Bellott v Mountjoy

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Bellott v Mountjoy was a lawsuit heard at the Court of Requests in Westminster on 11 May 1612 that involved William Shakespeare in a minor role.

Case details[edit]

Stephen Bellott, a Huguenot, sued his father-in-law Christopher Mountjoy, a tyrer (a manufacturer of ladies' ornamental headpieces and wigs) for the financial settlement that had been promised at the time of his marriage with Mary Mountjoy in 1604, a dowry of £50, which had been promised but never paid, and an additional £200, to be bestowed upon Bellott in Mountjoy's will.

The records of the case were discovered in the National Archives in 1909 by the Shakespeare scholar Charles William Wallace and published by him in the October 1910 issue of Nebraska University Studies. The importance of this minor case is that Shakespeare was a material witness in it; his signed deposition of evidence was among the papers. Several of the other witnesses referred to Shakespeare’s role in arranging the betrothal and in the negotiations about the dowry. He had been requested to take on the duties by Mountjoy's wife, Marie. The papers supply a roster of persons with whom Shakespeare was personally acquainted: the Mountjoys and their household and neighbours, including George Wilkins, the playwright and brothel-keeper who may have been Shakespeare's collaborator on Pericles, Prince of Tyre. The papers show that in 1604, Shakespeare was a lodger in the Mountjoys' house, at the corner of Silver and Monkwell Streets in Cripplegate, London. It is the only evidence yet found of a particular London address at which Shakespeare lived.

In his deposition, Shakespeare admitted that he had played the role as go-between in the courtship of Stephen Bellott and Mary Mountjoy that other witnesses described. However, he said that he could not remember the crucial financial arrangements of the Bellott/Mountjoy marriage settlement.[1] Without that key testimony, the Court of Requests remanded the case to the overseers of the London Huguenot church, which awarded Bellott 20 nobles (or £6 13s. 4d.). A year later, though, Mountjoy still had not paid.[2]

Mary Mountjoy and masque costume[edit]

Mary Mountjoy provided theatrical costume to the court of Anne of Denmark. She made a helmet and trimmings for the queen as Pallas Athena in Samuel Daniel's masque The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses performed on 8 January 1604.[3]

The Mary Mountjoy, born in 1568, who consulted the astrologer Simon Forman in 1597 after losing a ring, was probably the mother of Bellot's wife.[4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Halliday, pp. 59-60.
  2. ^ Kornstein, pp. 18-19.
  3. ^ John Pitcher, 'Samuel Daniel's Masque "The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses": Texts and Payments', Medieval & Renaissance Drama in England, vol. 26 (2013), pp. 17-42, pp. 33, 38 citing TNA LR6/154/9.
  4. ^ Lauren Kassell, Michael Hawkins, Robert Ralley, John Young, Joanne Edge, Janet Yvonne Martin-Portugues, and Natalie Kaoukji (eds.), ‘CASE2835’, The casebooks of Simon Forman and Richard Napier, 1596–1634: a digital edition, https://casebooks.lib.cam.ac.uk/cases/CASE2835, accessed 5 August 2019.

References[edit]

  • Halliday, F. E. A Shakespeare Companion 1564–1964. Baltimore, Penguin, 1964.
  • Kornstein, Daniel. Kill All the Lawyers? Shakespeare's Legal Appeal. Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska Press, 2005.
  • Nicholl, Charles. "The gent upstairs." The Guardian, October 10, 2007.

External links[edit]