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December
1608

BRU15/5/127b, recto

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BRU15/5/127b, recto
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Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Terms of use
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has graciously contributed images under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommerical ShareAlike 4.0 International license.  Visitors may download, link to and cite the images for personal research only. Any further use, including, but not limited to, unauthorized downloading or distribution of the images, commercial or third party use, is strictly prohibited. Visitors must contact the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to request additional use, at: images.scla@shakespeare.org.uk

Document-specific information
Date: December 1608
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU15/5/127b

Item Date
December 1608
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
BRU15/5/127b

BRU15/5/127b, verso

View Image Assets
BRU15/5/127b, verso
Click image to enlarge

Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Terms of use
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has graciously contributed images under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommerical ShareAlike 4.0 International license.  Visitors may download, link to and cite the images for personal research only. Any further use, including, but not limited to, unauthorized downloading or distribution of the images, commercial or third party use, is strictly prohibited. Visitors must contact the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to request additional use, at: images.scla@shakespeare.org.uk

Document-specific information
Date: December 1608
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU15/5/127b

Item Date
December 1608
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
BRU15/5/127b

Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Terms of use
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has graciously contributed images under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommerical ShareAlike 4.0 International license.  Visitors may download, link to and cite the images for personal research only. Any further use, including, but not limited to, unauthorized downloading or distribution of the images, commercial or third party use, is strictly prohibited. Visitors must contact the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to request additional use, at: images.scla@shakespeare.org.uk

Document-specific information
Date: December 1608
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU15/5/127b

On August 17, 1608, William Shakespeare (or his family or agents acting on his behalf) began an action in the Stratford court of record to recover a debt of £6 from John Addenbrooke. The case dragged on until at least June 7, 1609. The register recording the court’s proceedings during this period is lost but many cases which came before it generated a sequence of writs and other loose papers. Fortunately, seven such items survive for the case between Shakespeare and Addenbrooke, allowing us to track the progress of this particular claim in reasonable, though not complete, detail. These surviving documents are in Latin and all have small central holes or tears along one edge indicating they were once held together by a tie or pin to form a bundle. R.B. Wheler, probably broke up the bundle when he discovered the file in 1800, as two of the items, the order to produce Addenbrooke  and writ to bring Addenbrooke’s surety, Thomas Hornby to court subsequently became part of his papers.  The writs all bear the name “Greene” in the bottom right corner, indicating that they had been issued with the authority of Thomas Greene, the Corporation’s steward, who acted as the court’s legal officer.

Addenbrooke, described early in his career as a yeoman but later as a gentleman, was married at Tanworth-in-Arden in 1574 and was buried there on June 19, 1609 (perhaps the reason why the case seems to have petered out). His place of residence gave rise to another problem: as Stratford’s court of record had no jurisdiction outside the borough boundary, its officers were not able to carry out its instructions in cases where the defendant lived elsewhere. None of the papers explains how Addenbrooke contracted the substantial debt but they do provide evidence of Shakespeare’s local dealings with a man of some substance not obviously linked to a routine business transaction. Due to an outbreak of plague, the London theaters were closed from July 1608 to December 1609, leading to a reduction in Shakespeare’s income, and this may have been a factor in this attempt to recover an outstanding debt or loan.  

This list of names shown here, in the exact order given in the writ of December 21, 1608, is doubtless the one referred to in Gilbert Charnock’s note that he had taken steps to assemble a panel of jurors. If the case had moved forward, this writ should have been marked with the names of those sworn and other memoranda. However, for reasons not entirely clear, the hearing of the case was once more delayed and a new writ issued on February 15, 1609. To satisfy the technicalities of the law, those summoned to court were required to give sureties to guarantee their attendance. However, in minor routine matters, as applied here, it had become customary for all those bound simply to give the names of two men, John Doe and Richard Roe, purely fictitious characters, who nevertheless were said to be acting as their pledges (see Oxford English Dictionary under Richard Roe).    

Had the court register survived, it would have recorded any further proceedings, most importantly whether Shakespeare ever succeeded in recovering his money. Addenbrooke was buried at Tanworth twelve days after the final document, leaving no will.  

Semi-diplomatic transcription

Nomina Iuratorum inter Willelmum
Shakespere generosum versus Iohannem
Addenbroke de placito debiti

    Philippus Greene
    Iacobus Elliott
    Edwardus Hunte
    Robertus Wilson
    Thomas Kerbye 
    Thomas Bridges
    Ricardus Collins
    Iohannes Ingraham
    Daniell Smyth
    Willelmus Walker
    Thomas Mills
    Iohannes Tubb
    Ricardus Pincke
    Iohannes Smyth draper
    Laurencius Holmes
    Iohannes Boyce
    Hugo Piggon
    Iohannes Samwell
    Robertus Cawdry
    Iohannes Castle
    Paulus Bartlett
    Iohannes Yeate
    Thomas Bradshowe
    Iohannes Gunne.

Quilibet Iurator predictus pro se separatim
manucaptus est per plegios
                     Iohannem Doo
                     Ricardum Roo

​Written by Robert Bearman

Last updated June 3, 2016