The Merchant of Venice was played well into the 1600’s, long after Kemp had left the Chamberlain’s men. It may be that the role of Launcelot underwent some renovation as Robert Armin took it up. If so, Armin also used the caterwauling gag. And if Kemp and Armin both used it, there is the a priori possibility that they learned it from Tarlton. Armin, we know, was trained by Tarlton; Kemp was certainly influenced by him.

It seems that caterwauling was a standard gag of the Tudor clown. The Queen’s and Admiral’s man, John Singer, was noted for his “roaring.” The clown Much in The Downfall of Robert, the Earl of Huntington, a two-part play attributed to Munday and Chettle, is described as a “roaring slave” after he has been requested to “make a cry.” Swash in The Blind Beggar of Bednal Green, ascribed to Chettle and Day, says, “I do not cry, I do but roar.” Shadow in Dekker’s Old Fortunatus is told to stop his “balling throat.”

Love’s Labour’s Lost reveals the now familiar links to Kemp. Costard, the clown, has a soliloquy following his scene with Boyet and Maria. At the conclusion of his speech, there is the stage direction “shout within,” to which Costard replies, “Sola, sola!” (IV, i, 48). Costard has the exact same characteristics as Peter and Launcelot. We learn in I, i, that he is lecherous—he is apprehended in flagrante delicto with the country wench, Jaquenetta. He later tells us that she “will serve my turn”—a ribald pun on the King’s, “This maid will not serve your turn, sir.” He refers to his “sweet ounce of man’s flesh,” and mentions a French crown, a coin frequently associated in jests on venereal disease. Costard is impertinent—interrupting the King, who is trying to read the letter from Armado, four times. He is illiterate—in the letter he is cited as being “unlettered”—he cannot read. Costard has the malapropism “contempts” for “contents.” He mispronounces “guerdon,” a reward, as “gardon”. New to the repertoire of this clown is the coined jaw-breaker, “honorificabilitudinitatibus.” This is an ancient Plautine gimmick also employed by the commedia Dottore (Doctor). Like Peter and Launcelot, Costard is given a letter to deliver, in this case to Rosaline, but by mistake gives it to the Princess. Costard also indulges in quibbling:

 Costard. Sir, I confess the wench.
King. Did you hear the proclamation?
Costard. I do confess much of the hearing of it, but little of the marking of it.
King. It was proclaimed a year’s imprisonment to be taken with a wench.
Costard. I was taken with none, sir; I was taken with a damsel.
King. Well, it was proclaimed ‘damsel’.
Costard. This was no damsel neither, sir; she was a virgin.
King. It is so varied too, for it was proclaimed ‘virgin.’
Costard. If it were, I deny her virginity; I was taken with a maid.
King. This maid will not serve your turn, sir.
Costard. This maid will serve my turn, sir.
King. Sir, I pronounce your sentence: you shall fast a week with bran and water.
Costard. I had rather pray a month with mutton and porridge. (I, i, 267-285)

There is a variation of the caterwauling gag in the “so-ho”-ing of the clown, Launce, servant to Proteus, in The Two Gentlemen of Verona at III, i, 89. Kemp must have played that role too. We meet this servant as we did Launcelot, delivering a lengthy set-piece. We might call this one the Gag of the Dog, since Launce’s dog, Crab, is the focus of the speech. Immediately following is a scene of quibbling with Panthino, Antonio’s servant. At II, v, Launce has a similar scene with Speed, the clownish servant to Valentine. At III, i, 261, Launce has another set-piece, an Arlecchino stand-by, the Gag of Being in Love. This spiel develops into duologue with Speed in which the virtues of Launce’s beloved are comically itemized as in a grocery list. This appears to be an example of the lazzo della lista, also used by Peter.

 Speed. Come, fool, come: try me in thy paper.
Launce. There…[giving the paper] and Saint Nicholas be thy speed.
Speed. ‘Imprimis, She can milk.’
Launce. Ay, that she can.
Speed. ‘Item, She brews good ale.’
Launce. And thereof comes the proverb: ‘Blessing of your heart, you brew good ale.’
Speed. ‘Item, She can sew.’
Launce. That’s as much to say, ‘Can she so?’
Speed. ‘Item, She can knit.’
Launce. What need a man care for a stock with a wench, when she can knit him a stock.
Speed. ‘Item, She can wash and scour.’
Launce. A special virtue: for then she need not be washed and scoured.
Speed. ‘Item, She can spin.’
Launce. Then may I set the world on wheels, when she can spin for her living.
Speed. ‘Item, She hath many nameless virtues.’
Launce. That’s as much to say, bastard virtues: that, indeed, know not their fathers; and therefore have no names. (III, 1, 292-314)

This is followed with a list of demerits: she has bad breath, talks in her sleep, has no teeth, is curst, etc. Launce, whose part is independent of the plot, seems to have been composed entirely of stock bits.

The inference must now be that Kemp was not an actor who impersonated a variety of characters. He played only one character—a specific clown, but one whose antics varied from play to play. Though he may have been called Peter, Launcelot, Costard, Launce, or the Cobbler, he was always Kemp the clown.

In The Comedy of Errors, Dromio of Ephesus is the low-comedy role. This blockhead servant has the characteristics we have come to associate with Will Kemp. Like Peter he talks about goings-on in the kitchen and, like Launcelot, is concerned with eating. Like Grumio and Sim he is beaten, in this case by three different personages. Ephesus Dromio even has a set-piece about being beaten:

  1. Dromio. I am an ass, indeed—you may prove it by my long ears. I have served him from the hour of my nativity to this instant, and have nothing at his hands for my service but blows. When I am cold, he heats me with beating: when I am warm, he cools me with beating: I am waked with it when I sleep, raised with it when I sit, driven out of doors with it when I go from home, welcomed home with it when I return; nay, I bear it on my shoulders, as a beggar wont her brat: and, I think, when he hath lamed me, I shall beg with it from from door to door. (IV, iv, 28-39)

Like Arlecchino, Dromio and Grumio may have carried a baton, or slapstick. In the scene with Curtis, Grumio fetches the fellow a healthy thwack. Petruchio perhaps used this same instrument to discipline Grumio. Dromio is beaten repeatedly. It was an irony of the commedia that Arlecchino would frequently be beaten with his own stick. Out of this irony must have developed the following lazzo: knowing that he was about to be beaten, Arlecchino would in hang-dog fashion present his baton to his master who would then mete out the punishment. Arlecchino, during all beatings, would grossly exaggerate the impact of the blows by his physical and verbal reactions with great effect. The comic possibilities of the slapstick are practically infinite. Needless to say, Will Kemp must have been a master of slapstick technique.

Like Launcelot’s Gag of Running Away, Dromio’s Gag of Being Beaten can be used in any scenario where there is a servant. Like Grumio and the Cobbler he talks of horns and cuckolds (I, i, 57). Like Grumio and Costard, he quibbles:

  1. Antipholus. …Where is the thousand marks thou hadst of me?
    E. Dromio. I have some marks of yours upon my pate: Some of my mistress’ marks upon my shoulders: But not a thousand marks between you both. (II, i, 56)

Ephesus Dromio tells his twin,

  1. Dromio. A man may break a word with you, sir, and words are but wind: Aye, and break it in your face, so he break it not behind. (III, i, 75)

This pun on breaking wind is certainly the province of the low-comedian. At IV, iv, 40, he has the Latin tag “espice finem.” The Tudor clown often used scraps of Latin. Evidently the audience found this amusing. Because of these marks of his presence, I think it is a foregone conclusion that Kemp performed Dromio of Ephesus.

Thus far we have seen some techniques that the Shakespearean clown has in common with the Italian commedia: stock speeches, sight-gags, and beatings. Since solfeggio and cornuto are Italian words, their employment suggests borrowing. Italian companies visited England. In 1574 the Recorder of London inveighed against “the unchaste, shameless and unnatural tumbling of the Italian women,” though this company may have been a troupe of acrobats only. In July of the same year “The Italyan players” were paid for “two plays”at court. This may have been the same group that provided the tumbling exhibition. An Italian troupe led by “Ferrabolle” were paid for one play in February 1576. [9] Drusiano Martinelli brought his company of actors to London in 1578. [10]

It is possible that English actors knew something of the commedia before these companies visited England. English actors toured the continent and may have learned something there. It is likely that there had been an interchange of information between England and the continent for centuries. Playwrights George Whetstone, Anthony Munday, Thomas Nashe, and Robert Greene are all known to have visited Italy. In any case, there is plain evidence that the Italian commedia influenced the Elizabethan clown.

