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Spektrum Shake-speare

Schule und Unterricht 136 Harmful deeds If Shakespeare was an aristocrat who had acted on the public stage, the poet’s complaint that «thence comes it that my name receives a brand» becomes perfectly understandable in the light of the values of a courtly aristocratic society. The poet speaks of his «harmful deeds», not of his harmful «profes- sion?. In 1572 was passed an Act for the punishment of vagabonds for relief of the poor & impotent. Paragraph 5 stipulated that rogue and vagabonds included «all Fencers, Bearwards, Common Players in Interludes & Minstrels, not be- longing to any Baron of this Realme or towards any other honorable perso- nage of greater degree.»18 On 10 May 1574 the Privy Council issued a patent to Leicester’s Men, a company of players in the service of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the queen’s favourite, giving them «authority to perform music, and plays seen and allowed by the Master of the Revels (revels or festivities were an impor- tant part of court life; they were supervised by the master of the Revels, himself a subordinate of the Lord Chamberlain of the Queen’s Household), both in London and elsewhere, except during the time of common prayer, or of plague to London.» (Ibid., p. 272) The act against rogues and vagabonds did not apply to this company.About 1579 several other companies of players existed in the service of a peer or a knight. The 1572 act about rogues and vagabonds did not apply to those players because they officially belonged to the household of a lord. The statement that players were of base status needs qualification. In no way can it be evidenced by reference to the 1572 act about rogues and vaga- bonds. Officially those players were servants of some lord, no itinerant play- ers. In 1583 a new company was set up with the best players from other com- panies such as the Earl of Leicester’s Men and the Earl of Oxford’s Men: the Queen’s Men. They were sworn in by Sir Francis Walsingham, secretary of state, as «grooms of the Queen’s chamber», hardly a low social status. But while in the interest of the quality of the Queen’s/King’s recreation the Court and the Privy Council promoted and protected the playing compa- nies, the authorities of the City of London were not so well disposed towards 18 Edmund K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, 1923, Vol. IV, p. 270.