Shanks, John (DNB00)

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SHANKS, JOHN (d. 1636), actor, was long a resident in St. Giles's, Cripplegate, in the parish registers of which are recorded the births and deaths of various children. He speaks of himself in 1635 as an old man, and affirms that he was originally in the company of Lord Pembroke, and afterwards in the companies of Queen Elizabeth, James I, and Charles I. This would place his first appearance in the sixteenth century. In a list of players transferred from Charles Howard, earl of Nottingham, to Prince Henry, in 1603 according to Collier, ‘more probably’ 1608 according to Fleay, he stands thirteenth on the list. When most of the men were taken, 4 Jan. 1613, into the service of the prince palatine of the Rhine, he remains thirteenth among fourteen players. When, presumably about 1619, he joined the king's company, shortly before the confirmation of their patent, his name is last. Shanks was one of the players who in 1624 made ‘humble submission’ to the master of the revels on account of having without permission acted in the ‘Spanish Viceroy.’ His name appears twelfth of some twenty-seven players to whom on 27 March 1625 a grant was made for cloaks in which to attend the king's funeral. In the 1623 Shakespeare folio list of the principal players it is last but one. Wright (Historia Histrionica) asserts that Shanks used to act Sir Roger (the Chaplain) in the ‘Scornful Lady’ of Beaumont and Fletcher, played at Blackfriars Theatre subsequently to 1609. He had a small part in the ‘Wild Goose Chace,’ of Beaumont and Fletcher, and a second in the ‘Prophetess’ of the same authors. In 1629 he was Hilario in Massinger's ‘Picture.’ In Sir Henry Herbert's ‘Register’ is an entry of a fee of 1l. from the king's company for Shanks's ‘Ordinary.’ On the strength of this, Malone mentions him as a dramatist. Collier reasonably holds that the piece was no more than the entertainment called a jig, in the delivery of which Shanks seems to have won some reputation. In a ballad dated 1662, and supposed to belong to 1625–30, called ‘Turner's Dish of Stuff, or a Gallimaufry,’ are the lines:

    That's the fat fool of the Curtain,
    And the lean fool of the Bull:
    Since Schanke did learn to sing his rhimes,
    He is counted but a gull.

This suggests that he was a successor of Tarleton, Kempe, Armin, and others. From the Ashmolean Museum Collier quotes a manuscript entitled ‘Shanke's Song,’ intended to ridicule Irish catholics, and having a burden, ‘O hone!’ Shanks lived in Golden Lane, in which Henslowe's playhouse stood. After the death of John Heming [q. v.], one of the ‘housekeepers’ of the Globe, his shares in that theatre and the Blackfriars were sold in 1633 surreptitiously by his son William. From this William Shanks bought, according to his own statement, ‘one part hee had in the Blackfriers for about six years then to come at the yearly rent of 6l. 5s., and another part hee then had in the Globe for about two years to come, and payd him for the same two partes 156l.’ A year subsequently he bought for 35l. one further part in the Blackfriars and two in the Globe, his entire purchase costing him 506l. Benfield, Swanston, and Pollard petitioned the lord chamberlain, Pembroke, for a compulsory sale to them of one share each from the largest shareholders, Shanks and the Burbages. In spite of the counter petitions of Shanks—in one of which he complains that his fellows not only refused him satisfaction, but restrained him from the stage, and in another declared that in his long time he had made no provision for himself in his old age, nor for his wife, children, and grandchild—the application was granted, and the shares of Shanks in the Globe were reduced to two instead of three, and in the Blackfriars to one instead of two. According to the registers of St. Giles, a John Shancke married Elizabeth Martin on 26 Jan. 1630, while ‘John Schanke, player,’ was buried on 27 Jan. 1635 [i.e. 1636]. According to the ‘Perfect Diurnal,’ 24 Oct. 1642, another Shanke, a player, was one of three officers of the lord general (Essex) who, having run away from the army at the beginning of a fight, were sent to the gatehouse for punishment according to martial law. Shanks's name is spelt seven different ways.

[Collier's English Dramatic Poetry always open to some mistrust; Fleay's Chronicle History of the London Stage; Halliwell-Phillipps's Outlines; Wright's Historia Histrionica; Malone's Historical Account of the English Stage; the 1623 folio of Shakespeare and the 1679 folio of Beaumont and Fletcher. The documents respecting Shanks's litigation are given in Halliwell-Phillipps's Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare (ed. 1886, i. 286 et seq.), and are well summarised in Fleay's Chronicle History of the London Stage.]

J. K.