Category:Alexander Cooke

Alexander Cooke ("Saunder") had a long and successful career with the Chamberlain's men and later the King's men. He first appears in theatrical records in the plot of The Second Part of the Seven Deadly Sins", c. 1597. His roles in that offering suggested to theater historians centuries ago that his parts included "'the principal female characters'" in Shakespeare's plays (Nungeger, p. 102, citing Edmond Malone's Variorum, iii.211). In Kathman's opinion, the roles identified in the plot of The Second Part of the Seven Deadly Sins" suggest that Cooke "was the most important boy of the company" in the late 1590s ("Reconsidering," p. 28). His talent aside, it was surely an advantage to be the apprentice of John Heminges; Kathman provides the span of Cooke's apprenticeship: "bound on 26 January 1597 for eight years; freed 22 March 1609" ("Grocers," p. 8). Having achieved his freedom, Cooke himself bound an apprentice on 28 March 1610.

Cooke lived in the parish of St. Saviour's, Southwark, where the token books identify his dwelling in Hill's Rents in the 1600s. The parish register of St. Saviour's documents the following family events:

Francis, christening, 27 October 1605
Rebecca, christening, 11 October 1607
Alice, christening, 3 November 1611
Alexander (son), christening, 20 March 1614
Alexander (self), burial, 25 February 1614

Kathman considers it plausible that Cooke was the "Alexander" christened on 15 December 1583, in Sandwich (Kent) along with Anna, apparently his twin; Kathman observes further that such a birth year would make "Saunder" 13 years old at his binding, "a fairly typical age" ("Grocers," p. 29). Cooke's will, dated 3 January 1614, leaves money to his son Francis and his daughter Rebecca (both still minors), adding that these "somes of money are bothe in one purse in my Cuberd" (Honigmann and Brock, p. 95). He leaves £50 to "ye childe which" his "wife now goeth with" to be paid in theater company stock if the child is a boy but cash for a dowry if a girl. He adds that the money be "saflye put into grocers hall, <t>he vse and bringinge vp of [his] poore or<pha>nts" under the supervision of Heminges as well as "mr Cundell" (p. 95). Further, he leaves Rebecca several pieces of household needlework. Given the children's minority, he anticipates that his bequests might instead go to his brother Ellis and his five sisters, including as well his late brother John's daughter. He implies that a portion of his estate is to go for his wife but does not specify an amount.


Queen Videna ("Envy"), Procne ("Lechery"), in The Second Part of the Seven Deadly Sins"
Actor list, Sejanus
Actor list, Volpone
Actor list, The Alchemist
Actor list, Catiline
Actor list, The Captain

Works Cited

Honigmann, E. A. J. and Susan Brock. Playhouse Wills 1558-1642. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993.
Kathman, David. "Reconsidering The Seven Deadly Sins, Early Theatre 7.1 (2004). 13-44.
Kathman, David. "Grocers, Goldsmiths, and Drapers: Freemen and Apprentices in the Elizabethan Theater," Shakespeare Quarterly 55.1 (2004): 1-49.
Nungezer, Edwin. A Dictionary of Actors. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968 (orig. Yale University Press, 1929).


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