Friday, June 19, 2015

Answer to yesterday's Shakespeare trivia question

The actor believed to have originated the great comic roles of Falstaff, Touchstone, and a host of other Shakespearean clowns was named Will Kemp.

He appears to have had some kind of professional falling out with Shakespeare's company around the time of the premiere of HENRY V. Interestingly, that play makes a point of killing off Falstaff, a role we believe Kemp made famous. In HAMLET, which comes out a bit later, the clown is notably dead (though there is a funny gravedigger), and there's also a long lecture to a troupe of actors about the evils of improvising onstage for a cheap laugh when a play is being presented.

He may well have gotten on people's nerves.

Having been fired, or something, from Shakespeare's company, Kemp dreamed up a publicity stunt (since imitated) as a kind of comeback: dancing his way from London to Norwich. The gimmick ate up nine days on the calendar, and gave rise to the expression "nine days' wonder."

The comeback was a failure. He died poor and obscure.