Any doubts on this subject are cleared up by K. M. Lea’s apparently little known but outstanding chapter, “The Commedia dell’Arte and the English Stage,” in Italian Popular Comedy, a study suggested by E. K. Chambers. Nashe describes Italian troupes as consisting of  “Pantaloun, a Whore, and a Zanie.” Heywood proposes “to omit all the Doctors, Zawneys, Pantaloones, Harlakeenes, in which the French, but especially the Italians, have been excellent.” In Volpone, Jonson mentions the stock lovers Flaminio and Francescina. In As You Like It, Jacques remembers “the lean and slippered pantaloon.” The zanni was familiar to practically every playwright of the period. Middleton has, “Lady Imperia, the Artizans’s Zani hath brought you this letter.” Drayton imagines Cupid as the Zany of Venus, “carrying her boxes.” In Law Tricks, Day has, “And ever since lives Zany to the world.” In Dekker we find, “The Cannon (Thunders Zany).” Massinger has, “The courtship as absurd as any Zanies.” [11] Playwrights, of course, would not have mentioned the zanni and other characters if the audience was not familiar with them. In this regard, one might think that the records of performances by Italian troupes in England would be more numerous than they are. Lea also shows how The Wit of a Woman, Englishmen for My Money, Jack Drum’s Entertainment, Ram Alley, Greene’s Tu Quoque, and The Hog hath Lost his Pearl are all based on commedia scenarii. The commedia is also traced in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Comedy of Errors, and, most surprisingly, The Tempest. As for the lazzi, Lea has this to say:

“Cut off from all contact with the Continental stage, it is quite conceivable that Kempe and his associates should have discovered for themselves the effect of the delayed entrance, of bursting into tears, of weeping over an onion, of bringing food or animals on to the stage, of direct address to the audience, of the use of dialect, mistaken words and parody, and that they should have taught themselves how to exploit the comedy of greed, sleepiness, stupidity, feigned death, and mock wooings, but the belief that any or all of these devices were within the scope of their invention does not damage the supposition that, given the chance, they would avail themselves of the short cut of imitation. Singly, these “lazzi” are not remarkable, but collectively, as part of the clown’s repertoire, they make a case for the Italian influence which should not be neglected. [12]

Lea is too cautious. Performances by professional Italian players in Europe are frequent after 1504. In England, the record does not begin until well after mid-century.

There is an unamed “Clown” in Titus Andronicus who, through Titus, unwittingly becomes the bearer of ill news to Saturninus and is hanged for his pains. When asked by Titus if he can deliver an oration with grace, the Clown responds with the well-known pun, “Nay, truly, sir, I could never say grace in all my life” (IV, iii, 99). Though there are no real signs of him in the part, I assign this role to Kemp since he was in the company at the time the play was performed. If, as many since Ravenscroft have thought, Titus was an old play revised by Shakespeare, the Clown’s role may have been a quick insertion to provide a part for Kemp.

There are no clown parts per se in Richard II, though the Gardener can be played amusingly. The Keeper, who is beaten by Richard for refusing to taste the king’s food, has a comic moment. Again, though most of the marks of Kemp’s presence are wanting, he probably took these servant parts.

Because Kemp is known as Shakespeare’s principal comic actor, the vast majority of scholars have assumed that Kemp created the role of Falstaff. Yet, as Marchette Chute points out, “there is no proof that Kemp played Falstaff, no proof he had left the company when Henry V was written, and certainly no proof that so competent a repertory company had only one actor who could do a certain kind of part.”  [13] There is a good deal of evidence to show who did create Falstaff, though, in fact, it was not Kemp.

Now H. D. Gray and David Wiles are determined to prove that Kemp did play Falstaff. Unfortunately, they are not convincing. To examine all of their evidence, moreover, would be an act of masochism to which no one should be asked to submit. But, as examples, I will cite a few of their arguments. “The first piece of evidence [Wiles following Gray] is the disappearance of Falstaff from Henry V.” [14] Wiles reasons that since Kemp left the company Shakespeare had to omit Falstaff from the next play of the cycle. What our disputants fail to realize, is that if the company could not offer Henry V with a Falstaff, they would also have to stop performing Henry IV which does have a Falstaff. As it happens, Henry IV became one of Shakespeare’s most enduring plays and was part of the repertory until the closing of the theatres. Surely, the absence of Falstaff from Henry V demonstrates only one thing: there is no Falstaff in the play. The fact that John Lowin took over the role in later years shows that Shakespeare’s company was not lacking an actor for the part. To think that Shakespeare could not write a part simply because the actor who had been playing the role had left the company is absurd. As retirement or death overtook members of the Chamberlain’s men, replacements were found, usually promoted from within. The obvious reason for the absence of the character is that the mother lode that was Falstaff had been mined out; it had already showed signs of going dry in 2 Henry IV.

The Falstaff of The Merry Wives of Windsor, it may be noted in passing, is a composite character who speaks with a forked tongue. Occasionally we do not even recognize the rogue from the Henry IV plays, for at times, as Dover Wilson has shown, he is a Euphuistic prig. In his reply to Ford, “Would it apply well to the vehemency of your affection, that I should win what you would enjoy? Methinks you prescribe yourself very preposterously” (II, II, 227). Here he sounds like a character in a John Lyly play. There is presumptive evidence, known by many, that this Falstaff was begotten via a graft onto the central character in an Oldcastle play.

Wiles sees Falstaff as a Lord of Misrule. Lords of misrule “may have used staves.” Falstaff’s sword thus becomes a “false staff,” in which case, “The name links him to Launce and Launcelet, who may also have used staves as a Lord of Misrule’s symbol of office.”[15] This is gibberish. Wiles conveniently forgets that the name Falstaff was an afterthought forced by the censor; the character was originally called Oldcastle. Pressed for a new name, Shakespeare recalled the cowardly knight Sir John Falstaff (also called Fastolfe) who runs from battle in 1 Henry VI, and merely recycled the name.

Next, Wiles blindly follows his sightless mentor in a foray into textual history, a terrain as unfamiliar to them as Mars. When Kemp left the Chamberlain’s men, they claim, he needed scripts. Why he would need scripts when he was embarking on a solo career (the morris to Norwich, followed by a second morris to Rome), is not explained. Nevertheless, it was Kemp, inasmuch as he played Falstaff, who provided the so-called reported text or Bad Quarto of The Merry Wives of Windsor. [16] Gray, in his crowning ersatz conjecture, decides that this manuscript was Kemp’s gift to the Queen for her Chapel Children; [17] in Nine Days’ Wonder Kemp says that ballad-makers charged him with giving gifts to the Queen so that he might evade road tolls. Wiles admits that this conjecture cannot be proved but, “this hypothesis offers the simplest available explanation for the Quarto’s existence.” [18] This hypothesis must have come to the professor in his sleep, for it is pure dreaming. He gives us a series of conjectures, without so much as the scent of a fact, leading to a grand conjecture.

Worse, instead of weighing all of the available evidence and drawing a conclusion therefrom, Gray and Wiles present only evidence congenial to their preconceived notions—a practice known in argumentation as stacking the deck. Accordingly, they suppress the most vital evidence on the Falstaff question. Wiles says that T. W. Baldwin’s attempt to show which roles Kemp played “foundered because it was based upon character analysis.” On the contrary, I have shown (though from very different evidence), at least in the roles I have analyzed thus far, that Baldwin’s attributions are entirely correct. Wiles says further, “My own method will be to avoid any concept of character, and to concentrate instead upon the terminology of stage directions, and upon structural features within the organization of the text.” [19]

Wiles will essentially rely on which character is called “clown.” How this methodology will assist him in discussing the clown part in the The Comedy of Errors, where there are two clowns, is beyond my ken. It is beyond his ken too, for he resorts to amnesia and fails to discuss The Comedy of Errors or even mention the Dromios. Baldwin demonstrated that there were two well-known clowns in Shakespeare’s company. [20] Rejection of character and reliance on terminology thus becomes Wiles’s Scylla and Charybdis, a double disaster.

