Alexander Cooke

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For the physician, see Alexander Macdougall Cooke.

Alexander Cooke (died February 1613) was an actor in the King's Men and the Lord Chamberlain's Men, the acting companies of William Shakespeare, John Heminges and Richard Burbage.[1]

Edmond Malone introduced the hypothesis, still current though far from certain, that Cooke originated[clarification needed] Shakespeare's principal female roles. Cooke could have been introduced to theatre by John Heminges, to whom he was apprenticed under the Grocer's Guild on 26 January 1597.[2] Cooke's full name first appears in the plot for Ben Jonson's "Sejanus" (1603) in which he is listed as a "principle tragedian".[3] This might indicate that he was a young actor in a prominent female role, perhaps Agrippina. He became a shareholder in the Lord Chamberlain's Men in 1604 when the number of shareholders was expanded to twelve. He was also cast in Volpone (1605), in which he may have been Lady Would-be; Jonson's The Alchemist (1610); Catiline (1611) and Beaumont and Fletcher's The Captain (c. 1612).[4] Cooke was freed from the Grocer's Guild on 22 March 1609 and apprenticed Walter Haynes under the same guild a year later on 28 March.[5] Cooke acted until 1612 when he may have become ill; he wrote his will on 3 January 1613 and died in February the same year. Around the time of his death, Cooke resided in Hill's Rents, in the parish of St. Saviour's, Southwark.[6]

While both Chalmers and Malone indicate that Cooke died in February 1614 (as his widow did not prove the will until 4 May 1614) St. Saviour's parish records state that Cooke's son, Francis, was baptized on 20 March 1613. The record indicates that the boy's father, "Alexander, a player" is deceased.[7] Parish records also indicate that Cooke was buried on 25 February 1613 in St Saviour's Southwark, the same place where William Shakespeare's brother, Edmund Shakespeare, was buried.[8][9] Cooke's will names Heminges and Henry Condell as trustees of his children — his sons Francis (born in 1605) and Alexander (1614), and daughters Rebecca (1607) and Alice (1611).

Alexander Cooke had a brother John; John Payne Collier speculated that this John Cooke was the author of Greene's Tu Quoque.

Edmund Malone and David Kathman speculated that Cooke was the "Saunder" who appeared in the plot of Part 2 of The Seven Deadly Sins. The existing plot is believed to be from a 1597-8 revival of the play, which was first preformed in 1585. Kathman's argument that the plot is from a revival is based on the fact that Thomas Belte-a contemporary of Cooke-may also appear on the plot. In addition, records show that Cooke was at some point referred to as "Saunder"; he is listed under this name on his daughter's baptismal record.[10]

In Gary Blackwood's 1998 novel The Shakespeare Stealer, Cooke is portrayed as the hero's best friend, Sander.

References[edit]

  1. ^ E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, 4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923; Vol. 2 pp. 311-12.
  2. ^ Kathman, David (2005). "How Old were Shakespeares Boy Actors?". Shakespeare Survey 58: 220–247. doi:10.1017/ccol0521850746.021. 
  3. ^ F. E. Halliday, A Shakespeare Companion 1564-1964, Baltimore, Penguin, 1964; pp. 114-15.
  4. ^ E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, 4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923; Vol. 2 pp. 311-12.
  5. ^ Kathman, David (2004). "Reconsidering the Seven Deadly Sins". Early Theatre 7 (1). 
  6. ^ Halliday, F.E. (1964). A Shakespeare Companion 1564-1964. Baltimore: Penguin. pp. 114–115. 
  7. ^ Collier, John Payne. The History of English Dramatic Poetry to the Time of Shakespeare. pp. 409–410. 
  8. ^ E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, 4 Volumes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1923; Vol. 2 pp. 311-12.
  9. ^ Collier, John Payne. The History of English Dramatic Poetry to the Time of Shakespeare. pp. 409–410. 
  10. ^ Kathman, David (2005). "How Old were Shakespeares Boy Actors?". Shakespeare Survey 58: 220–247. doi:10.1017/ccol0521850746.021.