Category:James Tunstall

James Tunstall (also Dunstall, Donstall, Donstone, and Dunstone) was a player in the 1580s and 1590s. Associated with John and Edward Alleyn, he played with Worcester's men in the early 1580s and the Admiral's men in 1590-91. As a member of that company, he was a witness to the legal battles over control of the Theater marked also by "James Burbage's splenetic outbursts against the widow Brayne at the Theater in Shoreditch" (Ingram, p. 25). In 1594 he was a player with the Admiral's men at Henslowe's Rose playhouse, where his name (as "donstone") appears in its initial recording of membership on 14 December 1594 (Foakes, p. 8). Henslowe recorded the sale of a rather elaborate cloak to Tunstall in August 1595, as well as a loan and its repayment in mid-1596 (Foakes, pp. 37, 50, 51). Tunstall was bound to the company in late July 1597 for a two-year period (Foakes, p. 239). He died in 1599; his will, which leaves "whatsoeuer he was possessed of" to his wife, Jane, is dated 8 December (Honigmann and Brock, p. 64).

William Ingram finds Tunstall "a useful example of a player about whom we know only random scraps" (p. 25). Those include details of his non-player life such as his residence in St. Bodolph with Aldgate and membership in the Sadlers' Company (Kathman says that Tunstall "most likely gained his freedom by patrimony" by way of his father, Henry [p. 39]). Thomas Harridance, clerk of the parish, recorded Tunstall's marriage to Jane Greene in 1584 and the christenings of three sons and the burial of one, 1585-89 (pp. 26-7). Harridance also recorded in significant detail the murder in May 1588 of John Donston (Tunstall), who appears to have been the player's brother (Ingram, p, 28). Eleven years later Harridance recorded the burial at St. Bodolph's of James, age forty-four (Ingram, p. 26).

Works Cited

Honigmann, E. A. J. and Susan Brock. Playhouse Wills 1558-1642. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993.
Ingram, William. The Business of Playing. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1992.
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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