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Michael Drayton and Hall's Croft

Learn about the English writer Michael Drayton and his connection with John Hall, Shakespeare's son-in-law.

Michael Drayton was born at Hartshill near Atherstone in north Warwickshire in 1563. He was an English writer and a contemporary of William Shakespeare.

A portrait of Michael Drayton : dark hair, cut with a peak over a high forehead, a serious face with a strong, straight nose, a firm mouth with compressed lips, and a slight shadow of beard, He wears a dark top with a deep lace collar.
Portrait of Michael Drayton that currently hangs in Hall's Croft

In 1590 Drayton settled in London, and began looking for patrons and success. Initially he published printed works, often poems and sonnets on a historical theme. Later in his life Drayton turned to playwriting. He wrote more than 20 plays for the Lord Admiral`s Men. Drayton sought to gain royal patronage by publishing two poems dedicated to King James I: on both occasions his efforts were fruitless.  

Drayton was described as ‘very temperate in life, slow in speech and inoffensive in company’ and had many friends among other contemporary poets and playwrights, including Richard Barnfield, Thomas Lodge, Joshua Sylvester, Sir William Alexander, Francis Beaumont and William Browne. It is possible that he knew Shakespeare, as a note made by the vicar of Stratford-upon-Avon mentions a ‘Meeting at which Shakespeare, Drayton, and Jonson ‘dranke too hard, for Shakespear died of a feaver there contracted’.

John Hall's medical case notes include details about Drayton who came to be treated by John through Lady Anne Rainsford. Drayton had served her as a page and, after her marriage, became great friends and a regular guest. His topographical work, Polyolbion (1622), describes one of his stays in Warwickshire with Lady Anne, and mentions a Warwickshire physician, now assumed to be John Hall.

On one occasion when Drayton came to stay with Lady Anne at Clifford Chambers, John treated Drayton for a tertian fever. The entry in John’s case notes reads, ‘Mr. Drayton, an excellent Poet, labouring of a Tertian, was cured by the following: the emetic infusion syrup of Violets mix them. This given, wrought very well both upwards and downwards’.

The medicine that John administered to Drayton would have had a gentle laxative effect and caused Drayton to vomit. This was how John cured most of his patients with this type of fever. However, a tertian fever is most often associated with the contraction of malaria, a deadly disease that afflicted many of John’s other patients. It is unlikely that John’s ‘cure’ actually worked. By 1631 Drayton had written a letter to William Drummond informing him he was dying, and by Christmas of that year Drayton was dead and buried at Westminster Abbey. 

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