Acclaimed author Charles Nicholl presents a brilliantly drawn detective story with entirely new insights into Shakespeare's life. In 1612, William Shakespeare gave evidence in a court case at Westminster; it is the only occasion on which his actual spoken words were recorded. The case seems routine—a dispute over an unpaid marriage dowry—but it opens an unexpected window into the dramatist's famously obscure life. Using the court testimony as a springboard, acclaimed nonfiction writer Charles Nicholl examines this fascinating period in Shakespeare's life. With evidence from a wide variety of sources, Nicholl creates a compelling, detailed account of the circumstances in which Shakespeare lived and worked during the time in which he wrote such plays as Othello, Measure for Measure, and King Lear. The case also throws new light on the puzzling story of Shakespeare's collaboration with the hack author and violent brothel owner George Wilkins. In The Lodger Shakespeare we see the playwright in the daily context of a street in Jacobean London: "one Mr. Shakespeare," lodging in the room upstairs. Nicholl is one of the great historical detectives of our time and in this atmospheric and exciting book he has created a considerable rarity—something new and original about Shakespeare.
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Charles Nicholl is an internationally acclaimed author who has written biographies, including Leonardo da Vinci: Flights of the Mind, as well as books on history and travel.
Simon Vance, a former BBC Radio presenter and newsreader, is a full-time actor who has appeared on both stage and television. He has recorded over eight hundred audiobooks and has earned five coveted Audie Awards, and he has won fifty-seven Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, which has named him a Golden Voice.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
PART ONE - ‘One Mr Shakespeare’
Chapter 1 - The deposition
Chapter 2 - Turning forty
Chapter 3 - Sugar and gall
Chapter 4 - Shakespeare in London
PART TWO - Silver Street
Chapter 5 - The house on the corner
Chapter 6 - The neighbourhood
Chapter 7 - ‘Houshould stuffe’
Chapter 8 - The chamber
PART THREE - The Mountjoys
Chapter 9 - Early years
Chapter 10 - St Martin le Grand
Chapter 11 - Success and danger
Chapter 12 - Dr Forman’s casebook
Chapter 13 - The me’nage
PART FOUR - Tiremaking
Chapter 14 - Tires and wigs
Chapter 15 - The ‘tire-valiant’
Chapter 16 - In the workshop
Chapter 17 - The underpropper
PART FIVE - Among Strangers
Chapter 18 - Blackfriars and Navarre
Chapter 19 - Shakespeare’s aliens
Chapter 20 - Dark ladies
PART SIX - Sex & the City
Chapter 21 - Enter George Wilkins
Chapter 22 - The Miseries
Chapter 23 - Prostitutes and players
Chapter 24 - Customer satisfaction
Chapter 25 - To Brainforde
Chapter 26 - ‘At his game’
PART SEVEN - Making Sure
Chapter 27 - A handfasting
Chapter 28 - ‘They have married me!’
Chapter 29 - Losing a daughter
Appendix: - The Belott-Mountjoy Papers
FOR MORE FROM CHARLES NICHOLL, LOOK FOR THE
THE LODGER SHAKESPEARE
Charles Nicholl is a historian, biographer, and travel writer. His books include The Reckoning (winner of the James Tait Black Prize for biography and the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award for nonfiction), A Cup of News: The Life of Thomas Nashe, Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (National Portrait Gallery Insights series), and Somebody Else: Arthur Rimbaud in Africa (winner of the Hawthornden Prize). His most recent book was the acclaimed biography Leonardo da Vinci: Flights of the Mind, which has been published in seventeen languages.
Praise for The Lodger Shakespeare
“Mr. Nicholl’s efforts [bear] delicious fruit. The Lodger Shakespeare ... opens a window onto Jacobean London and the swirl of sights and sensations that surrounded Shakespeare and inevitably found their way into his plays. From a mere handful of dry facts embedded in an obscure lawsuit, Mr. Nicholl brings forth a gaudy, tumultuous, richly imagined world.”—William Grimes, The New York Times
“[An] entertaining biographical study of Shakespeare. . . . Through imaginative use of primary source material, [Nicholl] culls the ‘secret flavours of particularity’ that distinguished a corner of London at the turn of the seventeenth century. . . . With lively readings of the plays and a nuanced portrait of their author, he capably captures ‘the simmering randiness of the age.’”—The New Yorker
“The Lodger Shakespeare enhances our sense of a great dramatist’s work and world by looking at the people around him. [Nicholl’s] prose moves steadily along, eschews gush, jargon and digression, and generally inspires confidence. This is the voice of a man who knows his stuff. A pro.”
