An Oldie but Goodie, part 2

The second part of my 2006 paper for the SAA Theatre History Seminar: “A First Performance and an Imaginary Performance: Lady Elizabeth’s Men, Queen Henrietta’s Men and The Renegado”


II. The Cockpit Company of 1622

 Seven names comprising “the chiefe of them at the Phoenix” were recorded, sometime in 1622, probably by Sir Henry Herbert’s immediate predecessor Sir John Astley. On the same page were recorded lists of “The Palsgrave’s servants” and “the names of the chiefe players at the Red Bull”. Malone thought there had been lists for the King’s and Prince’s company on another part of the page which had crumbled away.[1] The seven named for the Cockpit company were Christopher Beeston, Joseph More, Eyllaerdt Swanston, Andrew Cane, Curtis Grevill, William Sherlock and Anthony Turner. No doubt these were the chief of the Cockpit company when the list was set down, but there is reason to believe that the composition of the company had changed significantly by April 1624. Even in 1622 it must have been an incomplete representation of who would have been seen on stage at the Cockpit.

 That Christopher Beeston is the first name on the Herbert list is not surprising, as he owned the Phoenix playhouse. He had worked in the theatre for more than 25 years, probably beginning as a boy acting women’s parts, moving on to adult parts, taking on wardrobe management, eventually becoming a company manager and then playhouse owner. He even dabbled in play-patching. As Cockpit companies came and went, Beeston seems to have retained possession of much of their repertoires. It is difficult to imagine Beeston as anything other than a hands-on theatre manager, involving himself in all aspects of play production, including casting, costuming and staging. The presence or absence of his name in any Cockpit list from 1617 to 1638 must be considered incidental: he is always present, truly “the chiefe of them at the Phoenix”, whether he is named or not. There is however no evidence that Christopher Beeston acted on the stage himself after the dissolution of Queen Anne’s men in 1619; indeed he may have ceased acting earlier as he took on managerial duties. He was certainly the leader of Queen Henrietta’s men at the Cockpit from 1625 to 1636, yet he is not named in the Cockpit casts of The Wedding (1626), 1 & 2 Fair Maid of the West (c1629-30), King John and Matilda (1628<>1634), or Hannibal and Scipio (1635), so we should not expect to find him named in the cast of The Renegado, whether it dates from 1624 or 1626.[2]

Joseph More (or Moore) is second on the 1622 list. In 1611 More was, with John Townsend, one of the two original patentees of the Lady Elizabeth’s players. This company existed in a number of incarnations between 1611 and 1631, most of them having little in common with each other in the way of personnel, repertoire and venue beyond the presence of More, Townsend, or their close associate Alexander Foster, at the head of the company.[3] Then from 1632 More was a patentee and leader of II Prince Charles’s company. During his theatrical career, More’s name is not found in any cast list associated with companies he led. In light of this, Bentley’s comment concerning his tenure with the Prince’s company is of interest:

 [More’s] status with Prince Charles’s is rather puzzling. He is named first in their license shown at Norwich, and he is always mentioned in the payments which the company received for performances at court—the usual indication of company leaders—yet he is not mentioned in the one extant cast of the company, and he is in neither of the two lists of Prince Charles’s men sworn Grooms of the Chamber. There can be no doubt he was a leader of the company. It is possible that, like Heminges in his later years, he was a financial agent rather than an actor.[4]

 I suggest that Joseph More is in the 1622 list primarily because he was a patentee of the Lady Elizabeth’s company, and his presence would enable whatever company Beeston put together to pass as Lady Elizabeth’s players, insofar as they could be regarded as More’s ‘fellows’.[5] More is the only member of the Cockpit company known to have been previously associated with Lady Elizabeth’s men.[6] He had a previous history of separating himself from the main company, and the company’s patent specifically allowed them to play in London, where the number of companies was more or less limited to those patronized by members of the royal family. It is this I believe that made him valuable to Beeston.[7] The provincial company apparently continued to tour under Townsend during the years More was at the Cockpit. If my suggestion about More’s status with the Cockpit Lady Elizabeth’s company is correct, that his function was that of patentee and ‘leader’ rather than actor, it would not be surprising to find that he was not a member of the stage line-up of April 1624 (or indeed of 1622).

