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The following is an imagined account from the life of Will Kemp, fellow actor and founder with William Shakespeare in the Lord Chamberlain's Men. Shakespeare even wrote roles specifically for him, and they partnered together, along with others, in the Globe.


Master Shakespeare and I got on fine - at first. We joined together with Burbage to found the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. I was already quite a star. I’d travelled to the Low Countries as an entertainer with the Earl of Leicester and made a reputation for myself not just as a comic actor but also as a writer of jigs – those comic song and dance pieces performed after plays. I always acted in them myself , which meant that I always got the last laugh. And Shakespeare wrote some great parts for me. Admittedly Peter in Romeo and Juliet didn’t stretch my abilities, but Dogberry always went down well with audiences. But as the years rolled by we didn’t always see eye to eye. I bought a share in the Globe but never actually acted there.

Shakespeare’s plays were getting more serious, and he started wanting his comics to sing sad songs, which wasn’t in my line at all. So I decided to break away. And it didn’t do me any harm, either. My morris dance from London to Norwich really drew the crowds all along the way. I was well rewarded for it by the Mayor of Norwich and it was great publicity for me, as was the book I wrote about it, which I called Kemp’s Nine Days’ Wonder. And after that I was able to make a good living as a freelance, and to travel overseas again, as I’d always wanted to do. I don’t bear Master Shakespeare any ill will, and I’m glad he’s doing well, but I’m not sorry I broke away. I’m a bit of a law unto myself, you know.

Cast: Martin Owen, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

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