Gabriel Spenser

Born ca. 1578. From the second production’s manuscript of 3 Henry VI (1594/5?) the stage
direction ‘Enter Gabriel’ (for the original ‘a messenger’) has been copied into the 1623 First Folio. The scene is located just before the battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460, and this date reveals a fine sample of Shakespearean wit in the replacement entry.

One that invites to cast a treble boy for the part, and given Spenser’s approximate year of birth he may still have been one in 1594. The play, however, was originally written for the Earl of Pembroke’s Men, 1  and it is only because the revised 1594 production seems to be an adaptation of the play for the Chamberlain’s 2  that Gabriel Spenser has a place in this reconstruction.

Unfortunately, Spenser was in 1597 arrested for performing in The Isle of Dogs with the Earl of Pembroke’s Men. This was a very subversive play. as far as the government was concerned. And thanks to this concern Spenser has now a history with the Pembroke’s that goes back to his assignment as ‘a messenger’ in a play specifically written for the Pembroke’s. On the other hand, the revised version also introduces John Sincler to the play. And he can definitely be placed in the Chamberlain’s Men from 1594 onward.

According to Andrew Gurr, the Pembroke’s Men was set up in 1591 – 92 by James Burbage to fill gaps in his scheduled performances. If so, he created in the process the opportunity for Shakespeare to write a single play in two parts for different companies ; in the continuum of eight history plays, only the division between 2 and 3 Henry VI is located on a seamless transition. In this scenario the disadvantage of an entirely different cast is balanced by the opportunity to watch the complete show in two subsequent afternoons. While Burbage’s new company may have relied on the old one for boy players. Not to mention the possibility that the few characters who are in both parts were assigned to dual performers who played alternatingly in both productions.

The most recent editor of 3 Henry VI  argues that the folio text originates from a revision made for the Chamberlain’s Men in the mid-1590s.

David Kathman : Reconsidering The Seven Deadly Sins
Early Theatre 7.1 (2004)