If there were two clowns, it becomes very much a question of character, and more importantly the physical size of the actor, as to which one of them created the role of the fat knight. As we have seen, Kemp specialized in the blundering, low-comedy clown typified by Peter, Grumio, Costard, Launce and Dromio of Ephesus. However, a comedian of a very different sort is also required by the same plays. This other character is a high-comedy figure which has commedia roots in the capitano, or braggart soldier. In this category, to take obvious examples, we have the braggart Armado, regularly labelled “Brag.” in the Folio Love’s Labour’s Lost, the brawling Petruchio, the windy Fluellen, and the miles gloriosus, Parolles. [21]

We have plenty of contemporary evidence showing that Kemp was a leading clown of his day. We also have the testimony of Samuel Rowland and John Taylor, the Water Poet, indicating that Thomas Pope was another leading clown in Shakespeare’s company. In Letting of Humours Blood in the Headvaine (1600), Rowland has:

Are Plough-men simple fellows nowadays?
Not so, my Masters: What means Singer then?
And Pope the Clown, to speak so boorish, when
They counterfeit the Clowns upon the stage? [22]

Taylor (Taylor’s Works, 1630), says much the same thing:

O were my wit inspir’d with Scoggins vein,
Or that Will Summers ghost had seiz’d my brain:
Or Tarlton, Laneham, Singer, Kemp, and Pope.[23]

Scoggin left us a book of jests. Will Summers was the fool of King Henry VIII. Tarlton, Laneham and Singer were famous contemporary clowns. By associating Pope with the best-known clowns of the era we have proof positive that Pope too was a famous clown.

Gray says that since Pope is linked with clowns who “speak so boorish,” it was he, not Kemp, who played the country bumpkin. [24] Apparently it did not occur to Gray that it is possible to be boorish without being a country bumpkin. The word “boorish,” meaning rude, awkward or ill-mannered, describes a demeanor not a place of birth. The fact of the matter is that the capitano, not the country bumpkin, is probably the most boorish theatrical character ever conceived.

The capitano was born of Spain’s domination of Italy, the character being a send-up of a Spanish officer. The capitano spoke with a Spanish or Hispano-Italian dialect. His language is always hyperbolic, laced with talk of annihilating entire armies, splitting mountains asunder and hurling thunderbolts. There is a perpetual leer on his face. He struts pompously, twirling his sword about. Though he continually talks about acts of bravado, he ultimately reveals himself as contemptible and cowardly. His costume is variously adorned with ribbons and braid, a huge hat with feathers and plume, shining buttons, and garters, but he always wears a sword. He is vain about his supposed good looks and is ceremonious with women whom he believes he can always seduce, but nonetheless they find him grotesque and ridiculous. [25]

Baldwin believed that Thomas Pope created Falstaff. Pope is first heard of as one of the English players who visited Denmark and Germany in 1586 and 1587. He is in the 1593 list of Strange’s men, and was a founder and sharer the Chamberlain’s in 1594. He was joint payee for them with Heminges from 1597-99, and appears in actor lists of 1598 and 1599. Pope does not appear in the lists of the King’s men, and had probably retired in or about 1603. He made his will on July 22 of that year. In that document the disposition of his shares in the Globe and Curtain are set forth. Pope is included in the actor-list of the First Folio.

Baldwin was aided in his conjecture that Pope essayed the braggart/coward and, therefore, Falstaff, by the “plot” of The Second Part of the Seven Deadly Sins. A Plot, of which a few examples are extant, was a poster-board mounted backstage. On this board was written a list of the scenes with a notation of the characters in each scene. It was this outline that the actors consulted to make their entrances.

The Seven Deadly Sins was an old two-part play by the Queen’s man Richard Tarlton, a pseudo-historical work dealing with Henry VI. No copy survives. It has never been conjectured as to how Lord Strange’s men came into possession of this play, but a reasonable guess is that John Heminges brought it with him when he left the Queen’s in 1588. He probably brought some other Queen’s plays as well, “cashing out” his investment in the Queen’s company, plays which eventually came to Shakespeare’s attention. Two of these were The Troublesome Reign of King John (which was published, as Wilson has shown, after it served as the source for Shakespeare’s play), and The True Chronicle History of King Leir and his three daughters, Gonorill, Ragan, and Cordella.

But thanks to the fortuitous preservation of the Sins Plot, we know, virtually to a man, the personnel of Shakespeare’s company when they revived this play in 1592. We also know the roles they played in The Seven Deadly Sins. [26] Thomas Pope was cast as Arbactus. Arbactus is the general who fights and overcomes the weak and effeminate (he dresses up as a woman) King Sardanapalus. Pope, then, represented the macho soldier. So, from the Plot and contemporary evidence, we know that Pope was a principal comedian who essayed the macho soldier type. We have Shakespeare’s own testimony that a company needed an actor who specialized in this role. Hamlet enumerates him as one of the tragedians of the city, and a character distinct from the clown:

“He that plays the king shall be welcome; his majesty shall have tribute of me; the adventurous knight shall use his foil and target; the lover shall not sigh gratis; the humorous man shall end his part in peace; the clown shall make those laugh whose lungs are tickle o’ the sere; and the lady shall say her mind freely, or the blank verse shall halt for’t.” (II, ii, 323-328)

Since Pope is known to have played Arbactus, it is reasonable to suppose that it was he who acted the boasting and often cowardly soldier type for the Chamberlain’s Men.

In Pope we have the correct type. What about his size? There is certainly no question about Falstaff’s dimensions. In Jonson’s The Poetaster, III, i, Tucca extracts a promise from Histrio, the “manager” of Shakespeare’s company, to make a supper. Among the invitees from the company, says Tucca, should be “your fat fool there, my mango, bring him too; but let him not beg rapiers nor scarfs.” Rapiers and scarves connect this man to the capitano. The fat fool who trades in military paraphernalia must have been the actor who took this character type, playing Falstaff and Toby Belch, both “adventurous” knights, and another military man, Captain Bobadil, in Every Man in His Humour. Each of these characters wields his sword during the course of the action. Bobadil even gives a fencing lesson.

The accuracy of the woodcut depicting Kemp that adorns Nine Days’ Wonder can certainly be challenged. It does not, however, suggest a Falstaff. Wiles, always on hand to provide a non sequitur, says of Kemp, “His leaping indicates that he was a large man.” [27] May not a small man leap? Shakespeare’s dialogue gives us Kemp’s true dimensions. Costard, we learn from Armado’s letter (I, i, 239), is “that base minnow”—

a very small man. Grumio is “a little pot” (IV, i, 6), a “three-inch fool” (IV, i, 27-29), and says “a taller man than I will take [catch] cold” (IV, i, 11-12). Like Singer, Tarlton and Armin, Kemp was very short in stature. Since these four men were small, smallness must have been a prerequisite for being a low-comedy clown.

In his dedication to Nine Days’ Wonder Kemp tells us that he has an “ill face.” Tarlton, represented in a contemporary drawing with a flat nose and squinty eyes, and Armin, were also known to be ill-looking. Will Summers, depicted in the portrait attributed to Holbein, appears small and with a pock-marked face. Homeliness was evidently another requirement. “A little pot” also suggests that Kemp was plump. At the same time, Costard, “because of  his great limb, or joint, shall pass as Pompey the Great”  (V, i, 138). So Kemp was muscular. Short and muscular indicates that Kemp was the physical type known as a mesomorph, the very type suggested by the woodcut.