Andrew Cane and Curtis Grevill are named fourth and fifth on the 1622 Cockpit list. However, the testimony of the Herbert lists is confusing, since their names also appear, in the same order, at the end of the 1622 list of Palsgrave’s servants. The explanation of this inconsistency has usually been that when the lists were first recorded, probably in the first half of 1622, Cane and Grevill were with the Cockpit company; but when at some point (perhaps not much later, perhaps together) these actors left the Cockpit for the Fortune, their names were added to the latter list without being crossed off the former.[8] Cane at least had joined the Fortune company by the end of the same month that The Renegado was licensed, for on 30 April 1624 he signed a bond to “stay and play” at the Fortune (my italics). Further, his presence as a legatee in the will of Fortune actor Frank Grace around January 1624 suggests he had joined even earlier.[9] If so, he would not have been available to act in the first performance of The Renegado. Curtis Grevill’s travels are not so clear. He had joined the King’s men by 1626, but he was not one of those who signed the Fortune bond in April 1624.[10] We can only speculate: perhaps he had moved on from the Palsgrave’s already or perhaps he was of insufficient importance to the company to be made to sign the bond. But it is likely that his appearance in both the Cockpit list and the Palsgrave’s list is due to the same agency as Cane’s, and that he was no longer at the Cockpit when The Renegado was first performed. Incidentally, it appears that the woman Grevill married in 1615 was the niece of Philip Henslowe’s business partner Jacob Meade.[11] Meade was one of the owners of the Hope playhouse, which in 1614-15 housed the Lady Elizabeth’s players, so it seems possible Grevill had some early unrecorded connection to that company and perhaps came to the Cockpit with Joseph More.

The third name on the 1622 Cockpit list is Eyllaerdt Swanston. Although Swanston is found in parish records as early as 1619, this is his first notice as an actor. After leaving the Cockpit he became famous playing roaring parts for the King’s men. Swanston had joined the King’s company by 20 December 1624, as he was a signatory to the so-called ‘Spanish Viceroy submission’ of that date; but how much earlier might he have joined them? If the Renegado cast list, in which Swanston does not appear, does represent the first performance, he must have made the move by April 1624. Malone said “Eliard Swanston in 1624 joined the company at Blackfriars”, but does not say when in 1624, and does not reveal the basis for his statement. However, as it is appended to his transcription of Herbert’s 1622 company lists, it is probably intended as a gloss to Swanston’s presence in the Cockpit list. Hence it’s likely this only reflects his knowledge of the Spanish Viceroy list, and that all he knew was that Swanston had gone to the Blackfriars by 1624.

T. W. Baldwin asserted that Swanston took the place of John Underwood in the King’s company. Since Underwood died in early October 1624, the implication is that Swanston had only been with the King’s for a few months at the time of the Spanish Viceroy submission, in which case the question arises, why was he not named in the Renegado cast? Baldwin was a close and ingenious reader of detail, but had a tendency to mix his discoveries, deductions, intuitions and guesses together and then present them as fact. There was a lot of coming and going in the King’s company between 1620 and 1625. During those years Henry Condell, Nicholas Tooley, Robert Gough, William Eccleston and John Underwood died or retired, and William Rowley, Eyllaerdt Swanston, Richard Sharpe, George Birche and Thomas Pollard took their places as liveried members of the King’s company.[12] Baldwin worked out a neat scheme showing exactly who replaced whom, but unfortunately there are a number of vagaries which make this a dangerous exercise, and it is far from certain that it was Underwood that Swanston replaced.[13] It is just as possible that, for instance, Richard Sharpe, who was granted protection from arrest in December 1624 was Underwood’s replacement, and that Swanston replaced Nicholas Tooley who was buried on 5 June 1623, or William Eccleston who, although still alive in June 1623, seems to have stopped appearing in King’s plays around the end of 1622, or even Robert Gough or Henry Condell.[14]

In light of all this livery-shuffling, Swanston’s ranking in the list of eleven King’s players who signed the Spanish Viceroy submission may be significant.[15] One hesitates to invest something like this with more significance than it will bear, but a number of examples could be cited of company lists reflecting the status of players within the company. Here we find that the most important members of the company—leading men Joseph Taylor and John Lowin, Burbage’s heir Richard Robinson, and leading comedian John Shank—are listed first, while Richard Sharpe and George Birche (who had recently graduated from boy player status) are listed last. Swanston comes fifth, right after the company leaders, and ahead of, for example, William Rowley (eighth) who had joined the King’s men by August 1623. The inference which might be drawn is that Swanston was no longer a ‘new boy’ but had by December 1624 been with the company long enough to have attained some prominence.

