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The following is an imagined account from the life of Thomas Combe, the son of William Shakespeare's close family friends in Stratford-upon-Avon.


A playmaker and poet. When I was studying at the Middle Temple I used to see him on stage in his own plays at the Globe and the Blackfriars, and I would boast to my friends that I knew him and his family in Stratford. They owned New Place – a decent-sized house with a fine garden and orchards in the middle of town, close to the Guildhall and the school. He was good friends with my bachelor Uncle John, who left him a fiver in his will. He also left money for his really rather splendid monument - far grander than Shakespeare’s - that you can still see in the church. They had a jokey kind of relationship, there was a story about an epitaph making fun of Uncle’s money-lending. Master Shakespeare and his wife dined with us at the College from time to time, and when I was a lad I used to play with his two daughters and their brother Hamnet, a sickly boy who died young.

Later I became involved with their father over the enclosure of land that my family owned at Welcombe. He’d bought land there from us, so we asked for his support against the commoners who wanted it to remain as pasture land, but he was inclined to sit on the fence, so to speak. What was surprising was that in his will he left me his sword, the ceremonial one that he used to wear along with his scarlet livery as a member of the King’s Men. It would surely have gone to Hamnet if he’d been alive. Maybe the old boy had a soft spot for me. Well, that was all thirty years and more ago, and here I am, a bachelor still, living at Welcombe on the land there was all that trouble about long ago – and it’s still not enclosed!

Cast: Jose Perez-Diez, University of Leeds

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