The actor who took the braggart for the Chamberlain’s men was tall and corpulent, an endomorph. Philip in King John, another character of the macho soldier type, is “of large composition” (I, i, 88), and “Knight, knight” (I, i, 244). But the description that applies to all of the characters mentioned in this connection is that of Armado, and it is a perfect description of the capitano:

“…his humour is lofty, his discourse peremptory, his tongue filed, his eye ambitious, his gait majestical, and his general behaviour vain, ridiculous, and thrasonical. He is too spruce, too affected, too odd, as it were, too peregrinate, as I may call it.” (V, i, 10-16)

It is an interesting fact that the braggart soldier type, that had existed in the Chamberlain’s plays for many years, disappears after 1602, the approximate time of Pope’s withdrawal from the company.

Weighing the crucial evidence, character type and physical size, I am driven to agree with Baldwin that Thomas Pope, not Kemp, created the role of Falstaff. Pope, then, played variations on the braggart soldier type from first to last. In the early 1590s it was Arbactus, Armado, Petruchio, Philip, Mowbray, Buckingham, and Aaron. As he aged, and put on weight, Shakespeare wrote for him Falstaff, Jonson wrote Bobadil. Toby Belch was probably the last role Pope created before he retired.

It is my theory that Pope was also a regular participant in the jig. The soldier in Singing Simpkin, called Bluster, carries a sword, is described as “stout,” and is ridiculed by Simpkin as having run from battle. Bluster is another capitano. So Pope, we may conclude, was an accomplished dancer in the long tradition of light-on-the-feet fat men, of which Jackie Gleason is a recent example.

Thomas Pope seems to have been a very interesting actor indeed. He was certainly versatile, far more so than Kemp who essentially played one role his entire career. Pope could play a clown like Speed, as well as the capitano. But he could also be villainous, or even evil, like Aaron. Baldwin, surprisingly, assigned Shylock to him. Since Burbage likely played Bassanio, I think Pope probably did take Shylock. If so, we have a new perspective on that role.

Kemp and Pope, paired as jig-mates, Petruchio and Grumio, Armado and Costard, Bobadil and Cob, occasionally formed a kind of a Mutt and Jeff combination. This comic contrast of physical appearance would have reached its apex in The Comedy of Errors. Initially I could not accept Baldwin’s belief that Pope played Dromio of Syracuse, that the twin servants would be performed by actors of opposite physical type. One usually thinks of twins as being the same size. I had directed both Errors and Plautus’ Amphitryon, which also has two sets of twins (the latter no doubt supplying the idea of the doubled twins in the former), and in these productions, as is typical, I cast actors of approximately the same build, differentiating them with a costume touch. The more I thought about Baldwin’s notion, the better is sounded. The wild contrast in physical type would no doubt make the performances funnier than with actors of the same build. More importantly, the characters would be easier for the audience to identify.

Shakespeare squeezed in other details of Pope’s appearance. Aaron is “wall-eyed” (V, i, 44), which agrees with Armado’s “eye ambitious.” Tucca says that the fat fool has a “goggle eye.” Quickly says Falstaff has “a nose as sharp as a pen” (H5, II, iii, 15). The goggle-eyed, pointy-nosed, tall and corpulent Thomas Pope who essayed the “adventurous knight” was, along with Kemp, a principal comedian. [28] It is no coincidence, then, that Henry V refers to Falstaff as “a fool and jester.” If Kemp did not play Falstaff he obviously took another part. We shall shortly see which part that was.

 The Merry Wives of Windsor, according to such older authorities as H. C. Hart, A. W. Pollard and Dover Wilson, as well as Baldwin, had enjoyed a successful previous life as The Jealous Comedy. Nothing has been established regarding the authorship of that play since no copy is extant. A performance of The Jealous Comedy, we know from Henslowe, took place on January 5, 1593.

Baldwin assigned Kemp the part of the Welsh cleric Evans. That cannot be. Baldwin makes his attribution on the sole basis that Evans “sings.” There is far better evidence for believing that Kemp played Justice Shallow. Like Grumio, and Costard, the performer of Shallow was a short man. Shallow says, “I have seen the time, with my long sword I would have made you four tall fellows skip like rats” (II, i, 203-204). Secondly, the Host calls to Shallow “Cavaliero justice!” (II, i, 75). In An Almond for a Parrot, Nashe refers “To that most comical and conceited [i.e., witty] Cavaliere Monsieur du Kemp…” [29]  Once Nashe had given Kemp the nickname, it stuck. I fail to see any other reason why the author of the play would put the word “cavaliero” into the Host’s mouth. For confirmation of this, I point to the first paragraph of Nine Days’ Wonder in which Kemp says, “myself, that’s I, otherwise called Cavaliero Kemp.” The Host’s call to Shallow would surely have garnered a laugh.

If Kemp played Shallow in The Jealous Comedy and Merry Wives, I would look for evidence of his presence in the same role in 2 Henry IV. This evidence is not hard to find. Receiving the roll Shallow says, “Let me see, let me see, let me see. So, so, so, so, so, so, so” (III, ii, 101). The seven “so-s” looks like the caterwauling gag. At lines 111 and 150 we get “ha, ha, ha”, possibly a pair of comical laughing routines. In V, i we get more of these repetitions: “Davy, Davy, Davy, Davy, let me see, Davy, let me see Davy, let me see…” In V, iii Shallow sings. In 2 The Return From Parnassus we learn that two of Kemp’s most famous parts were “a foolish mayor or a foolish justice of the peace.” These must have been the Cobbler, the mayor of Goteham in A Knack to Know a Knave, and Shallow. I assign the Shallow of 2 Henry IV to Kemp.

While Kemp played Shallow in The Jealous Comedy, Merry Wives, and 2 Henry IV, he had left the company by the time these plays were revised for subsequent performances. Kemp’s successor, Robert Armin, probably took over Shallow in Merry Wives, but I am quite certain about who played Shallow in 2 Henry IV, at least for a time, after Kemp’s departure from the Chamberlain’s men.

For, along with traces of Kemp already mentioned, I find clear evidence of an altogether different actor. The name John Sincklo (Sincler) is found in the stage directions in 2 Henry IV, the Induction to The Taming of the Shrew, the Plot of The Second Part of the Seven Deadly Sins, and the Induction to Marston’s The Malcontent, the latter performed by Shakespeare’s company in 1604. Sincklo was a hired man with a startling appearance who played mainly small, serious parts.

Since we know Sincklo played the Beadle (a civil servant hired to administer whippings), in 2 Henry IV, we can build up his repertoire from there. The Beadle is described as “tripe-visaged,” and “paper faced” (V, iv, 9-11); a “thin man in a censer,” and a “filthy famished correctioner” (V, iv, 20-22). Sincklo must have been a man of unusual thinness with a heavily pocked and very pale face. Romeo says to the Apothecary, “Famine is in thy cheeks, / Need and oppression starveth in thy eyes” (V, i, 69-70). In Errors, Pinch is “a hungry lean-faced villain; / a mere anatomy [skeleton]…A needy, hollow-eyed, sharp-looking wretch; / A living dead man” (V, i, 238-242).

From similar descriptions we can also assign Sincklo to Holofernes, Robert Falconbridge, and, on the basis of his name, Starveling in Dream. In The Malcontent, he is in danger of being mistaken for a viol da gamba. Shadow was another of his roles in 2 Henry IV. Shallow is described as a “starved justice” (III, ii, 230) and a “genius of famine” (III, ii, 341). After Kemp’s withdrawal from the company, Sincklo advanced from doubling as the Beadle and Shadow to Shallow in 2 Henry IV. Slender (Merry Wives), and Aguecheek (Twelfth Night) also seem to be parts written with him in mind. Sincklo must have been a loyal hired man, for his career spans at least twelve years. His stint as Shallow, perhaps only temporary, was probably his most substantial role.

While Kemp impersonated servants and country justices, he also essayed ignorant tradesmen as we have seen. I formerly thought, as every commentator on this question has done, that Kemp’s top role in this department was Bottom the weaver. Like Dogberry, Bottom has a very high opinion of himself which provides a comic contrast to his lowly station. But other than this one slim link to another Kemp part, I see no marks of his clowning in the role. I now believe that the agreed opinion is mistaken and that Bottom was played by Thomas Pope. Bottom says “I will move storms: I will condole in some measure. To the rest—yet my chief humour is for a tyrant. I could play Ercles [Hercules] rarely, or a part to tear a cat in, to make all split.

