Edmund Shakespeare

Born in May 1580. Aged ; 14.  In SDS is a ‘Ned’ on stage as Rodope (female). To identify this boy player as Shakespeare’s brother in the Kathman dating is nothing but wishful thinking. Especially in this reconstruction that has women-only assignments stand for ‘treble’. And that recognizes the number of parts that is assigned to a treble as being related to his age.

The identification would therefore pull the rug from under Kathman’s dating in favour of the refuted ca. 1591. And from under these entries on Shakespeare’s boys as well. But even without the backing of the SDS-plot, Edmund Shakespeare can be placed in the original 1594 cast of R & J. This because the widely adopted assumption that Edmund went to London in his late teens to seek his fortune as an actor makes no sense : a good actor starts his career as an apprentice of a good actor. At the age of ca. fourteen, and after a proper basic training. The corresponding scenario proves itself plausible by shedding some light on William Shakespeare’s own career :

In the summer of 1587 the Burbage troupe visited Stratford. That same autumn little Edmund was to be admitted at the local grammar school, provided that his empoverished parents could afford the fees. Which cannot be taken for granted, because the family’s third son, Richard (*1574) seems to have been left illiterate. Professional theatre offered education at the cheap. Rather than following his famous brother to London, Edmund may therefore have been the reason for William to join the theatre in the first place, as a Johannes Factotum with future potential. Interestingly, second brother Gilbert (*1566) moved to London as well, and was in 1597 based in London as a haberdasher, the lowest of the lowest in his father’s line of business. By 1602 Gilbert lived in Stratford again. The year of his return is unknown, but its reason may very well have been the continuation of the father’s business at his death in the late summer of 1601. An obvious career move that makes one wonder why Gilbert should have left Stratford in the first place.

Several theatre companies visited Stratford that summer of 1587, and the Shakespeares may have selected the best one. But there also is the possibility that Burbage was from Stratford himself, as some evidence seems to indicate. In this case he is the very man to take the Shakespeare brothers under his wings. If not at the instant, then at least in three or four years time, when Edmund will be of the same age as the other new trainees. The case for 1587 is now built by Rowe’s claim that Tooley started his career at seven. Perhaps Burbage was just the first manager to visit Stratford who was willing to admit a trainee of that age.