Finally, a newly recovered record from Sir Henry Herbert’s office-book may shed light on the question. It concerns the relicensing of Thomas Heywood’s The Escapes of Jupiter:

 An old play called the Escapes of Jupiter taken from the Cockpit upon the remove of some of the sharers & because they had paid their parts[;] though it had been acted in the King’s house I have allowed of it this 26th August 1623. 1.0.0.  It was not complained of by the company of the Cockpit and that moved me likewise to allow of it. I had not allowed of it but that the Cockpit gave way & that they have been sharers therein some of them.[16]

 Herbert’s account is not very clear. Bawcutt suggests that the players who had “removed” from the Cockpit may have been Prince Charles’s men who had been there (at least some of the time) 1619-22, but is at a loss to explain the apparent involvement of the King’s men. It seems to me Herbert refers to several players (“some of the sharers”) leaving the Cockpit with a playbook, not to a whole company. By “old play” he may only have meant one not newly licensed, so it may be that it was licensed for the Lady Elizabeth’s. (We will see below that Herbert on 23 August 1623 had called The Martyred Soldier an “old” play when it must have been licensed no earlier than March 1622.) It appears to me that Escapes was a play licensed for the Cockpit while these sharers were members of the company there, and that they took it with them to the King’s where it was then staged without being relicensed, since they possessed the allowed ‘booke’. The unlicensed revival came to Herbert’s attention along with the fact that the play had originally belonged to the Cockpit, but he was persuaded by the seceding players that they had rights in the play—had “paid their parts”—and as the Cockpit players made no objection, he acquiesced and allowed it for the King’s company.

If my speculative reconstruction is correct, then several players left the Cockpit for the Blackfriars sometime before August 1623, when the King’s company might have been looking for replacements for Tooley, Eccleston, Condell or Gough. Of course we cannot say for certain who those players were. Conceivably William Rowley is meant, although he did not go directly from the Cockpit to the Blackfriars. But by December 1624 Eyllaerdt Swanston seems to have settled in with the King’s company. so it seems quite possible he was one. The last certain record of Swanston with Lady Elizabeth’s is when he is found leading a provincial Lady Elizabeth’s at Stafford in December 1622.[17] If each of the 24 months between December 1622 and December 1624 are given equal weight as possibly being the month in which Swanston left the Cockpit for the Blackfriars, then the odds are two to one that he had made the move during the first 16 months of that period, that is, by April 1624. And if so, he would not have been at the Cockpit to act in the first performance of The Renegado.

Although I have only dealt with the first five names I think it has been demonstrated here that the 1622 Herbert list of Cockpit players is an inadequate guide to whom a playgoer would have seen on stage there in April 1624. Even in 1622 there must have been a handful of master actors at the Cockpit not named in the Herbert list. The final two names on that list, William Sherlock and Anthony Turner, unlike their 1622 fellows, almost certainly acted in The Renegado premier. However, I will discuss Sherlock and Turner in the next section because Bentley believed they were ‘missing’ from the performance represented by the printed list. I will try to show this was not the case.

[1] See Appendix I. The lists are headed “1622”, which could mean anytime from January 1622 until March 1623. Sir George Buc was still the Master of the Revels at the start of 1622 but Sir John Astley had replaced him by March of that year, and Sir Henry Herbert did not take over from Astley until July 1623. On 16 May 1622 Buc’s relatives were ordered to deliver the Revels archives to Astley, and perhaps it was around this time that the 1622 company lists were written down for Astley’s information. (See also note 25.) Herbert appears to have continued to use the same ‘office-book’ as his immediate predecessor. The earliest explicitly dated play licenses for 1622 are from May for the Lady Elizabeth’s, the King’s and the Red Bull Revels, and June for the Prince’s. Since the office-book survives only in the transcriptions of others, no handwriting analysis is possible which would tell us who wrote what. I shall for convenience refer to these as the “Herbert lists” although it seems likely they were first recorded by Astley. See Bawcutt, Herbert, Introduction.