The raging rocks,
And shivering shocks
Shall break the locks
Of prison gates,
And Phibbus’ car
Shall shine from far,
And make and mar
The foolish Fates. (I, ii, 23-34)

This is pure capitano. In a typical commedia scenario the Captain says to Trappola,

A few months back I would have you know I had a desire to assault the glistering stars. It was a memorable day and we should mark it, not with a white stone as did the ancients, but with Hieroglyphic columns, with Pyramids and Colossi….I put the Tower of Nimrod on may back for a cuirass, and Mount Taurus for a morion [helmet] upon my head; and when head, breast, arms, and shoulders were furnished I took the Rainbow as my sling, the Cretan labyrinth for a quiver, and all the Pyramids of Egypt for bolts and shafts.[30]

What is this if not Ercles vein? Bottom is a braggart who will move storms. He will make and mar the foolish Fates. He speaks the same hyperbolic language of the Captain. Bottom is a boor who wants to play all the parts in Pyramus and Thisbe, and is made ridiculous by sprouting an ass’s head. The scenery-chewing Bottom may be played to have a half-dozen “deaths” as Pyramus. The role is a send-up of the ham actor whose conceit lies in his hamstring. Shakespeare conceived Bottom for Thomas Pope, he of the ample posterior, the company specialist in the braggart role.

If Pope played Bottom, Kemp must have taken one of the other rude mechanicals. In the Day, Rowley, Wilkins opus, The Travels of Three English Brothers, “Kemp,” as a character, says, “I am somewhat hard of study, and like your honor, but if they well invent any extemporal merriment…” [31] Day, Rowley and Wilkins were in a position to portray Kemp accurately. In the Dream we find virtually the same thing:

Snug. Have you the lion’s part written? pray you, if it be, give it me: for I am slow of study.
Quince. You may do it extempore: for it is nothing but roaring. (I, ii, 61-63)

A good opportunity for Kemp’s caterwauling routine. It might be argued that Kemp would not have taken Snug because it is such a minor role, fourteen lines plus miscellaneous roaring. But did he not play the Cobbler with one very short scene? The Clown in Titus has 23 lines, Peter has 63. Launce with 248 lines would have been his lengthiest Shakespearean performance. I do not think, however, that role length is a criteria for ascertaining Kemp’s parts. We know that he improvised on his dialogue and would get his share of laughs (perhaps more than his share), no matter what. And he would always be the star of the jig.

In the authoritative Quarto of the Dream, Snug/Lion leads the Burgomask, the dance at the conclusion of Pyramus and Thisbe. I believe that Kemp took Snug the joiner. I also believe that he actually preferred roles with few lines to tax his memory. We cannot forget that Kemp’s chief stock in trade was his dancing. Being slow of study, prone to extemporize, and with a top part of 248 lines, what would Kemp have made of the nearly 1,500 lines of Falstaff in the two parts of Henry IV?

We can add to Kemp’s gallery of creations some other tradesmen. Again, contrary to the agreed opinion, I assign Kemp the part of Dick the butcher of 2 Henry VI. It is thought that Kemp played Jack Cade. But there can be no doubt whatever that the revolutionary Cade is another example of the braggart soldier. It was Pope, the jig dancer and swordsman, to whom Shakespeare was referring as Jack Cade in the line, “I have seen him / Caper upright like a wild Morisco, / Shaking his bloody darts, as he his bells.” (2 Henry VI, III, i, 364). I believe Cade must be added to the repertoire of Thomas Pope. As Cade boasts how he will overthrow the government, Dick gets off a fusillade of jokes at Cade’s expense, undermining his credibility at every turn. The technique is exactly the same as in the Shrew when Grumio undermines old Gremio. I see no obvious part for Kemp in 1 Henry IV, though perhaps he made a low-comedy part of another tradesman, the Carrier. Kemp must have entertained the working class mightily. Through Kemp, the groundlings could laugh at caricatures of themselves.

There is another play of Shakespeare’s in which Kemp must have performed. But a special problem is posed by All’s Well That Ends Well since it does not fit within the time frame of Kemp’s presence in the Chamberlain’s men. Scholars of a previous generation, Robert Boyle, J. M. Robertson, and Dover Wilson among them, thought that this play is a late revision of the unknown Love’s Labour’s Won attributed to Shakespeare by Francis Meres in his Palladis Tamia (1598}. Another confirmation of the existence of this play was presented to the public by Baldwin in 1957.

A scrap of paper used in the binding of Certaine Sermons (1639) by Thomas Gataker turned out to be part of a stationer’s inventory. The inventory included, among a list of items that he had sold, the titles of sixteen plays, one of which was Love’s Labour’s Won. [32] No copy of this published play is known to exist. If one were to be discovered however, I believe we would find that Love’s Labour’s Won would bear about the same relationship to All’s Well that Ends Well, as do the first and second quartos of Romeo and Juliet to each other. Scholars cite Helena’s line, “Will you be mine, now you are doubly won?” (V, iii, 312), as an indicator of the earlier title.

More importantly, they say, there are two strata of Shakespearean verse visible in the text, one layer having an affinity with the early plays, the other revealing Shakespeare’s mature style. If scholars had compared the percentage of feminine endings in each stratum, they would have been more certain of Shakespeare’s double handling of this play. For it is a fact that Shakespeare’s use of the feminine ending, sparse in the early plays, never stopped accelerating. In any case, I believe that Shakespeare revised the early Love’s Labour’s Won later in his career, renaming it All’s Well That Ends Well. This is the sort of theatrical prestidigitation that D. Lupton was talking about [London and the Country Carbonadoed and Quartered,] 1632) when he said, “The players are as crafty with an old play, as bawds with old faces; the one puts on a new fresh colour, the other a new face and name.” [33]

Kemp must have played the clown, Lavache in Love’s Labour’s Won. This clown, however, whose scenes with the Countess of Rousillon mirror those between Olivia and Feste in Twelfth Night, suggests a different actor. They suggest, in fact, Robert Armin, whose specialty was the elegant courtly fool. These scenes, then, must be regarded as part of the late revision. Unless a copy of Love’s Labour’s Won is discovered, we will never know of exactly what Kemp’s original role consisted.

According to Henslowe, Hamlet, no doubt an early version of Shakespeare’s play, was performed by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men at Newington Butts on June 11, 1594. The two gravediggers are noted in the present text as “clowns.” The First Gravedigger is the better of the two parts and he also gets to sing. While I see no obvious marks of Kemp’s presence as the First Gravedigger, I feel confident in assigning him this part. Like Lavache and possibly the two Shallows, I think the role was tailored to Robert Armin for the final version of Hamlet.

Of Shakespeare’s plays in which Kemp might have acted prior to his departure from the company in 1599, I have not been able to cast him in the following: 1 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI, Richard III and King John. Still, the audience expected a clown. In The Pilgrimage to Parnassus Dromo says that a clown could be “thrust into plays by head and shoulders.” Perhaps this is what transpired in the early history plays—the clown appearing at a convenient moment to improvise. And who better than Kemp to do the deed?

There is a “Will foole” named in the Plot of the Second Part of the Seven Deadly Sins. The actor John Duke is assigned to the role, but this may be an error. W. W. Greg, editor of the Plot, tells us that Duke is not known to have played any comic parts. [34] Moreover, “Will foole” seems to describe the actor as well as the part—Will Kemp. After all, Tarlton, who wrote the play, wrote the clown role for himself, and a Tarlton part would have fallen to Kemp. But this is merely speculation.

Judging from the number of times Mucedorus was printed—seventeen, from 1598 to 1668—this Tudor thriller was one of the most popular plays ever written. And why not? Mucedorus has everything—love, adventure, romance, melodrama, villainy, pathos and clowning—something for everyone. There is some extremely fine writing in this play, and more than a few critics have attributed the play to Shakespeare. His name even appeared on title pages in 1610 and later. [35] At most, however, I think Shakespeare revised the work and that his revision was rather limited. Some of the language suggests that the play is pre-Shakespearean in origin. Mucedorus was in the repertory of the Globe company until the closing of the theatres in 1642, and its stage life, at least among strolling players, was certainly longer.

