Anon. (1618)

Historical Records

Correspondence of John Chamberlain

7 November 1618. To Sir Dudley Carleton.

I am sory that Shute was brought vpon the stage because I haue some acquaintaunce wth him, and that he is brother to Sr Christofer Hattons mother.
(National Archives, SP 14/103, f. 121v; cf. McClure 2:181.)

Robert Shute (c. 1571–1621) was a chief clerk of the King's Bench (Baker; Ferris and Sgroi).

Theatrical Provenance

If Chamberlain refers to a staged performance, it must have been performed in the first week of November 1618.

Probable Genre(s)

Topical Play (?).

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Chamberlain's letter to Carleton tells the embarrassing story of Robert Shute's abortive attempt to secure the position of Recorder of London. At the end of October 1618 it became clear that the recently appointed Recorder Richard Martin was not going to survive long and that the mayor and aldermen of London would need to appoint his successor. The day after Martin's death, November 1, they received letters from King James, George Villiers, earl of Buckingham, and the Lord Chancellor Francis Bacon recommending Shute for the position. According to James Whitelocke, who was also being considered for the position, "mr. Shute of Grayes In had, by the lord marquesse meanes, moved the king and procured letters ready for the signature, whiche wanted only date and signing, and so soone as mr. Martin's breathe was out of his bodye had them signed, and sent to the maior and aldermen to elect him" (64). Shute himself appeared at the Guildhall "in great braverye" and "expected a present election" (64). The aldermen, however, rejected the recommendation, taking "great exceptions to him as want of yeares, gravitie, learning in the law and that he had ben divers times out-lawed upon record, and ben bound to the goode behavior, so that he was altogether uncapable and insufficient for such an office" (McClure 2:180). When Shute denied the claim that he had been "outlawed," the aldermen sent "for the record from the counter, whiche was broughte and shewed, and therupon the election brake up, and he departed with highe and menacing speeches against them" (Whitelocke 64-65). At the Lord Chancellor's request, a group of aldermen met with the King to justify their rejection of Shute, although they also pressed their own rights to a free election without royal compulsion (65; McClure 180). The King relented; however, according to Whitelocke, the election of Robert Heath as Recorder was similarly the result of Buckingham's influence and the King's intimidation of the mayor and aldermen to accept his choice (66-67). Shute did eventually attain the position of Recorder, succeeding Heath on 20 January 1621 (Baker).

References to the Play

None known. (Information welcome.)

Critical Commentary

Gurr excerpts Chamberlain's letter in his anthology of "References to playgoing" (278).

For What It's Worth

If Chamberlain's letter refers to a staged version of the abortive election of Shute, it would have had to have been written, rehearsed, and performed in less than a week. It may be that Shute's appearance on stage was a brief interpolation into another play. Perhaps more likely is that Chamberlain was using "brought vpon the stage" in a figurative sense and that no such play was performed at all.

Works Cited

Baker, J.H. "Shute, Robert (d. 1590)." ODNB.
Ferris, John P., and Rosemary Sgroi. "Shute, Robert (c. 1571–1621)." In The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1604–1629. Ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris. 6 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010. Online.
Gurr, Andrew. Playgoing in Shakespeare's London. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004.
McClure, Norman Egbert, ed. The Letters of John Chamberlain. 2 vols. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1939.
Whitelocke, James. Liber Famelicus of Sir James Whitelocke. Ed. John Bruce. London, 1858.

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