—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
“Nicholl’s narrative technique is one of exhaustive research and elegant prose; [his] take is quietly pioneering: a new lens and an unaired episode. But beyond a claim to academic innovation, The Lodger Shakespeare is a brave and spotless statement on how we view W.S., and the subject of those we deem ‘great.’”—Dan Fall, The Brooklyn Rail
“Nicholl takes us into Shakespeare’s life on Silver Street, the squalid underworld of medieval London. Taverns that double as brothels, cantankerous pimps, ambitious prostitutes, famed quacks—it’s all here. . . . It is thrilling, and also revealing, to brush through Charles Nicholl’s expert reconstruction of the one time that the Bard’s words were actually reported.”—Vikram Johri, St. Petersburg Times
William Shakespeare with underpropper (see Chapter 17)
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First published in Great Britain as The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street
by Allen Lane, a division of Penguin Books Ltd 2007
First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin,
a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 2008
Published in Penguin Books (UK) 2008
Published in Penguin Books (USA) 2008
All rights reserved
eISBN : 978-1-101-01125-6
1. Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. 2. Dramatists, English—Early modern, 1500-1700—
Biography. 3. Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616—Homes and haunts—England—London.
4. Cripplegate (London, England)—Social life and customs. I. Title.
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In memory of
‘Every contact leaves traces . . .’
Edmond Locard, Manuel de Technique Policière, 1923
List of Illustrations
Frontispiece. Engraved portrait of Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout (second state). Title-page illustration from Mr William Shakepeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies [the First Folio], 1623.
Map. The ‘Agas’ map of London, c. 1561. Copyright © Guildhall Library, London.
1. Shakespeare’s deposition at the Court of Requests, 11 May 1612 (PRO REQ 4/1/4). Copyright © The National Archives.
2. Jacobean law-court. Seventeenth-century woodcut reproduced in The Roxburghe Ballads, ed. William Chappell and J. W. Ebsworth (The Ballad Society, 1871-91).
3. Witness-list for the Belott-Mountjoy suit, May 1612 (PRO REQ 1/199). Copyright © The National Archives.
4. Signatures of Daniel Nicholas, William Eaton, Noel Mountjoy and Humphrey Fludd, May-June 1612 (PRO REQ 4/1/4). Copyright © The National Archives.
5. The Wallaces at the Record Office, c. 1909. Papers of Charles William Wallace, Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif. (Box 15 B 37).
6. Detail from the ‘Agas’ map, c. 1561. Copyright © Guildhall Library, London.
7. The Coopers’ Arms, Silver Street, c. 1910. From Harper’s Monthly Magazine, Vol. 120, March 1910. Photo: Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif.
8. St Giles, Cripplegate, after the bombs, 1941. Pen, ink and wash drawing by Dennis Flanders. Guildhall Library Print Room, Flanders Collection (258/GIL Q4768985). Copyright © Estate of the artist.
9. Plaque on the site of St Olave’s, Silver Street. Photo: the author.
10. John Banister at Barber-Surgeons’ Hall, 1580. Glasgow University Library (Hunter MS 364 Top v 14, fol. 59). Photo: The Bridgeman Art Library.
11. Title-page illustration from Thomas Dekker, Dekker his Dreame (1620).
12. Le Cousturier by Jean LeClerc, c. 1600. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Photo: Archives Charmet/The Bridgeman Art Library.
13. Extract from the subsidy roll for Aldersgate ward, 1582 (PRO E179/251/16, fol. 24). Copyright © The National Archives.
14. ‘Mrs Monjoyes childe’. Burial register of St Olave’s, Silver Street, 27 February 1596. Guildhall Library (MS 6534, fol. 106). Copyright © Guildhall Library, London.
15. Marie Mountjoy visits Simon Forman, 22 November 1597 (Bodleian, Ashmole MS 226, fol. 254v). Copyright © Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
16. Engraved portrait of Simon Forman, eighteenth century. Photo: Smithsonian Institution Library, Washington DC.
17. Henry Wood visits Forman, 20 March 1598 (Bodleian, Ashmole MS 195, fol. 15V). Copyright © Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
18. Marie Mountjoy and ‘Madam Kitson’ in Forman’s casebook, c. January 1598 (Bodleian, Ashmole MS 226, fol. 310V). Copyright © Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
19. A woman visiting an astrologer. Seventeenth-century woodcut reproduced in The Roxburghe Ballads, ed. William Chappell and J. W. Ebsworth (The Ballad Society, 1871-91).
20. An unknown woman in a ballet costume, c. 1580, French school (Chaˆteaux de Versailles et de Trianon). Copyright © Photo RMN-Franck Raux.
