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William Bird (Birde, Borne, Bvrde, Burde, Byrd) is one of the players in Shakespeare's time about which a great deal is known, not only in the business of playing but also in his personal life.
- Player and Sharer
- 1597: Bird and several fellow players sued Francis Langley, owner and builder of the Swan playhouse, where the company of Pembroke's men had been playing for some months; Bird joined the Admiral's men on 10 August, and his name appears frequently in the company accounts recorded by Philip Henslowe in his memorandum book or "diary." Nungezer characterizes Bird's activity in subsequent years as "authorizing payments, borrowing from Henslowe, paying personal debts, selling properties, acknowledging company debts in the capacity of shareholder, and" witnessing various transactions (Nungezer, p. 48).
- 1602: Bird is credited with the parts of Colmogra and Artabisus in the surviving plot of "Tamar Cham," part 1, the date of which document is generally believed to be 1602, though the play itself was much older.
- 1603: Bird is recorded as joining (with other Admiral's men) the newly formed company of the Prince's men, where he remained until Prince Henry's death in 1612. In one entertainment given to celebrate the new king, Bird played the part of Zeal (Nungezer, p. 48).
- 1613: The company of players in Prince Henry's men reformed as Palgrave's men in January 1613, where Bird remained until 1622 ("probably," according to Nungezer, p. 49).
- Bird wrote plays, often in collaboration with Samuel Rowley, for example "Jurgurtha", below.
- Bird also contributed additions to plays, for example Doctor Faustus (1602).
- Domestic Life
- marriage: Bird married Mary sometime before 1600; she died in 1625, and her will survives (Honigmann and Brock, p. 147)
- descendents: 1600, b. William; 1602, b. Francis; b. Thomas (date unknown); b. Theophilus (date unknown; a player also, he died in 1663 [will:Honigmann and Brock, p. 211]).
- Bird dined with Edward Alleyn (and others) on numerous occasions (Nungezer, p. 49).
- In 1605, Bird said in a legal document that he lived in Hogsdon (Nungezer, p. 49).
- 1600: Bird's wife borrowed ￡3 to get her husband out of jail; that jail was King's Bench (Eccles, p. 40).
- 1602/3-07/8: a William Bird (who might be the player) gave various "sureties of the peace" and "bail" (Eccles, p. 40).
Eccles, Mark. "Elizabethan Actors I: A-D," Notes and Queries 236.1 (1991): 38-48.
Honigmann, E. A. J. and Susan Brock. Playhouse Wills 1558-1642. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993.
Nungezer, Edwin. A Dictionary of Actors. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968 (orig. Yale University Press, 1929).