Comic Actors in Shakespeares Time

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DeJohn Williams
November 10, 2011
Professor Thompson
Theatre History I

Comic Actors in Shakespeare’s Time

Shakespeare work was divided into three groups, comedies, tragedies and histories. Comedy Plays attracted a large number of audiences to the theatre. Some famous comedy actors of Shakespeare’s time are William Kempe, Richard Tarlton, and Robert Armin. These comedians had to have acting skills, and also be able to sing and dance. William Kempe was one of Shakespeare's main actors in his early plays. He was a friend and student of Richard Tarleton, his predecessor in Shakespeare's company as clown, Kemp played parts like Peter in "Romeo and Juliet" and Dogberry in "Much Ado About Nothing." William Kempe left the company in 1599, possibly because of a dispute with Shakespeare. Kempe suddenly left the Chamberlain's Men in 1599. His reason for leaving was not documented, but some believe that he was asked to leave because he was constantly improvising. (Boyce 255). Throughout his life, he was well known for his dancing just as much as his comedic ability, he danced in a feature called “The Nine Days Wonder”. Kempe toured the continent again in 1601 and joined Worcester’s Men when he returned. When Kempe left the troupe, the comedic characters by Shakespeare made a big change; it showed that his earlier plays were only written to compliment Williams Kempe’s creative style. Kempe also was talented musically, he played the pipe and tambor, and he was good at fencing. It was said that Kempe died of the plague in London after he returned. Richard Tarlton was the first actor to study natural fools and simpletons to add knowledge to his characters. Tarltons performance combined the styles of the medieval Vice, the professional minstrel, and the amateur Lord of Misrule. He worked with Queen Elizabeth's Men at the Curtain Theatre at the beginning of their career in 1583. It was even said that he was Queen Elizabeth’s favorite clown. According to Margaret...
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