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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: August ::
Political/Players in the New World
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1276  Tuesday, 2 August 2005

From:           Bill Lloyd <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 1 Aug 2005 10:23:56 EDT
Subject: 16.1264 Political/Players in the New World
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1264 Political/Players in the New World

Jeremy Fiebig 
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  writes:

 >"I am attempting to determine the extent of the connection between
 >exploration into the New World (by way of the Virginia Company, the
 >settlement at Jamestown, etc.) and the world of theatre. I'm interested
 >in links -- however superficial -- between members of the Virginia
 >Company, settlers at Jamestown, financiers, etc. and the people
 >who were involved in finance, patronage, production, etc. of theatre."

Captain John Smith's *A Description of New England [&c]*, published in
1616, contains a commendatory verse from Richard Gunnell.  Gunnell was
from at least 1613 a player at the Fortune theatre, eventually becoming
its manager. In 1629 he was among those that built the new Salisbury
Court theatre, where he managed several other companies of players. He
was well-known as a papist, wrote a few plays, and died in 1634. The
verses to Smith read:

    May Fate thy Project prosper, that thy name
    May be eternised with living fame:
       Though foule Detraction honour would pervert,
       And envie ever waits upon desert:
    In spight of Pelias, when his hate lies colde,
    Returne as Jason with a fleece of Golde.
       Then after-ages shall record thy praise,
       That a New England to this Ile didst raise:
    And when thou dy'st (as all that live must die)
    Thy fame live heere; thou, with Eternitie.
                                                        R: Gunnell

It sounds as if Gunnell may have seen Henry IV, Part 1. For more on
Gunnell, see G.E. Bentley *Jacobean & Caroline Stage*, ii, 454-8, and
more recent articles referenced in David Kathman's Biographical Index of
English Drama Before 1660 at
http://shakespeareauthorship.com/bd/bio-g.htm . For Gunnell's companies
see the chapters in volume i of JCS on the Palsgrave's, the King's
Revels and Prince Charles II companies. Off the top of my head I can't
think of any plays staged by those companies that show New World
interest, but a harder look may perhaps reveal some.

The verses are quoted in Bentley, but may also be found in *The Complete
Works of Captain John Smith*, 3 vol., ed Philip L Barbour, (U. North
Carolina Press, 1986), i, 314.  Barbour also gives a reference to his
article "Captain John Smith and the London Theatre", from *Virginia
Magazine of History & Biography* LXXXIII (1975), 277-9, which I have not
seen.

I don't know much about William Strachey, who wrote the "Tempest
Letter", and famously either did or didn't write the Funeral Elegie and
other works by people whose initials were W.S., but Barbour [ii,27]
points out that he was a friend of Ben Jonson and other members of the
Mermaid Club. For more on Strachey, see refs at Kathman's Index.

Bill Lloyd

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