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August 17,
1608

BRU15/5/139 recto

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Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

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: August 17, 1608
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU15/5/139

Item Date
August 17, 1608
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
BRU15/5/139

BRU15/5/139 verso

View Image Assets
BRU15/5/139 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: August 17, 1608
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU15/5/139

Item Date
August 17, 1608
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
BRU15/5/139

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: August 17, 1608
Repository: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: BRU15/5/139

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.   

The case would have opened with Shakespeare’s attorney filing his client’s claim. This resulted in the first of the seven items, a writ, shown here, dated August 17, 1608. This was a Wednesday in 1608, the day of the week that the fortnightly (every two weeks) court customarily sat. The writ is addressed by the bailiff, Henry Walker, presiding over the court as a justice of the peace, to the sergeants-at-mace, to produce John Addenbrooke at the next court to answer to the plea. It also bears the note that the serjeant, Gilbert Charnock, had taken steps to secure Addenbrook’s appearance, with Thomas Hornby standing bail for him. Hornby, born in 1567, had followed his father Richard into his blacksmith’s trade in Henley Street, with six or seven children born to him and his wife by the time of the Addenbrooke case, but we do not know why he came forward on Addenbrooke’s behalf. The size of the debt (£6) is not given here and, in fact, is not explicitly stated until the issue of a writ on March 15, 1609.

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 there to arrest John Addenbrook, gentleman, and to bring his body before the bailiff of the said borough at the next court of record there held to reply to William Shakespeare in a plea of debt and there and then to have this precept. Witnessed by Henry Walker, gentleman, bailiff there, 17 August in the sixth year of the reign of King James.   

[verso]

By virtue of this precept I have arrested the said John whose body I hold ready as I was ordered within that I do. Mainpernor for the defendant, Thomas Honby
[signed] Gilbert Charnock serjeant  

Semi-diplomatic transcription

[recto]

Stratford
Burgus
Preceptum est Servientibus ad Clavam ibidem quod capiant seu etc Johannem Addenbrooke generosum si etc et eum salvo etc Ita quod habeant Corpus

eius coram balliuo burgi predicti ad proximam Curiam de Recordo ibidem tenendam ad respondendum Willelmo Shackspeare generoso de placito

debiti Et habeant ibi tunc hoc preceptum Teste Henrico Walker generoso balliuo ibidem xvii die Augusti Annis

regni domini nostri Iacobi dei gratia Regis Anglie ffrancie et Hibernie sexto et Scotie quadragesimo
Greene

[verso: endorsed]

Virtute istius
precepti cepi
infranominatum
Iohannem cuius
corpus paratum
habeo prout
interius mihi
precipitur
Manucaptor pro defendente
Thomas Hornebye
Gilbertus Charnock
Serviens

Written by Robert Bearman

Last updated June 7, 2016