John Duke

Date of birth unknown. The SDS-plot names him in five small parts as mature men. 1  Therefore senior to Chr. Beeston. In 1598 with Beeston amongst the principal players in a Jonson production. They must have been close friends, because they left together when Beeston’s position within the company became untenable. In 1603 with Robert Pallant and the Beeston brothers in the newly formed Queen Anne’s Men. Duke and Pallant obviously were the suspect’s fellow actors who in a far from dignified performance at court ‘much abused the place’ when Christopher denied all charges.

One of these characters has a name : ‘Will foole’. He obviously is the clown in Sloth, which does not really fit in with Duke’s other assignments. ‘Will’ does not really fit in either. Not with names like Sardanapalus and Nicanor. Thinking this over, ‘Will Kempe’ comes to mind : plausible to be on stage as a court jester. The entry ‘I. Duke’ only adorns the first one of Will foole’s three entrances. But the name does reappear a little lower in the same column (Lechery), where it again is in the sequence ‘Will – I Duke’. This is a textbook example of how to cause a copying error. The plot’s draft being copied by a professional scribe may explain why there is no correction : blotting out Duke’s name would have spoiled the entire page.