Category:John Singer

An original member of the Queen's men in 1583, John Singer was famous for clown parts (but not as famous as his fellow in the company, Richard Tarlton). He was an active participant in the "affray" at Norwich at the Red Lion Inn in June of 1583, in which the Queen's men got in a fight with some spectators. As Eccles puts it, "Singer as gatekeeper argued with a man about his entrance fee, pursued him with a stage sword and wounded him, and a blow struck by either Singer or a companion killed him" (p. 169). Eccles adds, "I find that John Bentley and John Singer of London, gentlemen, and Henry Browne of Norwich, yeoman, were convicted of homicide in Queen's Bench, but Bentley and singer were pardoned, while Browne escaped and was outlawed" (p. 169).

By 1594, Singer was with the Admiral's men at the Rose. Entries in Philip Henslowe's diary indicate that he handled a variety of business for the company such as "witnessing transactions, acknowledging company debts, borrowing various sums of money, and ... authorizing a payment" (Nungezer, p. 327). He accompanied Thomas Towne on the the business trip in 1597 that took them "into the contrey" (Fol. 235). He contributed at least one entertainment to the Admiral's men's offerings for which he was paid £5 on 13 January 1603: "Syngers vallentarey" ("Singer's Voluntary") (Fol. 109). He lived in St, Stephen, Coleman Street when he married Alice Holden in 1578; after her death, he married Joan Burtone on 17 November 1583 (Eccles, p. 169). In the 1590s he lived in Shoreditch in St. Saviour's parish, and by 1597 he lived at the residence of "Awstens Rents."

Having the roles of Singer and Tarlton in mind, McMillin and MacLean define the skills of the Queen's men as a "medley" style that is "predominantly visual" (p. 125) with "a premium on ... the peculiar gesture, the odd inflection, the idiosyncratic bit of costuming" (p. 126). In this performance medium, the "clown is a literalist ... funny the minute he is seen" (p. 128). An emphasis on the physical rather than the verbal, McMillin and MacLean argue, explains why the plays of the Queen's men, when compared to those (for example) by Marlowe and Shakespeare, seem flat in print; "[t]heirs was not primarily a literary drama. ... we must assume that much of [the clowns'] knock-about improvisation was never recorded or lost its point in translation to the medium of print. ... One must imagine the routines by which the clown Bullithrumble made his mark on Selimus, for example, for the text is of very little help" (p. 85).

by Alice @ St. Stephen, Coleman Street

Mark, christened 14 December 1578
Robert, christened 11 December 1580

by Joan @ St. Saviour's, Shoreditch

Thomas, christened 7 August 1597
William, christened 17 June 1599
John, christened 21 September 1600
Elizabeth, christened 30 August 1601
Jane, christened 1 May 1603

Works Cited

Eccles, Mark. "Elizabethan Actors IV: S to end," ‘’Notes and Queries’’ 40.2 (1993): 165-76.
McMillin, Scott and Sally-Beth Maclean. The Queen's Men and their Plays. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Nungezer, Edwin. A Dictionary of Actors. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968 (orig. Yale University Press, 1929).


This category has the following 2 subcategories, out of 2 total.


Pages in category "John Singer"

The following 3 pages are in this category, out of 3 total.