Mouse, the clown, is yet another version of the Peter character. Upon the prospect of becoming Segasto’s servant, Mouse recommends himself with the type of inverted concepts we have seen before: “I can keep my tongue from picking and stealing, and my hands from lying and slandering, I warrant you, as well as ever you had any man in your life” (Sc. IV). Mouse quibbles on the word “shins” and puns on the name Tremelio (Sc. V). He mis-hears “flain” for “slain” (Sc. V). He is a great feeder in the manner of Launcelot, Segasto remarking, “Your mind is all upon your belly” (Sc. VII). Mouse is extremely impertinent and causes his new master much consternation. He also sings and has a set-piece with a pot of ale. There is the sign of a caterwauling episode in Sc. VII. There can be little doubt that Mouse was another Kemp role. Mucedorus was later played before King James after 1603. The part is slightly longer than any of the Shakespearean low-comedy roles, and I suspect that it was padded for Armin.

In 1602, after being duly entered in the Stationers’ Register, was published a quarto with the following title page: “The True Chronicle History of the whole life and death of Thomas Cromwell. As it has been sundry times publicly acted by the Right Honorable the Lord Chamberlain his servants. Written by. W. S.” After a second edition was published in 1613, Cromwell was included in the Third and Fourth Shakespeare Folios of 1664 and 1685, reprinted by Shakespeare’s first editor, Nicholas Rowe, in 1709, and issued separately in 1734 by R. Walker as “A Tragedy by Shakespeare.” [36] Though first published in 1602, the play resembles the chronicles of the early to mid 1590’s. Like Mucedorus, Cromwell is a play of composite authorship revealing a variety of authorial styles. Portions of the play have been attributed to Shakespeare. That those portions would be mid-career Shakespeare is verified by the fact that feminine endings reach about 18%, which places Shakespeare’s handling of the work around 1595. The verse also lacks the compactness of thought and plangency of the later Shakespeare.

Will Kemp would have taken the role of Hodge, a blacksmith, who later becomes Cromwell’s servant. His part ends in the third act since the play, which begins on a light note, turns grim and finally concludes with Cromwell’s beheading. In I, i, a very short scene which establishes Cromwell’s studiousness, Hodge urges his co-workers to begin their day with a draught of ale. In passing, he mentions that “goody Trundel had her maid got with child.” The tradesman and bawdy joke are by now a familiar signs of Kemp. In I, ii, Hodge quibbles on the word “fret.” In II, ii, Hodge has a set-piece about his hunger and eating. The scene ends with he and Cromwell going off to dinner.

In III, i, the smith has the line, “Fortune! a plague of this fortune, it makes me go wet-shod; the rogues would not leave me a shoe to my feet.” Then follows some doggerel, reminiscent of the Cobbler’s speech to the King, which look like lyrics for a short jig. The words “shoe to my feet” certainly provide a perfect lead-in to a little dance. In III, ii, Hodge makes his final appearance. Here we have the stage directions “Hodge sounds a note,” and “Hodge sings a song.” On balance, it can be said with confidence that Hodge the smith is another chapter in the book of Kemp the clown.

By January 3, 1602, Kemp was a member of the Earl of Worcester’s men, and on that day he received with Thomas Heywood a payment for a performance at court. [37] Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness, still viewed as a very fine work, was Worcester’s most noteworthy play. According to Henslowe, it was presented in March, 1603. This work is one of those rare Elizabethan plays, like Arden of Faversham, a domestic drama.

It depicts English country home life and treats the relationships of ordinary people rather than the great. The chief servant Jenkin provides the main comic interest and he leads his minions in some dancing. When we hear Jenkin correct Dogberry, “Do you not know that comparisions are odious?” (I, ii, 21), we suspect that Kemp may have taken the role. There are, however, no other obvious signs of his presence. It may be that, just as some Shakespearean parts were remodeled for Armin, Jenkin was revised for Thomas Greene, Kemp’s successor with Worcester’s men. Jenkin must have been one of the last new parts, if not the very last, Kemp created prior to this death in 1603.

Wiles thinks that Kemp appeared in some other plays known to be in the possession of Worcester’s men. It would be well to look at these possibilities.

Wiles follows those who believe that The Famous History of Sir Thomas Wyatt is a conflation of the two parts of Lady Jane. [38] I have not investigated the evidence upon which this claim is based. To be sure, a 1 Lady Jane by Dekker, Heywood, Webster, Chettle and Smith, and a 2 Lady Jane, for which Dekker was paid an advance in October 1602, are on record. But these plays are not extant. [39] The extant quarto of Sir Thomas Wyatt was published in 1607 with a title page attribution to “Thomas Dickers and John Webster.”  “Dickers” is taken to be Dekker. We are also told that the work was performed by “the Queen’s Majesties Servants,” the successor to Worcester’s men.

Wiles also seems to follow Fredson Bowers who says that Wyatt is a “reported” text—

a bad quarto. Now the main drawback of the “reporter” theory is that signs of corruption can equally be taken as signs of revision. Let us suppose for a moment that the first Quarto of Hamlet is a corruption of the second Quarto (though the title page of that edition plainly tells us that the latter is an [expansion] of the former). At least there are two quartos to compare. In the case of Wyatt there is only one quarto. What can it be a corruption of? What is it being compared to? There is no doubt that the received text contains typographical and bibliographical problems. But there is nothing in that to warrant the assumption that the quarto is a corruption of another text, especially since no other text exists.

As I have indicated, I cannot offer an opinion as to whether Wyatt bears any relationship to the two parts of Lady Jane. I will say, however, that Wyatt has various resemblances to the earlier chronicles. For example, a clown scene is inserted for no other purpose than to ridicule Spain and, more specifically, Phillip II. This was George Peele’s specialty c. 1587 when animosity toward Spain was running red-hot. But what relevance would this jingoism have had in 1602, fifteen years after the Spanish Armada had been decimated? Phillip II himself died in 1598. It is possible to believe, if an objective attitude be taken, that Wyatt has no relationship to Lady Jane, and that it is a partly revised version of an old play. Even the title with its “Famous History” calls to mind the elderly Famous Victories of Henry V, played by Tarlton’s company at the Bull in 1588.

The Clown role in Wyatt, as in most histories, is rather limited. There are two indications that it may have been a Kemp part. In II, i, he talks of his stomach. In II, iii, again harping on his stomach, he says, “O poor shrimp, how art thou fallen away for want of munching.” Since the shrimp he is referring to is himself, the actor of the Clown must have been a small man. It may be that Kemp took this role at some point in the play’s history. But it may have been performed by another clown, all of whom seemed to be small men. I give Wiles’ attribution a question mark.

Heywood’s The Royal King and Loyal Subject was an old play when it was published in 1637. Heywood himself remarks on his use of rhyme, the prevailing practice prior to Kyd and Marlowe. Later, an effort was made, by mixing blank verse (then known as “strong lines”) and rhyme, to compensate for the absence of the constant jingle to which the audience had been accustomed: “We know (and not long since) there was a time Strong lines were not look’d after, but if rhyme, Oh! then ’twas excellent.” [40]

Wiles agrees with the indentification of Royal King with the marshall oserecke of Henslowe’s Diary, written by Wentworth Smith and Heywood in September 1602. [41] Since a Lord Marshall is the central character of Royal King, I think that this identification is correct. The play is, in part, an allegory on the fortunes of the Earl of Essex—if the Earl had had a stay of execution. The nature of the material suggests that this play could not have been performed while Elizabeth was alive. It cannot have passed the censor, the actual events being so recent the allegory would have been seen for what it was, and with the implication that the monarch (an unnamed King in this instance) had made the wrong decision in a matter of treason.

Wiles is anxious to have us believe that there is no suggestion “that the text had ever been revised.” [42] Why he is so concerned about this, in a book not concerned with problems of authorship, I do not know. Still, the bibliographical evidence does not bear him out. In Act I Captain Bonville, prime mover of the subplot, has a speech beginning with two lines of blank verse followed, for no descernible reason, by four lines of prose, and that followed by four more lines of blank verse. Again, the objective mind has to agree that there has been some tinkering with this speech which must have been, in its original form, entirely in blank verse.

