What connection did Shakespeare (Oxford?) have with Francis Langley?––Jumpypants

Jumpypants:  What is your scenario regarding Shakespeare’s relationship to Francis Langley?  What are your thoughts on the Isle of Dogs “sedition” charges that led to the shutting of theatres, and also the writ of attachment against Langley, Anne Lee, Dorothy Soer and William Shakespeare.  What do you think led to that writ, and are we to assume they refer to the man from Stratford?  What was his relationship to Langley, these two women, and William Wayte, and why did he need a restraining order against WS?

Hughes:  Obviously there’s a story here, but until someone can dig deeper into whatever archived documents remain I’m afraid there’s just too little to go on to come to a trustworthy conclusion.  All we can do is ask a few leading questions.

According to Schoenbaum (146), William Wayte was the henchman (stepson) of a notorious money-lender JP of Southwark who was making trouble for the Swan, probably because he wasn’t getting any protection money from him.  (Earlier Langley had sworn a similar writ against Wayte and the corrupt JP.)

The Swan was home to Pembroke’s Men, who had several of the early Shakespeare plays in their repertory, which suggests that Oxford was writing for them then, or at least making it possible for them to use his material. I feel strongly that Mary Sidney (Countess of Pembroke) was the true patron of Pembroke’s Men, so this could put Mary and de Vere on the same page at this time. (It’s interesting that the first published version of Philip Sidney’s sonnet cycle in 1591 contained one of Oxford’s poems, and that it was missing from the second version.)

The name “Anne Lee” is thought-provoking as Ann Vavasor may have called herself by it during the years she lived with Sir Henry Lee (while raising Oxford’s son). We know that Mary Pembroke spent time with Ann and Sir Henry Lee in 1607, which suggests a friendship between these two witty women.  Mary was probably the author, or co-author of a play for Henslowe called Shore’s Wife, written during this period, but that would have been about Jane Shore (not Dorothy).

It’s not impossible that these four, Oxford, Ann Vavasor, Mary, and Langley were all involved in producing plays at the Swan, and that Oxford called himself William Shakespeare when he had to identify himself to a constable, but there just isn’t enough evidence to propose this or any other scenario.

One thing it does do is provide a bit of background for the trouble the Swan got into over The Isle of Dogs, which had to have been about the murder of Marlowe, the Isle of Dogs being a dangerous area where dirty deeds were done directly across the river from Deptford where Marlowe was assassinated three years earlier, Privy Council politics at its most down and dirty.  As patron of Pembroke’s Men, Mary was simply not in a strong enough position to protect her actors or their theater from such hard ball maneuvers.

Oxford and the Lord Chamberlain’s Men would have been at loose ends at this time,  their patron, Baron Hunsdon, having just died in July (the Langley writ was late September), which left the company in a “parlous” state, since Hunsdon’s heir, George Carey, was not sympathetic to the theater (or to Oxford, for reasons that will appear anon).  So it’s very possible that our lad was casting about for a situation where he had more creative control, something of a constant in his life, I would think.

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