Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 30.djvu/398
to Thomas Gosson; on 16 Jan. 1594–5 Kemp's name is appended in the margin to an entry licensing ‘A pleasant newe Jigge of the broome man’ for publication to Thomas Creede; on 2 May 1595 ‘A Ballad of Mr. Kempe's New Jigge of the Kitchen Stuffe Woman’ was licensed to William Blackwall; and on 21 Oct. 1595 ‘A Ballad called Kempe's new Jygge betwixt a Souldiour and a Miser and Sym the Clown’ was again licensed to Gosson. Kemp stated in 1600 that he published his first pamphlet in that year. On that and other grounds it is probable that his ‘jigs’ were not written by himself, but by the authors employed by the company to which he was attached. Very frequent reference is made to his jigs in plays and poems of the period (cf. Guilpin, Skialetheia, 1598; Marston, Scourge of Villanie, 1599, in Works, ed. Bullen, iii. 372); but none of those recorded in the ‘Stationers' Registers’ are extant. In the Elizabethan play, ‘Jack Drum's Entertainment,’ 1616, however, there is introduced a song to which ‘Kempe's morris’ is danced.
A specimen of Kemp's ‘merriment’ of a somewhat more dramatic character is extant in the printed comedy, ‘A Knacke to knowe a knave’ (1594, 4to). One scene there is entitled ‘Kemps applauded Merriments of the men of Goteham in receiuing the King into Goteham.’ The play was acted by Alleyn and his company at the Rose Theatre in 1592. The scene assigned to Kemp consists of senseless buffoonery.
Kemp was at the same time entrusted with parts of higher literary interest. He has been identified with the ‘William’ who is noted as filling the part of Itys in the extant ‘plat’ or cast of the second part of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins,’ a morality play, now lost. It was acted by Alleyn and his company about 1592. Peter in Shakespeare's ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and Dogberry in ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ undoubtedly belonged to Kemp's repertory. In the second and third quartos of Shakespeare's ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (1599 and 1609 respectively) ‘Enter Peter’ is misprinted as ‘Enter Will. Kemp’ (act iv. sc. 5), and in ‘Much Ado about Nothing,’ in both the quarto of 1600 and the folio of 1623, the names of Kemp and Cowley are prefixed, by a copyist's error, to some speeches respectively of Dogberry and Verges (act iv. sc. 2). In the ‘Return from Parnassus,’ probably written about 1601, Kemp comes on the stage under his own name in the company of Burbage, and the two performers instruct Cambridge students in acting. Each actor is said to be a general favourite throughout the country, and since Kemp offers to teach his pupil how to portray ‘a foolish mayor or a foolish justice of the peace,’ it has been suggested that he created the part of Justice Shallow. His name figures in the lists of actors appended to the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays (1623) as ‘Kempt,’ to the quarto edition of Ben Jonson's ‘Every Man in his Humour’ (1599), and to the folio of Jonson's ‘Plays’ (1616). But, except in the cases of Peter and Dogberry, there is no means of positively identifying his parts in the dramas either of Shakespeare or Ben Jonson. It is possible that Shakespeare had at times cause to complain of Kemp's interpolated buffoonery, and that Hamlet's advice to the players, ‘Let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them,’ was intended as a reflection on him. Richard Brome [q. v.], in his ‘Antipodes’ (1640), refers to the ‘fools and jesters’ practice in ‘the days of Tarlton and Kempe’ of introducing their own wit into poets' plays.
Kemp combined shrewdness with his rough humour, and, with a view to extending his reputation and his profits, he announced in 1599 his intention of dancing a morris-dance from London to Norwich. According to a common custom, he ‘put out’ a sum of money before his departure, on condition of receiving thrice the amount on his safe return. He left the lord mayor's dwelling in London on the first Monday in Lent, accompanied by Thomas Slye, ‘taberer,’ William Bee, his servant, and George Sprat, his ‘overseer.’ His route lay through Romford, Chelmsford, Sudbury, Bury, Rockland, and Burford Bridge. Bad weather and his own fatigues caused many delays, and he did not arrive in Norwich till twenty-three days after his departure. He spent only nine days in actual dancing on the road. The mayor of Norwich arranged a triumphal entry for him, and gave him not only five pounds in Elizabethan angels, but a pension for life of 40s. The freedom of the Merchant Adventurers' Company was also conferred on him. The exploit was long remembered in popular literature (cf. Ben Jonson's mention of ‘the famous morrisse unto Norwich’ in his Works, 1616, p. 814). But to Kemp's annoyance very inaccurate reports of his ‘gambols’ were hawked about at the time by booksellers or ballad-mongers in publications like ‘Kemp's farewell to the tune of Kery, mery Buffe,’ or ‘his desperate dangers in his late trauaile,’ or ‘his entertainement to New-Market,’ a town which he never visited. In order to check the circulation of falsehood, Kemp offered, he tells us, his ‘first pamphlet to the presse.’ The only copy known is in the Bodleian Library, and it has been reprinted by the Camden So-