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The Royal Patent Granted to Shakespeare's Acting Troupe

Nearly the moment James I had in his grasp the "two-fold balls and treble sceptre", his plans to take charge of England's players were underway. James desired to become the patron of Shakespeare and his company, known at the time as the Chamberlain's Men. In addition to Shakespeare's regular troupe, James hand-picked a man named Laurence Fletcher, "who had delighted his heart in Scotland was to be at their head. We do not know how the Burbage Company dealt with this intrusion, and how they fitted him among their ranks at the Globe. He does not seem to have been up to their mark, and little more is heard of him" (Stopes, 96). The following is the actual Royal Patent that forever changed theatre history:
"Pro Laurentio Fletcher et Willielmo Shakespeare et aliis.
James by the Grace of God, etc., to all Justices, Maiors, Sheriffs, Constables, Headboroughs, and other our Officers and lovinge Subjects, Greetinge. Knowe ye that wee of our Speciall Grace, certeine knowledge, and mere motion, have licensed and authorized, and by these presentes doe license and authorise these our Servaunts, Laurence Fletcher, William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustine Phillippes, John Hemings, Henrie Condell, William Sly, Robert Armyn, Richard Cowly, and the rest of their Associates, Freely to use and exercise the Art and Facultie of playing Comedies, Tragedies, Histories, Enterludes, Morals, Pastoralls, Stage Plaies and such others, like as these have alreadie studied or hereafter shall use or studie, as well for our Solace and Pleasure, when wee shall thincke good to see them, during our Pleasure; and the said Commedies, Tragedies, Histories, Enterludes, Moralls, Pastoralls, Stage-playes, and suche like, to shewe and exercise publiquely to their best Commoditie, when the Infection of the Plague shall decrease, as well within their nowe usual house called the Globe within our countie of Surrey, as also within anie Towne Halls, or Moote Halls, or other convenient places within the Liberties and Freedom of anie other Cittie, Universitie, Toune or Boroughe whatsoever within our saide Realmes and Dominions.

Willing and commaunding you and everie of you, as you tender our Pleasure, not onelie to permit and suffer them herein, without anie your Letts, Hindrances, or Molestations, during our said Pleasure, but also to be aiding and assistinge to them if anie Wronge be to them offered, and to allow them such former curtesies as hath been given to men of their Place and Qualitie; and also what further Favour you shall shewe to theise our servaunts for our sake, Wee shall take it kindly at your handes. In witnesse whereof, etc.

Witnesse our selfe at Westminster the nynetenth Daye of Maye in the first year of our reign."
                                                                                                                   "Per Breve de Privato Sigillo."
Shakespeare and his troupe were now under the direct protection of the King himself, and the gloomy, precarious days of touring the countryside died with Elizabeth I.

How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. The Royal Patent Granted to Shakespeare's Acting Troupe. Shakespeare Online. 20 Oct. 2011. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

Stopes, C. C. Burbage and Shakespeare's Stage. London: A. Moring, Ltd., 1913.


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