Lawrence Fletcher


Lawrence Fletcher

Lawrence Fletcher (d. 1608) was a Jacobean actor, and man of mystery. He is listed on the royal patent of May 19,1603 that transformed the Lord Chamberlain's Men into the King's Men — and he is listed first, with William Shakespeare second and Richard Burbage third; significant, in the hierarchy-mad world of the time. Yet Fletcher never appears on the other documents that give later generations our limited knowledge of the King's Men; he doesn't seem to have acted, in the leading acting company of the age.

Unlike the eight men whose names follow his on the patent, Fletcher was not, or not primarily, a London actor; he had been "comedian to His Majesty" before 1603, when James was King of Scotland only. Perhaps his inclusion on the list was diplomatic and bureaucratic, a way of easing and greasing the company's transition from the old regime to the new; or perhaps Fletcher intended to be an active member of the company (their comedian Thomas Pope died in 1603, and Fletcher could have been his replacement), but was prevented by declining health. Fletcher was buried on September 12, 1608, in St. Saviour's Church, Southwark.

By then, Augustine Phillips had died, in May 1605; in his will, he'd left 20 shillings to his "fellow" Fletcher. This is less than the 30s. Phillips left to Shakespeare, Henry Condell, and Christopher Beeston, but the same sum he left to fellow King's Men Robert Armin, Alexander Cooke, Richard Cowley, and Nicholas Tooley. This seems to suggest that Fletcher was more than a mere name on a document — though what more, precisely, is impossible to say, given the limits of the evidenciary record.

References

* Chambers, E. K. "The Elizabethan Stage." 4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923.
* Halliday, F. E. "A Shakespeare Companion 1564–1964." Baltimore, Penguin, 1964.


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