Also, there is a peculiarity in the nomenclature of the Clown: sometimes he is “Clown,” sometimes he is “Cock,” Bonville’s servant, and once in the text he is “Cock, the clown.” In the list of dramatis personae, there are two characters—Clown and Cock. It appears that two characters have been combined. One thing is certain: the Clown’s appearance in Act I is an interpolation. His scene with the Welshman is totally irrelevant and, moreover, interrupts the action which resumes as if nothing had intervened when the Clown and Welshman leave the stage. Even a cursory study of the play suggests that there has been revision at some point in the history of this text.

In I, i, the Welshman talks of church organs, but the Clown, we know, has another meaning in mind for the word “organs.” In III, iii, the Clown is employed as a messenger. In the same scene he wants his master to give him money for whoring. Beyond these points, I do not see much of an argument for Kemp in this play (also, the role would be a rather lengthy one for him). However, if the play was performed in 1602 by Worcester’s men, he may have taken the part of Cock the clown. And again, the part may have been fattned for Thomas Greene.

Carol Chillington has convinced Wiles that Sir Thomas More belonged to Worcester’s men. This is plausible, since Heywood, identified as Hand B, seems to have supervised the revision. Part of his revision was the conversion of the character Ralph Betts into a clown role. This part may well have been intended for Kemp. Wiles says that More was “a probable part of the repertory.” [43] There are, however, two facts, noted by Chambers and others, which tell against the play’s ever having been performed at all: 1) The censor’s instructions have not been carried out on the authorial manuscript; and 2) There are no prompter’s notes, which indicates that the play was not prepared for production. If Ralph Betts was intended for Kemp, he never played the part.

Though the name of Oldcastle had been changed to Falstaff prior to publication of Henry IV, the association of the name with the fat knight could not be expunged from the public mind. In order to rectify the injury (real or supposed) done to his name, Lord Cobham induced the Admiral’s men to produce a two-part play presenting the true facts in the life of the Lollard martyr. In 1599 Michael Drayton, Anthony Munday, Robert Wilson, and Richard Hathaway cranked out The True and Honorable History of the Life of Sir John Oldcastle. The play was performed at the Rose. Worcester’s men acquired this work (of which only the first part is extant), when they entered into their agreement with Henslowe in August 1602. [44] Revised by Dekker, Oldcastle was one of the first plays Worcester’s men presented in their fall season.

Wiles thinks that Kemp played the “neo-Falstaffian role of Sir John of Wrotham,” a fat parson. He supports this theory by citing an entry in Henslowe’s Diary: “Lent unto Wm Kemp the 22 of August to buy buckram to make a pair of giant hose the sum of Vs.” [45] The probability is that this costume would have made Kemp look ludicrous and could not have brought any truth to the performance of the part. On the contrary, such a costume would have been destructive. Nor do I believe that Kemp played the fat parson. This part, a cheap imitation of Falstaff (even supplied with a Doll), would have been taken by the company braggart.

In Act III, ii, Murley, a brewer, prepares his followers for battle on the following day. Murley also speaks with the voice of the braggart. There are about forty roles in the play, so the actors must have been doubling and tripling. Since the parson and Murley can easily be doubled, these parts fell to the same actor. To his followers, Tom and Dick, a pair of bumpkins, Murley says, “I would give a couple of shillings for a dozen of good feathers for you, and forty pence for as many scarfs to set you out withal” (III, ii).

The line has no relevance to the rest of the speech. Feathers and scarves were, of course, traditional accoutrements of the morris dancer. It is likely that Tom and Dick were performed by two of the actors who would be appearing in the jig following the play. As characters, Tom and Dick are indistinguishable, neither showing any signs of Kemp. Still, Kemp probably played one of them in this hurriedly written play which must have recieved a speedy production.

Wiles says, “It seems safest to exclude Nobody and Somebody from this discussion [Kemp’s roles] because the text in its present state is Jacobean.” [46] But he does not mind expostulating on the piece elsewhere. In another chapter he informs us that, the albere galles of Henslowe’s Diary has long been conjectured to be Archigallo, and the play therefore an early version of Nobody and Somebody.” [47] Nobody and Somebody has a double plot. The overplot, based on mythical British history, concerns the machinations of the tyrranical and dissolute King Archigallo. It would seem, therefore, that the above theory is a sound one.

The subplot of Nobody and Somebody is satirical, bearing the stamp of the old moralities. The title characters are abstract personifications. Nobody receives all of the blame for the evil perpetrated by Somebody. In the end, in a trial scene, Somebody formally charges Nobody with all of his own misdeeds. This enables Nobody to turn the tables on his defamer by showing that the malpractices must have been Somebody’s, for “If Nobody should do them, then should they be undone.” Somebody is punished. [48]

Since the overplot of Nobody is similiar in subject matter, construction, and intention to A Knack to Know a Knave and its sequel, A Knack to Know an Honest Man, the play must belong to the early 1590’s, or even late 1580’s. The topical mention of the possible embezzlement of funds earmarked for the repair of St. Paul’s steeple confirms this. [49] The authorship of the play is considered anonymous. I believe that it is a composite work. The scene in which Lord Sycophant foists on Nobody a collection of false cards and dice suggests Robert Greene, who wrote extensively on these subjects in a series of prose pamphlets. If Greene was a participant, however, it would have been one of his last efforts, for he died in September 1592.

Wiles reminds us that on the day payment was made for albere galles, a further entry in the Diary states: “A suit for Wm Kemp: the sum of 30/-.” And on the next day an additional 8/8d was paid for “making Wm Kemp’s suit and the boy’s.” Wiles interprets this information as follows: “A small boy would have suited the bodiless Nobody. Kemp would have dressed his apprentice in the disembodied clown’s slops illustrated on the title page, and played his own clown part alongside. [50]

The entries in the Diary do not inspire me with as much confidence for guessing. Henslowe logs nineteen entries for many costumes and props between August 17 and September 4. At the same time four different plays are in the works (in addition to which Chettle is advanced money for “a tragedy,” possibly Hoffman. On August 17 Dekker is paid for additions (revisions) to Oldcastle; on September 2 Dekker is paid in full for Medicine for a Cursed Wife; on September 3, four lances are purchased for an unnamed Thomas Hughes-Wentworth Smith play; finally, on September 4, Heywood and Smith are paid in full for albere galles. [51] A number of these entries signify loans to John Duke, a company principal. Surely Duke was not wearing all of these costumes. By the same logic, I do not think we can say for which play Kemp’s and the boy’s suits were intended.

We may be luckier with Nobody. There are two woodcuts, one at the beginning of the Quarto, the other at the end, representing the title characters. The picture of Nobody at the beginning represents him in a huge pair of slops, all legs, head and arms, but no body. There is also an allusion to this in the dialogue. Somebody has an equally exaggerated doublet, with no legs to speak of. My impression is that the “giant slops” referred to in the discussion of Sir John Oldcastle were intended for the actor of Nobody, and that the costume entries for Kemp’s and the boy’s suits were in fact for another play. Kemp, of course, took the Clown, though it does not have many marks of his clowning.

