Presenting the Lord Chamberlain’s Boys and Men

If only this reconstruction had the original players for each part in the occasional play on record, things would have been a piece of cake. It now must do with the names in the ca. 1597 – 98 plot-sheet of The Second Part of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Supposed to be the lost play by Richard Tarlton (d. 1588). The manuscript links the names of Richard Burbage (actor) and Edward Allyn (supposed source of manuscript) to the production, to the result of a dating before their careers parted in 1594. Research by David Kathman (Reconsidering The Seven Deadly Sins ; Early Theatre 7.1 : 2004) links the plot-sheet to a source within the Chamberlain’s Men. The previously impossible identification of several boy players (Christian names, and abbreviations) is now a piece of cake. And dates the manuscript ca 1597 – 98.

It stands to reason that Shakespeare wrote his 1590’s plays on the specifics of this production’s actors. The source, however, must for completeness be combined with the 1623 First Folio’s principal actors. The boy players are actors aged ten to eighteen in 1594 who can in later years be linked to Shakespeare’s company as adult rookies. To identify these rookies as the company’s matured boy players is no wishful thinking : unlike London’s all-boys troupes, the Chamberlain’s trained future professionals. Which is not only evident from Hamlet’s shocked reaction at learning of all-boys companies to exist – his expert opinion is best summarized as ‘these children only make fine actors as children’ – but from any Shakespeare play : they have the company’s smallest boys on stage to play children only. And they grow into the more challenging woman’s parts with growing skills and experience.

This, of course, involves writing specific parts on specific actors. And it makes sense to assume that Shakespeare was only expected to write novice boys into his plays who had qualified for the main stage. Boys, therefore, who had shown promise and who had a future within the company. This list of thirteen boys may therefore be fairly complete, but the age-related order of entrance is a matter of educated guesswork :

……….. trebles ……………………………………………………………… senior apprentices ………….
Robert Beeston (ca. 10) …………………………………………. John Holland  (19 ?) ……………..
John Doe  (ca. 10) …………………………………………………. Anthony Jeffes (ca. 20) ………….
Samuel Gilbourne (10) ………………………………………….. Humphrey Jeffes (ca. 20) ………
Nicholas Tooley (11) ……………………………………………………….. hired men …………………..
Alexander Cooke (ca. 11) ……………………………………….. John Sincler (20 – 40 ?) ………..
Robert Gough (ca. 12) …………………………………………… Samuel Crosse (30 ?) ……………..
Thomas Belte (ca. 13) ……………………………………………. Thomas Goodale (ca. 37) ……….
……….. junior apprentices …………………………………………….. sharers : ……………………..
Edmund Shakespeare (14) …………………………………….. George Bryan (ca. 35) …………….
Christopher Beeston  (14) ……………………………………… Thomas Pope (40 – 60) ………….
……….. changing voices : ……………………………………….. Augustine Phillips (25 – 30) …..
John Duke (ca. 15) ……………………………………………….. Richard Burbage (26) …………….
Robert Pallant (15 or 16) ……………………………………….. William Shakespeare  (30) ……..
……….. leading ladies : …………………………………………… Richard Cowley (ca. 30) …………
Gabriel Spenser (ca. 16) ………………………………………… William Kempe (past 30) ……….
Henry Condell (17) ……………………………………………….. John Heminges (37) ………………

……….. Managers :
Cuthbert Burbage (29)
James Burbage (49 – 54)