Reconsidering the tour
Re-reading McMillin and MacLean’s The Queen’s Men and Their Plays has lead me to recosider a variety of questions about how touring circuits might have been addressed. In particular, the suggestion (McMillin and MacLean, 44) that the troupe would have divided (with twice the number of previous troupes, it could do this and still maintain the integrity of their performances) in order to cover its touring commitments. This makes much more sense of the situation immediately after the incident in Norwich at the Red Lion Inn in 1583, when Bentley and Singer would have been jailed for their part in the manslaughter of an innocent bystander during a brawl. If half of the troupe were managing the south-west performances in July (Bristol, Bath, etc.) while the other half awaited the release of Bentley and Singer in order to continue to the south-east (Rye, Dover, Faversham, etc.) in August, then the puzzling nature of the payment entries in REED’s volumes is resolved. Because Tarlton was the guarantor for Bentley and Singer, he would have been bound to the troupe performing in East Anglia and the south-west.
It is worth noting, however, that this division may not always have required that the same performers were committed to the same touring circuits each year. If we can trust the documentary nature of Tarlton’s Jests at all in terms of providing an indication of where Tarlton might have performed, “Tarlton’s Jest of a Bristowman” places him in Bristol for a performance on or about the St. James Fair. There is evidence that the Queen’s Men performed at Bristol in 1583, 1586, and 1587 in July (St. James feast day was July 25). If Tarlton was not part of the south-west touring branch of the troupe in 1583, he may well have been in 1586 or 1587.