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More adventures in mapping

2011 July 10
by Diane Jakacki

I’ve taken the touring information for 1583-1588 (Patrons and Performances) and begun to mark it onto a series of maps – one for each year. Eventually this work will be committed to a digital mapping program, perhaps initially Google Earth but ultimately something more robust such as arcGIS. Initial examination is yielding some very interesting questions about touring routes and patterns. In 1583, for example, the Queen’s Men are documented as having been in Norwich (site of the brawl at the Red Lion Inn) on 15 June. They are contracted for a year’s worth of performances at Bath beginning on 16 June. Clearly there is no way they could have traveled over 230 miles in one day (not to mention the fact that two of their members will still incarcerated back in Norwich awaiting trial). This leads me to ask when the contract in Bath would have been negotiated (in the REED Cumberland/Westmoreland/Gloucestershire volume, p. 308, there is an entry for a four-month contract in Gloucester beginning 26 May, so perhaps a representative of the troupe made his way down to Bath to set up that contract, as well). I need to go back to Shakespeare and the Queen’s Men and Locating the Queen’s Men to better understand how these troupes would have arranged their travel.

Another curiosity that requires further examination is the single performance at York in 1587 (9 September). In 1584 the Queen’s Men traveled to York for a week’s worth of performances in August, and had an ongoing contract to perform between June and November. There are no other recorded performances for any of the years 1583 to 1588 north of Coventry (where they were contracted to perform in 1587 from 1-30 September). September 1587 appears to have been a particularly (almost impossibly) busy month for the troupe. The Patrons and Performances site reveals the following performance records:

  • St. Mary’s Guildhall, Coventry: 1 – 30 September (40s., 20s.)
  • Common Hall, York: 9 September (£3 6s. 8d.)
  • Guildhall, Exeter: 29 September 1587 – 28 September 1588 (20s.)
  • Guildhall, Faversham: 29 September 1587 – 29 September 1588 (12s. 2d.)
  • Worcester: 29 September 1587 – 28 September 1588 (£108 2s. 11d.)

These five entries raise questions not only about travel but fees and expectations (why were they paid £108 in Worcester when for the same period they were paid 20s. in Exeter and 12s. in Faversham?)

Other things that are puzzling me: in 1583 half of the performances are single event or short-term stays, while in 1585 all of the performances recorded are long-term contracts. By 1588 the weight has shifted back to an even split between long-term and short-term performance contracts.

Granted, this direction has more to do with the Queen’s Men than with Tarlton himself, and may ultimately lead me to another project entirely, but it is an interesting leaping off point, nevertheless.

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