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December 21,
1608

BRU15/5/127a recto

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Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

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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 21, 1608
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU15/5/127a

Item Date
December 21, 1608
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
BRU15/5/127a

BRU15/5/127a verso

View Image Assets
BRU15/5/127a 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 21, 1608
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU15/5/127a

Item Date
December 21, 1608
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
BRU15/5/127a

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 21, 1608
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU15/5/127a

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.   

Francis Smith, who had succeeded HenryWalker as bailiff in October, issued the writ shown here on December 21, 1608, to the serjeants-at-mace to summon (literally, “to have the bodies of”) twenty-four named men to the next court from whom a jury would be sworn to determine the case. Defendants frequently resorted to delaying tactics to avoid immediate compliance with the court’s orders but, after four months and with Addenbrooke still failing to co-operate, the court had clearly decided that the case should move forward. The names of the men then follow: four were capital burgesses, and the remainder were other townsmen involved in local business. In 1608, December 21 fell on a Wednesday, the day of the week that the fortnightly court customarily sat. The serjeant, Gilbert Charnock, again added a note that he had executed the writ as demonstrated by “a certain panel annexed to this writ.”

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. 

Modernized/Translated transcriptions

[recto]

Order to the serjeants at mace to have the bodies of [24 named] men, summoned as jurors, in the court of the lord king here held before the bailiff there to form a jury of the neighbourhood between William Shakespeare, gentleman, plaintiff, and John Addenbrook, defendant, in a plea of debt and then and there to have this precept.
Witnessed by Francis Smith, junior, bailiff there, 21 December in the sixth year of the reign of King James.
                                                            Greene

[verso: endorsed]

The execution of this order appears in a certain panel annexd to this order. 
Gilbert Charnock serjeant

Semi-diplomatic transcription

[recto]

Stratford
Burgus
Preceptum est Servientibus ad Clavam ibidem quod habeant seu etc Corpora Philippi Greene Iacobi Elliottes Edwardi Hunt Roberti Wilson Thome Kerby Thom

Bridges Ricardi Collyns Iohannis Ingraham Danielis Smyth Willelmi Walker Thome Mylls Iohannis Tubb Ricardi Pincke Iohannis Smyth pannarii Laurencii Holmes

Iohannis Boyce Hugonis Piggen Iohannis Samvell Roberti Cawdry Iohannis Castle Pauli Bartlett Iohannis Yeate Thome Bradshowe Iohannis Gunne

Iuratorum summonitorum in Curia domini Regis hic tenta coram Ballivo ibidem ad faciendum quondam iuratam patrie inter Willelmum Shackspeare generosum querentem et Iohannem Addenbrooke

defendentem in placito debiti et habeant ibi tunc hoc preceptum Teste ffrancisco Smyth Iuniore generoso ballivo ibidem xxjo die Decembris Annis Regni domini nostri

Iacobi dei gratia Regis Anglie ffrauncie et Hibernie sexto et Scotie quadragesimo secundo:

Greene

[verso: endorsed]

Executio istius
precepti patet in
quodam panello
huic precepto
Annexo

Gilbertus Charnock
Serviens

​Written by Robert Bearman

Last updated June 7, 2016