James Sands and William Ecclestone are the only reported applicants for this vacancy. Unfortunately, both seem a little too young for the main stage. And there is more interesting candidate at hand. Whether he is in the running, depends on finding a way to link him to the company. His name will be put forward when discussing candidates for a part to which he seems born to play.
James Sands (*unknown ; ca. 1584-88)
Placing him as the second boy player of Robert Beeston’s age in the cast of Romeo and Juliet defines his age at its extreme limit of probability, which is never reassuring.
Apprenticed to Augustine Phillips by the time of the execution of Phillips’s last will and testament (1605), Sands is junior to former apprentices Samuel Gilbourne (*unknown) and Christopher Beeston (*1579-80). Phillips trusted him with 40 shillings, together with a cittern, bandora, and lute. This under the provision that Sands would continue his apprenticehood within the company. With the recent exodus of young players in mind, this condition makes sense in case of an adolescent, but for a boy of fourteen it should go without saying (unless Chr. Beeston had replaced Phillips during his final illness as the boy’s tutor). At the same time, the provision rules out that Sands was close to the end of his apprenticehood. He therefore was in 1605 not yet 22.
The musical instruments are to Sands probably no ornaments or stage props : these are very similar instruments, and, as a set, they suggest their new owner to have known his business with plucked strings. This once more indicates a rather mature youth. And once more without ruling out a boy of fourteen. A date of birth in the years 1584-88 seems likely ; perhaps later, but not earlier, or Sands may have inherited the sword and dagger as well. Those useful stage props now went (with the bass violin) to Samuel Gilbourne.
William Ecclestone (*unknown)
Principal actor. First on record as an actor in 1610. Started his professional career after 1605 (J. Payne Collier ; Principal Actors in the plays of Shakespeare 1846). On this evidence his year of birth can be estimated as 1585 or later. This fits in with the SDS-plot, which has a ‘Will’ on stage as Itis. That was an infant, and the part probably went to the youngest available boy. This with the remark that the other available boys were well into their teens : a boy of eleven may have looked young enough.