Shakespeare Solved ®

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These novels solve the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare by transporting us back in time, to walk in his shoes, and see his world through his eyes.

Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Shakespeare's Romeo, Henry Condell

Henry Condell, one of Shakepeare’s fellow actors, died December 1627.
He is most famous for having been one of two men who edited the First Folio collection of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623.

The First Folio

But beyond that there is very little known about Condell.
He was probably working as an actor as early as 1590 in Lord Strange's Men where he would have worked with both John Heminges and Augustine Phillips.
Condell, Heminges and Phillips would all join Shakespeare in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men in around 1593.

List of the main actors printed in the First Folio

Condell was married in 1596 to a London heiress, Elizabeth Smart.
This was right around the time that Shakespeare was already the single most famous and successful playwright in London.
So, Condell must have been very happy during the early years of his marriage. He had fame as an actor, and he had the wealth to enjoy himself.
He did so well for himself that he bought a very fine country home in Middlesex, and an estate in Gloucestershire.
But his happiness would not last long, as his wife and he suffered the loss of their first child in 1599. 
They would try to have children again, but most of their children would not survive. Only 3 of 9 children survived to adulthood.
In 1603, when Queen Elizabeth died, and King James succeded her to the throne, Condell, with the others in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men became the King’s Men -- the official royal court playing company.
Shakespeare retired from the stage around 1613, and died in 1616.
Condell retired from the stage in 1619, and at some point after that he and Heminges began to collect the plays that Shakespeare had written, and that they had performed so many times over so many years.
The world would be a darker place if they had not given us all the gift of the First Folio. We should be eternally grateful to them.
For his work together with Heminges, there is a memorial in their honor in the St Mary Aldermanbury Garden, in London.

Memorial to Heminges and Condell

Close-up of the plaque on the bottom of the memorial

We do not know which roles he performed in his long career. I have a theory that he was the most handsome of all of the actors like Burbage, Heminges, and William Sly. 
If there was one heart-throb in the cast it was Condell.

Was Condell the world's first Romeo?

He would have played the most romantic roles, and any character of young man. He may have been the world’s first Romeo, the world’s first Bassanio in Merchant of Venice, the world’s first Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing, and so on.
I can’t prove it, but it would seem logical, especially since he married such a wealthy young lady. Also, he must have been held in very high regard, if Heminges trusted him enough to work on the First Folio.

I hope you join with me today to take a moment to think of men like Henry Condell.

Shakespeare could not have written his plays if he did not have men like Condell to perform them.

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