Richard Cowley turns up initially in theatrical records in connection with the company of Lord Strange's men in 1593. In a letter (c. 1 August 1593) from Edward Alleyn to his wife (Joan), Alleyn writes that he had received her "letter att bristo by richard couley" (Greg, Papers MS. I. art. 11, pp. 35-36). Cowley joined the Chamberlain's men, possibly at its formation in 1594, and he remained with the company after it became the King's men in 1603. He appears to have led a relatively quiet life with only one exercise of the law, a suit of sureties of the peace against a silkweaver and his wife of St. Leonard's parish for "breaking the statute for good behaviour" (Eccles, p. 45).
Like many of his fellows in the theatrical business, Cowley lived in the parish of St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, in the neighborhood of the Theater and Curtain. His marital record has not been found, but the parish register of St. Leonard's provides information on his family:
- Robert, christened 8 March 1596; burial, ?20 March 1596
- Cuthbert, christened 8 May 1597
- Richard, christened 29 April 1598
- Elizabeth, christened 2 February 1602
His wife was buried at St. Leonard's on 18 September 1616, and he was buried on 12 March 1619. His will, dated 13 January 1618, names his daughter (Elizabeth Birch) as executor. The list of witnesses indicates Cowley's continued good standing among his fellow players; it includes John Heminges, Cuthbert Burbage, John Shank, and Thomas Ravenscroft (whom scholars have identified as a madrigalist [Honigmann and Brock, p. 113]).
Mark Eccles notes the spelling of Cowley's name ("Coolye") in the assessor's books of Holywell Street, Shoreditch, in 1598 as evidence of the pronunciation of the name (p. 45).
Lieutenant ("Induction"); Soldier, Lord ("Envy"); Giraldus, Captain ("Sloth"); Lord ("Lechery") in "The Second Part of the Seven Deadly Sins"
Verges in Much Ado About Nothing