If Romeo and Juliet had been re-conceived as a comedy—and it contains many of Shakespeare’s devices—How A Man May Choose A Good Wife From A Bad would be the result. The play was published in 1602 and was performed, the title page tells us, by the Earl of Worcester’s men. The work was published without a mention of the author, but a manuscript note ascribed the play to John Cooke, the author of Greene’s Tu Quoque. There is no additional trace of John Cooke. F. G. Fleay, not always a reliable guide, advanced strong reasons for attributing the play to Heywood. He also advanced strong reasons that it was a Heywood revision of A Wonder of a Woman, the Admiral’s play of October 15, 1595. A. E. H. Swaen, the modern editor of the play, confirmed Fleay’s attribution following an independent study: “I recapitulate that from the likeness of metre, scene, plot, characters and language I have not the least doubt that Heywood is the author of this delightful play. “It is clear that the play was written and produced in 1601-1602. [52]

If How A Man May Choose parallels Romeo, we might expect Pipkin, the clown of this play, to resemble Peter and that the part was played by Will Kemp. I do not think there is any question that both of these assumptions are correct. Pipkin is Mistress Arthur’s servant. At line 161 (there are no act/scene divisions), he complains of starving. At 663 there begins extensive word play on Latin phrases. At the end of the scene we find the bizarre stage direction, “Makes a legge, and Exit.” I was initially non-plussed by this, but then recalled Dromo’s list of Kemp’s lazzi in the Pilgrimage to Parnassus. “Makes a legge”may well refer to Kemp’s gag of laying his leg over his staff. At 1110 Pipkin, still a grammar school student at age twenty-four, has a set-piece about what he has learned at school—A to F, noun and verb; he is bearded (as is Kemp in the woodcut); and he is bigger than two or three of his fellow students (who would have been played by boys). Like Peter, at 1425 Young Arthur dispatches Pipkin to invite people to dinner, but before departing, Pipkin plies the man with an unwanted joke. Later we hear a shout from within, “We cannot keep his fingers from the roast.” When asked by the Justice in a test of his scholarship what the six cases are, Pipkin demonstrates his ignorance: “A bow-case, a cap-case, a comb-case, a lute-case, a fiddle-case, and a candle-case.” As in the scene of Juliet’s supposed death, Pipkin sings a tragic song upon the mock-death of Mistress Arthur. Pipkin can only have been written for and performed by Will Kemp.

While I have followed my leads in this study, I have not attempted to be exhaustive. My main goal was to resolve the Falstaff question, which I now regard a closed case. There are undoubtedly other plays in which Kemp, Pope, or both appeared. I especially think more can be learned about Pope through a minute study of his roles. I will leave these things to a successor. I do believe, however, that I have shed new light on both of these actors and the parts they performed. Following is a table of their roles. I provisionally accept Baldwin’s assignment of several Pope parts, marked with an asterisk, though I have not closely studied them.





Play Kemp Pope



Comedy of Errors Dromio of  Ephesus Dromio of Syracuse
Two Gentlemenof Verona Launce Speed
Romeo and Juliet Peter Mercutio*
Midsummer Night’s Dream Snug Bottom
1 Henry VI ? York*
2 Henry VI Dick York*, Cade
3 Henry VI ? York*
Titus Andronicus Clown Aaron
Richard III ? Buckingham
Taming of the Shrew Grumio Petruchio
Love’s Labour’s Lost Costard Armado
Love’s Labour’s Won Lavache Parolles
Richard II ? Gardner, Keeper Mowbray
Hamlet (1593) 1st Gravedigger 1st Player
King John ? Phillip
Merchant of Venice Launcelot Shylock
Much Ado About Nothing Dogberry ? Don John
1 Henry IV ? Carrier Falstaff
2 Henry IV Shallow Falstaff
Jealous… / Merry Wives Shallow Falstaff
Henry V Fluellen
Julius Caesar Casca*
As You Like It Jaques*
Twelfth Night Belch



Singing Simpkin (Jig) Simpkin Bluster
Seven Deadly Sins ? Will Fool Arbactus
A Knack to Know a Knave Cobbler ?
Mucedorus Mouse Bremo
Everyman in His Humour Cob Bobadil
Thomas Cromwell Hodge Bagot

Worcester’s Company


A Woman Killed… Jenkin
How a Man May Choose… Pipkin
Nobody and Somebody Clown  
Sir John Oldcastle ? Tom or Dick
Sir Thomas Wyatt ? Clown
Royal King & Loyal Subject ? Clown/Cock  

Postcript, 2005: Reviewing this article many years after the fact, I noticed that I neglected to footnote an important source of ideas. It was Allison Gaw who first began to assemble the repertoire of John Sincklo in “John Sincklo As One of Shakespeare’s Actors” (Anglia , 1926, xlix, 289-303). He connected Sincklo with characters in Romeo and Juliet, 2 Henry IV, The Seven Deadly Sins, 3 Henry VI, The Malcontent, The Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Gaw surprisingly missed Pinch, an obvious Sincklo role, in The Comedy of Errors. W. W. Greg  added the part to Sincklo’s repertoire in The Editorial Problem in Shakespeare.


  1. Giacomo Oreglia, The Commedia dell’Arte, (New York: Hill & Wang, 1968), 56-58.
  2. W. Hone, “Dissertation Upon the Morris Dance and Maid Marian,” in J. M. Gutch, ed., The Robin Hood Garlands and Ballads (London, 1850), 304.
  3. Kemp, William. Kemps Nine Daies Wonder (1600), ed. Alexander Dyce. London: The Camden Society, 1840, 2.
  4. Ibid., XXI-XXII
  5. Ivor Brown, How Shakespeare Spent the Day (New York: Hill and Wang, 1963), p. 59.
  6. C. R. Baskervill, The Elizabethan Jig and Related Song Drama (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1929), 219-235.
  7. A Knack to Know a Knave (Anon., 1594), (London: Tudor Facsimile Texts, 1911).
  8. Thomas Nashe, Works, ed. R. B. McKerrow (London: A. H. Bullen, 1904), III, 341.
  9. C. W. Wallace, The Evolution Of The English Drama Up To Shakespeare (Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1912), 205.
  10. W. Bridges-Adams, The Irresistible Theatre: Growth of the English Stage (New York: Collier Books, 1961), 189.
  11. K. M. Lea, Italian Popular Comedy (New York: Russell & Russell, 1962), vol. 2, 374-6.
  12. Ibid., 405.
  13. Marchette Chute, Shakespeare of London (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1949), 221.
  14. David Wiles, Shakespeare’s Clown, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 116.
  15. Ibid., 119-122.
  16. Ibid., 117.
  17. H. D. Gray, “The Roles of William Kemp,” Modern Language Review, 1930), 261-73.
  18. Wiles, 117.
  19. Ibid., 61.
  20. T. W. Baldwin, The Organization and Personnel of the Shakespearean Company (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1927), 231-5.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Gray, 262.
  25. Oreglia, 103.
  26. W. W. Greg, Elizabethan Dramatic Documents (London: Oxford University Press, 1931), 105-122.
  27. Wiles, 105.
  28. In the Cartwright Collection of the Dulwich Picture Gallery is a well-known portrait (No. 26) reputed to be the Chamberlain’s man William Sly. The 1792 attribution by Daniel Lyons was a mere guess.
    The Cartwright catalogue further informs us that, if English, the portrait cannot have been painted before 1640, which would rule Sly out since he died in 1608. The portrait depicts a heavy-set, somewhat sinister-looking man. There is something strange about his eyes, and he has a pointy nose. If the curators ever decide that the portrait is of earlier date, I would put in a claim for Thomas Pope as the sitter.




  1. Nashe, III, 341.
  2. Lea, I, 45.
  3. Dyce, XV.
  4. T. W. Baldwin, Love’s Labor’s Won, (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1957).
  5. E. K. Chambers, William Shakespeare, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930), I, 211.
  6. Greg, 121.
  7. William Kozlenko, Disputed Plays of William Shakespeare(New York: Hawthorne Books, 1974), 166.
  8. Ibid., 265.
  9. Edwin Nungezer, A Dictionary of Actors (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1929), 220.
  10. Wiles, 79.
  11. Thomas Dekker, The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed. Fredson Bowers (Cambridge, 1953)
  12. Thomas Heywood, in Two Plays by Thomas Heywood, ed. J. P. Collier (London, 1850), vi.
  13. Wiles, 78.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid., 80-81.
  16. The True and Honorable History of the Life of Sir John Oldcastle, in Kozlenko, 326-8.
  17. Wiles,134-5.
  18. Ibid., 77.
  19. Ibid., 40.
  20. Nobody and Somebody, in Richard Simpson, ed. The School of Shakespeare (London: Chatto & Windus, 1878), xiv-xv,
  21. Ibid., 270-272.
  22. Wiles, 40-1.
  23. Phillip Henslowe, Diary, ed. W. W. Greg (London: A. H. Bullen, 1904-08), I, 178-80.
  24. How a Man May Choose a Good Wife from a Bad, ed. A. E. Swaen (Louvain: A. Uystpruyst, 1912).