[2] For the companies Beeston led or played with see Chambers, ES ii. 220-40 and Bentley, JCS i, passim. For the Queen’s casts sans Beeston see Appendix III

[3] For the various incarnations of the Lady Elizabeth’s/Queen of Bohemia’s players, see Chambers, ES ii. 247-260, and Bentley, JCS i. 176-197, 260-9.

[4] Bentley, JCS ii. 513.

[5] The original patent of 27 March 1611 reads “we… do license and authorize John Townsend and Joseph Moore, sworn servants to our dear daughter the Lady Elizabeth, with the rest of their company to use and exercise the art and quality of playing comedies, histories, enterludes, morals, pastorals, stage plays… in and about our city of London in such usual houses as themselves shall provide…”. (Malone Society Collections i. 3, 274). Since the patent names only Townsend and More, the Lady Elizabeth’s company could be whomever they chose as their ‘fellows’.

[6] See Bentley, JCS i. 177-82. There are some hints that Grevill, Swanston or Edward Rogers may have had a previous history with More. See under their sections.

[7] The license shown at Norwich on 23 May 1618 reveals that the Lady Elizabeth’s were still licensed to play in London (REED Norwich, 156). In April 1620 Francis Wamus told Norwich authorities that More was “one of their Company but he hath not played with them this last yeare, & that the said moore now kepeth an inn in Chichester”. However, More had brought a company of Lady Elizabeth’s players to Norwich less than three months previous, using a copy of the 1611 patent (REED Norwich 161-2).

[8] There are several reasons to think this must be the case. Firstly, Cane and Grevill appear in the middle of the Cockpit list, so they must have been included when the list was first written; but come at the end of the Palsgrave’s list, and so could have been added to an already existing list. Secondly, Cane’s first name is lacking from the Palsgrave’s list. If this was not due to the crumbling page, and if, as seems likely, Astley first compiled his lists from a license or other document, he would have had the players’ full names before him; but a later emendation is more likely to have been based on oral information, perhaps less formal and complete (“Sir John, Cane the Clown and Curtis Grevill have left the Cockpit for the Fortune”). It is noteworthy that when the same seven Red Bull Revels players are named in the Children of the Revels warrant of 8 July 1622 they are given in the same order as in the Herbert list, suggesting a common written source. Thirdly, both the Cockpit and the Red Bull lists consist of just seven names, leaders first. The Palsgrave’s list as it stands consists of six names, but Malone, who must have been able to see traces, said of it “three other names have perished”. He pointed out that one of these must have been that of Richard Gunnell who was the manager of the company and another that of William Cartwright. The leaders stand at the heads of the lists for the Cockpit and the Red Bull, so if we place the three missing Palsgrave’s names leader-first at the head of the list, and omit Cane and Grevill, the Palsgrave’s list also would be exactly seven names. Although the evidence of the King’s and Prince’s list has perished, it looks as if seven names were recorded for each company, perhaps two leaders (Leigh & Perkins, Gunnell & Cartwright, Beeston & More) and five key sharers. If so, then it seems Cane and Grevill were tacked on to the end of an already complete Palsgrave’s list, which would argue the priority of their appearance in the Cockpit list. Both Fleay (Chronicle, 298) and Gurr (SPC, 406) suggest that Cane had been at the Fortune before he came to the Cockpit, but there is no evidence for this.

