Williams, Joseph (DNB00)

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WILLIAMS, JOSEPH (fl. 1673–1700), actor, is said to have been bred a seal-cutter, solely for the reason that Joseph Harris (fl. 1661–1699) [q. v.], who brought him on the stage, and to whom he is said to have been apprenticed, followed that occupation. Genest supposes him to have made his first appearance at Dorset Garden in 1673 as the Second Gravedigger in ‘Hamlet.’ It is doubtful, however, whether he is the Williams who played that part. Williams came into the company at Dorset Garden about 1673 as Mr. Harris's boy. In 1677 he was the original Pylades in Dr. D'Avenant's ‘Circe,’ and Hadland in the ‘Counterfeit Bridegroom, or the Defeated Widow,’ an alteration of Middleton's ‘No Wit, no Help like a Woman's.’ The next year saw him as the First Troilus in Banks's ‘Destruction of Troy,’ and 1679 as the Ghost of Laius in ‘Œdipus’ by Dryden and Lee, and Æneas in ‘Troilus and Cressida,’ altered by Dryden from Shakespeare. In 1680 he was the Duke of Gandia in Lee's ‘Cæsar Borgia;’ Polydore in Otway's ‘Orphans;’ Abardanes in Tate's ‘Loyal General;’ Sylla in the ‘History and Fall of Caius Marius,’ Otway's alteration of ‘Romeo and Juliet;’ Friendly in ‘Revenge, or a Match at Newgate,’ by Mrs. Behn; Theodosius in Lee's ‘Theodosius,’ and Antonio in Maidwell's ‘Loving Enemies.’ Henry VI in both parts of Crowne's alteration of Shakespeare's ‘Henry VI’ followed in 1681, which year also saw him as the Bastard in Tate's alteration of ‘King Lear,’ Beaumond in Mrs. Behn's ‘Rover’ (part ii.), Tiberius in Lee's ‘Lucius Junius Brutus,’ Bertran in Dryden's ‘Spanish Friar,’ Sir Charles Meriwill in Mrs. Behn's ‘City Heiress,’ and the Prince of Cleve in Lee's ‘Princess of Cleve.’ In 1682 he was Heartall in the ‘Royalist’ by D'Urfey, Rochford in Banks's ‘Virtue Betrayed,’ and Townly in Ravenscroft's ‘London Cuckolds.’ On the union of the two companies Williams was first seen at the Theatre Royal, which he joined, presumably, on 16 Nov. 1682. His name is not traced until 1684, when he played Fairlove in the ‘Factious Citizen,’ and Decius Brutus in a revival of ‘Julius Cæsar.’ Many of his parts had since the union been given to Kynaston and other actors. Alberto in ‘A Duke and No Duke’ followed in 1685, as did Sir Petronell Flash in Tate's ‘Cuckolds' Haven,’ altered from ‘Eastward Hoe;’ Captain Marine in D'Urfey's ‘Commonwealth of Women;’ and Otto in ‘Rollo, Duke of Normandy.’ In 1686 Williams was Don Fernand in D'Urfey's ‘Banditti,’ in 1688 the King of Sicily in Mountford's ‘Injured Lovers,’ and in 1689 Young Ranter in Crowne's ‘English Friar, or the Town Sparks.’ In Lee's ‘Massacre of Paris’ he was (1690) the Duke of Guise. He was seen also as Luscindo in Shadwell's ‘Amorous Bigot,’ Don Sebastian in Dryden's ‘Don Sebastian,’ Don Carlos in Mountford's ‘Successful Strangers,’ Bacon in Mrs. Behn's ‘Widow Ranter,’ and Amphitryon in Dryden's ‘Amphitryon.’ Ithocles, in Powell's ‘Treacherous Brothers,’ belongs to 1691, as do Mortimer in ‘King Edward III, with the Fall of Mortimer,’ Ilford in Southerne's ‘Sir Anthony Love,’ Oswald in Dryden's ‘King Arthur,’ and Wildfire in the ‘Scowrers’ by Shadwell. In 1692 followed Genselaric in Brady's ‘Rape,’ Xantippus in Crowne's ‘Regulus,’ Wilding in Southerne's ‘Wives' Excuse,’ and Sciarrah in the ‘Traytor.’ In Congreve's ‘Old Bachelor’ (1693) he was Vainlove; in D'Urfey's ‘Richmond Heiress’ Frederick; in Congreve's ‘Double Dealer’ Mellefont; in Dryden's ‘Love Triumphant’ Garcia. In 1694 he was Biron in Southerne's ‘Fatal Marriage,’ the Duke of Northumberland in Banks's ‘Innocent Usurper, or the Death of the Lady Jane Grey.’ On a question of terms Williams seems to have seceded in 1695. He played, however, the Elder Worthy in Cibber's ‘Love's Last Shift’ in 1696, also the Lieutenant-governor in ‘Oroonoko,’ Alonzo in Gould's ‘Rival Sisters,’ and Freeman in the ‘Cornish Comedy.’ In Settle's ‘World in the Moon’ he was in 1697 Palmerin Worthy; in Scott's ‘Unhappy Kindness’ Valerio; and in the ‘Triumphs of Virtue’ the Duke of Polycastro. In 1698 he was Epaphus in Gildon's ‘Phaeton,’ and in 1699 Roebuck in Farquhar's ‘Love and a Bottle.’ In the season of 1699–1700 he joined Betterton at Lincoln's Inn Fields, playing Pylades in Dennis's ‘Iphigenia.’

An actor called David Williams was with Williams at Dorset Garden during many years. It is difficult to distinguish one from the other, and it is possible that some characters assigned Williams in the foregoing list, now first given, belong to his namesake. After December 1699 Williams is heard of no more. Most, but not all, of the preceding characters were first played by him. Cibber speaks of him as a good actor, but neglectful of duty and addicted to the bottle. Bellchambers gratuitously, since no information is accessible, supposes Cibber to have unjustly depreciated Williams.

[Genest's Account of the English Stage; Downes's Roscius Anglicanus; History of the English Stage, ascribed to Betterton; Cibber's Apology, ed. Lowe.]

J. K.