The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street


In 1612 Shakespeare gave evidence at the Court of Requests in Westminster.

Eight years previously he had lodged with the Mountjoys, a family of French immigrants, in Cripplegate and while there the lady of the house asked Mr Shakespeare to intervene in the courtship of her daughter and one Stephen Belott. He seemed to be getting cold feet about the pending marriage and Shakespeare agreed to persuade the Mountjoy’s daughter and their former apprentice to take the plunge. All went well until the bride’s father refused to pay the promised dowry, hence Shakespeare’s giving evidence in court.

This, until now, neglected period in Shakespeare’s life first came to light in 1909 when a pair of American researchers discovered papers relating to the trial in the Public Record Office. Among these they discovered a sheet of paper with Shakespeare’s deposition and bearing his signature; the only time Shakespeare’s spoken words were recorded. Charles Nicholl has captured the atmosphere of Shakespeare’s time. Here we see the man behind the playwright/actor, St Olave’s church where he worshipped, his tavern, the Talbot, the multi-storey house where he lodged (no longer there), where he wrote Othello, Measure for Measure, and King Lear and his strange collaboration with low-life, hack-author, George Wilkins. Many books have been written about Shakespeare but none has succeeded in getting as close to the subject as Charles Nicholl.


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