21. A lady (perhaps Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford) costumed as a ‘Power of Juno’, attributed to John de Critz the elder, c. 1606. Woburn Abbey. By kind permission of His Grace the Duke of Bedford and the Trustees of the Bedford Estates.
22. A scene from Titus Andronicus by Henry Peacham, c. 1594. Longleat House, Warminster, Wilts (Portland Papers 1, fol. 159V). By kind permission of the Marquess of Bath.
23. Extract from Queen Anne’s household accounts, 1604-5 (PRO SC 6/JAS1/1646, fol. 29r). Copyright © The National Archives.
24. Detail from a portrait of Queen Anne by Marcus Gheeraerts the younger, c. 1605-10. Woburn Abbey. By kind permission of His Grace the Duke of Bedford and the Trustees of the Bedford Estates.
25. Signature of George Wilkins, 19 June 1612 (PRO REQ 4/1/4). Copyright © The National Archives.
26. Title-page of George Wilkins, Miseries of Inforst Mariage, 1607.
27. Customers eating in a brothel. Seventeenth-century woodcut reproduced in The Roxburghe Ballads, ed. William Chappell and J. W. Ebsworth (The Ballad Society, 1871-91).
28. Frontispiece to Nicholas Goodman, Holland’s Leaguer, 1632.
29. Detail from an allegorical scene showing Virtue confronting Vice by Isaac Oliver, c. 1590-95. Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.
30. A wherry on the Thames near London Bridge, from the ‘Album Amicorum’ of Michael van Meer, 1614. Edinburgh University Library (Laing MS III 283, fol. 408v).
31. The Three Pigeons, Brentford. Detail from A View of the Old Market House, engraving by G. F. Bragg, 1849. Photo: Chiswick Public Library, Hounslow Local Studies Centre.
32. A handfasting. Detail from Supper with Betrothal by Gerrit van Honthorst, c. 1625. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Photo: Scala, Florence.
33. Wedding of Stephen Belott and Mary Mountjoy. Marriage register of St Olave’s, Silver Street, 19 November 1604. Guildhall Library (MS 6534, fol. 7v). Copyright © Guildhall Library, London.
34. Burial of Marie Mountjoy. Burial register of St Olave’s, Silver Street, 30 October 1606. Guildhall Library (MS 6534, fol. 110). Copyright © Guildhall Library, London.
35. Will of Christopher Mountjoy, 26 January 1620. Peculiar Court of the Dean & Chapter of St Paul’s, Registrum Testamentorum 1608-33. Guildhall Library (MS 25626/4, fol. 179). Copyright © Guildhall Library, London.
36. Burial of Christopher Mountjoy. Burial register of St Giles, Cripplegate, 29 March 1620. Guildhall Library (MS 6419/2, unfoliated). Copyright © Guildhall Library, London.
This book looks into some aspects of Shakespeare’s life in London over a couple of years in the early seventeenth century. Larger issues of interpretation belong to the book itself. I will confine this preface to a few procedural points and some hearty thanks.
Many Jacobean documents use the ‘old style’ year, which ran from 25 March (‘Lady Day’). This is useful to know when reading them - it means that an event dated 1 January 1605 took place a month after an event dated 1 December 1605 - but is liable to cause confusion when quoting them. Where necessary I have amended to modern style (in the example cited I would give the first date as 1 January 1606).
On the matter of original spellings the demands of authenticity and readability pull in opposite directions. To modernize everything is to lose a certain richness - an orthographic brogue intrinsic to the period. On the other hand, quoting everything in archaic spelling can make things hard going for the reader. Inconsistency has seemed a lesser evil than either of these. I have tended to quote documents, letters, diaries and so on in original spelling, and literary texts in modern form.
Sums of money mentioned in the text cannot be correlated precisely with modern values. Based on the retail price index, it is estimated that £1 in 1604 had a purchasing power equivalent to about £144 in 2006. However, this is not always helpful as an overall conversion factor. In 1604 you could lease a large London town-house for £20 per annum, buy an unbound copy of Hamlet for sixpence, and drink a pint of beer for a halfpenny. A printer paid £2 (‘forty shillings and an odd pottle of wine’) for a pamphlet, and the author might get the same again for a slavish dedication to ‘my Lord What-call-ye-him’. Wages were low: a labourer might earn 5 shillings a week. There are too many anomalies to make it very meaningful, but as a rough rule of thumb I use an exchange rate of 1:200. That is, an early Jacobean pound was worth about £200 today, a shilling (1S) about £10, and a penny (1d) something under £1.
My research on this book has been greatly assisted by staff at the National Archives, British Library, Guildhall Library, London Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, French Protestant Church and Ealing Local History Centre in London, the Bodleian Library in ...
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