[9] E. A. J. Honigmann and Susan Brock, Playhouse Wills, 130-31

[10] It has sometimes been suggested that Grevill went from the Fortune to the King’s players shortly after 1622, but his absence from the King’s lists of December 1624, from the King’s funeral and from the King’s company patent of June 1625 all suggest he had not yet joined the Kings

[11] On 23 Dec 1615 Curtis ‘Grovell’ married Catherine Fawne at St Andrew in the Wardrobe; on 16 Jan 1622 “Elizabeth daughter to Bridget, reputed wife of Robert Burredge, [was] buried from Curtys Grevills house” (Bentley, JCS ii. 452); and in the 4 July 1624 will of Jacob Meade he says “I give & bequeath unto my sister Joan Berrydge one piece of gold &c” and “I give & bequeath unto Katheryn Grevyll her daughter one other like piece of gold &c” (Hongimann and Brock, PW). So it appears that Catherine Fawne Grevill was the daughter of Meade’s sister (or sister-in-law) and that some of her connections lived at Curtis Grevill’s house.

[12] This difference may be seen by comparing the livery list of 19 May 1619 with the patent of 24 June 1625. See Bentley, JCS i. 72, 80.

[13] T. W. Baldwin, The Organization and Personnel of the Shakespearean Company, 52-58

[14] Tooley had been with the company since the 1590s and in his later years achieved some prominence, being listed in twelve of the Beaumont & Fletcher actor lists, sometimes ranked as high as second or third. It was also about this time that William Eccleston seems to have died or retired. The last certain notice of him is a mention in Tooley’s will of 3 June 1623. Eccleston appears in eleven of the Beaumont and Fletcher actor lists up to October 1622, but is absent from the final four of May, August and December 1623, and May 1624. This suggests that if he did not die he had at least abandoned the Blackfriars stage by the middle of 1623. Unfortunately, the source, and therefore the ultimate reliability, of the actor lists in the 1679 Beaumont & Fletcher folio is not known, although with the exception of Tooley being cast in A Wife for a Month (which was licensed after his death) each list agrees with what we know of the King’s company 1616-24. These lists can most easily be found in tabular form in Bentley, JCS i. 72-81, or under the individual plays in JCS iii. Eccleston is known to have played the rather Swanstonian role of Kastril the “angry boy” in a revival of The Alchemist sometime between 1616 and 1619 (see James A. Riddell, “Some Actors in Ben Jonson’s Plays” Shakespeare Studies V, 285-98). The loss of these key actors around the middle of 1623 would have created an opportunity at the Blackfriars for an actor of Swanston’s caliber. Baldwin assigns Rowley as Tooley’s replacement and Pollard as Eccleston’s. But the date of Rowley’s coming to the company is not known, only that it was not later than August 1623. Pollard first appears in the Beaumont & Fletcher lists c1619, though he may then have been a boy, for he initially appears at the ends of lists as did Sharpe and Holcomb when they were boys, and after c1620 skips five lists before reappearing at the end of 1622 in ‘adult’ positions. Baldwin says that Henry Condell was replaced by George Birche in 1623, apparently since Condell did not act in the revival of Duchess of Malfi. But this date seems arbitrary: why 1623? Condell is last known to have acted c1619-20, and Birche appears in the Beaumont & Fletcher casts from c1619, but Condell remained a liveried member of the King’s company at least through 1625. It’s impossible to say exactly when Condell finally retired from the stage. He may have acted intermittently, as apparently did Heminges who appeared in a revival of Volpone c1616-19 though he is often said to have not acted after c1612. Baldwin assigns Sharpe as a 1623-24 replacement for Robert Gough, who became a Messenger of the King’s Chamber in October 1621, and he places much weight on Gough’s absence from the Spanish Viceroy list. But Gough was never an important player—he doesn’t appear in a single one of the Beaumont & Fletcher lists—and Gervase Markham groups him with other King’s men in 1623, and his absence from the patent of June 1625 can be explained by his death in February of that year. Overall, there are far too many variables to be able to assign Swanston specifically as Underwood’s replacement in late 1624.

[15] The Spanish Viceroy list appears to read left to right instead of the second column following the first column.

[16] Bawcutt, Herbert, 143

[17] John Tucker Murray, English Dramatic Companies, ii. 401: “Given mr Saw[a]nston the princes player” at Stafford, 13 Dec 1622. Gurr, SPC, 407 assigns this visit to Prince Charles’s company, but there is no record of Swanston having been with Prince Charles’s. In this case “princes” presumably means “Princess’s”, as Bentley (JCS xx) suggests and indeed as Gurr on the same page suggests is the case with the 1623 visit to Lydd).


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