The Hanwell Park Project


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I enjoyed enormously Charles Nicholl's meticulous, almost forensic, account of Shakespeare's time lodging on Silver Street. His approach links in my mind to that taken by Gouk in her analysis of contacts between scientists and musicians in seventeenth century Oxford based on their geographical proximity (Gouk 1996). The first time I read it was pre-Hanwell so I missed the reference to Sir Walter Cope, brother to Sir Anthony the first baronet. Here is the relevant extract in full:

There survives amongst the Cecil papers at Hatfield House a rather huffy letter from a court official, Sir Walter Cope. He writes to Lord Cecil, Lord Cranborne:

I have sent and bene all this morning hunting for players, juglers & such kinds of creaturs, but finde them harde to finde, wherefore leavinge notes for them to seeke me, Burbage ys come, & sayes ther ys no new playe that the Quene hath not seene, but they have revyved an old one cawled Loves Labore Lost, which for wytt and myrthe he sayes will please her excedingly.

Cope does not date the letter, but it is endorsed '1604' by one of Cecil's secretaries,and this date is confirmed by a performance of Love's Labours at court in January 1605. Shakespeare would doubtless have been one of the players so fruitlessly hunted by Cope. was he out that morning, when Sir Walter or one of his min ions called by at the Mountjoy's House? Or was he so 'harde to finde' because his whereabouts were uncertain, his private address not generally available? Let others in the company deal with snobbish courtly fixers like Cope, who considers actors on a par with 'juglers and such kinds of creaturs' ( Nicoll 2007: 43 - 44).

There is an interesting echo in Sir Walter's attitude to players of what must surely have been Sir Anthony's puritan beliefs, after all he was the one partly responsible for the demolition of Banbury's crosses and more particularly the suppression of the Neithrop maypole.