The Queen's Players

  • 16 Jan 2012
  • Theatre
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Play acting was very popular in Elizabethan days, and travelling companies were paid, surprisingly, from municipal funds. In Worcester, municipal records of theatrical performances exist as far back as 1572, when the 'Low Baylie', a civic functionary equivalent to the City Sheriff, was re-impursed out of the corporate funds a sum of 3s. 4d. expended upon 'the last players'. That these were the last implies there had been previous ones, and the statement would not be referring to mummers and medival religious plays.

Similar payments, but larger amounts were disbursed in 1573, 1575, 1587 and 1596. Queen Elizabeth visited the City in 1575 and a company of strolling players was engaged, and the sum of 3s.4d. being allowed to them came out of the corporate funds. On the two latter occasions, however, the actors are styled 'The Queen's Player's, a phrase which suggests that the London company of the Queen's servants, licensed by the royal 'Master of the Revel's, was on tour. It is therefore conceivable that William Shakespeare may have been among them.